26th Parliament · 2nd Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin) took the chair at 3 p.m.. and read prayers.
– 1 direct a question to the Minister representing the Postmaster-General. 1 preface my question by drawing the Minister’s attention to question No. 218, which was placed on the notice paper by me on 30t:h April, concerning the attempt by West Australian Newspapers Ltd to acquire another four radio stations within Western Australia, in addition to the four stations in that State which it already controls. In that question I indicate that a company is deemed to control another company holding a television licence if it controls more than 15% of the shares in that company. 1. again ask: Will the Minister give an assurance to the Senate that the Postmaster-General will not approve the proposed attempt by West Australian Newspapers Ltd to obtain either direct or indirect control of the four additional stations proposed, which would be clearly in breach of section 90 of the Broadcasting and Television Act?
– 1 will place the honourable senator’s question before the Postmaster-General and will endeavour to obtain a reply.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Industry. I ask: Is it known to the Government that the ability of the pen industry in Australia to maintain an economic existence is seriously threatened due to the imports which are entering the country at low wholesale costs? What are the intentions of the Government to maintain the livelihood of the pea producers of Australia?
– It was not clear to me whether the honourable senator was referring to imports of peas from New Zealand under the New Zealand-Australia Free Trade Agreement. I would say to him that clause 1 of Article 9 of the
New Zealand-Australia Free Trade Agreement provides that if scheduled goods are in the opinion of a member state being imported into the territory of that member state in such increased quantities and under such conditions as to cause or threaten serious injury to its producers that member state may in writing request consultations with the other member state on measures to prevent future injury. 1 understand it has been made clear to the Pea and Bean Industry Panel, on which the Canning Pea Growers Association is represented, on a number of occasions that the Government would be prepared to act under this provision on presentation of a documented case demonstrating that the local industry was cither threatened with or experiencing serious damage as a result of imports from New Zealand. I should make it equally clear that Senator Lillico has presented several questions to me in relation to this matter and I supplied the answers to him last week. The answer that I am giving now would cover the type of question that Senator Lillico has been putting to me on that matter.
– I address a question, to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Did the Minister see a statement in today’s Press attributed to Mr David Hay, Administrator of Papua and New Guinea suggesting that wages should be frozen and that if an employee wanted more wages he should work for promotion rather than an increase in his wage rate? Can the Minister state whether or not Mr David Hay, as an administrator, has the right and authority to suggest a wage freeze for a period of 5 years? If Mr Hay has such authority, by whom was it granted? If such authority is not reposed in Mr Hay, will the Government take action to prevent such statements being made by administrators and thereby allow wage fixing authorities to use their own discretion on wage fixation without prior suggestions from people holding responsible positions, such as administrators?
– This question, very properly, should be directed to the Minister for External Territories. I shall submit it to the Minister and obtain an answer for the honourable senator.
– Following upon the question asked by Senator Webster, in order to try to clear up the point at issue, I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Industry whether he is aware that, according to the annual report of the Canning Pea Growers Association of Tasmania, a leading trade negotiator attached to the Department of Trade and Industry claimed that in the event of damage caused to the industry by excess importations from New Zealand documentary evidence of the actual harm done must be produced before any action can be taken under the relevant clauses of the New Zealand-Australia Free Trade Agreement. Does not this contention seriously conflict with clause .1 of Article 9 of the Agreement which states that if in the opinion of a member State goods are being imported into the territory of that member State in such increased quantities and under such conditions as to cause or threaten serious injury to its producers certain action may be taken? Is it correct to claim that actual damage must be done, with its losses to already hard pressed producers and consequent distress, before anything can be done about the matter? Would the Minister take this matter up with the Department of Trade and Industry with a view to obtaining clarification of the position?
– Yes, I shall be happy to take the matter up with the Minister for Trade and Industry with a view to obtaining clarification, but I hardly see any conflict between the answer 1 gave and the question that has been posed, lt would seem to me that you cannot demonstrate injury until such time as there is injury.
– You can demonstate possibility of it.
– Yes? the possibility of it. 1 am sure in my mind that if groups in the industry are prepared to state a case of anticipated injury or demonstrated injury the Minister for Trade and Industry will look very seriously at the submissions put to him.
