26th Parliament · 2nd Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin) look the chair at 3 p.m., andread prayers.
Statement by President
– Honourable senators, 1 wish to make a brief statement in connection with the dissent motion carried by the Senate against my ruling on Thursday last that an absolute majority was required for the suspension of the Standing Orders without notice. I wish, first, to make it clear that I regard it as my duty, as President, to comply with the wishes of the Senate. I have always endeavoured to do so, and will continue to do so as far asI am able. The vote of the Senate on Thursday, however, has left me in an anomalous position. ] have, in effect, been overruled by the Senate in insisting on the observance of the Standing Orders, which the Senate elected me to uphold, while, at the same time, the Standing Orders have not been altered. I am obliged to respect Thursday’s dissent as an indication that, notwithstanding the explicit wording of standing order 448, the Senate did not then regard an absolute majority as necessary for the suspension of Standing Orders; butI am still bound, as President, to ensure compliance with the Standing Orders until such time as they are amended.
There is a further consideration that has also to be taken into account. The debate on the dissent motion centred largely on the question of the constitutional validity of standing order 448 because of the special majority requirement. But standing order 448 is not the only standing order which stipulates a special majority. Standing order 134, relating to rescission motions, 281 relating to closure motions, 332 relating to instructions to committees, and 407B relating to urgent Bills, also contain provisions requiring a minimum number of majority votes for the passage of the motions; and it was only 3 years ago that the Senate, by its unanimous vote, amended several of these standing orders to increase the minimum number of affirmative votes required.
Am I therefore to interpret the Senate’s dissent on Thursday as a direction to waive the voting stipulations in those several standing orders? No reference was made to them in the debate. In all the circumstances, I suggest to the Senate that there is really only one course open to me. Until such time as the Senate itselfspecifically alters the Standing Orders. I must, as President, continue to rule that they be complied with. In so slating the position as I see it, I ask the Senate to be appreciative of the situation in which I am placed.
– by leave - Mr President, I submit to the Senate that it is clear that the President is bound to observe the will of the Senate. He is to be regarded as the first of the senators, but the first among equals. The debate on Thursday indicated the view of the Senate as to the requirements of the Constitution and, as I see it, it is the duty of the President to apply the Constitution insofar as it affects the proceedings in the Senate. It is also his duty to carry out the Standing Orders. Insofar as the Standing Orders are inconsistent with the Constitution they are invalid and they are not to be regarded as Standing Orders.
The effect of the vote of the Senate on Thursday was that the Senate decided that the proviso to standing order 448 requiring an absolute majority of senators did not exist in law. In carrying out the Standing Orders the duty of the President, as I conceive it, is to ignore the requirements of that proviso. The duty of the President is quite clear, namely, to apply the Standing Orders so far as they are consistent with the Constitution of the Commonwealth. Insofar as they are inconsistent with the Constitution of the Commonwealth they do not exist.
– I seek leave to make a statement.
– Order!Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– I do not think it appropriate, Mr President, to have a debate of this nature in relation to a statement you have made from the Chair. I think it would be more appropriate and more logical if I moved that the Senate take note of the paper or used some other form of the Senate to enable us to have perhaps a considered debate or perhaps to enable the Standing Orders Committee to discuss the matter or if .1 took some other step. I. would not want this discussion to develop into a debate on your statement. I do not accept, and I am sure Government senators do not accept, in any way the proposition that has been put by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy). For that reason, and without opening up the question, 1 think in all the circumstances it would be more logical and more fitting, in view of the statement you have made, Mr President, that I move: That the Senate lake note of the statement.
I ask for leave to continue my remarks al a later stage.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Senator COHEN presented a petition from seven citizens of the Commonwealth praying that the Parliament give earnest consideration during Human Rights Year to the repeal of the National Service Act 1951-1968.
Petition received and read.
A similar petition was presented by Senator Wriedt.
Petition received and read.
– My question is directed to the Acting Minister for Civil Aviation. I preface my question by stating that a senior official of the International Federation of Airline Pilots Associations claimed in the Press at the weekend that the planned runway at Sydney (Kingsford Smith) Airport will not be wide enough for the safe operations of Jumbo jet aircraft. I ask: Can the Acting Minister give an assurance that that statement is incorrect?
– I saw the Press report to which the honourable senator referred. Knowing the interest of honourable senators in civil aviation matters, J took the trouble to obtain some information about the runway at Sydney (Kingsford Smith;
Airport. The pavement being constructed will be 200 feet wide and all of it will be capable of taking aircraft such as the Boeing 747 quite satisfactorily and safely. The central ISO feet will be marked by lights. The two 25 feet shoulders, which are not normally used by aircraft, though of lesser strength, will still be strong enough to take the Boeing 747 if such an aircraft were ever to run on them. This fulfils all of the recommendations made at a meeting of the International Civil Aviation Organisation in November last year, which .dealt with such matters as runway widths required for aircraft of the Boeing 747 and supersonic type.
The statement attributed to the President of the International Federation, and a subsequent editorial in a Sydney newspaper, could lead people to believe that the reclamation being constructed as a promontory into Botany Bay for the runway is only 200 feet wide. In fact, this promontory is more than 1,200 feet wide and contains the runway and space for a taxiway. The minimum width of prepared ground area recommended for use with international runways is 500 feet. Sydney will have twice that amount. Reclaimed areas for runways at Hong Kong and Tahiti are only 700 feet and’ 500 feet wide respectively.
The proposal for Sydney of a runway with 150 feet central width and two 25 feet shoulders is in accordance with the practice currently followed by such authorities as the Federal Aviation Administration in the United States of America and the British Airports Authority. Airports with runway and shoulder pavement widths similar to those proposed for Sydney include London, New York, Amsterdam, Paris, Brussels, Copenhagen, Washington, Boston, Denver, Seattle and many others throughout the word.
– A few months ago the Minister for National Development said that a close study would be made of the proposed Cressey-Longford irrigation scheme with a view to a special Commonwealth grant. Is the Minister representing the Minister for National Development able to say whether any decision has yet been arrived at?
– In its policy speech a year or so ago the Government announced that $50rn would be set aside for the conservation of natural waters. 1 should like to advise the honourable senator, who comes from Tasmania, that no decision has yet been made. However, discussions have been held with officers of the Tasmanian Rivers and Waters Supply Commission and a detailed study is at present under way.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. Has he seen a report attributed to the New South Wales Minister for Agriculture which stales that sleep rises in the price of bread, eggs and stock feed are inevitable as a result of the proposed readjustment of wheat subsidies announced by the Minister for Primary Industry outside the Parliamentlast Friday? Does the Minister agree with the State Minister’s remarks that this is another example of the Commonwealth policy of offloading its responsibilities on to the States? Will the Minister agree that not only the Slates, wage and salary earners and pensioners will be affected by higher costs, but also the wheat growers themselves and other primary producers will be affected? Can the Minister explain the reasons for the substantial reduction in the guaranteed price of export wheat?
-I did not see the statement which the honourable senator alleges was made by the Minister for Agriculture in New South Wales. The honourable senator referred to a steep rise in price. To the best of my knowledge the Minister for Agriculture in New South Wales referred to anincrease not a steep increase. There will not be a steep increase if the Commonwealth Government’s present proposals are put into effect. Secondly, I happento knowthatthe representatives of the New South Wales wheatgrowers are of the opinion that the proposals that have been put forward bythe Minister for Primary Industry represent a fair offerto the wheatgrowers of New South Wales. The honourable senator referredto the effect that the increased prices would have on certain people. These people would be adversely affected if the increases were of the order suggested by the honourable senator. but in fact the increases in prices will not be of any great magnitude at all. The honourable senator also suggests that the Commonwealth Government is endeavouring to unload its responsibilities on to the Stales. Let me point out to the honourable senator that such a suggestion just does not stand up to examination.
– I address a question tothe Minister representing the Treasurer. By way of preamble I point out that the area of South Australia represented by the Murray Lands District Council Association was one of the areas hardest hit by drought conditions in South Australia, and recent strong winds and sand blasts have caused damage to new crops resulting in many farmers having to re-sow a second and third time. Is the Minister aware that applications from farmers seeking road work with their respective councils as a source of tiding-over income are increasing? Further to the statement made on drought relief by the Prime Minister last Tuesday, will the Minister request of the Treasurer that the Commonwealth continue until 3 1st December of this year reimbursements to the States for expenditure incurred by local government authorities for the maintenance of employment in rural areas?
– As I understand the position,the granting of this type of drought relief is to terminate somewhere about September of this year. The honourable senator is suggesting that I make representations to the right honourable Treasurer that consideration be given to extending the period for granting drought relief through localgovernment authorities until 31st December. I shall certainly refer the mailer to the Treasurer and, as soon as an answer is available. I shall letthe honourable senator have it.
-I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Air: Are the Royal Australian Air Force crews that are being trained to operate and man the F111 aircraft being trained in the use of nuclear weapons?
– The only answer I can give to that question is that I do not know, but I shall inquire from the Minister for Air and see whether I can get a reply fromhim for the honourable senator.
– I address a question to the Minister representing the Treasurer. Having regard to the present wheat stabilisation proposal currently under consideration, in which the Government rejects as invalid the found values of wheat growing land, will the Treasurer request the Commissioner of Taxation to apply the same discounting of land values when assessing estates for estate duly?
– This is clearly a question of policy.
– Can the Leader of the Government inform the Parliament whether Calgair Sales Ltd of Canada or Stanair Incorporated of California had successfully tendered for the purchase of Royal Australian Air Force aircraft prior tothe recent purchase of Dakotas?
– I have not that information available at the moment but 1 shall certainly seek it. As 1 recall the position, the honourable senator has asked another question relating to an associated matter. 1 would hope to get answers to both questions for him on the same day.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for National Development. In view of the many conflicting statements regarding the beneficial finds of oil within Australia, could the Minister advise whether the Australian community will be or is likely to be charged increased prices for petrol and oil when production and distribution of Australian oil become an accomplished reality?
-I am pleased to be able to report that the Government’s policy on oil fuel has been such that at this moment we expect to be able to produce about 60% of Australia’s requirements by 1970-71. In order to give an incentive, it was necessary to increase the price of crude oil found in Australia by about 75c a barrel. That, of course, will mean that there will be an increase in price to the users of petrol in Australia for a period. The amount of that increase will be nothing like the figures cited by some hostile members of the Opposition, who have mentioned figures ranging from 5c to 8c a gallon.
– What will it be?
– The price will be increased at some future date, but 1 do not propose to go into those details now. All I say is that the Government’s policy has been so successful that we will be producing 60% of our petroleum requirements in Australia by 1971.
– My question is directed to the Acting Minister for Civil Aviation. 1 state by way of preamble that the Government has constructed a magnificent terminal at the airport at Western Junction near Launceston. I do not wish to be critical of it, but unfortunately there has been an oversight in that provision has not been made for passengers arriving and departing to have shelter when loading and unloading their baggage; Would the Minister call a conference of the tenants of the terminal - Trans-Australia Airlines and Ansett-ANA - with a view to reaching agreement on making available for members of the general public, an area under the cover of the present loading and unloading bays, or alternatively constructing a canopy for that purpose over the area now used by the public, which is exposed to the frequent winter rains?
– I have just assumed responsibility as Acting Minister for Civil Aviation. I realise the concern that the honourable senator has for the people of Launceston in Tasmania. I will undertake to examine the proposal put forward by him with a view to finding a solution of the problem.
– Has the MinisterinCharge of Tourist Activities received any representations in connection with the need to improve the roads to the South Australian opal mining centres’ of Coober Pedy and Andamooka, which are now being used by tourist buses and the cars of tourists including visitors from overseas and interstate? Will he investigate the extent to which the number of overseas tourists could be increased by the construction of sound allweather roads to these areas and the extent of any possible Commonwealth assistance for this purpose?
– My reply to the question is that I have not received any direct representations, but I am aware indirectly of a widespread view to the effect mentioned by the honourable senator. It is a viewpoint in which I am very interested.
– Has the Minister for Customs and Excise had his attention drawn to Press reports relative to proposed legislation in the State of Victoria to ban the use of eavesdropping and bugging devices except in certain circumstances? Can he advise the Senate whether he has given approval to the collectors of customs in the various States to authorise the use of such devices by customs officers? If he has, what arc the regulations associated with this approval? If he has not, does he intend to delegate such authority to collectors of customs if legislation is passed in Victoria and other States on the lines suggested in the Press reports to which I have referred?
– I can assure the honourable senator that as Minister for Customs and Excise I have issued no such instruction. As to the Press statements to which he referred, 1 would like an opportunity to study them, to learn exactly what is stated therein. I have no knowledge of them at present. After I have studied them 1 will supply a detailed answer to the honourable senator.
– I ask the
Minister for Customs and Excise: In view of increasing drug smuggling from South East Asian areas into Australia, does the Minister’s Department maintain effective liaison with the United States department which investigates drug abuses? Is the honourable gentleman aware of the detection methods used by Mr Frank Bartime, the head of that United States department? Does the Minister’s Department seek to employ such techniques both here and in South East Asia?
– My Department is in constant touch with world authorities on drug smuggling, including those in the United States of America. We receive advice from those authorities from time to time, and at times we give advice. I am not prepared to state details of such advice, but the honourable senator can rest assured that the Government is taking every action it thinks fit to stop drug smuggling into Australia.
– I direct my question to the Acting Minister for Civil Aviation. Last week 1 asked the Minister, as the representative in this chamber of the Minister for Civil Aviation, a question about tenders for car rental concessions at Commonwealth airports. He replied that the Minister for Civil Aviation was not prepared to give the information at present.
– At which airport?
– At all airports. Now that the honourable gentleman is Acting Minister for Civil Aviation, 1 direct his attention to question No. 420 on the notice paper. I believe it would take about 4 minutes for a reasonably efficient secretary to find the answer. Would it be possible to obtain a reply to my question by tomorrow, or has the Government something to hide and is it not prepared to give an answer?
– I can assure the honourable senator that the Government has nothing whatever to hide. We will endeavour to obtain an answer as soon as possible, and when it is obtained I will give it directly to the honourable senator.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Industry whether he has seen reports that the Soviet Union is seeking to enter Australian overseas trade with ships sailing between Australia, Western Europe and East Asia. Has he noted the report in the
Financial Review’ of 7th August that the choice of Australia is possibly governed by the fact that the Russians at present have a substantial number of ships ballasting back from Vietnam? What is the Government’s attitude to this development, particularly in view of our involvement in Vietnam?
– I have seen a reference to the substance of the question asked by the honourable senator. Very properly, 1 will refer the question to the Minister for External Affairs and will give the answer to the honourable senator when I receive it.
– In addressing my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry, I remind him that recently it was announced that Canada is about to recognise Communist China. Could this recognition be a prelude to a raid by Canadian interests on Australia’s wheat markets?
– I have read the statement referred to by the honourable senator. He has asked about the effect on our wheat sales to Communist China. All 1 can say to him in that connection is that Australia is in competition with other countries for disposal of our surplus wheat on various overseas markets. Under the International Grains Arrangement the minimum price is fixed at about $1.39 a bushel. This is something that the Australian Wheat Board must take into consideration when trying to effect sales of our wheat. I cannot say any more than that in reply to the honourable senator.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for the Army aware that university students, who have had their national service deferred until after graduation, have subsequently been inducted as privates and sappers? Can Australia afford this absurd waste of university talent?
-I think the subject matter of the question verges on a matter of policy, but to the extent that it does not 1 shall send it to the Minister for the Army to see whether he is prepared to comment on it. If so 1 shall let the honourable senator have the answer.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Education and Science. Is it a fact that the proportion of enrolments in Australian universities for science type courses has dropped from 46.6% in 1962 to 37.6%last year? If this is a fact does the Government intend to do anything to overcome the trend since Australia has an urgent need for more science students and technologists?
– I regret to inform the honourable senator that at the moment I am not possessed of the information to which she refers. No doubt the Minister will be very interested in her reference to that information. I shall ask him to consider the question and send his observations in the usual way.
– I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate: Is the announced Australia-wide public relations tour by the Prime Minister a preludeto an election in November?
– At present tremendous development is taking place in this vast continent of ours, and this should be a matter of pride to every Australian. I think it is proper and fitting that the Prime Minister should take whatever opportunities he can, having regard to his heavy commitments, to look personally at all the development which his Government has played such an important part in bringing about.
(Question No. 299)
asked the Minister representing the Minister in Charge of Aboriginal Affairs, upon notice:
How many Aboriginal children and children of Aboriginal descent are attending school in (a) Queensland, (b) the Northern Territory and (c) Western Australia?
– The Minister in Charge of Aboriginal Affairs has furnished the following reply:
EDUCATION (Question No. 302)
asked the Minister representing the Minister in Charge of Aboriginal Affairs; upon, notice:
How many unqualified teachers are employed in mission or governmental schools at which Aboriginal children are taught in (a) Queensland, (b) the Northern Territory and (c) Western Australia?
– The Minister in Charge of Aboriginal Affairs has furnished the following reply:
(Question No. 309)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice:
– The Minister for Civil Aviation has furnished the following reply:
(Question No. 316)
asked the Minister representing the Minister-in-Charge of Aboriginal Affairs, upon notice:
– The Minister-in-Charge of Aboriginal Affairs has furnished the following reply:
(Question No. 358)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice:
– The Minister for Primary Industry has supplied the following answer to the honourable senator’s questions:
(Question No. 362)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration, upon notice:
Does Australia accept migration applications from citizens of Brazil? If so, is ethnic origin a determining factor?
– The Minister for Immigration has replied as follows:
Citizens of Brazil who wish to migrate to Australia may make application to the Australian Embassy in Rio de Janiero. The policies determined by the Government in relation to the admission of Europeans, persons of mixed descent and nonEuropeans are the same for people in Brazil as in other countries.
– On 21st August Senator Keeffe asked me the following question without notice:
When was the last protest lodged with the French Government against the testing of nuclear weapons in the Pacific? Will the Minister inform the Parliament of the exact wording of the message of protest?
I said that I would try to get the information sought and that when I had it I would present it in the Senate. The Minister for External Affairs in another place has informedme that the Australian Government protested to the French Government on 17th May 1968 in a note verbale handed to the French Ambassador in Canberra, and has furnished me with a copy of that note verbale. The Australian Government’s protest also applies to the subsequent explosion of a hydrogen bomb. With the concurrence of honourable senators I incorporate the text of the note in Hansard.
On 13th May 1968, the Australian Embassy in Paris received a circular Note of 6th May 1968, from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of France which informed diplomatic missions in Paris that ‘ notifications to air and sea navigators were issued on 2nd May 1968, de-limiting the zone in which the Government of France may conduct nuclear tests in the area of the South Pacific Ocean in the near future.
The Government of France will be aware that the Government of Australia has in the past expressed its strong opposition to the conduct of atmospheric nuclear tests in the Pacific area. The Australian Government has made it clear that it greatly regrets the carrying out of these tests by France and would deplore the resumption of such tests.
On 5th April 1968, in Wellington, New Zealand, the Australia-New Zealand-United Stales (ANZUS) Council, included the following statement in the communique issued after the meeting:
Noting the continued atmospheric testing of nuclear weapons by Communist China and France, the Ministers reaffirmed their opposition to all atmospheric testing of nuclear weapons in disregard of world opinion as expressed in the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty.
The Government of France has important territorial responsibilities in the Pacific region and it is the Australian Government’s policy to mainlain close accord with the French authorities in the region. The persistence of the Government of France, however, in continuing to test nuclear devices in the atmosphere in the Pacific area without regard to the deep concern that this arouses amongst the peoples of the area is a mailer which causes the Government of Australia very great regret.
Senator PROWSE (Western Australia)I present the report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works relating to the following proposed work:
Engineering Services to Neighbourhood Unit No. 3,- Casuarina District, Darwin. 1 ask for leave to make a short statement.
– There being no objection, leave is granted.
– The summary of recommendations and conclusions of the Committee is as follows:
Senator PROWSE (Western Australia)I present the report of the Parliamentary
Standing Committee on Public Works relating to the following proposed work:
Pier Telephone Exchange, Perth.
I ask for leave to make a short statement.
– There being no objection, leave is granted.
– The summary of recommendations and conclusions of the Committee is as follows:
-I inform the Senate that I have received a letter from the Leader of the Australian Democratic Labor Party appointing Senator Byrne as a member of the Select Committee on Water Pollution.
– by leave - 1 make this statement on Aboriginal policy on behalf of the Minister-in-Charge of Aboriginal Affairs. Where the words T and ‘me’ appear they refer to the Minister.
The statement is as follows:
I think I should acquaint the House with the result of my discussions over the last few days with various Slate MinistersinCharge of Aboriginal Affairs. The House will recall that when the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) spoke at the conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers responsible for Aboriginal Affairs on 12th July, he indicated that as soon as an amount had been allocated in the Federal Budget
The House will recollect that the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) has this year proposed to set aside 31Om in an Aboriginal trust fund, of which half would be for capital projects and half would be expended on housing, health and education. I was able to give the Slate Ministers an outline of the way in which the capital fund would operate. Allocations would be made by Cabinet, after processing by the Office of Aboriginal Affairs, for Aboriginal ventures - either corporate or individual - which appeared to be economically viable. We would hope that most of the applications would come forward on the recommendation cither of the State concerned or the Northern Territory. Administration, and I told the State Ministers that under no circumstances would we approve an advance in their State without prior consultation with them. This capital fund would be a revolving fund, so that moneys spent from it would be repayable on agreed terms in respect of each individual project.
The remaining $5m would be for nonpayable grants, and it is proposed to split it between the States, approximately in proportion to their Aboriginal population, as follows:
This will leave $lm for the Northern Territory and $350,000 for later allocation.
Of the $3. 65m split between the Slates, it is anticipated that approximately $2,300,000 will be spent on housing, approximately $500,000 on health, and approximately $850,000 on education. However, the division between these three functions is subject to some adjustment in accordance with the individual wishes of the States concerned, in regard to which they will, I hope, be putting their proposals to us without delay. In regard to housing the Commonwealth has suggested certain principles, including the establishment of a special Aboriginal housing fund in each State and the payment of all rents received from the houses bought or constructed into this fund. 1 have here a copy of our outline scheme which, with the concurrence of the Senate, I incorporate in Hansard. It is as follows:
COMMONWEALTH ASSISTANCE TO THE STATES FOR ABORIGINAL HOUSING
PURPOSES OF PROPOSED STATE ABORIGINAL HOUSING TRUST FUNDS
Payments to the Trust Fund
Rents received from dwellings acquired by using moneys in the trust fund less 20% thereof as a contribution towards administration and maintenance.
Proceeds of sales of land and/or homes acquired wilh the assistance of moneys in the trust fund.
Purposes for which moneys in the Fund may bc expended
Purchase of residential land for Aboriginal housing.
Purchase of existing dwellings for occupation by Aboriginals.
Construction of dwellings for this purpose including hostel-type accommodation.
Unless otherwise specifically agreed by Hie Commonwealth, at least 40% of expenditure from the trust fund must be devoted to the construction or purchase of dwellings within the boundaries of cities and towns.
Not more than 20% of expenditure from the trust fund in a financial year may be used for ‘transitional’ housing. As far as possible housing should be of a standard usually required by the local authority. Wherever practicable, tenants of transitional homes should be under tuition during their occupancy and should move to conventional homes as soon as they demonstrate they are capable of caring for a conventional home.
Aboriginals capable of filling the normal State Housing Commission prerequisites for
Commission homes will continue to be granted them in the normal manner.
Occupants should pay rentals in accordance with their capacity to do so, with a view to their paying an economic rental as soon as possible. Until this stage is reached, they should pay a rental equivalent to a reasonable proportion, say 15%, of the family income.
Land and dwellings acquired with any moneys drawn from the trust fund will be vested in the State Minister or Department of Aboriginal Welfare who will nominate tenants. Wherever practicable, the Slate housing authority should act as agent for the Department in collecting rents and maintaining the properties. The State authority assuming responsibility for rent collection and maintenance would retain the 20% of rent collections referred to in 1 (b) above.
Houses may be sold to the Aboriginal occupants on terms to be agreed between the Commonwealth and the State.
Houses no longer required for Aboriginal occupancy may be sold, on terms to be agreed by the Commonwealth, to the State housing authority or on the open market.
Each Stale will report from timeto timeto the Commonwealth Office of Aboriginal Affairs on its broad proposals for the expenditure of moneys from the trust fund and, as soon as possible after 30th June each year, on -
the location, type and number of dwellings purchased constructed and under construction at 30th June with the assistance of moneys from the trust fund;
the weekly rents being charged for these dwellings; and
the total rents collected during the preceding financial year and the total amount outstanding at 30th June.
All States have agreed to conform to these general principles, though theremay be minor adjustments in various Stales to suit local circumstances.
In relation to education we aim, in co-operation with the States, to have firmly established by the beginning of the next academic year at the latest, a principle which is already operating over a great deal of Australia namely that every Aboriginal child or student who is able to reach the required standard should be given the facilities to proceed with his education, either academically or technically, up to the very highest levels. At the present moment very few Aboriginals have been qualified to enter the universities or colleges of advanced education. In the future, however, the Com monwealth will assume the major financial responsibility for seeing that this opportunity is available for all Aboriginals who can take advantage of it. The States are taking most of the responsibility in the primary and secondary field, but the Commonwealth is allowing moneys provided by it under this education scheme to be used for necessary hostels and similar assistance, so no Aboriginal will be debarred from taking advantage of this educational programme.
In regard to health, special emphasis is to be laid on preventive medicine measures, particularly nutrition and sanitation. The full plan will not be finalised until the meeting of State and Federal health officers in Canberra next October, but this will not delay implementation of some interim measures.
The States have undertaken that this Commonwealth subvention of $3,650,000 will be a net addition to and not in substitute for their normal expenditure on Aboriginal welfare from State funds, and have agreed to minimum amounts for State expenditure upon Aboriginal welfare for 1968-69. Although I was not, of course, in a position to commit the Commonwealth to any figure for the years after 1968-69,I was able to assure the State Ministers that the Commonwealth’s involvement in this field would be a continuing one. The Commonwealth will be administering this programme through the Office of Aboriginal Affairs, with the assistance of and the advice of the Commonwealth Departments of Health, Housing, Education and Science, and the Interior. It is anticipated that moneys will be available for the States under this programme as soon as Parliament passes the present Budget.
– Pursuant to standing order 336I move:
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 22 August (vide page 279), on motion by Senator Anderson:
That the Senate expresses its distress at and its abhorrence of the armed intervention in Czechoslovakia by the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, the East German regime, Poland, Hungary, and Bulgaria; condemns this action as a breach of the United Nations Charter and of accepted international conduct; calls for the immediate withdrawal of the forces unlawfully on Czechoslovakian territory and expresses the sympathy of the Senate for the people of Czechoslovakia in their ordeal.
– I second the motion, A great deal has happened over the last few weeks in Czechoslovakia and in its relations with the surrounding countries, parties to the Warsaw Pact. Out of all this, one fact emerges quite clearly. It is that the armed forces of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and the other countries associated with it invaded Czechoslovakia against the will of the Czechoslovak Government and people. Nobody can hide the truth of the fact from the people of the world. Attempts have been made to disguise it. ( have read in literature issued from the Soviet Embassy here in Canberra suggestions that the armed forces were in fact invited into Czechoslovakia.
Perhaps 1 should read one statement dated 23rd August !968. It is in the ‘Soviet News Bulletin’ published by the Press Office of the USSR Embassy in Australia. It is headed: Why Did Allies Armed Forces Enter Czechoslovakia’. It commences:
It is generally known that the Party leaders and statesmen of the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic have asked the Soviet Union and Allied states to render the fraternal Czechoslovak people urgent assistance, including assistance with armed forces. This request came with the appearance of a threat to the socialist system m the country.
Further on in the same statement appears an attack upon the Czechoslovak Government and upon the Czechoslovak people who were attempting to order their affairs in a way which was not palatable to the Soviet Union. But what we have seen, what we have heard and even what we have read in the statement by the Soviet Union itself, reveal beyond any question that there has been aggression against the Czechoslovak Republic, an aggression which is in violation of the United Nations Charier. It is also in violation of the accepted standards of international conduct. It is no doubt because it is such a violation that the Soviet Union has endeavoured unsuccessfully to cast some show of legality about its clearly illegal actions.
The United Nations Charter, to which the Soviet Union and Czechoslovakia are parties, sets out what the internationalobligations are. That Charter of the United Nations is well worth remembering. It says:
WE THE PEOPLES OF THE UNITED NATIONS DETERMINED
to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind, and to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small–
I repeat - to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small, and to establish conditions under which justice and respect for the obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law can be maintained, and to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom,
AND FOR THESE ENDS
to practice tolerance and live together in peace with one another as good neighbours, and to unite our strength to maintain international peace and security, and to ensure by the acceptance of principles and the institution of methods, that armed force shall not be used, save in the common interest, and to employ international machinery for the promotion of the economic and social advancement of all peoples, have resolvedto combine our efforts to accomplish these aims.
Then the Charter sets out that the respective governments agree to the Charter. The purposes and principles of the Charter are set out in articles. Article1 sets out:
The purposes of the United Nations are:
To maintain international peace and security, and to that end:to take effective collective measures for the prevention and removal of threatsto the peace, and for the suppression of acts of aggression or other breaches of the peace . . .
What has been done by the Soviet Union and is at this moment continuing is, beyond any doubt, an act of aggression and a breach of the international peace. Paragraph 2 of Article 1 states:
To develop friendly relations among nations based on respect for the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples, and to take other appropriate measures to strengthen universal peace.
What has been done is in violation of that provision because it is a denial of the equal rights of the Czechoslovak people with those of the Soviet Union, or its government, and it is in denial of their rights of selfdetermination. Article 2 reads:
The Organisation and its Members, in pursuit of the Purposes stated in Article 1, shall act in accordance with the following principles.
The Organisation is based on the principle of the sovereign equality of all its members.
Here is the first principle being violated because the action of the Soviet Union is inconsistent with the recognition of the sovereign equality of the Czechoslovak people. The next principle reads:
All Members in order to ensure to all of them the rights and benefits resulting from membership, shall fulfil in good faith the obligations assumed by them in accordance with the present Charter.
It is quite clear from what I have already indicated, and from what follows, that these obligations have not been carried out in accordance with the Charter at all. Paragraph 3 of Article 2 reads:
All Members shall settle their international disputes by peaceful means in such a manner that international peace and security, and justice, are not endangered.
What has been done in the last few weeks makes a mockery of that principle of the Charter. The fourth purpose reads:
AH Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations.
I repeat that:
All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations.
What has been done and what is being done is, firstly, a use of force against the territorial integrity of Czechoslovakia and against its political independence. No amount of propaganda can obscure those facts from the people of the world.
Mr BYSTRICKY (Czechoslovakia) said that the Conference was taking p,’ace at a time when his country was going through a social process of direct relevance to the problems before the Conference. The object of the national discussion taking place today was the preparation of new standards in the field of human rights and civil liberties.
Over the past twenty years, his country had experienced contradictory development, with numerous positive achievements, especially with regard lo economic, social and cultural rights and the abolition of social injustice; on the other hand, human rights and political liberties that had been limited or suspended during the revolutionary changes had not all been re-introduced when they should have been.
The events taking place in his country did not challenge the socialist nature of the national system but were directed at its renaissance, lt was the socialist system which created the necessary conditions for the full development of the freedom of the citizen and the rights of man, the creator. His country’s aim was to make full use of the possibilities inherent in socialism and to build a society in which socialism, freedom, democracy and humanism formed a unity of ideas and reality. Far from being a rigid system, socialism was capable of changes and development, a concept expressed in the programme of the new Czechoslovak Government which aimed to develop the rights and freedoms of its citizens, especially their political rights and freedoms, and which considered the rights of the individual as the cornerstone of the socialist State. A wide range of legislative and institutional changes were being prepared and significant changes made in the political and economic system. Fundamental civic and political rights, in particular the freedoms of assembly and association and the freedom of opinion and expression were already being exercised more than ever before.
With the concurrence of honourable senators, I incorporate in Hansard the rest of the official record of that speech.
The Czechoslovak Government, aware of the scientific and technical revolution thai was under way, had also set itself the task of amalgamating socialism and scientific and technical progress wilh democracy and humanism, in a way in keeping with the finest traditions of the Czechoslovak people. For that, it had to devise a system of placing science and technology at the service of mankind.
Socialism did not aim merely to overthrow the obsolete, but to adopt, re-adapt and develop further the values, rights and freedoms that were part of mankind’s common heritage. His delegation was convinced it had much to gain in that respect from the Conference and from the experience of the participating nations.
Internationally, Czechoslovakia highly appreciated the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which succeeded in harmonising the fundamental notions born of the English, American and French Revolutions wilh those born of the great October revolution. The Declaration had played a very positive part in securing progress in the field of human rights; but hunger, disease, ignorance and many other scourges were still a sad reality as was evident from the documents of the various specialised agencies. Moreover, the enormous advances in technology and the abundance of consumer goods had not made for a happier or more balanced life in the wealthy countries, whose citizens suffered from nervous breakdowns, depression, frustration and alienation from society. Sociological research had established that one of the causes for such a state of affairs was the formal character of many social institutions and the ineffectiveness of the people’s participation in the government of their country and administration of industrial civilisation.
The whole world was certainly facing tremendous economic, social and moral problems, which could only be solved by. long-term programmes of action. New problems doubtless demanded new solutions, but energy and goodwill were al] that was required for many current problems. That was why it was so regrettable that at the time of the twentieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration millions of human beings were still victims of colonialism, racism - particulary apartheid - and imperialist aggression. While progressive forces were being persecuted in some countries, in others war criminals were parading freely, protected by their governments. It was the duty of the United Nations to strive ceaselessly to put an end to such a situation; Czechoslovakia hoped the Conference would recommend effective measures in that connection.
The Czechoslovak people, the first victims of Nazism, were disturbed to see their western neighbour tolerating the existence of a neo-Nazi movement. Such an attitude could not be justified by freedom of the Press, of expression or of assembly, for Nazism had been responsible for the Second World War and for the extermination of millions of human beings.
As far as the international pi election of human rights was concerned be considered the adoption of Human Rights Covenants had been a success which proved that ideological differences should be no obstacle to international co-operation. His delegation was pleased to announced that Czechoslovakia would shortly sign the Covenants; it was of the greatest importance that as many States as possible should also sign such instruments. It was a mistake that the Covenants were not open to accession by all States; while emphasising the principle of non-discrimination, they contained articles discriminating against one-third of the world’s population. The Conference should recommend that the General Assembly should exercise its rights under articles 26 and 48 of the Covenants and invite all States, without distinction to accede lo those instruments. The same should apply also with regard to all other treaties on human rights’.
International bodies had an important part to play in the control and implementation of human rights. The protection of those rights was the concern of the main United Nations organs of the subsidiary bodies set up under Article 22 of the Charter, and of the bodies set up by a number of specialised agencies; their authority and competence could, if necessary, be extended to the limits set by the Charter.
The creation of a post of High Commissioner for Human Rights would, of course, be useful, but his competence should not go beyond the Charter, and an atmosphere of mutual confidence should prevail.
The United Nations should promote economic, social and cultural rights, stressing their interdependence, and should concern itself especially with the growing dissatisfaction of youth with its status in society and its disillusionment with institutions.
His delegation hoped that the Conference would help create throughout the world an atmosphere in which acts contrary to the Universal Declaration would meet wilh general condemnation. The greatest success the Conference could achieve would bc to succeed in awakening the conscience of men so as to protect human rights not through institutions but through the people themselves. His delegation was willing’ to lake its share of the responsibility.
During the last few months - that is, during May and June and into July - it was apparent that increasing pressure was being brought by the Soviet Union upon the Czechoslovak Government and people to refrain from the extension of civil and political rights to the Czechoslovak people. In July this pressure amounted not only to statements being made by the Soviet Government through its newspapers but clearly to threats of military force against Czechoslovakia. On 29th July, as leader of the Australian Labor Party in the Senate and as the spokesman for the Federal Parliamentary Labor Party on civil liberties, J made a statement which was published widely in Australia and which was in these terms:
Every nation is entitled to determine its own political future.
Australia should demonstrate publicly our support for the Czechoslovak Government and people in their determined effort to secure independence and to extend civil and political rights.
The Soviet Union should desist from intimidation. Ils attempt to destroy Czech independence by improper pressures deserves universal condemnation.
At the earliest opportunity I intend to ask the Australian Labor Party to express inside and outside Parliament support for the Czech Government in its moves towards political freedom.
At the first meeting of the Executive of the Federal Parliamentary Labor Parly thereafter, that statement was endorsed and a statement of opposition to the improper pressures exerted by the Soviet Union was sent to the embassies of the Soviet Union and the other countries that were referred lo in the resolution.
– What were the other countries?
– -The Warsaw Pact countries, with the exception of East Germany. At that stage there appeared to be a lull in the increasing tension between the two countries. Honourable senators will recall the discussions that were taking place. It was hoped that the determination of the Czechs to preserve their own independence and lo give civil and political rights to their people would convince the Soviet Government that it should adopt a more reasonable course than hitherto. We have seen, however, that the arguments of reason did not prevail. The Czech nation has been invaded. Its Government’s control of Prague and other cities has been divested from it. Its leaders have been forced to go to Moscow to endeavour to preserve their own country from bloodshed and to preserve their own freedom and independence as far as they might. lt is terrible to think that in 1968, wilh the experience that we have had of two wars in the lives of many of those now present, and with the establishment of the United Nations to prevent the very thing that is happening in Czechoslovakia, we still see the use of aggression and the trampling upon the rights of an independent state. This interference by one great state with the endeavours of another state to order its affairs according to its own wishes Ls especially abhorrent when that ordering of affairs is completely consistent with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights made under the United Nations and completely consistent with the Charter of the United Nations. What these Czech people are doing is undeniably in furtherance of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. They are entitled to be doing what they are doing. Not only are they entitled to do it; 1 believe that the whole world would applaud what they have been trying to do. lt is a tragedy to think that through fear of consequences to itself the Soviet Union should use force, be aggressive and break the principles and violate the purposes of the Charter of the United Nations of which it is a member.
This action of the Soviet Union shows the wisdom of the Australian Government which, through Dr Evatt, endeavoured to have the veto provisions deleted from the Charter. We have seen that the Security Council has been effectively immobilised. However, this would not be the end of the matter, even if there were no veto.
– It was immobilised at the request of the Czechoslovakian representative.
– Yes, but it is obvious that wilh or without a veto we face the brutal fact that the super-powers in the world today have large military forces at their disposal. Even if the Security Council could pass a resolution, it must be apparent to everyone that the military forces at the disposal of the super-states mean that whenever their interests are involved in a matter such as this it is in practice impossible for the United Nations to act as it should.