– My question is directed to either the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs or the
Minister representing the Minister for Immigration. I wish to preface it with certain brief remarks. In Brisbane on the night of Sunday 15th September, on a show on television called ‘Bandstand’ - I understand that that is its name, but it could bc ‘Grandstand’ - a man by the name of Henderson thanked the Bank of New South Wales, praised Alitalia, on which he may have had a free seat, and condemned” the Australian embassies in Rome and Madrid for what he termed their rudeness to his migrant cameraman. Will the Minister make inquiries, find out the exact position and point out to Henderson that it was his or his cameraman’s responsibility to arrange a re-entry permit before he left Australia, and that his sponsors should have so advised him?
– I will be happy to find out all the circumstances surrounding this case and to provide an answer in the Senate at the appropriate time.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport aware of the growing degree of concern being expressed in the Press, in yachting and nautical magazines and by the public generally in relation to the apparent high risk involved in the making of offshore voyages in trimaran type yachts? Will he suggest to his colleague that he institute a general inquiry into the loss of many yachts of this type in Australian waters md take such steps as may be found necessary to control the use of these yachts in order to reduce the risk of further loss of life?
– I am aware of the dangers involved in people using trimaran yachts in open seas. The question of what action can be taken is one for the Commonwealth Minister for Shipping and Transport or for the appropriate State Minister, depending on whether the waters involved are inside or outside a certain limit. I am interested in the question. I will take the matter up with the Minister for Shipping and Transport and obtain a detailed reply to the question that has been asked.
– My . question is directed to the Minister representing the
Minister for Immigration. In order to overcome the deficiencies and inconsistencies in Stale laws, which seriously impair our immigration programme, will the Government consider as a matter of urgency initiating laws under the Commonwealth legislative power over immigration to provide for the recognition throughout the Commonwealth of qualifications gained overseas by migrants and, where necessary, for their right to practise their trades or professions anywhere in Australia?
– I will be pleased to place the matters raised by the honourable senator before my colleague the Minister for Immigration. Speaking just from memory. I think that in August a conference was held between State Ministers and the Commonwealth Minister for Immigration. There may have been some discussion concerning the trades and skills of migrants at that conference. If that is so. T will be pleased to find out whatever 1 can.
– Can the Minister for Works say what is the current state of progress in the preparation of uniform building regulations in Australia?
– 1 am indebted to my colleague Senator Laught for his continuing interest in this matter. He prompted me to lake an interest in it soon after I was appointed to this portfolio. As I indicated about 2 months ago, the progress that has been made is somewhat disappointing. This matter involves the co-ordination of the complex sets of building regulations that have been evolved by the States and local governing authorities, lt is under the charge of a .special section of my Department. In order to process the information, we have appointed an additional officer and called conferences for not 1 duy but 3 days, I think. The chairman of the committee in charge of the matter is Mr B. L. Dechaineux from my own city of Hobart. I am somewhat dismayed at the progress that has been made. My last information was thai building regulations have been compartmented into 58 chapters, I think, only one of which has been completed and only a few of which have been analysed. I can tell my colleague that I am in active discussion with my Director-General as to the ways and means by which the work can be accelerated after evaluating the economic advantage that may accrue to the building industry. According to statements made to me, this may amount to an important figure.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for National Development. Is it a fact that in Melbourne on Sunday last, 1 5th September, the Minister for National Development staled that there were ways of preventing petrol price increases which are due to come about through the Government’s illconsidered and excessive incentive payments scheme? ls it also a fact that this - is the first occasion on which the Government has admitted the existence of any ways of preventing petrol prices rises next year? Does the Government intend to adopt one of these methods? If so, when may we expect a statement from the Minister?
– I am aware that on Sunday last the Minister made a statement in relation to petrol prices in Australia. The Government has been considering the problem for a long time. I would like the honourable senator to know that the Government’s policy in relation to encouragement for the search for oil has been almost 100% successful. Some increased costs arc involved. Members of the Australian Labor Party and others have mentioned an increase of up to 7c a gallon. When the Minister was speaking in Melbourne he made it quite plain that while there may be an increase, it will be nowhere near 7c a gallon. The Government knows that the first oil produced in this area will not be sold until May or June 1969. Therefore, there will be no increase in the price of oil prior to May 1969 because of the ‘finds of commercial crude oil on the Gippsland shelf, and in Bass Strait. The Minister said that there were ways and means of overcoming severe price increases. I believe that the Government will take every means at its disposal to ensure that undue increases, because of the discovery of oil in Buss Strait, will not be passed on to the consumer.