– The General Assembly under the uniting for peace resolution, could mobilise world opinion.
– The point put by Senator Byrne is correct in the sense that the United Nations can still serve, even through the General Assembly, to move for the moral suasion of the whole world against conduct of this kind. However, while large military forces are at the disposal of the super-states it is impossible to carry out the purpose of the United Nations. It will not be possible until we have a system of world government with a monopoly of military forces acting on the decisions of representatives elected by the peoples of the world and not simply as representatives of the principal states. Not until then will we have the conditions necessary and sufficient for the establishment of world peace. Anything less than a monopoly of military forces in a world government so organised will not be enough to secure peace. Such a condition would be sufficient lo produce peace.
Within the organisation of the United’ Nations there is no machinery able to act effectively in circumstances such as we are discussing, irrespective of the veto power. The faults of the United Nations are far more fundamental. It is still acting as a federation of states instead of as a government of the peoples of the world with the effective military forces of the world at its disposal. The events in Czechoslovakia are tragic and they can be repeated elsewhere. I think the motion sufficiently expresses in moderate terms the feeling of the Australian people on the question. That is why the Opposition supports it.
On this occasion political parties right throughout the country are of the one view. lt might be said by the Soviet Union that the people who oppose it, as the Soviet has said of those in Czechoslovakia, are the representatives only of bourgeois groups, or they are anti-Socialist or they are this or that. On this occasion I think it is true that Australia and the whole of the world is appalled by the actions of the Soviet Union. That is illustrated by the fact that, as 1 understand it, in Australia the Communist Parties have protested against the actions of the Soviet Union. Various European Communist Parties, outside of those engaged in the aggression, have acted similarly. 1 wish to give another illustration of the way in which bodies which are sometimes maligned have expressed their views on this matter. 1 was handed today a document emanating from the Association of International Co-operation and Disarmament of New South Wales, lt states:
This Association condemns and protests in the strongest possible terms the flagrant and unprovoked violation of Czechoslovakia national independence, territorial integrity and selfdetermination, by the USSR.
We urge all organisations and individuals concerned to uphold these basic international principles governing proper relations between States to demand that the USSR immediately withdraw its military forces from Czechoslovakia.
Further, that the USSR refrain from any future use or threat of force or interference in any other way, in the internal affairs of Czechoslovakia or any other State.
I think that the course to be followed by members of this Parliament is quite clear.
The Russians have acted in complete contravention of the United Nations Charter and in violation of all the accepted principles of international order. It is no possible justification, and it is a tragedy, that the Soviet Union should persist with its will against a smaller nation. Its success is not due to any support from the people of Czechoslovakia, but merely due to its armed forces. I have no doubt that the spirit of the Czechoslovakian people will manifest itself and that they will continue to conduct themselves as they have in the last few months, to endeavour to maintain their independence and to insist upon the extension of their freedoms. Insofar as this resolution will add to the world torrent of protest against the actions of the Soviet Union and will assist, the people of Czechoslovakia. 1 commend it to the Senate.
– The Australian Democratic Labour Party believes that the motion moved on behalf of the Government and supported by the Opposition is well enough in its way, but we also believe that it requires teeth. There fore I move the following amendment : At end of motion add: and, in the belief that more than sympathy with Czechoslovakia or verbal condemnation of the Soviet Union is required, calls on the Government, in the event that Soviet troops are not recalled and full independence restored lo Czechoslovakia immediately, to give urgent consideration to:
At a later stage I propose to detail the reasons why I have moved the amendment. At this stage I wish to point out that what has happened in Czechoslovakia is merely an example of history repeating itself. The history of Russia over the past 200 years contains a number of examples of the use of Russian troops to reinforce or to defend autocratic government.
The most notable example was in 1848 when Czar Nicholas I sent troops into the area of which Czechoslovakia is now part in order to destroy liberal movements which were common at that time and, as he said, to assert the principle of autocracy.
There seems to be something fatal about the figure 8 for Czechoslovakia. In 1848, as today, Russian troops put down movements of revolt which sought a more liberal system of government. In 1918 Czechoslovakia obtained her freedom. In 1938 Hitler destroyed the freedom of Czechoslovakia. In 1948 the democratic Government of Czechoslovakia was overthrown and a Communist dictatorship was instituted. Now in 1968 once again Czechoslovakia has been invaded for the purpose of repressing a movement towards liberalism. Therefore I point out that there is something to bc said for those people who say that there is little difference between the foreign policies pursued by Russia under the Czars and those that she pursues under Communism. In the 19th century she sent’ troops to defend the principle of autocracy. In the 20th century she sends troops into western Europe to defend the principle of Communist dictatorship.
Why has Russia taken this action? I think we must realise that there have been developments, not only . in the puppet countries but also in the Soviet Union itself, which have caused a great fear among those who rule the Soviet Union today. They ure aware of the power of the written word and they have been doubly apprehensive because of the manner in which young writers, who have grown up under Communism and who would be expected to be so thoroughly indoctrinated in the Communist point of view, that they could think of no other, have put forward principles of freedom which to a Communist government are anathema. The Communists have become afraid of these movements towards liberalism not only in the puppet countries but also in the Soviet Union itself. There were the spectacular trials of writers and literary figures in the Soviet Union which resulted in the imprisonment of Sinyavsky, Daniel and Ginsburg. In Poland a ban hits been placed upon a great play by a Polish writer of the 19th century merely because, in referring to the repressive action taken by the Czarist troops, he referred lo the Russian troops as instruments of tyranny. Although he was referring to Czarist troops, pressure from the Soviet Union caused the play to be banned. Those who were associated with it were punished. When students sought to make some kind of protest in public, they were savagely repressed. A similar situa tion existed in the Ukraine. The Soviet Union leaders are particularly tender in regard to the Ukraine because it has a homogeneous group of people who have very strong, nationalist feelings and who have never ceased to indicate that they believe they have a right to freedom. Therefore the result is that the leaders of the Soviet Union have thought it necessary to take action in western Europe lest a revolt of the slaves there might lead to a revolt of the slaves in the Soviet Union itself.
Some people have attempted to suggest that there may have been good reason for the Soviet action. Mr Calwell suggested - and he reiterated his statement only the night before last - that there was a case for the Soviet Union as well as a case for Czechoslovakia. He suggested that the action taken, by the Soviet Union might be justified - although he said clearly that he did not approve of its entering Czechoslovakia - on the ground that it had reason to fear that one day Czechoslovakia may be used as a corridor for the invasion of the Soviet Union. I think an examination of the military power at the disposal of the Soviet Union, compared with that of the countries to its west, indicates the foolishness of that suggestion. But 1 was surprised to find Mr Calwell suggesting that there could be a reason for a large country extinguishing the independence of a small country on the ground that it was necessary for the security of the’ larger country because 1 remember the young Mr Calwell as an ardent protagonist of the freedom of Ireland. In those days the reasons given by people who said that Britain had the right to deny independence to Ireland was that Britain had the right to security and Ireland might be used for the purpose of mounting an invasion or an attack upon Great Britain. The young Mr Calwell, with fervent and fiery indigation, which I applauded - God forgive me, I cheered with the rest - insisted that under no circumstances could the independence of a small nation be destroyed in the interests of the security of a large nation. I can only regret that he is not prepared to assert so fervently that principle in the case of the invasion of Czechoslovakia by the Soviet Union.
Another argument that has been put forward in support of the Soviet Union’s action is it was necessary to preserve the
Warsaw Pact, a pact between the Soviet Union and its Communist satellite nations for mutual defence. I point out that the very first article of the Warsaw Pact, signed in 1955, says that the contracting parties agree to refrain from force and the threat of force against each other. In other words in 1955 the Soviet Union signed a clear promise that it would refrain from force and the threat of force against the nations which were parties to the Warsaw Pact. Having signed that clear promise, it now breaks that promise and says that it is justified because it is doing so in order to defend the Warsaw Pact.
I point to a further instance of treaty obligations by the Soviet Union in respect of threats to the independence of Czechoslovakia. In 1.943, when the Soviet Union wanted the assistance of the Czech people in its war against Hitler, the Soviet Union signed a treaty with Czechoslovakia in which it agreed to respect the independence of Czechoslovakia and not to interfere in its internal affairs.
Why has the Soviet Union acted? One reason could be that it has been shocked by the fact that liberal sentiments in favour of freedom have been discovered to exist in what the Soviet Union regarded as the model Communist satellite. The view in the Soviet Union was that if there was one Communist satellite that could be relied on it was Czechoslovakia. Why should the Soviet Union think otherwise. Czechoslovakia had been a most valuable satellite to the Soviet Union, lt was a highly industrialised country which could be of great assistance to the economy of the Soviet Union, and it had been. As we know, from the old Bata factory days Czechoslovakia has been famous for the production of shoes. But since she fell under Communist rule - I give only one example - she has been supplying shoes to the Soviet Union in immense quantities at less than half the cost of production. Czechoslovakia’s Communist leaders under Novotny were always subservient to the Soviet Union. Whatever protests, objections or riots were drummed up. say, in East Germany or Hungary or any other countries, one could always, in the view of leaders of the Soviet Union, rely on the Czechs to be subservient. Even in 1948, when the Soviet Union extinguished the democratically elected Government under
President Benes which it had promised to support, just to show there was no feeling against Communism General Svoboda, who is now the President of the country and negotiating in Moscow, co-operated as commander of the Czech army with the Communists so that they could completely take over the Government and form a one-party state.
So far as socialisation was concerned, once again Czechoslovakia was regarded as a model. It has been reported by the Soviet Union that industry in Czechoslovakia was socialised or nationalised or communised to a greater degree than in any other Communist satellite, while in regard to agriculture the collectivisation of the land was further advanced in Czechoslovakia than in any Communist satellite except Bulgaria. To show that Czechoslovakia was completely subservient to the Soviet Union, the Soviet at the end of the Second World War demanded that it should hand over its eastern province of Ruthenia to the Soviet Union. The reason given was that Ruthenia consisted largely of Ukrainians, and the Soviet Government said that the Ukrainians in Ruthenia, in eastern Czechoslovakia, were filled with a burning desire to be reunited with their fellow Ukrainians under the apron of Mother Russia. I point out that that was, of course, a shotgun wedding. They were not given any alternative. Czechoslovakia was told that the eastern Ukrainians wanted to go back to Russia, and it is interesting to know that they were so anxious to go back to Russia that, for about 15 years after they were put back, in that area a powerful guerilla war was waged by those very Ukrainians in the hope of achieving their independence.
It was the same in the trade unions. In the democratic period from 1918 to 1948 Czechoslovakia had a trade union movement which was to be admired in every respect. It was well organised, it was conducted in a democratic way, it played a considerable part in international trade union organisations, and when the Communist Party took over forcibly in 1948 the first thing that it did was to destroy the power of the unions to be free and insist that the unions be changed to organisations whose duty consisted of disciplining the workers, lifting production and ensuring that there should be no strikes. In those circumstances, of course, Czechoslovakia was regarded as a model Communist puppet.
Its armed forces were incorporated in the armed forces of the Warsaw Pact. It was a remarkable organisation, consisting of the armed forces of Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, East Germany, Hungary, Poland and Romania, but the commander was a Russian and the equipment also had to be Russian so that these forces could be integrated with the Soviet forces. Not only that, but also Czechoslovakia was integrated in an economic hegemony. Her economy was tied to that of the Soviet Union on terms which were advantageous to the Soviet and disadvantageous to the Czech people. When Czechoslovakia wanted to take advantage at times of opportunities for trade or economic contact with the West, she was informed that she was not permitted to do so, and the order came from Moscow. The result was that her iron and other raw materials, so far as they could be supplied, were sent in from the Soviet Union at a price disadvantageous to Czechoslovakia. He oil came in what was called the Friendship Oil Pipeline from Russian oil wells in the Urals. The result was that the Soviet had a stranglehold on Czechoslovakia and used her in the interests of the Soviet Union and its economy.
Suddenly this model puppet turned out to be not prepared to be a puppet at all. Suddenly there were stirrings towards freedom. Suddenly the writers began to speak up, not only in Czechoslovakia but also in the Soviet Union, the Ukraine, Poland and elsewhere. The first thing that happened was that a powerful warning was issued to the puppet countries by the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. This is what it said:
Their duty is to wage an offensive struggle against bourgeois ideology, to stand up actively against attempts to introduce views alien to the Socialist ideology of Soviet society into individual works of literature, art, and so forth . . .
There was to be no freedom of literature and no artistic freedom. There was permission to write and to produce artistic works but all of these were designed to serve Communism. Then, of course, the leaders of the Soviet Union, disturbed as they were at what the writers were doing, suddenly realised that there were other moves going on in Czechoslovakia and other puppet countries. In order to increase production, moves were made to introduce a system of individual incentives. The Soviet Union used such a system but regarded it as treachery for puppet countries also to try to introduce such a system to overcome their economic difficulties. Some of the puppets, including Romania and Czechoslovakia, began to make proposals to look for markets in the West. They began to talk about producing quality goods with which to make money and solve their problems of outside balances, instead of making the goods which best suited the economy of the Soviet Union.
There were overtures to Western writers and encouragement of tourism. Of course, that is not a good thing in the eyes of a number of Communist leaders, because if you allow people to come in and tell the slaves that they are slaves, the slaves then tend to want to rise in revolt for freedom. So there was an impatience all over the Communist world, among many of the older people who had known freedom and among the young people who had grown up under Communism and its indoctrination and found that it did not give them what they wanted. There was a realisation among many who had been Communists that Communism was not working. As one new Australian said to me the other day in regard to Czechoslovakia - I think this sums it up; what is happening today is that Communists are sick of Communism. In spile of warnings that they must not continue to do so, the writers and the trade unions declared for freedom.
One event in Czechoslovakia which has received little notice over the past 12 months has been the rising demands of the trade unions for greater freedom. In a Soviet or a Communist state the leader of the trade union organisation is a government official appointed to carry out the tasks of disciplining the workers and of ensuring that production is lifted. He is not appointed by the trade unionists; he is not elected by the trade unionists; he is appointed by the government. When there were stirrings within the past 12 months in the trade unions and among workers against this system the Czech Government, which was being forced gradually along the road to more freedom, adopted the proposal that it should get rid of the old line Communists who had been ruling the unions for quite a few years and replace them by other government appointees. When that happened the unionists objected powerfully. They demanded a meeting of the trade union organisations to consider whether they should not be able to provide their own leaders. Of course, when the news got back to the Soviet Union that the trade unionists were demanding the right to elect their own leaders it was realised that if that were permitted it could be the end of Communism. Even worse, there were proposals to allow religious freedom.
When the Communists took over in 1948 one of the first things they did was to ban the leaders of the predominant church, the Catholic Church, and the leaders of the other churches from exercising over their religious bodies the powers that they had exercised previously. Archbishop Beran, the head of the Catholic clergy in Czechoslovakia, was imprisoned for years. Recently he was released on condition that he went into exile. The other bishops were told that they were to exercise their powers only under the supervision of the Government, and a group of people who were called patriotic priests - priests who were prepared to accept Communism - were placed in charge of the Church. There was repression of religion, both Protestant and Catholic, throughout the country. There was no freedom, as we know it, of a religious nature.
In view of the rising demand for more freedom the Dubcek Government declared that it would grant a modicum of freedom to the Church. Of course, Communism and religion are completely incompatible. In the view of a true Communist, religion cannot exist or be tolerated in a Communist state. In relation to this move for freedom for the trade unions, freedom of religion, freedom to write, freedom to make your own arrangements with other countries for trade, all of which are anathema to Communism, the people in the Kremlin adopted the attitude: ‘If we allow this in Czechoslovakia and Romania the people in the Soviet Union will be demanding this kind of thing’. The result was that they took the action that they took and, as I have said already, in taking that action they are no different from the Czars who, in the 19th century, repeatedly used Russian troops to crush movements for freedom on the ground that it was necessary to defend autocracy. Today the successors of the Czars living in the Kremlin are doing exactly the same thing - they are using armed force to suppress freedom.
I have been somewhat surprised by suggestions that those people who try to defend the Government of Czechoslovakia against the invasion from the Soviet Union are defending a Communist government. Undoubtedly the people in the Government were old line Communists, but I stick to the opinion I mentioned earlier that caine from a new Australian who said that in Czechoslovakia the Communists are sick of Communism. We are told that these people - Dubcek and the others who once were Communists but who apparently are not Communists of the Stalin type - were proposing to permit free trade unions, freedom of religion, freedom of expression and economic freedom. Any country in which there are free trade unions, freedom of religion, freedom of expression and economic freedom is not a Communist country. Irrespective of whether they were Communists once - they were - the fact remains that they were being forced by pressure in their own country and in neighbouring countries to realise that the people did not want Communism.
What is the apparatus by which a Communist state maintains its power, the one party system, the secret police, literary repression, repression of all kinds and brutality? I marvel at those honourable members in another place who said: ‘Well, now we are all defending a Communist government’. Once a government allows freedom of religion, free trade unions, economic freedom, freedom of expression and freedom of the Press, and once a government attempts “to do away with the power of the secret police to hold people without trial, it ceases to be a Communist government. I regret that people have attempted to suggest that all that this means is that the people of Czechoslovakia wanted one form of Communist government in preference to another form of Communist government. They do not want a Communist government. They want freedom of religion, freedom of expression, free trade unions and economic freedom. They do not want the secret police. When they do not want those things they do not want Communism because that is what Communism stands for.
I conclude by a reference to the amendment that I have moved. The suggestions I have made are suggestions that I decided to advance because they were put forward by 2,000 Czechs and a number of people from other countries under Communism at a meeting which was held in Melbourne on Sunday last. So I am at least in the situation of putting forward these proposals and of saying that they are proposals which the Czechs in Australia want. The motion itself is a very good one. I was pleased to see that both the Government and the Opposition supported it. But what does it mean? If that is all we intend to do. it means that we have spanked the ankles of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union with a tram ticket. That is what it means if we merely carry this motion. I should think that the people of the world would expect something a bit stronger.
The other day we were informed in this Senate that we had imposed sanctions on trade with Rhodesia. I do not want to compare Rhodesia with Czechoslovakia but I ask whether, in the view of many people, the situation on which we took action in relation to Rhodesia is just as bad as or worse than what has happened in Czechoslovakia. If we arc strong and say that we will impose sanctions on Rhodesia, except of course in relation to our wheat - we send people there to sell our wheat while we are proudly proclaiming sanctions - how will we justify it if, in the case of Czechoslovakia, all we say to the Russians is: ‘You have been very naughty boys’? What the people in Czechoslovakia are asking and what is being asked in this country is: What is the Australian Government going to do? Therefore, I look to my amendment. It states: . . in the belief that more than sympathy with Czechoslovakia or verbal condemnation of the Soviet Union is required, calls on the Government, in the event that Soviet troops are not recalled and full independence restored to Czechoslovakia immediately …
The amendment will not take effect if the Russians pull out of Czechoslovakia and restore full independence. There have been references in this morning’s Press and on the radio to the effect that some sort of agreement has been reached and that as part of that agreement Russian troops will be stationed on Czechoslovakia’s border for protective purposes. If they stay there-
– The late news referred to a withdrawal.