– 1 direct a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. No doubt he has seen Press reports of the departure of Australia’s team for the Olympic Games in Mexico, but has his attention been drawn to the impending departure of another Australian team - the Australian paraplegic team, which will be leaving shortly for the Sixth International Meeting of the Stoke-Mandeville Games to be held in Tel Aviv later this year? In VIeW of the fact that Israel will be supporting these games at a cost of $50,000 and that the governments of Great Britain, West Germany, France and Italy will be supporting their national teams, will the Minister approach Cabinet for assistance for this Australian team?
– 1 am happy and proud to say that on behalf of the Prime Minister and the people of Australia I shook hands with all the members of the Australian Olympic team prior to their departure. They were a magnificent group of young Australians and they will do well for Australia, f will refer the other part of the honourable senator’s question, in relation to assistance for the Australian paraplegic team, to the Cabinet and obtain a reply for him.
– I. ask the
Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry: ls it true thai the wheat subsidy to be paid over the next five seasons is to be reduced to $68m, whereas subsidies totalling $95m were paid over the previous 5 years? Is it also true that wheat growers will receive less over the coming 5-year period than in the past 5 years and thereby become the only group in Australia to have its income reduced by statute? Can the Minister advise what justification the Government has to reduce the subsidy paid to wheat growers throughout Australia?
– The terms of the new wheat agreement have been exercising the minds of members of Cabinet for several months. The Minister for Primary Industry has worked very hard in an attempt to set a price that would be fair to Australian wheat growers as well as to Australian consumers.
– Will he tell us what the price is when it is decided on?
– If the honourable senator will listen he will hear the answer to the question that has been asked. I would like to tell honourable senators what I have been saying ever since I entered the Senate - that Australian wheat growers have subsidised Australian wheat consumers and are still subsidising them because the wheat growers have accepted for wheat sold for home consumption a price lower than the price they could have received overseas. That is the first point to be considered. As one who has grown wheat for 40 years and as the father of three sons who are growing wheat today, I consider that the present wheat agreement as decided upon by the Commonwealth Government is entirely fair to Australian wheat growers. 1 think the best advice they could accept would be to get the agreement signed as quickly as possible.
– Can- the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry inform the Senate whether there is likely to be a voluntary restriction of Australia’s meat exports to the United States of America, similar to that now in force in New Zealand?
– The question asked by the honourable senator has been concerning those people who arc interested in the position of Australia’s meat export industry. I made some inquiries of the Minister for Primary Industry and obtained this information for the honourable senator. Quotas on meat imports have not been imposed by the United States of America. However, the legislation passed by the United States Congress in 1964 provides for the imposition of import quotas on meat if it is estimated by the United States Secretary of Agriculture that imports are likely to exceed a certain trigger level which is arrived at by a formula- in the legislation. The quotas which would be introduced if the estimate exceeded the trigger level would be some 10% less than the trigger level itself. The last estimate of imports announced by the Secretary of Agriculture at the end of June was that imports during 1968 would total 935 million lb, an amount well below the trigger point of 1,045 million lb for 1968. Actual arrivals in the first 6 months, however, were 16% higher than in the same period of 1967. With the continuing very high-level of demand, and consequently prices, for manufacturing beef in the United States, indications are that imports will continue at considerably higher levels than had been indicated. The United Slates Administration has advised all supplying countries that on the basts of actual arrivals and estimates of arrivals for the balance of 1968, there is a likelihood that the trigger quota will be exceeded unless specific action ‘is- taken by each supplying country to restrict ‘shipments.
It is clearly not in Australia’s interests for quotas to be imposed by the United States. Accordingly, after consultations with the Chairman of the Australian Meat Board and discussions between Australian and New Zealand representatives, Australia - and in fact all other supplying countries - have indicated to the Americans that we are prepared to co-operate. We are currently engaged in discussions with the Americans as to the level of restraint required of Australia and that which is required of other suppliers if the imposition ot United States quotas is to be avoided. Whilst the level of Australian restraint is still subject to discussion, it is clear that the figure will not be below that of last year. The administration of restrictions would be carried out by the Australian Meat Board, which will be considering the whole question on Thursday and will be advising exporters on the question of procedures as soon as practicable.