– I have heard it suggested that the Russian troops will withdraw, but there was a saving clause to the effect that agreement had been reached that a number of Russian troops remain on the frontiers of Czechoslovakia for protective purposes. We have not yet seen the full text of any agreement. I wonder whether we will ever see the full text of any agreement that is reached. If the Russians insist upon denying complete freedom to Czechoslovakia, I believe that the Commonwealth Government ought to take action. The DLP does not suggest that the Government should act immediately in accordance with my amendment. It is aware that some honourable senators may have reservations in regard to what action should be taken and that they may want to consider the possible eventualities. What the DLP suggests is that the Government should give urgent consideration - and I see nothing wrong with this - to whether the proposals contained in my amendment should be adopted. I believe that the DLP’s proposal that the Government should give urgent consideration to breaking off diplomatic relations to the Soviet Union and to the imposition pf sanctions on trade with the Soviet Union would be an indication to the Czechs living in Australia and their compatriots abroad that the Australian Government will not merely pass a pious resolution, as happened when Hungary was taken over by the Russians, and then forget about it. Indeed, only recently the Australian Government signed a treaty with Hungary recognising the very government which was put into power by Russian bayonets.
I conclude by saying that I am pleased to see that all political parties in this chamber - if not all sections of the House of Representatives - have fully supported the motion for the condemnation of Soviet action which is before the Chamber. But I do feel that if the Russians do not withdraw and give full independence to Czechoslovakia we are entitled to call on the Commonwealth Government to consider some policy which will at least show teeth.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Dame Ivy Wedgwood) - Is the amendment seconded?
– I second the amendment.
It may be thought, Mr Speaker, that a parliamentary motion of support for the Czechs and A condemnation of the invaders in this place is a frail weapon, at least in the short term, to set against the tanks and the tommy guns of the Russian invaders; but it is a weapon available to us and, in the long term, in this and other parliaments it may not be as frail as it at first might appear. At least it is a weapon which the Czechoslovakian mission to the United Nations, at the behest of the Czechoslovakian National Assembly, asked us to use, saying:
We appeal to parliaments of all countries and to the world public opinion and ask them to support our legitimate requirements.
In those circumstances, it seems to me that the correct course for the Senate is to endorse the actions of the other place.
– We do not always do that.
– No, we do not always do that. But I am putting a proposition. I am not discounting the possibility that, in other circumstances, the Opposition might support the DLP’s proposal. As Senator Gair is aware, and as the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate has pointed out, not only did the Opposition endorse the decision taken in the other place, but also, prior to that decision being taken, the Australian Labor Party made a completely clear state ment condemning the Soviet Union’s actions. As the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate has pointed out, before this statement was made by the Federal Executive of the ALP he made a personal statement - with which 1 completely agree - condemning the actions of the Soviet Union in invading Czechoslovakia. Having in mind the reaction of almost all the democratic people throughout the world, it seems to me that the Australian Government should at this stage do what the Czech delegation to the United Nations asked us to do, that is, make a formal complaint, and leave subsequent action, if required, to be determined after proper deliberation in this Parliament.
I think that most of us agree with ninetenths of what Senator McManus said. But I was unable to understand his remarks concerning the claim made in the other place about our defending a Communist state. Whether we like it or not, it is a fact that our protest is based on the invasion of a Communist country, although it is certainly a Communist country that has embarked upon a policy of liberalisation and reform. It is not the only Communist country, as Senator McManus observed, which is displaying within its own political structure trends that are good trends - trends that the peoples of the world, particularly those who want to see a great contribution made towards peace and who do not want to see a new world war emerge out of Vietnam or any other situation, respect and want to see developed. Thai is why the first point the Opposition makes is that the Soviet Government has dealt a great blow to its own country and to its own influence in the world. I think all of us subscribe to that observation.
In recent years we have seen what is popularly called a dialogue between East and West, between the Kremlin and Washington. Discussion has taken place on important critical issues in order to improve the world situation. For instance, we know that talks took place during the Cuba crisis. I believe that mere have also been undercurrents of communication between the United States of America and the Kremlin on a possible solution in Vietnam. But this has now been thrown to the wolves. The result is that the Iron Curtain has reappeared. All the strong developments towards peace, the good influences and the good actions that we saw in the Soviet Union and in other Communist countries have been destroyed. We had seen the introduction of a free exchange of people. As Senator McManus said, there were great trends towards young people becoming educated in universities and generally reaching higher educational standards. More people were visiting the so-called Iron Curtain countries. Exchange visits were taking place between people of the Iron Curtain countries, Australia, Great Britain and other countries.
We saw the exchange of scientific material. In fact it was reported some months ago that His Holiness the Pope proposed lo visit the Soviet Union. Now all this has been thrown overboard by the Soviet Union - by nobody else - and the results of all the good trends that we saw developing have been denied to the people of the world. In addition, of course, and what is worse, all the extreme right wing militaristic and Fascist elements in the world will gain strength and become prominent again. All these people will be talking about the need for more action against Communism. Most of us saw in our visits to Communist countries a development which led us to believe that most young people in those countries would at some stage thrust aside the bonds of repression and claim the right to a democratic system. In addition, as Senator Mulvilhill said, they expected no longer to be hamstrung by the old concepts of Marxism which had been fashioned to incorporate the views of the Stalinists.
Whether we like it or not, in this action in Czechoslovakia we have seen the work of the hard-liners of the Communist world, assuming power based on a military machine. This is most unfortunate. All of us would be reminded of the similarity between the takeover by Hitler and the action of the Soviet Union in Czechoslovakia. I remember speaking in 1938 at a meeting in Adelaide and protesting against Hitler’s military machine rumbling into Czechoslovakia. This similarity was referred to also by Senator McManus today. In Czechoslovakia, not only today but also in former times, there were great, freedoms and great trends towards socialisation. In those days and more recently it had become a highly socialised state. All the excuses that have been made are, in my opinion, only pretexts. I have read the two documents issued by the USSR Embassy in Canberra, but it seems to me that they contain no evidence of a counter revolution in Czechoslovakia. The fear that the Communists had was a fear of liberalisation. People in all sections of the Czechoslovak economy were wanting to reach out and talk to their counterparts in other parts of (he world, although these people may have been ideologically opposed to them. But in addition to this, in the Western world the peacemakers, the doves, as I shall call them, were reaching out and wanting to talk to people in the Soviet Union and other Communist countries. There was evidence of this happening.
It was unfortunate that in 1961 the rebuilding of the Berlin wall made this communication more difficult, but more recently there had been a lessening of restrictions on travel between the east and the west. Before the Czech nation was invaded we had a situation in which Ministers from East and West Germany, men who for a long time had criticised each other, had at last agreed to meet. So the invasion of Czechoslovakia was a double tragedy. In a situation in which the cold war might have lessened, the hard-liners in the Communist Parties felt that their position had to be strengthened because, in their eyes, they were in a weakening position inside their own countries. Bur what sort of solution is it in Communist countries, or in any other countries for that matter, for people to resort to armed might to solve ideological differences? I am sure that all honourable senators who have read the statements issued by the USSR Embassy will agree with me that they are nonsense. There is no evidence of a counter revolution. The statements contain all sorts of general grounds to justify the Communist action. They refer to a weakening of the Socialist effort, to managers of Czechoslovakian enterprises wanting to meet managers of similar enterprises elsewhere and to the need for trade and markets. Perhaps some of these reasons are bona fide, but they are the same sort of reasons which were mentioned by Senator McManus in his argument to show that Czechoslovakia was not a Communist gate. lt seems to me that the reasons are not well founded and are not correct. Certainly the argument advanced by the Soviet Union that it was asked to intervene in Czechoslovakia is no better than the argument used by Hitler in .1938. We as a Parliament should reject these arguments and criticisms of liberalisation. I shall read the first paragraph of the statement issued by the USSR Embassy on 23rd August 1968: lt is generally known that the Party leaders and statesmen of the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic have asked the Soviet Union and other Allied stales to render the fraternal Czechoslovak people urgent assistance, including assistance with armed forces. This request came with the appearance of a threat to the socialist system in the country.
I emphasise the words ‘It is generally known’, lt is nol generally known that this was the situation and all the documents which have been issued in Australia and all the Press reports have been, so far as 1 have been able lo see, a cover-up by the Soviet Union and an attempt to justify a military operation at a time when the world is looking for a reduction of armed might. Unfortunately, as I said earlier, one of the worst features is that we had believed that we had reached a situation where, because of the good relations which had grown up between the Soviet Union, and the United States of America, there might have been some motivation to reduce the war in Vietnam, to lessen the chance of extension of that war in our part of the world, and also lo secure a favourable situation in which to continue the peace talks.
As a result of the action by the Soviet Union we now find in Australia that every extreme force is coming out, as it should, in condemnation of the Soviet Union. We find that everybody who had taken a middle of the road line, who might have been content to rest his case upon public opinion, upon the power of the Parliament and upon the power of the United Nations to intervene and lo exercise control throughout the world lo prevent war, is now going into reverse gear by taking a definite stand against the Soviet Union. Let us hope that in Australia this reactionary climate will not provoke the Government or anybody else to use this situation for electoral purposes. I do not say this in criticism of what was said in the other place because there, as members of the Opposition will agree, the statements were measured, logical and reasoned and no attempt was made to use the situation for party political purposes. I hope that the debate in the Senate will be on the same plane, that we can engage in a discussion of this critical situation without trying to use it for party political purposes. Unfortunately, whether we like it or not, it seems to me that regardless of what we intend to do or try to do in the Parliament, and whether or not Government supporters try to use the situation in an election year, that is a matter which ought to be considered. We should ensure that this situation is not used for that purpose. As I have said, if it is used in that way reactionary forces in the community will be mindful of what they consider to be a need to use force against force. We should not lose sight of the objective to which we are wedded, that is, of relying on the United Nations to secure peace in the world.
Unfortunately, reports from the United States reveal that the Russian action will have a strong influence on the coming presidential election. I say in passing, without talking very much about Vietnam, that it seems that after many years of military activity in Vietnam we have reached a situation in which the most prominent Democratic Party leaders in the United States have said that they are prepared to accept the participation of the Vietcong in a government of Vietnam if this will help to settle the war in that country. These people who want peace have said that if we had adopted this attitude years ago the chances are that the war might have ended. But apart from that, all these great aspirations and the influences exercised by the peacemakers in the United States may be imperilled by this military action by the Soviet Union. I hope and trust that we in this Parliament will not add to this sort of hysteria but will rest our arguments upon the democracy of the Parliament and the democracy of the United Nations. 1 ask every honourable senator to support the original motion. I do not altogether agree with what one member of the Parliament has said about the Russian invasion. The fact is that this Parliament has unanimously agreed to a statement which has been published throughout the world and which has been circulated as far as possible in the Iron Curtain countries. It must have some considerable effect. Surely this protest from the Australian democratic organisation of Parliament must have some effect upon discussions between non-Communist and Communist countries at future trade negotiations and international relations conferences. If it does not have some sort of appeal on these occasions then it might become necessary at some later stage to take some other action in this Parliament or elsewhere in the country.
This event is one of the overriding disappointments in the world today. In effect, the Russians have emulated Hitler; they have put the clock back. The result is thai the cold war that we thought was simmering down in fact is fomenting again. Up until this occurrence, people from Communist countries were starling to visit other countries. We were receiving visits from delegations and scientific bodies, and we welcomed them. When the Russians and representatives of other Communist countries visited us, we welcomed them because we were endeavouring to come down to a common basis of mutual interest. Prior lo this invasion of Czechoslovakia, a number of Communist countries were seeking to expand trade relations with the European Economic Community. One of those countries was Poland which took part in a seminar in 1966 at which the discussion revolved around the need to increase trade and the promotion of good relations between the various countries of the world.
Recently, Willy Brandt, West German foreign Minister and one of the world’s famous Social Democrats, made a most important statement which had for its objective the easing of tension between East Germany and West Germany. I have visited Berlin on two occasions. On one occasion 1 was allowed to go into East Berlin and I saw nothing but desolation. Strangely enough, in June of this year, we were told by people living in West Berlin that there has been substantial progress on the Communist side of the city. In my opinion the West Berliners hold no prejudice against the people of East Berlin.
But no-one could go to Berlin and fail to be shocked by the great wall which divides a common people. One cannot help but be shocked by the fact that this wall divides members of families who must have special permits to visit one another if they live on different sides of the wall. Friends living on different sides of the wall have to meet in a neutral country. This is a great tragedy, lt is wrong that the young people who are living in West Berlin should want to leave there.
Just before the Parliamentary delegation of which I was a member left Berlin we heard a statement made in the Parliament there by Mr Willy Brandt on foreign affairs. A translation of the statement was made and copies given to each member of the delegation. Willy Brandt’s reference to the meaning of the concept ‘active co-existence’ was most interesting. He said:
My visit lo Yugoslavia in the past week has shown what active co-existence can mean. (To use a concept derived from the political thinking of that country). The prospects that we shall make considerable progress in our relations are good. We base this hope on the ro-establishment of diplomatic relations which had been severed for ten years. In the discussion on European questions - and I say this in all seriousness - there were more points of contact than was perhaps expected. I will comment on two ideas which 1 had expressed during my stay in Yugoslavia, and in Vienna before, and which -naturally played a part in the discussions with the leaders of these two countries.
The first is our appreciation (because of the situation in the world) of Czechoslovakia’s desire to abide by its alliances, and our policy docs not and cannot aim at isolating anybody. Our basic interest in overcoming the confrontation of the military blocs within the framework of a new peaceful order does not mean, as has sometimes been said, that we wish to separate individual slates from their security systems.
The whole point of his statement was that he wanted to see better relations between countries. He wanted to see an encouragement of trade and the exchange of the sorts of things that would profit both sides. He wanted to see a removal of the restriction of the passage of Germans among their own people. He was not saying that Czechoslovakia should break her alliances. To my mind, the arguments put up by the Soviet Press are wrong, misleading and false.
I entered the debate to make the point that the Senate should support the statement which was made in another place because it was a unanimous statement. While not entirely disagreeing with the implications of what Senator McManus has said. I think that at this stage - and at this stage only - we should unanimously support the motion moved by the Leader of the Government in the Senate.
Senator McManus said that the young people ‘ in the Soviet Union and in other countries are gaining a greater knowledge and appreciation of the outside world and that they are demanding new social structures, and new moral and cultural structures. Let me quote a statement that appeared in this morning’s issue of the South Australian ‘Age’. It is contained in a letter written by Mr Geoffrey Dutton, which was accompanied by a poem written by a well known Russian poet, Yevgeni Yevtushenko. In his letter, Mr Dutton said:
The appalling events in Czechoslovakia have alienated Russia’s friends and not only comforted her enemies but given them access to almost unlimited easy anti-Soviet propaganda.
But it would be a tragedy if we assumed that all loyal Russians approved of their leaders’ actions in Czechoslovakia any more than all loyal Australians approve of our leaders’ actions in Vietnam. The most important key to the future may lie not in Czechoslovakia itself, but in public opinion in the Soviet Union, especially amongst Russian youth.
The extent of their agony may be gauged by this poem of Yevtushenko, published early in the Czech crisis in (significantly enough) the Rusian equivalent of ‘Life’, the illustrated weekly ‘Ogonek’.
I shall quote three verses from the poem to which he refers because they support the attitude we are taking today. They read:
There is strength in indecision when you hesitate to follow the path leading to perdition and the false beacons’ familiar glow.
When spite is shoving you forward, making your own soul a hypocrite, towards the disgrace of a shot or a word - don’t hurry, don’t do it.
Stop, o people of the Earth as you run so blindly to the next assault!
Bullet, freeze as you fly from the gun, and you, bomb in mid-air, halt!
I submit that the whole of the Senate should reject the claims made by the Soviet Union and do all it possibly can on this occasion to support the Czech Government.
– Having tabled a ministerial statement and moved the motion which the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy) seconded this afternoon, J now enter the debate to speak to the amendment. A similar motion was put down and carried unanimously in a unique way in another place. A vote was taken and a division was called for, and it was a unanimous division. I put it to the mover of the amendment, Senator
McManus, that in truth his amendment is an addendum rather than an amendment. It adds words. It does not take away anything from the words of the motion. For that reason I ask the honourable senator to give very serious consideration to withdrawing the amendment. I want, as 1 am sure we all do, a unanimous vote in this chamber on the motion that has been moved by me and seconded by Senator Murphy. I point out that I am not closing the debate. I am speaking to the amendment because I think it is appropriate that I should do so.
– The Minister will want a better reason than he has given so far.
– I amputting it to the Senate, to Senator Gair, as the Leader of the Democratic Labor Party, and to Senator McManus, as the mover of the amendment, that, it would be in the best interests of the cause that we all espouse in this situation not to put the amendment forward at this time. I think Senator Bishop spoke very fairly when he said that in different circumstances, with different timing and with a different concept, some of the points that the Democratic Labor Party is making could be raised. But I believe that at this time it would be a pity if we did not have a unanimous vote on the motion and it would be a pity if this debate went beyond the specific purpose that we have. I would not want to see a foreign affairs debate develop out of this matter.
– This addendum could be put as a subsequent motion independently of this motion.
– That is the point that I am making. As a result of something happening in the future, Senator McManus might have the urge, the feeling or the conviction to put a case for a motion along the lines of his amendment. I suggest that that would be a matter for members of the Democratic Labor Party. But in the present context, in which we are trying to give to the world at large the voice of Australia on this matter, I think it would be far better to let the motion stand. I could produce a series of arguments on the issues of the amendment, but I do not want to get into the hurly burly of argument. I want to get the voice of the Senate of the Commonwealth of Australia expressing a unanimous opinion on our grave concern at the terrible tragedy that has happened in this cruel invasion of Czechoslovakia.
I do not want to develop to any great extent arguments as to why we should not go beyond what we are proposing to do. lt seems to me that we want to be able to express a view and, along with the other countries of the world, to bring our best offices to bear on the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics in order to make it aware of the implications of what it is doing. 1 do not think a country does that by, in isolation, taking some action or imposing some sanctions that would isolate it and prevent it from making representations that it might well make to the Soviet Union. After all, the United Nations is seised of the situation. It has had discussions. Discussions are still going on in the United Nations in relation to this matter. Let me put my point to members of the Democratic Labor Party this way: I believe that at this time we should confine our representations, along with the other countries of the world, to the United Nations. 1 could develop arguments of substance in relation to the proposed addendum. If this debate gets to the point where they have to be developed, that will be done. But 1 do not want to do that. 1 want to persuade the mover of the amendment that this is not the time for an amendment and that the motion, as moved by me and seconded by Senator Murphy and as moved by the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton), seconded by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) and carried unanimously in another place, is the most effective way that we can help. In the tragedy that we see happening in Czechoslovakia, we can best serve the nation at this time by giving unanimous support to the motion and by not persisting with the amendment.
– 1 can understand the anxiety of the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Anderson) to obtain a unanimous vote of this chamber condemning the action of the Soviet Union. However, when this matter was raised in another place it was on the day, or very soon after the day, on which the event happened in Czechoslovakia. In the meantime events have proceeded. The Soviet Union has remained and still remains in occupation of Czechoslovakia.
There has been a worldwide reaction, including a very violent local reaction, to the situation. This has resulted in demonstrations by members of the Czech community and members of other national communities who represent countries behind the Iron Curtain, or associated with the Warsaw Pact. Meetings which have been held in most capita] cities and which have been attended by members of the Democratic Labor Party in a number of States and members of the Government parties in Queensland have carried resolutions to the effect that now appears in the amendment that has been proposed by the Democratic Labor Party.
Senator McManus is very logical in suggesting that this motion should be given some teeth. After all, it is very easy to get unanimity on any question if one takes the lowest common denominator. J could propound here on any subject a proposition that would get the unanimous support of this chamber, provided that I put it at sufficiently general a level. In my opinion it is no proposition to present to the Senate that in order to get unanimity we should have a motion that is in general terms, which lacks specification and which, to use Senator McManus’s term, lacks the teeth the amendment has.
– But the motion has simplicity of expression.
– It is because we have spoken with the people who particularly resent this invasion of the former fatherland or their fatherland of today, and who demand a more decisive manifestation of our attitude than is implicit in the motion, that we have proposed our amendment.
The fact that we propose the amendment and push it to a decision in this chamber does not mean that it is beyond the competence of the chamber to adopt unanimously the motion that is before it. That procedure would coincide with the Minister’s wishes. We believe we have an obligation to propound this amendment and to support it. Then, if the Senate in its wisdom finds itself unable to support the amendment, the motion will come before the Senate for decision and a unanimous vote on it is then possible.
– Does not the honourable senator think that it would give comfort to the Russians to tell them that some people in the Senate would not go as far as the amendment goes?
– No. Tt would give less comfort to the Russians to know that some people would go beyond the terms of the motion, not that some people would take a position failing short of the terms of the amendment. I think that is a proposition that might appeal to those whom we are attempting to castigate internationally in this motion and in this amendment. For that reason T suggest that the amendment should receive the support of the Senate. It does give effectiveness to a motion which otherwise might be considered fairly innocuous. Nevertheless, should the Senate find itself unable lo support the amendment as we propound it, I believe that a unanimous decision on the motion emerging from this chamber would he of inestimable value.
Senator WHEELDON (Western Australia) 5.40]- The motion which has been moved by the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Anderson) and which has been seconded by the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator Murphy) is supported by members of the Australian Labor Party. Wc hope that it will be carried unanimously by honourable senators in the. same way as it was carried unanimously in another place. We support the motion because we believe that the action of the Soviet Union and certain of its allies - although not all of them - in sending armed forces into Czechoslovakia in order to intimidate the Czechoslovakian Government and people into adopting the policies they had clearly shown they did not wish to adopt, is contrary to any moral principle of international relations. This action could well give rise to a third world war. lt is an action which is contrary to the basic principles of socialism which the Government of the Soviet Union claims to espouse.
The Australian Labor Party has consistently opposed the intervention of major powers in the internal domestic affairs of smaller countries. The Australian Labor Party was opposed in 1956 to the much more brutal and ruthless Soviet intervention which took place in that year against the Government and people of Hungary, culminating in the judicial murder of Mr Nagy, the General Secretary of the Hun garian Communist Party, and General Maleter, the commanding officer of the Hungarian Army. In the same year we condemned the action of the United Kingdom and French governments in intervening in the domestic affairs of the United Arab Republic. 1 do not wish to become partisan in this matter because I believe that the motion should bc carried unanimously, but we are also opposed to the intervention by other major powers in the internal domestic affairs of small countries. We believe that as a political party we can speak with complete sincerity on this matter. Gross interventions are occurring at present. Various countries are engaged in actions, similar to that of the Soviet Union in the past in Hungary, and similar lo the way in which it has been behaving until now in Czechoslovakia. The Australian Labor Party has not given ils support lo any such actions.
The position in Czechoslovakia is particularly serious. Only within the past week representatives of Czechoslovakia, the Soviet Union and other Warsaw Pact countries conferred, lt was alleged that as a result of that conference unanimity had been reached and that no further action would be taken by Warsaw Pact countries. But the Soviet Union has taken action, lt is very interesting to observe that the action taken by the Soviet Union not only has been resisted by the Czechoslovakian people but also by the Government of Czechoslovakia and the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia. That resistance has been supported by the Communist Government of Romania, which is behind the Iron Curtain, to use an old expression. It has been supported by various other Communist Parties including the very important western European Communist Parties of France and Italy.
Protests have come not only from those sources, but also from people throughout the world. I dare say that, in the Soviet Union, too. there are people who are dedicated to world peace. It is our submission today that it is the protests of people who have shown themselves in the past not to have been enemies of the Soviet Union, not to have been people who have been trying to inflame the cold war into a hot war - World War III - people who have not in any way identified themselves wilh the aggressive actions taken by other countries of different political orientation from that of the Soviet Union, that have exercised pressure upon the Soviet Union and have led apparently to the present situation wherein agreement may well be reached.
For that reason we oppose the amendment moved by Senator McManus. it is not the sort of amendment which would have any influence on the Government of the Soviet Union. What has influenced the Government of the Soviet Union has been the pressure of peace loving people throughout the world, either in so-called Iron Curtain countries, or so-called Western countries. The Soviet Union has been influenced to reach what appears to be a sort of partial agreement with the Czechoslovakian Government. One of the few encouraging features of the unfortunate series of events of the past week has been that at least the horrible incidents of 1956 in Hungary have not been repeated. We can at least say fairly that there has been an improvement in the conduct of international relations by the Government of the Soviet Union. For this we may be thankful, although at the same time 1 believe it is incumbent upon us to protest against the action taken by the Soviet Union in Czechoslovakia. For that reason we support the motion moved by the Leader of the Government in the Senate.
– in reply -I suggest that we might resolve this matter before we suspend the sitting if I were to be treated as speaking in reply.
– The question is that the words proposed to be added by the amendment of Senator McManus be added.
Question resolved in the negative.
– Before you put the substantive motion, Mr President, I ask for leave to move a motion to enable the names of those honourable senators in favour of the motion to be taken down by tellers and recorded in the Journals.
– There being no objection, leave is granted.
– Am I to take it that this is the gagging of the debate?
– No. The debate is finished. I move:
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– The question is that the original motion moved by Senator Anderson be agreed to. In view of the resolution that the names of those in favour of the motion be taken down by tellers and recorded in the Journals, I direct that the bells be rung. [The bells having been rung, the following names were recorded.]
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Sitting suspended from 5.53 to 8 p.m. (General Business taking precedence of Government Business)
Debate resumed from 29 May (vide page 1221), on motion by Senator Laught;
That the Senate take note of the report.
– The Senate will recall that the report of the Senate Select Committee which was appointed to report to the Parliament on the practicability of the early adoption by Australia of the metric system of weights and measures was presented to the Senate by the Chairman of the Committee, Senator Laught, on 29th May. The motion now before the Senate is that the Senate take note of the report. 1 sincerely hope that honourable senators and honourable members in the other place took advantage of the recent parliamentary recess to have a very close look at the report and the recommendations contained therein because it is my belief that this is one of the most important reports ever submitted to either House of the Federal Parliament. The recommendations and decisions, if implemented, will affect directly in some way every person in the community and also will affect our relations with most nations of the world. As an example of overseas opinion I shall read a telegram received from the United States of America by the technical adviser to the Committee. It is as follows:
Marty thanks to you and Senator Laught for sending a copy of report of Senate Select Committee on Metric System of Weights and Measures. This indeed is the most outstanding and comprehensive document on this subject available in the world and will have a significant effect on future courses of USA action. Separate letter being sent to Senator Laught.
That telegram was from Mr Jack Weber of the Hughes Aircraft Company of America, lt can be seen that the world is watching very closely what Australia is doing in relation to conversion to the metric system. Members of the Committee, and the Chairman in particular, have had many references from overseas countries to the importance of the Committee’s work and the excellence of the report that has been submitted to the Parliament. The opening paragraph of the report reads as follows:
SUMMARY OF CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
Following a full inquiry and a thorough examination of the evidence and other matter placed before it the Committee is of the unanimous opinion that it is practicable and desirable for Australia to adopt (he metric system of weights and measures at an early date and recommends accordingly.
The recommendation was not made lightly. In fact, it received tremendous consideration from all members of the Committee after listening to HI witnesses and considering documents and submissions received from 54 persons and organisations. The Committee met on 28 occasions for public hearings and held 39 deliberative sessions as well as informal discussions with 4 national organisations. We were fortunate to have had inspections at a number of State weights and measures offices, th National Standards Laboratory in Sydney, an electronic complex in Adelaide and a textile printing mill in Hobart. These inspections gave the Committee a great insight into not only the need for this country to” become a metric country but also the problems that would be facing us in deciding on the recommendations that we were to submit at a later date. The evidence given was overwhelmingly in favour of the practicability and desirability of introducing the metric system in this country. It is true that some witnesses before the Committee opposed its introduction, but that was inevitable in the circumstances. I was surprised, as I think other members of the Committee were, that very few witnesses who gave evidence indicated total opposition to conversion. Some witnesses considered that this was not the time for conversion. They also took into account the cost of conversion, but in all instances they indicated clearly that they believed conversion was inevitable.
The Committee’s recommendations were based on a number of factors. I hope that I can interpret for the Senate some of the important reasons for the Committee’s decisions. The metric system is used already by 90% of the world’s population. What is more important, its use is expanding and it seems certain that before the end of the century it will be very close to being the universal system of weights and measures throughout the world. Two major countries are now in the course of converting to the metric system. They are Great Britain and South Africa. New Zealand, our sister country in this part of the world, has the matter before it now and is closely examining the question of converting to the metric system. This has been the subject of inquiries by two committees in that country. It is believed that the inquiries will result in recommendations that the New Zealand Government also should favour conversion to the metric system.
One of the matters that caused us a great deal of concern was the question of cost. We devoted a considerable amount of time to this matter, lt is quite true, as was indicated by Senator Laught when introducing the report and also by the evidence thin was given, the Committee could give the Senate no worthwhile figure in relation to th: costs associated with the conversion in this country. The costs, guessed al and in some cases submitted to the Committee in real terms, could nol be established in any way as definitely the costs associated with such a change. Some witnesses were gravely concerned about the extra cost if we delayed to any great extent in introducing the change. I think the most forthright evidence on the mailer came from Mr F. M. Matheys, chief engineer of the Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd, in submitting evidence on behalf of that company. He stated: lt seems lo us thai a changeover to the metric system is desirable, and that it should be done as soon as possible, as the costs increase as the time for changeover is deferred. Some overseas authorities slate thai the increase in cost for a changeover to metric rises about 7% each year it is delayed.
That submission is in close conformity with the submission in South Africa. The South African report on this system referred lo an increased cost of 8% for each year (hat (he conversion to the metric system was delayed, lt was stressed in evidence - and I want to make this quite an important part of my remarks tonight - that if the Government decides finally that this is the course that Australia should adopt, it is important that it should announce its intention to convert to the metric system as soon as it is possible for it so to do. Industries big and small are keen to be able to plan in advance, having regard to me tremendous tasks that they will face. Many industries will be saved a great deal of money in the purchase of machinery if at an early stage they know that we will be converting. They will not be put to the great expense of installing machinery which subsequently will have to be converted. 1 think the most outstanding evidence - and on this aspect I will not delay the Senate for any great length of time - came from the education authorities of the nation. Almost without exception - in fact I think I can say with only one exception - the education witnesses indicated quite clearly to the Committee that they believed we should change lo the metric system. Without exception i hey based their evidence on their belief tha: the metric system would simplify and unify the leaching of mathematics and science, reduce errors, save teaching time and lead 10 a better understanding of basic mathematical principles. A considerable amount of time could be spent on i his section and I believe other members of the Committee may decide to move into this field.
One of the major questions that faces us is the problem of the retraining of staff in industry and commerce and in educational fields. We received a great deal of conflicting evidence on the matter of how long, for instance, it would lake us lo retrain tradesmen in the metric system. We found in those instances where witnesses had had practical experience of transferring from the imperial system to the metric system that they had had very little difficulty - far less than was assumed would be the case by other witnesses who had not as yet faced this problem. Our inspection of the industries I mentioned earlier helped us in this regard, because in both cases we were able to see people actually operating under the metric system and to examine the executives of these industries about the position as it exists. We found that they are not at any level afraid about the ability of tradesmen and workers in general in this country lo learn to operate the metric system reasonably quickly. In fact, the position has been in reverse over the years. Since the last World War we have had many thousands of immigrants from Europe who were trained exclusively in the metric system in the work they were doing there. It is significant that they have been retrained in the imperial system without any great deal of upset in industry. This evidence was given quite clearly by a number of witnesses.
I could cite at length evidence in relation to this matter but I do not propose to do so because we have included in the report passages which substantiate this statement. It was also made clear that it would be far more difficult for a person trained in the metric system of weights and measures, which is relatively simple, to convert to the rather complicated imperial system than it would be for a person to convert in the reverse direction. So, while in the early stages of our investigations we had considered this to be a major problem, the
Queensland Butler Marketing Board
Queensland Cheese Marketing Board
Queensland Cotton Marketing Board
Queensland Grain Sorghum Marketing Board
Queensland Ginger Marketing Board
Queensland Navy Bean Marketing Board
Queensland Peanut Marketing Board
Queensland State Wheat Board
Atherton Tableland Maize Marketing Board
Brisbane Milk Board
Northern Pig Marketing Board
Queensland Grain Growers’ Association
Selectors’ Association of Queensland
Australian Banana Growers Council
Council of Agriculture (Queensland)
Australian Dairy Farmers’ Federation
Exercises rights ofrepresentation and voting uponNFU Council.
Mr A. S. Norquay, National Secretary of the National Farmers Union, referred in theseterms to the possibility of a recommendation bythe Committee in favour of conversionto themetric system:
I point out to honourable senators that ifis recommendation is madetothe Parliament, supportedby evidence adduced bythe Committee, such a recommendation, if put intoeffect could have an immense effect on Australia. Obviously we would We ableto compete better in the export field in those countries which use the metric system if we are able to quote weights and measures in that system. Equally we would be abletoobtain the best quotations for our imports ifthe measures used by the countries fromwhich we import werethe same as the measuresused in this country. The effect it could have on industry ingeneral on commerce, on the Services, and on all other aspects of life in Australia is very nearly incalculable. It could in effect eventually be worthtens ofmillions of dollars onthe volume of Australia’strade and on Australia’s place inthe world trading community.
In concise terms this sums up very clearly some of the major factors in favour of conversionto metric system. The Committee reached conclusions and made recommendations upon the evidence that it hud before it. It examined all aspects and implications of the introduction of the metric system in this country. This system hasthe approval of all major educational authorities and organisations which submitted evidence. The spokesmen for primary industry were overwhelmingly in favourof the introduction of this system. Secondary industry, in the main, is also favourably disposed or. at the very least, believes that the introduction of the system is inevitable. Recommendations 8. 9 and 10 read: 8 That a Metric Conversion Board be appointed to be thebody responsible to the Minister for the conduct ofthe conversion. 9 That the functions of the Board include:
We believe thisto be the key to a smooth introduction of the system into Australia. Reading theFinancial Times’ only justthe other clay I came across an article which indicatedthatthe position in England was not quite as it is in Australia. MrH. A. N.. Brockman, Architecture Correspondent of the ‘Financial Times’, London, staled:
Theintroduction of the changeto metric in the UK building industry on 1st January 1969 is likely to be accompanied by considerable confusion.
However, it has been stated by the Minister of Technology recentlythatthe Government is at last to set up a Metrication Hoardas soon as possible’.
This is a verylate though welcome, decision sincethe Government announced its support for the change as long ago as1965.
I think that we. as a Committee, in our wisdom have foreseen that this is a necessary part ofthe introduction of the metric system and that it should be done very quickly. It was also evident that the witnesses who appeared before us did not want this conversionto be either too soon or too far distant inthe future. I think that our recommendation that the metric systembe introduced over a period of 10 years will suit most if not all industries in this country. We believe that the new system will be intro- duced as smoothly as possible if it is spread over that period. 1 wanttoreferalsototheadministration of the Committee. Firstly, let me add my thanks to those of the Chairman ofthe board should act under the responsibilityof. the Commonwealth Minister for Education and Science.
J repeat, because I feel that repetition is not out of order, that the comprehensiveness and clarity of this report is the measure of its quality. I feel that its comprehensiveness and clarity make its conclusions overwhelming. They are conclusions which must carry their own sense of acceptance. I appreciate that in one sense what I am saying is repetitious.In a way it simply repeats what has been said already by the Committee.If the report is given publicity and wide circulation it will be its own recommendation of the conclusions it carries. But in another sense 1 feel that the Senate would be lacking in appreciation of the work that has been done if it did not. acknowledge, in the way in which a debate such as this permits, the work of the senators who were members of the Committee.
It is useful to refer to the debate which took place in the Senate on 5th April 1967 when this Select Committee was appointed. It is noteworthy to recall, by looking at the record, that the person who moved for the appointment of this Committee was the then Minister for Education and Science, Senator Gorton. Of course he is now the Prime Minister and it may be a tribute to his prescience that he was able to say, in moving the motion for the appointment of this Committee, what in fact the Committee has recommended. I refer to page 554 of Hansard of 5th July 1967 where, our present Prime Minister is reported in this way: 1 point out to honourable senators that if a recommendation is made to the Parliament, supported by evidence adduced by the Committee, such a recommendation, if put into effect, could have an immense effect on Australia. Obviously, we would be able to compete better in the export field in those countries which use the metric system if we were able to quote weights and measures in that system.
I interpolate to say that the Committee’s report indicates that 70% of Australia’s export trade is carried on with countries which have the metric system. The Minister continued:
Equally, we would be able to obtain the best quotations for our imports if the measures used by the countries from which we import were the same as the measures used in this country. The effect it could have on industry in general, on commerce, on the services and on all other aspects of life in Australia is very nearly incalculable. Itcould in effect eventually be worth tens of millions of dollars on the volume of Australia’s trade and on Australia’s place in the world trading community.
Speaking personally, I was very impressed by the references in the report to the material which had been presented to the Committee. I recall problems of measurements, by and large, as calculations of my school days. Whatever I may have learned then I have long since forgotten. What relevance today have the calculations of rods, roods and perches, of links and chains, of fathoms and of pecks and bushels? Senator Byrne - And peppercorns.
– The honourable senator refers to peppercorns. I feel that peppercorns have a greater relevance than have pecks and bushels, at least to a lawyer. To some cricketers a distance of 22 yards has some relevance. To devotees of the turf a furlong has some relevance, and to devotees of other activities hogsheads, firkins, kilderkins and even pints may have some meaning. But calculations such as what is a furlong as a proportion of a mile or the number of quarts to a gallon or the number of gallons to a hogshead are essentially school exercises. Pennyweights, ounces and pounds have some meaning but they do not havevery much simplicity.
I am never sure, and therefore I do not refer to it on those occasions when 1 move into country areas, whether it is the number of bags to a bushel or the number of bushels to a bag. Possibly one relevance of the imperial units of measurement is embodied in the old saying, attributed to a person who had tired of listening to a speech, that people who think by the inch and talk by the yard should be removed by the foot. At least that will have some antiquity if the imperial units of measurement are regarded as those which were appropriate once upon a time in Australia.
The Committee’s main recommendation which appears in the Summary of Conclusions and Recommendations on page 1 of the report is in these terms:
Following a full inquiry and a thorough examination of the evidence and other matter placed before it the Committee is of the unanimous opinion that it is practicable and desirable for Australia to adopt the metric system of weights and measures at an early date and recommends accordingly.
Committee to the officers who served us so well - the Secretary of the Committee, Mr Bert Nicholls, and his deputy, Mr Reg Jennings. I also want to convey my thanks to our technical adviser, Mr A. F. A. Harper. I am certain that the Committee would have had much more trouble than’ it had and would have taken much longer than it did in writing its report and making ils recommendations if it had not had the excellent help that Mr Harper was able to give throughout the Committee’s sittings. On the aspect of administration I, like other honourable senators, want to see even more use made of the Senate select committees. I believe that the Senate will realise the need for this in the future. On page 79 of the report of the Senate Select Committee on the Container Method of Handling Cargoes reference is made by the Chairman of that Committee to the matter of administration. This is what he said:
The Committee now deals with a domestic issue - domestic to the Senate. The Senate staffing is geared to the normal administrative support of the Senate as a parliamentary and constitutional element of the Commonwealth. The servicing of normal Senate committees is within the resources of the Senate Department but us ‘special’ or select committees enter the scene the administrative requirements are not within the capacity of existing resources.