I should like to emphasise that the restraints at present under discussion relate only to arrivals in the United States during the balance of 1968, that is, the shipments made up to about the end of November. The question of any restraint in 1969 will depend on the level of the trigger point for 1969 compared wilh the estimated level of United States imports in 1969. This estimate will be announced Tate in December and will take into account such matters as the outlook for United States import demand and the supply position in export countries.
– I address my question to the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior. On 13th June I asked the following question, which is now on the notice paper:
When may 1 expect an answer to these questions, or will I receive an answer after the debate of the site of the new and permanent parliament house has been concluded in another place and a decision reached?
– I shall take up with the Minister for the Interior the matter raised by the honourable senator and 1 shall endeavour to obtain a reply to his questions as soon as possible.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Industry another question concerning the pea and bean industry. Is there not a difference between actual damage and a threat of damage as referred to in the New Zealand-Australia Free Trade Agreement? Does not the growing volume of imports constitute a threat? Must time elapse so that probably serious damage is actually done to the industry before action can be taken?
– When I gave the first answer to Senator Webster I read out the substance of clause 1 of Article 9 which states:
If . . . goods are . . . being imported into the territory of that Member State in such increased quantities and under such conditions as to cause or threaten serious injury. . . .
Quite frankly I believe that that makes the position clear. A panel of pea growers or any other group of growers is competent to make a submission to the Minister for Trade and Industry that their industry is being threatened. Then, under the provisions of the Agreement, there is a responsibility on the Minister for Trade and Industry to consider the submission. I do not want there to be any misunderstanding about this. The clause uses the words ‘being imported into the territory … in such increased quantities and under such conditions as to cause or threaten’. That is slightly different from the point made in the honourable senator’s original question. I am quite clear in my mind that the door is open for the honourable senator’s constituents or for any other growers to make a submission to the Minister for Trade and Industry in accordance with the terms of the New ZealandAustralia Free Trade Agreement.
– I direct to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry a question which I ask because in a previous question regarding the Australian wheat industry the word ‘subsidy’ was used. Will the Minister state whether the industry is receiving a subsidy or whether it is still receiving a repayment of an amount of some $400m with which it is estimated it subsidised Australian consumers in the initial stages of the Australian Wheat Stabilisation Agreement?
– I am glad indeed to have such a question asked of me.
Opposition Senators - Oh!
– When honourable senators opposite have finished their display of mirth, I will answer the question. For far too long far too many people have been in ignorance of what the Australian wheatgrower has done for the Australian consumer. I think the honourable senator will be interested when I give him the following information. I might add that this was not a Dorothy Dixer. I did not know the question was to be asked but one can be lucky sometimes. The Commonwealth Government has made the following payments in round figures to the Wheat Prices Stabilisation Fund: No. 23 pool, $6m; No. 24 pool, $17m; No. 25 pool, Si 4m; No. 26 pool, S22m; No. 27 pool, Sim; a total of $62m. This stabilisation fund came into existence with the 1945-46 season’s pool and in the next 7 years growers contributed a total of S151m, but the whole of this was refunded to them. No export wheat charge was levied on wheat of the 1 952-53 season. From then on until the 1959-60 season’s pool the fund operated entirely on grower contributions, which totalled $2 1. 5m, and the balance in the fund was insufficient to meet withdrawals in respect of the 1959-60 pool. So this is the amount that the Commonwealth Government has paid to the wheatgrowers, as compared with the $400m mentioned by the honourable senator. This bears out what I said earlier, that is, that the Australian consumer is still in the debt of the Australian wheatgrower.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. Is it not correct that the fairness of the wheat stabilisation scheme or any alteration of that scheme can only be examined against a knowledge of the price at which wheat can be sold overseas? ls the Government still taking the attitude that it will not inform the Parliament of the price at which wheat has been sold to Communist China?
– First of all, the Australian Government does. not sell wheal to. Communist China or any Other country
– When honourable senators opposite have finished their moans of anguish I want to Remind them that sale.* are made by . the Australian Wheal Board, which has nothing to do with .the Australian Government.
– Oh, senator.
– The honourable senator need not believe me. but these are the facts. Therefore, there is no reason at all why the Australian Government has kept information from the Australian taxpayers or this Senate or anybody else. The sales are made by the Australian Wheat Board and I reiterate that the present suggestions by the Australian Government with regard to the new agreement for the nex5 years are, in my view, entirely satisfactory to the wheatgrowers and a fair deal for the Australian wheat consumer. ‘
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior. Does the- Northern Territoryobserve central standard time? Is the Minister aware that there is a strong move in South Australia to change from central standard time to eastern standard time?