The Committee has sal during and outside sessional periods. The Secretary and Assistant Secretary have had to service the Committee over and above their normal duties. This is onerous. Large areas of investigative research have been forced upon senators comprising the Committee: in other words, Committee members have been forced to be judges, jury and court officials.
The Parliament should ensure that the annual Appropriation Bills provide adequate provision for assistance lo committees.
I agree entirely with that section of the report. As I said earlier, we had twentyeight public sittings and thirty-nine deliberative sessions. As was the case with the Committee inquiring into the container method of handling cargoes, these sessions were held during and outside sessional periods. I believe that the strain that was placed on the officers of that Committee was far more than the Senate should ever allow. Up to the stage of the final writing of the report the Secretary of our Committee worked 7 days a week until midnight on almost every night in an endeavour to have the report before the Committee. I know thai he would not want me to say these things because he did his job diligently and with a devotion one would find in few. In addition to this, the Chairman of the Committee had to make available for a number of weeks his own private secretary from Adelaide to enable the tremendous amount of typing to be done so that the report would come before the Parliament within the time set down by the Senate.
I stress the importance of an appropriation which will give to the committees that we will set up from time to time an appropriate amount of money to ensure that the services of our officers are not overtaxed. I hope that something can Se done in the near future to ensure that this will happen and that there will be no breakdown in the number of committees that we feel is essential1 in the interests of Australia. I hope that we have a unanimous decision that this report be tabled, and that the Government will act very quickly on ils findings.
Senator MARRIOTT (Tasmania) 18.251 As a prelude to what 1 propose to develop as the theme of my remarks to support the opinion that the Government should heed this report and take action on it. lel me read from the July 1968 issue of ‘Canberra Comments’, volume. 22, No. 7. the official journal of the Associated Chambers of Commerce of Australia. It contains an article titled ‘The Workshops of Parliament’, a phrase that the Association has taken from remarks made by Senator Laught, the Chairman of the Committee which inquired into the metric system of weights and measures. Probably the report of the Committee will go down in history as the Laught workshop statement. This is what the Association had to say when referring to committees of the Parliament:
These committees are becoming the workshops of parliaments. They provide a long needed opportunity for the representatives of industry, commerce, trade and other organisations to put their views fully before the legislature in a way which would be quite impossible in other parliamentary procedures. This can only make for belter government.
This is an interesting article which speaks highly of the fact that the Senate has entered this comparatively new but important era of appointing committees. It is obvious to those who have had the privilege of serving on them that they provide an opening for dialogue, for evidence on oath and for parliamentarians, experts and specialists in trade and commerce to get together. They are in effect a portion of the Parliament representing the Parliament as a whole talking with the people. The end result of such committee deliberations, in my view, is that the public servants and others who advise the Government see in the printed word what their parliamentary representatives interpret as the people’s views and the people’s evidence on matters of importance lo the people and to the nation. Surely such committee work is an important and healthy addition to the democratic form of parliamentary government.
In relation lo the Committee whose report is under discussion tonight the Associated Chambers of Commerce in the article to which I have referred already went on to say: lt was perhaps fitting that one of the first current committees formed should- have been set up to tackle a question of such importance as the conversion to a metric system of weights and measures.
The Senate Committee has taken the initiative in recommending the adoption of metric weights and measures, lt is to be hoped that the Prime Minister and his Cabinet will maintain the momentum.
For the sake of emphasis I repeat the words will maintain the momentum’. That is important because after all, shorn of all the small print, the Committee’s reference, as Senator Poyser pointed out, was given to it by the Government, accepted by the Senate and taken as a challenge by the elected representatives of the Senate on the Committee. The Committee was to report on the practicability of the early adoption of the metric system in Australia. The fact that the Government gave this reference to the Committee surely indicates very clearly that the Government and its advisers must have given some pretty solid thought to the question whether Australia should go metric. The Government placed such great value on the proposition that the Senate appointed a committee to take evidence on oath and to report back lo the Parliament.
This reference was accepted by the Senate on 20th April 1967 when the Committee was formed. As Senator Poyser said, many public hearings were held, all State capitals were visited, many meetings of the Committee in deliberative session were held and about 141 witnesses attended. A thorough investigation was made in the 9 or 10 months that followed the accepting of this challenge, as 1 would like to call it. The news media of Australia including trade journals and magazines, found that the Committee’s deliberations were worthy of news space and comment. It could be quite well said - and I think said with gratitude by the public - that the news media did a wonderful job in letting the public know what witnesses were telling the Committee about this possible momentus change. All along, the Australian public was informed of the possibility of going metric.
If my memory serves me right, on 12th June last year 1 put a question to a witness who seemed to be doubtful as to whether Australia would really go metric. My question was phrased somewhat along these lines: ‘Do you not think that the Government, having given this particular reference to the Committee to report on the practicability of the early adoption of the metric system, has in effect issued a notice of intent to the people of Australia that Australia will probably go metric?’ A newspaper headline given to that question - quite unthought of by me - turned me into a prophet overnight. It was ‘Australia will go metric says Senator’. I hope that that headline will prove to be correct.
The Committee received most comprehensive evidence. I think that the reason was that it had a chairman and a technical adviser - both of whom 1 will refer to shortly - who saw to it that the Committee did a thorough job. There are three reasons why I believe that the Committee’s report is worthy of being adopted by the Government. Firstly, the evidence was comprehensive and it was clearly indicated by representatives of State governments, local governments, trade and commerce and others that it was accepted that Australia must and would go metric. Secondly, as Senator Poyser said, the thoroughness of the investigation was greatly helped by the fact that the Committee was privileged to have Mr A. F. Harper, a Master of Science and a Senior Principal Research Scientist with the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, as its guide, philosopher, friend and technical adviser. Thirdly, that the legal knowledge and able chairmanship of the Chairman of the Committee ensured that witnesses were keenly questioned and properly listened to. I believe that, every member of the Committee did his best to elicit the information and draw on it in the complication of the 150-page report that we are now discussing. 1 admit that during the long and tedious journeys of its hearings the Committee approached some difficult bends, but they were negotiated skilfully by the courteous and clever chairmanship of our leader. Finally, a unanimous report emerged. The report was made unanimous by the overwhelming weight of the evidence contained in the transcript. As 1 recall it, the continuing theme throughout the hearing was that the Government should give early notice of intent to the people, to industry and to other governments in Australia of whether or not Australia will1 “ convert to the metric system. I believe that the main reason for going metric lies in the fact that Australia is rapidly becoming a major trading nation and that 75% of the world’s trading is now done in the metric system of weights and measures. If Australia is to continue to develop as a leading trading nation it will have to trade in the weights and measurements that the large majority of trading nations use.
The cost of going metric presents a great problem to any committee or government department given the job of reporting to superiors on it. As has already been pointed out, the Committee made no detailed recommendation as to how the cost burden should be placed. This is because in my view when conversion to the metric system gets under way, trade and commerce will find that conversion will mean a saving of money. Once the saving commences it will go on for all time. The initial costs of conversion will be gradually amortised and after that there must be paying results to trade and industry for all time because, if this report is adopted, we will be using solely the metric system of weights and measures.
I have been asked - and it is not an unfair question - why Australia should want to hurry into conversion to the metric system when the United States of America does not seem to be taking any real action in this regard. It has been legal for many years for industries in the USA to go metric if they so desire and some portions of industry are metric. But I believe that the main obstacle, other than procrastination by the United States Congress, is that American trade and industry is solely, or at least chiefly, concerned wilh its own consumer market - its vast home population, the Canadian market and the Latin American market. Therefore, there is no great requirement for America to go metric, whereas in Australia there is a daily increasing need to adopt the metric system. As is well known, the United Kingdom has ventured forth into the metric system, and so has South Africa. .1 wish them luck. I believe that they have made wise derisions.
When I was privileged to be in London last year, and later on in Pretoria ani Johannesburg, it appeared lo me from discussions that 1 had with public servants and other officials who were burdened with the job of carrying out the conversion to the metric system, that we in Australia had been wise in our approach in two ways. First, we were wise in thai we had adopted decimal currency to begin with and, secondly, because we had set up a Senate Select Committee whose great value was not only in finding the fact’s and reporting to Parliament but also in enabling the people of Australia to learn of Government thinking and of the views of industry, trade and commerce. They became aware that industries anticipated that the Government would agree to go’ ahead with the conversion when it possibly could do so. I say without hesitation that when embarking on conversion the United Kingdom and South Africa will value our Committee’s report which, once tabled, became public property and then, as 1 know for certain, was transported to interested parties in the United Kingdom and South Africa.
It is no secret that, commendably, we have been in close contact with our sister nation, New Zealand, in respect of our findings and our views on our proposed journey into the metric system: ! believe that ‘those honourable senators , who have not found time to read the report, but who, because of the great interest in it that will be taken’ by the electorate will find it necessary to read it, if and when the Government makes an announcement on the subject, will find it to be one of the best set out and easily followed reports’ to be published by this Parliament. It is clearly indexed. One has only to turn a couple of pages to find a summary of the approach of the Committee to the task. Then on the- next page one finds’ set out in concise but clear clauses, twenty in all, the main recommendations of the Committee.
I have said that my theme tonight is that the Government should make an early announcement of its decision in respect of this report. This view was clearly conveyed to the Government in the recommendations, No. 3 of which reads:
That an opportunity be given to the community, industry and commerce to prepare for such a change and accordingly the Government make an early announcement of its intention to convert.
Once this is done industry and business houses will be able to start planning and will be able to keep pace with any planned organisation of conversion that the Government announces from time to time. They will be able to assign obsolescence to machinery that will be replaced in the near future by machinery designed for the metric system. If no notice of intent were given by the Government it could happen that within the next 6 months or so, unless trade and commerce realised that the Government would adopt this report in its entirety, they would waste hundreds of thousands of dollars by replacing old machinery with equipment using the imperial system of measurement rather than the metric system. This would be an added burden to a cost which we of the Committee know is going to be great, however carefully the conversion is planned. As the report sets out very clearly, and as was made so plain to us by representatives of all State governments, once we set out on the road to conversion there must be continuous co-operation .with State governments and local government authorities so that the conversion may continue with as few hitches and upsets as possible.
The Committee took much trouble in taking evidence from educational authorities. When one stops to think about education one realises that there are two aspects of it: There are the schools and there are the adults employed in trade and industry. In the Committee’s report three recommendations are confined to suggestions on how the Government should approach the education of our youth - and adults in the metric system. One point which is well covered in some of the explanatory paragraphs of the report and which I remember coming out very clearly so far as industry is concerned is that in this era of our history we have in industry the greatest percentage of migrant workers that we will ever have. I ask honourable senators to mark my words; we now have the greatest percentage of migrant workers in Australian industry. These people have not been here long enough to forget the metric system of weights and measures and so we have operating in trade and industry today many hundreds of teachers already available. They will be of tremendous value to a smooth conversion of industry to the metric system.
There is another important aspect of this Committee’s report. Perhaps it was a unique step, but one of the recommendations specifically suggests that the guiding and ruling influence in the Commonwealth sphere in the conversion should be the Minister for Education and Science, whoever he may be when the planning is commenced, and his Department. I believe that it was right and wise of the committee to. name the Minister and the Department in its report to emphasise that it is obvious that education and science will be the main basis for the planning of a successful conversion. I was not a member of it, but a sub-commitee of the Committee visited Papua and New Guinea, over which Territory I understand we have no authority to enforce conversion. 1 believe it was a very useful exercise that the subcon.mittee should go to Papua and New Guinea to meet the leaders in education, industry and government and to keep them posted of the reasons why we were going on with this inquiry, and to give them the information that we had elicited so that they could make their own preparations. I therefore hope, that, whatever power of insistence or regulation the central Commonwealth Government has with respect to Papua and New Guinea, it will co-operate to the fullest with the Territories in the conversion because it appeared to me that the sub-committee came back with the opinion that both the Territories and the Commonwealth of Australia should undergo conversion together to meet with the greatest success.
I believe that if the Committee’s report is adopted and our plea - not mine - as representing the views of the people that notice of intent be given by the Government is adopted and followed up with action and careful planning, it will give a great impetus to our trade and a spur to our development. After all, it is in trade and development that our future strength as a nation lies. I suppose many honourable senators would prefer to be out listening to the broadcast of the current test match. I think J agree with them. I am reminded that we have heard in the last few nights that catches dropped cost matches. With respect to the possible conversion to the metric system of weights and measures, I take it upon myself to remind the Government and its ministerial representative that in my belief delay will cost dollars when we are talking about the question of converting Australia to the metric system. lt will cost dollars both to the Government and lo industry. 1 want to pay tribute here to the Government Printer for his very quick work in preparing the Committee’s report in the form of the document which I have in my hand. lt is a credit to any printing organisation. lt was done in the minimum amount of time so that the report could be put to Parliament and therefore the Government in the last sessional period. This - and it is no secret - was done because the Committee wanted to give the Government as much opportunity as it could before it finally shaped its fiscal policy for 1967-68, to learn of the Committee’s report. Other members of the Committee can speak their own minds on this. I make no secret of the fact that this report was presented to Parliament in May in the hope, at any rate, that by 13th August, when the Budget - this document which is vital to the people of Australia - was brought down, there would be some message from the Government either that it had received the report, or that it proposed to take the opportunity lo say to the Parliament of Australia: ‘We give you notice of intent, as soon as we can. with reasonable care, to set out to you in the months that lie ahead our plan for legislative action and co-operation in converting to the metric system of weights and measures.’ 1 am absolutely convinced that Australia must go metric. I am confident that in this report the Government has a document from which its advisers can work out a policy and plan to carry out that conversion. 1 hope that it will not be long before we hear an announcement of the Government’s intention.
– We are certainly living in a century of change and progress. When most of the senators in this chamber were passing through their early schooldays, 1 think it can be said that to them the metric system was a kind of mathematical curiosity for which they found it hard to determine any real purpose or function. Today we know that within 20 years the metric system will operate throughout the whole world - that there will be one system of weights and measures operating in every country of the world. I feel a certain amount of pride that I was a small cog in the machine which inquired into the application of the metric system to our own country, and 1 want to begin by paying tribute to the other members of the Committee for the devotion and the ability with which they carried out their task. 1 do not. know of anyone who could have been more dedicated to his task than our Chairman, Senator Laught. To him, nothing was too much trouble. As honourable senators have heard, he used his own staff for long hours in order to assist the work of the Committee, and I know that there was no member of the Committee who did not deeply appreciate the manner in which Senator Laught carried out his onerous duties as Chairman. The Secretary of the Committee, Mr Nicholls, carried on the high traditions of those associated with this chamber who have provided the administrative officers for these committees over a number of years. I know he worked hours which would cause a trade union to protest vigorously, but he did that because he realised that this was a matter of urgency and he was anxious that the deliberations of the Committee should be put into their final form as soon as possible.
We had in the officer who was made available to us by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization. Mr Harper, one who made the initial work and the later work of the Committee much easier than it would otherwise have been. I must confess that I found his opening statement in which he set the course for the Committee and in which he explained the whole situation throughout the world most interesting. For a subject which some people would regard as difficult or tedious. I found it clear and fascinating. I think we were extremely lucky that Mr Harper, an officer who represents Australia on a number of these international committees was able to be with us, for his work not only greatly assisted but was vital to the Committee. I do not know what we would have done without him.
We received excellent co-operation from practically every section of the community. 1 anticipated in the early stages that there would be a tendency for certain sections of industry to shudder at the thought of the problems that would be associated with the metric changeover. But we found that on the contrary there was intense interest on the part of industry. There was a willingness to co-operate. It became obvious to me that many of the leaders of industry in this country had been studying this problem and had come to the conclusion that it was time something was done. In fact, they were grateful to the Government for having taken the initiative in a manner that they felt had to be tackled.
One of the most stimulating statements made to the Committee came from (he biggest industry in this country - the Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd. Because engineering problems will be the most difficult in the metric changeover, one might have expected that a company such as BHP would shudder at the thought of having to tackle so difficult a problem at a time when it is engaged in extensive development in new fields for our country. But instead we found that the attitude of BHP was that the changeover to the metric system must be undertaken at the earliest possible date. The company made a statement that impressed all of us. lt said that the longer we delayed the changeover to the metric system the greater would be the cost. If I remember rightly, it said that for every year we delayed we would add something like 7% to the cost. In a country such as ours - a developing country in which costs are important - I believe that the Government must be deeply influenced and impressed by the fact that the biggest industry in the country warns it that for every year’s delay 7% will be added to the cost of the changeover.
When we surveyed the field we found that in the overwhelming majority of countries the metric system was already in operation. We were informed that the obstacle to the introduction of the metric system had been the fact that Great Britain and the United States - two of the most important countries from the point of view of our industry - were not metric. But in the course of our discussions we found that Great Britain had made a decision to go metric - over a period of years, it was true. We were told that there appeared to have been great difficulties in getting the United States, to go metric because the big motor car firms, which are an extremely powerful lobby in Washington, had been unprepared to tackle the immense problems that would come from metrication. As 1 said, we found that Great Britain had decided to go metric, and in the course of our inquiries we learned that some of the biggest motor car firms in the United States had changed their minds to the extent that they had recognised the inevitable and had made arrangements in their organisations for studies, of and inquiries into what would be entailed in changing over their sections of the motor car industry to the metric system. I believe that if they change over the whole of the United States will go metric. Once the United States goes metric, and when we know that Great Britain is going metric and thai: Japan which bids fair to become our biggest customer is on the same route, then we in Australia have no alternative but to follow that example. 1 agree with Senator Marriott, who has just spoken, that it all makes an early declaration of the intention of Australia to go metric more necessary than ever. So I hope that the Government, having had several months to study this report, will make an early announcement that Australia is going metric, for the information and assistance of industry. Once it makes that announcement industry will be able to prepare. This declaration of intention will be of immense value to companies that contemplate the introduction of new machinery in the near future. Machinery can be immensely costly. In respect of metric machinery companies would obviously be greatly advantaged if they knew that they could order that machinery because the Government had declared its intentions.
I agree with the other senators who have said that the second step should be the early appointment of the board that is to supervise the metric changeover. I would hope that one person who would be associated with it would be Mr Harper, who is invaluable and who has a knowledge of these questions which, I would think, would not be exceeded by that of anybody else in this country. I was very pleased that the Commute determined that at least one member of the board to supervise the changeover should be a woman. Problems that will arise in regard to consumers alone will require the presence of a woman on the board. I am not suggesting that there should be only one woman on the board. There may be well qualified women in other fields. But I am glad that the Committee recognised the right of women to be represented on this very important board. This board will cover a wider field than did the Decimal Currency Board. The chief qualification for membership of that Board was some knowledge of financial matters. But in this case, when so many different industries are involved, a wide variety of representation will be required on the board. No doubt it will be necessary to form subcommittees to supervise or. to help in certain fields.
When we began to hear evidence, I was agreeably surprised by the spirit of cooperation shown by most sections of Australian industry. As T said, it was obvious that many of them had had a look at this question and had already made up their minds that the metric system had to come. They were glad that the Government had taken the initiative. In fact, as members of the Committee know, over the first few months we were embarrassed by the overwhelming nature of the evidence in favour of the changeover and by the fact that so few people came forward to offer convincing evidence in opposition to the changeover. There was some opposition from the petrol firms, which pointed out that as they sold by the gallon there did not seem to be much of a field for the introduction of the metric system in their case. There was also some opposition from the milk people. But, taking it all in all, we found that there was an overwhelming body of evidence in favour of the changeover. Industry generally felt that the changeover had to come.
Even the few people who doubted whether the changeover would affect their industries favourably, in most cases although not in all, summed up their evidence by saying: “We cannot see the particular advantages in our case, but if the Government decides on the changeover we will accept it and we will co-operate’. Generally there was a spirit of goodwill, which was most pleasing. We realise that the goodwill will have to be maintained by the board when it is appointed. Naturally, it will not be able to order a changeover to take place in the same period in all industries. In some cases a period of 3 years may be appropriate. For an industry as vital and as difficult as engineering, it may take more than 10 years. However, I believe that there is a spirit of goodwill and acceptance in industry. I am sure that the board, when appointed, will take advantage of that spirit to ensure that the changeover takes place in a way that is acceptable to the industrial undertakings of this country.
I wish now to refer to a matter which caused me much concern as a trade unionist. I am a financial member of two trade unions. I am a member of the Victorian Teachers Union. When I ceased to be a teacher I was asked to be an honorary member of that union. I said that I would not; that 1 had always been a financial member and that I would continue to be one. I am also a member of the Federated Clerks Union of Australia! because I believe that union covers the calling in which .1 work today. As a member of two trade unions I was concerned by the fact that the Committee failed to have presented to it as’ it should have been presented, the case for the trade unions. 1 am more disturbed to hear from members of the Select Committee on the Container Method of Handling Cargoes that the case for the trade unions was not presented to that Committee as it should have been.
– Did not ‘ Charlie Fitzgibbon make a submission on containerisation on behalf of the major unions?
– If the honourable senator cares to. discuss this matter with members of the Select Committee on the Container Method of Handling Cargoes and to obtain the opinions of its members of the evidence given by Mr Fitzgibbon, he will be not merely surprised but he will be staggered .to learn of the type of representation of a union which .has everything to lose in the field of containerisation. I do not want to attack unjustly the representatives of the Australian Council of Trade Unions.
– The evidence about metric measurements was a little technical.
– lt was not. a case of it being a technical matter. My belief is that the ACTU is understaffed and overworked. That is the trouble. At the time the Committee was meeting a number of industrial problems arose which had to be attended to by the ACTU. It is understandable that on two or three occasions officers of the ACTU had to get in touch with us at the last minute to say that they could not appear before the Committee. It appears to me that the only solution is one that has occurred to many of us for some years. Trade unionism has a vital concern to ensure that a case for the unions is properly put before parliamentary committees. We must stop getting trade unionism on the cheap. We must be prepared to pay fees sufficient to finance the setting up of a trade union centre which is adequately staffed, has a big research department and can properly put a case.
I was deeply disappointed by the submission of the trade union movement but I do not blame the ACTU as it is at present situated. It is a matter, for the individual unions to provide the money and for the individual unionists to be prepared to pay fees sufficient to set up an adequate organisation to put a trade union case before bodies such as the Senate Select Committee on the Metric System of Weights and Measures.
I turn now to a matter 1 referred to in my opening remarks. That is the staffing of parliamentary committees. I suppose that nobody would feel anything but admiration for the work that is done by the Clerk of the Senate and those associated with him in arranging the administrative affairs of committees, but I firmly believe that we have come to the end of the road for the present staffing system. The committee system is most valuable. I believe it is a sphere in which the Senate can make its mark in the future. But if there is to be an extension of the committee system, the Parliament or the Government must make available staff who can adequately look after committee matters. I do not think it is fair that the Senate staff should be called upon, in addition to their ordinary duties, to carry on the work of administering these committees. They should not be asked to work long hours of overtime and jeopardise their health. They approach their work as dedicated men, but it is work that requires an infinitely larger staff than is available. 1 do not know what the solution is.
I understand that in the United States of America the congressional committees employ an extensive staffing organisation. I know that the Clerk of the Senate, the Assistant Clerk and others would almost certainly have studied the position there. I hope that the Clerk, who is now in South America - if he recovers from the shock of learning what we did in the Senate last week - will be able to devote some time to a study of the committee system in the United States Senate, to ascertain to what degree we may imitate it. I do not suggest that we should act on the lavish scale that is followed there, but I do say tha! the Senate has tremendous opportunities to make its mark in the committee field and to do a wonderful job for Australia, lt would be most unfair to continue as we have been proceeding, trading on the willingness of the officers under the Clerk to make themselves available for long periods on duties which are most unfair to them. Remedial treatment is certainly called for.
– To say nothing of the expense situation.
– That is so. They receive expenses, but on occasions on interstate visits I have observed, that their expenses would hardly have covered their costs. There are people who know more about this subject than myself and who may be able to suggest better ways of dealing with it, but it seems to me that we may need a Clerk of Committees, or a special staff of officers who will be available to undertake this work. As I have said, it is not competent for me. to say what is the solution, but I do say that we must stop the farce of pretending that we can carry on an adequate committee . system under the present circumstances.
I hope that in some way representations can be made to ensure that future committees are adequately staffed. That leads me to the question of the Hansard reporters. I have some reason to believe that the present establishment employed on Hansard will be inadequate if its members are to be called upon, as they have been, to provide considerable numbers of staff to cover the work being done by committees. They are two very important questions. Last week we debuted a motion to set up a committee to inquire into the setting up of an organisation to deal wilh national .disasters. Frankly. I am in favour of such an organisation, but I voted against the motion for a good reason. I said in that debate that we could not possibly place another straw on the camel’s back. So many committees are already operating that I felt we should not increase the number. 1 think it is wrong that we are forced, because of the inability to staff committees, to turn down proposals to set up committees for very good purposes. J believe that Parliament and the Government have lo tackle the problem of providing an adequately staffed committee section, with adequate support from Hansard, because we have been scrimping the staffing of committees to date. We have reached the end of the road now and we have to take urgent action to ensure that committees are adequately staffed.
I feel that the work of the Select Committee on the Metric System of Weights and Measures was a most valuable exercise. 1 am proud to have been one small cog in the machine which has paved the way for a changeover that will revolutionise a good deal of Australian industry. I believe that a committee of this nature is valuable not only to us but, judging from the inquiries that we have had from other countries, also assists other countries and enhances the reputation of a parliament such as ours in being able to present lo those countries a report as full and as valuable as 1 believe this report is. 1 hope that the Australian Government will make the earliest possible declaration of its intention to go metric. Industry wants it. 1 believe the people are ready for it. They are waiting for the Government to act. I hope that the Government will act at the earliest possible moment. I hope also that the Government will take steps to set up the board which will supervise the changeover. Once the board is set up and we have the expert staff and facilities available industry will be able to obtain the assistance and direct-ion which it needs for this very vital changeover. I conclude by asking: What are the. alternatives? According to the Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd, for every year we delay the cost rises by 7%. 1 believe that that figure is so startling that the Government must act within the very near future.
Senator DRURY (South Australia) [9.24J- The report of the Senate Select Committee on the Metric System of Weights and Measures has been presented to the Senate. It is a very important report. Together with other members of the Committee, I was amazed at the lack of opposition to the adoption of the metric system of weights and measures. The motor industry and the oil industry were opposed to its adoption. The oil industry was of the opinion that we should change to the metric system of weights and measures if the Government was prepared to compensate it for the cost of the changeover. A few private individuals opposed the introduction of the system. One of them, according to his evidence, was a very keen football fan living in Melbourne. He said that if the points for goals had been counted by the metric system a team which had been defeated on the previous Saturday would have won the match. Those who opposed its introduction were in the minority. Together with other members of the Committee, I thought there . would have been much greater opposition than there was.
Other honourable senators have pointed out that evidence from the fields of industry and commerce was that the change was inevitable and that the quicker the decision was made and the Government’s intention announced, the better it would be for Australia. Builders, architects, surveyors and draftsmen all were in favour of the changeover. The medical profession is practically 100% metric. Dr Wells of the Commonwealth Department of Health gave evidence that the sooner the metric system is adopted in Australia the better it will be. I quote from his evidence:
The existence and simultaneous use of several different systems of weights and measures in medicine is confusing for the doctors, dentists, nurses, pharmacists, manufacturers and the public alike; it makes continued medical education more difficult, it causes waste, and occasionally it may even bc dangerous.
The medical and veterinary professions were in favour of the changeover. The metric system is widely used in the field of electronics. In some of the States today labels on packages show both imperial and metric weights. For supermarkets the changeover to the metric system of weights and measures will not be very difficult. Many of our migrants have come from countries that use the metric system. I think that migrants could educate some of their workmates, not only in industry but in commerce as well, in the use of the metric system of weights and measures. Evidence was given that in many instances the newcomers to Australia find it much more difficult to change to the imperial system of weights and measures than would Australians in changing from the imperial to the metric system. It would be of great assistance to the Australian people if the metric system of weights and measures were adopted.
I believe that the changeover will not be as easy as was the changeover to decimal currency. I also believe that the phasing out of imperial weights and measures will take a much longer rime than the phasing out of pounds, shillings and pence. The project will be a more costly one because in the changeover many factors are involved. Evidence was given that approximately 80% of the countries of the world, or about 90% of its population, use the metric system. lt seems thai sooner or later Australia must, for her own trade improvement, adopt the metric system of weights and measures. Overseas it is used quite extensively. It is used by many of the countries with which Australia is dealing at present. The Government’s decision should be made as quickly as possible. The phasing out period could start almost immediately, which would give industries a chance to plan for the future. Some of the machinery that is used under the imperial system of weights and measures today could be phased out as obsolescent, in which case the cost to companies would be far less than il would be if there were no advance announcement of intention and these machines became obsolete overnight. This is one of the matters in relation to the changeover which the Government must consider, lt must announce an intention as soon as possible.
I should like to join other senators in congratulating Senator Laught, who was Chairman of the Committee, upon the very able manner in which he handled Committee meetings and upon the hard work and time that he devoted not only during the Committee’s deliberations but also when the draft report was being prepared and during the finalisation of the report which was presented to the Senate on 29th May. Mr
Bert Nicholls, Clerk of the Committee, and Mr Reg Jennings, his assistant, I thank most sincerely for the work and long hours they devoted in arranging for witnesses and meetings, in looking after members of the committee and arranging for their transport, accommodation and general welfare.
Mr A. F. A. Harper, M.Sc, Senior Principal Research Scientist of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization National Standards Laboratory (Division of Physics) was appointed technical consultant to the Committee. I am sure that other members of the Committee will agree that the value to the Committee of his work cannot be estimated. Without his knowledge, advice and assistance, the task of the Committee would have been much greater. During the Committee’s deliberations Mr Harper had to go overseas. He obtained very valuable information from countries which had converted lo the metric system of weights and measures or were in the process of so doing. The information and advice that he brought back was of ureal assistance lo the Committee. During Mr Harper’s absence. Mr T. G. Poppy, B.Sc. O.B.E.. acted as technical consultant. His advice and assistance were greatly appreciated by the ‘Committee. These people who were associated with the Committee did a tremendous job. lt was not easy. We leaned on them quite considerably. I believe that the first submission made by Mr Harper laid the foundation for the Committee’s deliberations, lt went a long way towards making this report the success that I believe it is. lt is up to the Government to give some idea of what it intends to do with regard to the report, lt should not be left, as many other select committee reports have been left, to gather dust, lt should be examined carefully. The Government should deliberate carefully and make a decision as soon as possible so that the cost of the changeover, if this is decided upon, will noi be any greater than is necessary. As was pointed out in evidence, each year that the introduction of the metric system is delayed will increase the cost by at least 79? . In some instances the extra cost to the nation will be 8%. The Government should give an early indication of its intention so that the system may be put into operation as soon as possible.
– On 5th April 1967 the Senate resolved:
That a Select Committee of the Senate be appointed to inquire into and determine the practicability of the early adoption by Australia of the Metric System of Weights and Measures, and to recommend such legislation and regulations and the amendments to existing legislation and regulations which, in the opinion of the Committee, ought to bc effected.
On 11th April 1967 the constitution of the Committee was determined and on 20th April 1967 the constitution of the Committee was complete. The Committee worked hard for some 13 months and on 29th May 1968 the Chairman of the Committee, Senator Laught, tabled its report in the Senate, which ordered that the report be printed. We now debate a motion, proposed by Senator Laught ‘That the Senate take note of the report’. If I may be permitted to say so. it is gratifying that this procedure - traditional as it is and. possibly having Utile to justify it - has nevertheless withstood those attacks which were launched by the numbers presented by the unholy alliance on lbc other side of this chamber. We trust that this procedure will continue in future so that there may be a debate of this character on reports which are presented by -select committees of the Senate.
Senator Laught said, when he proposed this motion, that the Committee had held 2S public sessions and 39 deliberative sessions, had heard 141 witnesses and had received 54 written submissions from organisations. Having read the report which the Committee presented, one can pay tribute to the industry and care with which the members of the Senate who were appointed lo this Committee undertook their task. I am in accord with remarks made by other senators in commendation of Ihe work which has been done not only hy the senators themselves - those who preceded me were all members of the Committee and were reluctant to speak about their work - but also by those persons who gave them assistance in the task to which they were assigned.
The case for conversion by Australia to the metric system, involving as it must abandonment of the present imperial units of measurement, is well made and overwhelming. This is the case which appears from a reading of the Select Committee’s report. As the first senator who has spoken after members of the Committee, 1 feel that they are to be congratulated on the work which they have done. Their work is a tribute to the select committee system which this Senate is evolving and developing. The example which this Committee has given of how members of Parliament, given a task, can apply themselves to a thorough and intensive study of their subject augers well- not only for select committees of this Senate in the future but also for the standing of members of Parliament in the eyes of the community which, if it will but take the time, can recognise the sort of work which is being clone.
The work that has been done is comprehensive. I consider that the assessments that have been made are balanced assessments. The recommendations and the justifications for those recommendations have been presented with a clarity that is cogent. It appears from a reading of the report that the many witnesses before the Committee regarded a change to the metric system as inevitable, and so the Committee recorded. But it is a truism that anything which is inevitable nevertheless requires some impetus to evoke, in fact, that which is regarded as bound to occur. It appears lo me that the recommendation of the Committee is a recommendation which requires the sort of support which can be given by the Senate in this chamber tonight to enable that which is inevitable to come into being. After reading the report I feel that the conclusion is inescapable that the Government will be blameworthy if it did not take the necessary steps to bring about a change to the metric system.
The Committee recommends that there should be three basic steps. The first is an early announcement by the Government of an intention to change over to the metric system. The second is the convening of a Premiers Conference to discuss with the Premiers of the States what is involved in this changeover. The third is the appointment by legislation of a metric conversion hoard which will recommend the necessary changes and generally superintend the changeover to a metric system. Of course it is recognised by the Committee that the be handled by State departments. So everything is ready. It is just a matter of the Government getting around to a consideration of the report. I fervently hope that it will agree with the report and the details contained in it.
I think I should mention that the Minister for Works (Senator Wright) has been in the chamber constantly this evening. I appreciate that very much. 1 understand that he was to have spoken in this debate to present his view as a Minister. Unfortunately he has not been able to do so because of an inability to speak very well this evening. I wish to point out that my remarks do not carry any criticism of the Government for its failure to intervene in this debate. It would have been grand if the Government could have made its views known, but I understand the position. I hope that at an early date the Government will make a statement in relation to the report.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Senator Anderson) proposed: That the Senate do now adjourn.
-I wish to raise a protest about the procedure followed this afternoon at the close of the debate in the Senate on the crisis in Czechoslovakia. I had no difficulty in voting for the motion as I recognise that the invasion of Czechoslovakia is a breach of the United Nations Charter and justifies condemnation. However, I believe that the motion required expansion because it did not properly represent most of the statements made during the debate. I think that a contribution could have been made during the course of the debate towards the promotion of peace. It should not have been used merely for the purpose of criticism, condemnation and words of hatred. In that belief I asked the Opposition Whip to include my name in the list of speakers in the debate. When the debate commenced I approached the Deputy President and ascertained that my name appeared on the list of speakers. I was satisfied to find that a number of other honourable senators had been listed to speak before me.
I sat in the chamber during most of the debate. I was present when Senator
Anderson rose to speak to the proposed amendment. By interjection I challenged Senator Anderson to say whether he was closing the debate. I was given an assurance that the Minister was speaking only to the proposed amendment, . as that was the matter before the Senate at the time. As I was listed amongst honourable senators waiting to speak in the debate, I believed that I would be called upon to speak, even if it were necessary to extend the time for the debate into this evening or to adjourn it to another day.
Senator Wheeldon concluded his remarks at a quarter to six, which is the normal time for the suspension of the sitting for dinner. In bis concluding remarks he offered some condemnation of the proposed amendment. Senator Anderson then asked for permission to proceed to obtain a vote, if that were agreeable, before the suspension of the sitting. I naturally thought that he wished to dispose of the proposed amendment before the suspension of the sitting. As the Minister had spoken on he proposed amendment, and Senator Wheeldon had concluded his remarks on the amendment, I thought it was a question of dealing with the vote on that issue. I believed that we would then continue the debate on the motion before the Senate.
I found that that was not so. After the vote an the amendment was taken there was no further discussion. There was no motion that the question be put. I presume that this happened because of an arrangement between the leaders of the parlies. It is ironical that we were discussing human rights. Back bench senators have a right to speak in this chamber. With due respect to honourable senators, I wish topoint out that standing order 407 states, in part:
Unless otherwise provided, every senator may speak once -
It is provided that every honourable senator has a full right to speak on a question. I followed the forms of the Senate by having my name placed on the list of senators waiting to speak in the debate. As I have said, there was no motion that the question be put. Standing order 129 states:
So soon as the debate upon a question shall be concluded, the President shall put the question to the Senate; and if the same should not be heard, shall again state it to the Senate.
The Committee then sets out 18 main considerations which it feels justify its -recommendations. Each one of those recommendations - I do not propose to repeat them seriatim because they are set out in the report - is persuasive in itself. Together they make a massive case. I refer to some of them. About 90% of the world’s population lives in daily experience of the metric system. Australia today is part of the remaining 10%. Some 75% of world trade is conducted in the metric system of weights and measures. Australia is part of the remaining 25%. There are 126 countries at present using the metric system, there arc 9 countries operating under a dual system with some using both the metric system and the old imperial system, and there are some 67 non-metric countries of which the only substantial countries, with all respect to the independence of the other countries which comprise the 67, are Canada, the United States. Australia and New Zealand. Most of the other countries are erstwhile British dependencies.
When one considers those facts, and those facts alone, they are sufficient to raise in our minds these questions: Why should Australia be adhering to a system which is in the minority? Are there advantages to a developing country, an expanding country, a country which is seeking to identify itself in the world scene with other countries in nearby areas, in retaining a system which, firstly, is called imperial and which, secondly, we would appear to retain only because it is part of our British heritage? The Committee makes a short case, if I may so describe it, in paragraphs 3 and 4 on page 5 of its report. I shall read them because I think they indicate in themselves a case for conversion. They state:
I think that is justification for any country to adopt a system which has those attributes and which can be part of a process whereby that which occurs in one part of the world can be readily recognised in another part of the world. The Committee indicates that the submissions it received bore widespread support for conversion to the metric system. There was support from the educationalists, from Education departments and from teaching associations; there was support from associations representing primary industry; there was support from the Department of Trade and Industry and there was substantial support from secondary industry. In this connection it is relevant to refer to the evidence of the representative of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Ltd. I mention this because Senator McManus also referred to it. I am in full accord, with what he said as to the significance of a body of this character making such comments to the Committee. At paragraph 170 the Committee reported:
Strong support for a change was forthcoming from a number of. representatives of secondary industries, including Mr F. M. Mathews, Chief Engineer of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Ltd. who informed the Committee: lt seems lo us that a changeover to the metric system is desirable, and that it should be done as soon as possible, as the costs increase as the time for changeover is deferred. Some overseas authorities state that the increase in cost for a changeover to metric rises about 7% each year it is delayed.
At paragraph 176 Mr Mathews is also quoted as saying:
The BHP group of companies representing (he steel industry of Australia, would certainly change over to the metric system of weights and measures should a decision be made that the nation as a whole change to this. system.
With only the United States of America, South Africa and Australasia remaining at present the inch’ countries of the world, it would seem inevitable that a changeover by this country to the metric system will take place. The longer the lime before a changeover lakes place, the more costly will this changeover be. The metric system offers many advantages, including a greater facility in the conversion of units one to the other, it allows calculations to be made with much greater ease, speed and accuracy, and can utilise a system of units both practical and logical. Australia is located geographically in an Asian area, practically all countries of which use the metric system, and accordingly, if our export markets are in these areas, then it would be advantageous to Australia to use the same system of weights and measures.
I think that those words in themselves represent a strong case for the proposition that the Committee recommends. The Committee also received support for a changeover from the chemical, electronic, building and consumer goods industries which regard the changeover as inevitable. I think it is significant that the consumer goods industry should accept that there will be a changeover because the retailing industries will be bearing the brunt of the changeover as it is in the retail field that the greatest adjustments will have to be made. It is at that point that the Australian people will come face to face with what is involved in a changeover. In saying that, I do not want to deprecate that very substantial changeovers will be required in industry. But it is in the retail field that the people generally will become acutely aware of what is involved in a changeover, as they became aware in the changeover to decimal currency. But just as the adjustment to decimal currency was overcome in a way which surprised many people, I think that that example is sufficient to indicate that the changeover to the metric system can likewise be achieved without the dislocation which may be supposed to be associated with the change. I refer again to the Committee’s report, and particularly to those passages concerning the consumer goods industry. Paragraph 226 states:
The Executive Director of the Grocery Manufacturers of Australia Limited, Mr F. StovinBradford. informed the Committee:
Almost all member companies expressed the view that a change (o the metric system would benefit the nation. In some cases a change to the metric system would introduce a lack of uniformity within international company organisations, particularly in expressing recipes, but generally in the long term, it was agreed that the national economy would benefit from the adoption of a system which is widely used throughout the world.
Paragraph 235, referring to the evidence given on behalf of the organisation that publishes the widely read magazine ‘Choice’ states:
Dr H. Epstein, Deputy Chairman of the Australian Consumers Association, when speaking about the advisability of Australia changing to the metric system said: lt is high time that this change be made in all areas which affect consumer interest. In the English language even the spelling of gram is undecided; il can be gram or gramme. In deliberating one may encounter the claim that the changeover to the metric system will cost the consumer untold millions. This claim cannot bc substantiated with any sort of acceptable accuracy. The fact that the present unfathom able system of ounce, fluid ounce, pounds, rods, inches, feel, hundredweight of 112 pounds, ions and gallons, is costing the consumer untold millions is undeniable.
Of course, the Committee also had before it representations and submissions from Commonwealth departments, lt appears that the Ministers of the relevant departments were asked by the Committee for their views on what they thought was involved in the changeover to the metric system and almost without exception the Ministers co-operated and representations were made to the Committee by the departments. In no case was there any objection to the changeover. Indeed, an examination of the Committee’s report and the submissions made to it by Commonwealth and State departments shows that only the Victorian Railways expressed positive opposition. This opposition would appear to be more an indication of the difficult financial conditions that the State of Victoria is experiencing rather than any insuperable problems involved in the administration of the railways system because the Railways departments of the other States indicated that whilst costs would be involved in the changeover they did not regard those costs as insuperable.
One senses that this element of cost was a matter of concern to the Committee, lt was recognised that a substantial cost would be involved in the changeover. In my reading I sensed that the Committee was regretful that it was not able to put before the Senate any idea of the cost of a changeover. But notwithstanding this, the Committee felt, and in this it was backed by witnesses, that the cost involved was no reason why the changeover should not occur. To illustrate that point, I refer to paragraphs 474 and 475 of the report. Paragraph 474 stales:
The Committee found that hardly any witnesses considered cost to be inimical to the change. A large majority took the view that the inevitability of the change and the overall benefit to the country over-rode their particular problems. In general it was accepted that the economy of the country would not be unduly affected by the cost of conversion if spread over a reasonable period. The Committee strongly supports this view.
Although no precise estimate could be obtained of the overall cost of conversion, many witnesses agreed that this cost would increase significantly with each year’s delay in undertaking the change.
I support what Senator McManus has said, that this is a matter upon which action should be taken. The longer we delay, the greater will be the cost, and if the change has almost unanimous support, as the Committee’s inquiry indicates, then 1 repeat that the Government will be blameworthy if it does not at the earliest opportunity take the necessary action to indicate that it is proposing to convert to the metric system and thereafter take the necessary steps. It is true that the Committee visualises that there should be a complete conversion within 10 years of the notice of intention to convert to the metric system, and that would appear to be a very useful period in which to effect the conversion. One can say that before the end of 1969 not only should the notice of intention have been given, the legislation passed and the metric conversion board established, which is envisaged as part of the legislation’s function, but also there should be work under way because if that step is taken one can assume that before 1980, on the recommendation of the Committee, Australia will be wholly converted to the metric system.
This is a field in which the Commonwealth has a paramount power to act. As the Committee records, the Constitution gives to the Commonwealth Parliament a power under section 51 to legislate with regard to weights and measures. The Commonwealth has exercised that power on two occasions, lt has exercised power not in any compulsory way but merely to facilitate the use of metric measures to be used alongside the standard units of the imperial measurement. 1 feel that the Committee may have adopted a too cautious approach in suggesting that the co-operation of the States is essential to this scheme. I say this notwithstanding that in other matters I would regard the rights of the States as matters worthy. of the closest attention and the utmost respect by a Commonwealth government. But in those fields in which the Constitution gives to the Commonwealth a paramount power, 1 fail to see why the Commonwealth should be dilatory in the discharge of its functions by regarding the fact that there are States as an impediment to forceful action. 1 should think that there is no sound reason why, if the Commonwealth feels that this is a matter in which action should be taken, it should not be prepared to take the action. That course need not inhibit co-operation with the States. I am in full accord with the Committee when I suggest that this type of cooperation could be sought at a Premiers
Conference. There could be the utmost cooperation in this field, as there has been in some other fields. However, I feel that there should be no reluctance on the part of the Commonwealth to take action if there should appear to be inhibiting factors arising from considerations put forward by the States. It should be the simplest matter for the Commonwealth to determine on its own initiative that certain standard weights, measures or other units which are to be found in State legislation are individually to be given a conversion in some Commonwealth legislation. That should then, and 1 believe would then, apply throughout the whole of Australia.
I feel, in conclusion, that Australia has in recent years developed as a nation of significance in this area of the world in which we find ourselves. We are no longer isolated. We are recognising the truth of the expression which we often hear and see, that we are living in a shrinking world. We are living in one world, but I do feel that in a matter which is non-ideological and non-political we are denying the concept of one world and the ability which Australians would like to have to identify themselves with people in other parts of the world if we adhere to a system of weights and measures which is outmoded and which is not the system which prevails in the countries that are near to us. T feel that the Senate owes a debt of gratitude to the Committee for the work it has done. The people of Australia owe a similar acknowledgment to the Committee. I hope that the Government will, at the earliest possible opportunity, take the action which is necessary to implement the recommendations of the Committee.
– in reply - 1 rise to conclude the debate. I thank the honourable senators who have spoken for the way in which they have received the report, for the very generous references they have made to myself as Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on the Metric System of Weights and Measures and also the well deserved references which they made to the Clerk of the Committee, Mr Nicholls, the Assistant Clerk of the Committee, Mr Jennings, and Mr Harper who was the technical consultant to the Committee. I can assure the Senate, that it was a great privilege and joy to perform this committee work. Enough has been said of the number of meetings held. In effect we worked for 13 months, almost continuously, a.nd thereby denied ourselves the normal winter recess period. However, the way in which this report has been received by the public, the Press, the radio and this Parliament is some reward to us for the work we did. I am very grateful to honourable senators who have spoken this evening because they have stressed some of the highlights of this report. 1 commend particularly Senator Poyser for the way that he handled his speech, lt is quite true, as he said, that we were overwhelmed by the quality of the evidence and the way it was pointing. As we developed our investigation we realised that the difficulties of- conversion were not nearly so great as they might have appeared in the first instance.
Senator Poyser drew attention to the fact that there was no evidence from trade unions and 1 regretted that also, despite our diligent secretary’s efforts to get trade union evidence. Although it is disappointing that no evidence came from the trade unions, 1 do not think that any evidence that they could have given as the official spokesmen for workers or unionists would in any way have affected the ultimate result of the report. Senator Poyser drew attention also to the enthusiasm of the primary producer organisations for the change to the metric system. 1 remember quite well that in Hobart a fresh faced young farmer strode into the Committee, almost from the scat of his tractor, lo give the most dynamic evidence. Seeing that farmers these days deal so much with chemicals for the treatment of weeds and to maintain the health of their animals and that all chemicals are in the metric measure, he wanted to settle almost straight away for the metric system.
I would also like to thank Senator Marriott for the way in which he debated this question. 1 believe he did the Senate a great service by highlighting the importance of the Senate Select Committee as being the workshop of the Senate. I think honourable senators could well bear in mind the fact that the Senate Select Committee is the unrivalled vehicle for the real work of approaching people outside the Senate and giving them their say on important national questions. Through the committees, the people are given the opportunity to give sworn evidence. That evidence is taken with full dignity by the Hansard reporters, and it is printed and considered. I think the Senate select committee provides all Australians with a wonderful opportunity to have their voices heard and considered in Parliament.
Senator Marriott also referred to the importance of migrants in the consideration of the evidence given before the Committee. Many migrants, especially those coming here from Europe, know only one system - the metric system. On coming here they became somewhat confused when, in the building trade, for example, they had to work in feet and inches, and in pounds and ounces’. It was pointed out to us that the assimilation of migrants could be made a little easier if the metric system were in use in Australia, lt was stated also that migrants would come to Australia with greater confidence if they knew that, apart from learning a new language, they did not have to learn a new system of weights and measures.
Senator Marriott also drew attention to the activities of a section of the Committee in Papua and New Guinea. This was a fascinating experience for the three of lis who went there. They were Senator Benn’, a former member of the Senate, Senator Sim and myself. We were accompanied by the Secretary of the Committee and the official consultant. It was fascinating to hear how successful decimal1 currency had been in Papua and New Guinea. It was successful because it is based on units of 10 and the natives use what nature has given them in the way of fingers and toes to assist them in their counting. Because of this the people of Papua and New Guinea could not but appreciate a system geared to tens. At the moment, in Papua and New Guinea a system of weighing and measuring is virtually non-existent among the indigenous people. There, they sell their products by what they call the ‘bob’s worth’. In front of them on the- grass one does not see 2 lb or 3 lb of bananas but a heap of bananas representing, say, what 10c would buy. This is what they call a ‘bob’s worth’. At the present time, in their simple commerce, they would use no weights or measures and, as we saw the position, it would be a great advantage to them if the metric system were introduced as the fust system in preference to introducing the imperial system which would have to be unlearned later and the metric system learned.
Il seemed to us as though the 2 million people in Papua and New Guinea were just waiting for a system such as the metric system. I am grateful to Senator Marriott for reminding me of the position in Papua and New Guinea.
I would also like to acknowledge the remarks of Senator McManus who was a valuable member of the Committee. He quite rightly highlights the statement by Mr Matthews, chief engineer of Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd. Wherever we went on this inquiry we found that this statement was highlighted by many witnesses who had seen it in the Press on the morning after Mr Matthews gave his evidence. 1 put it to the Government, particularly to Senator Wright who is sitting in the Senate this evening representing the Minister for Education and Science (Mr Malcolm Fraser), the thought thai the Government has a tremendous responsibility not to delay one day more than is absolutely necessary in giving consideration to this important matter because the ultimate cost to the community, with the development of sophisticated machinery and so on could be increased by a least 6% or 7% for each year of delay in making the change. As Senator Greenwood has quite rightly picked up from the report, it is contemplated that it would take 10 years to change over. Therefore, the Government should give notice of its intention at the earliest possible date. 1 am quite confident thai when the Government considers the report il will come to the same conclusion as did those honourable senators who comprised the Committee. That is that the changeover to the metric system is absolutely inevitable.
Senator Drury pleaded that the report be not left to gather dust. I think that puts the position very bluntly and very well. Too many reports made to Parliament tend to lie and gather dust year by year. Senator Greenwood made a very interesting speech. On behalf of the Committee, f blushingly acknowledge his commendation of the work of the Committee. Those honourable senators who spoke before Senator Greenwood spoke were, of course, members of the Committee. Senator Greenwood highlighted one point which I think is of tremendous importance. He spoke of the need for an early conference of Premiers. As honourable senators will realise, section 51 of the Commonwealth Constitution contains a placitum which permits this Parliament to take power with regard to weights and measures. But, in this federation in which we find ourselves, it is the Slates which police weights and measures through packaging regulations, inspection of weighing machines, and so on. Therefore, to my way of thinking it is essential that, when the Government decides to make the change, it should lose no time in calling the Premiers together. I believe that, properly handled, the Premiers will see the wisdom of making the change because we were given tremendous help in our inquiry through the co-operation of the State Premiers.
For example, the Premier of New South Wales volunteered to make available the report of an inter-departmental committee which he was considering, appointing. This committee submitted a splendid report. We then infected, if I may use that word, the other Premiers with the enthusiasm of the Premier of New South Wales and vc got some very interesting reports. Some were long and some were rather short, but in every case we got tremendously good co-operation from the State officers in charge of weights and measures. I therefore believe that the States, properly handled, could do much in co-operating with the Commonwealth in some big move such as that contemplated in our report and 1 therefore commend to the Commonwealth the wisdom of getting in touch with them early in connection with this matter.
On the question of cost, we were unable to give any helpful guide to the Senate. But several factors should be borne in mind. An early and proper notice of intention would enable manufacturers and other people who use machinery to phase their change in the most economical manner. Also, the Commissioner of Taxation, by a proper and generous deduction in respect of machinery that was to be changed, could help financially in the change. So I believe that by careful1 phasing and things such as adequate taxation deductions the financial burden of such a change could be made to be not very great.
I remind the Senate that in the United Kingdom up to this time no decision has been made to award compensation to people who change. Whether that will be the final decision of the United Kingdom Government is difficult to determine. When 1 was in the United Kingdom on a short holiday recently, I took it upon myself to have a look at the moves that were being made there towards metrication. While 1 was there the Ministry of Technology issued a document headed ‘Change to the Metric System in the United Kingdom - Report by the Standing Joint Committee on Metrication’. Apparently a high level Joint Committee on Metrication has been set up there to advise the Minister of Technology, Mr Wedgwood Benn M.P. The Committee has issued several reports, the latest one is quite an important technical report. It is not nearly as comprehensive as the report of our Senate Select Committee. But on the other hand it highlights some very important points that I would like to bring to the attention of the Senate. The Committee caine to this conclusion, as set out in paragraph 1 3 of the report:
The Committee is persuaded that the persistence of two systems of units in the United Kingdom for any longer than is necessary will discourage export by manufacturers (except to North American markets) and will discourage the transfer of. design and marketing skills and equipment from the home lo overseas markets. The continued use of the imperial system constitutes in industry’s view a substantial hindrance to export trade that is acquiring greater significance as tariffs wilh metric countries are reduced following the Kennedy Round and the EFTA Agreement, lt is the declared policy in the United Kingdom to give every support to the framing and acceptance of international, and particularly European, standards. The alignment of United Kingdom standards wilh those of EFTA or EEC is most difficult without the adoption of the metric system.
The United Kingdom Committee goes on reporting in that definite way to its Government. I believe that, as the United Kingdom progressively goes in for metrication, if we remain under the imperial system we will be at a tremendous disadvantage because we will not be able to draw our standards and supplies from the United Kingdom in the same manner as we have in the past. If the United States is the remaining imperial country we will have to draw everything from that country.
I believe that in the light of what has been said this evening about the growing metrication of the world we should not be on the tail end of the cart. We should not be waiting for the change to happen. We should take our courage in both hands and get into this system, which is now being adopted by up to 90% of the people of the world and in which about 75% of the trade of the world is done. I pay tribute to tha honourable senators who have spoken so excellently and so clearly this evening. I also wish to say how important the Press, radio and television have been in connection with the work of the Select Committee. 1 consider that the Committee received very good Press, radio and television coverage when it met and that many people have been talking about metrication as a result of that publicity.
I believe that the Senate can be encouraged by the knowledge that Australia is already metric in pharmacy. I do not suppose that any honourable senator can remember when we went metric in this field. That happened about 3 years ago when Mr Swartz, the then Minister for Health, stood up in the House of Representatives and made a short statement on the matter. The pharmaceutical industry is thoroughly convinced that it has done the right thing. The representative of the Minister for Health before the Committee said that going metric in the field of pharmacy was an absolute winner. So the change can take place completely painlessly. I believe that we should go forward with the thought that any change to metrication, properly handled, can be completely painless to the community.
I hope that the momentum in metric thinking that has already shown itself in the community in the enthusiasm with which evidence was given will be maintained. It is up to the Government to see that it is. The Government already has an excellent organisation in the National Standards Laboratory, which services me measurements of weight and length in the community. The Laboratory is in Sydney. It has high level scientists who are doing excellent work - work of world renown. Therefore the Government is not unprepared for this change. I believe that it could well use the personnel of that organisation - one honourable senator mentioned Mr Harper as a suitable person - on any metrication board. I thoroughly endorse the remarks of that honourable senator. The Government is very fortunate in having excellent State weights and measures personnel. Tn two States the municipalities deal with weights and measures. But the tendency now is for weights and measures to
That occurred today before the debate was concluded. I was not alone in waiting to speak in the debate. A number of names appeared besides mine in the list of those wishing to speak in the debate. I do not want to enter into that question. Possibly the Czechoslovakian crisis would not attract the same interest if introduced during the debate on the Budget or in a debate on a motion for the adjournment of the Senate. However, I hope that if any procedures exist in the Senate that are not known to back bench senators, they will be given an opportunity to insist upon their rights and will not have their rights taken away from them as was done today.
– in. reply - I wish to express my regret that there was some confusion about Senator Cavanagh’s position. As 1 recall the situation, 1 rose and said that I was most anxious that we should resolve the matter. 1 think Senator Cavanagh will recall that. I am certain that, in rising, having noticed that no other senator had risen to speak, I said that 1 hoped I would be regarded as speaking in reply, thus closing the debate. That is my understanding of what happened. I am sorry that the confusion arose. The fact that honourable senators choose to place their names on a list and to take them off is a matter entirely for honourable senators. When I rose to close the debate, Senator Cavanagh did not rise to speak following the end of Senator Wheeldon’s speech. It may be that a misunderstanding occurred, but the proper procedures were followed. I. closed the debate and we proceeded from that point.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 10.36 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 27 August 1968, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1968/19680827_senate_26_s38/>.