Does not the Minister consider that Administration services in the Northern Territory, Australian Broadcasting Commission services in the Northern Territory, and citizens generally in the Northern Territory would benefit from a change from central standard time to eastern standard time?
– I know that the Northern Territory, like South Australia, adopts central standard time. I know also that there are moves in South Australia to have that time altered. I do not know of any activity in the Northern Territory along those lines.
– Is the Minister representing the Prime Minister aware that students are being used to spy on lecturers at the University of Queensland? Is the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation guilty of this practice? If so, does not this remind the Minister of the activities of the Nazi Party prior to the Second World War? Will he ensure that this kind of spying activity is stopped immediately?
– In the first place, I. am not aware of it; in the second place, this is a hypothetical question and raises a series of matters which I do not accept as valid and, in the third place, it is not normal practice to answer questions in relation to the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation.
– I direct my question to the Leader of the Government. In view of the obvious unanimous opinions of political party leaders in the Commonwealth Parliament in relation to the importance of the growth of feelings of nationalism and of national pride in the Australian people, will the Minister have discussions with the Prime Minister with a view to greater encouragement being given to those committees in each Stale which are striving to obtain a wider and more earnest celebration of Australia Day but which find no lead or real support from the Government, particularly in respect of finance?
– I will pass on the honourable senator’s submission to the
Prime Minister. In essence, I do not accept that there is not a real awareness in government circles of the importance of Australia’s national day. Perhaps the honourable senator did not intend his question to have that emphasis. I am certain that all Australians take a tremendous pride in their nationality. I had that brought home to me yesterday when we saw our olympic team going overseas to compete against representatives of some 117 nations in the greatest event in amateur sport. We are shy in our nationalism but nevertheless in reality we are very firm in it. I gather that the honour- able senator is claiming that we should give more stimulus at governmental level, Commonwealth and State, in relation to this matter. I will refer the question to the Prime Minister.
– My question to the Minister representing the Minister for National Development also relates to Australianism. I refer to the statement made yesterday by the Minister for National Development in which he attacked wholly owned overseas companies, which are mining and processing Australian resources for overseas markets, for excluding Australians from shareholdings in and management of those companies. The Minister is reported also to have criticised oil and motor vehicle companies for the same shortcomings. I ask the Minister: Firstly, is the Minister for National Development not saying what the Opposition has been saying for some years, and secondly, what has caused the Government to wake up to the position?
– It is not a question of something having caused the Government to wake up to the position. The Minister for National Development was pointing out the advantages to Australia of certain companies after having been in operation for a number of years. He mentioned Mount Isa Mines Ltd which commenced operations with 100% overseas capital. Australia now has a 46% share of the business. I think that the Minister went on to say that there is a vital need for overseas capital in Australia to develop all our mineral resources. He also said that Australians would like to participate in these companies if at all possible. The Minister mentioned the need to recognise that although Australia has huge mineral wealth we do not have sufficient capital to develop these resources ourselves. He said that it would be desirable if Australians could participate in the companies that are formed and be actively associated in mining our vast mineral wealth.
– 1 desire to ask a question of the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport. In view of the limited amount of 3 feet 6 inches rolling stock that is available to haul Frances Creek and Mount Bundy iron ore to Darwin wharf, will the Minister make inquiries to see whether any South Australian 3 feet 6 inches rolling stock, which will become surplus on the opening of the standard gauge line from Port Pirie to Broken Hill, could be acquired for the Darwin line?
– The iron ore from Mount Bundy and Frances Creek is transported by rail to Darwin for export. I understand that there is a shortage of rolling stock. I am not fully aware of the exact position, but I will make representations to the Minister for Shipping and Transport to ascertain whether the extra rolling stock that is needed could be obtained from South Australia when the standardisation of the Port Pirie to Broken Hill line is completed.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs. In the past 4 or 5 days conflicting views have been expressed by Mr Hubert Humphrey, VicePresident of the United States and Democratic candidate for the forthcoming Presidential election, amongst which was the opinion that United States troops may be withdrawn from Vietnam towards the end of 1968 or early in 1969. 1 ask: Has the Australian Government been advised of any move to withdraw United States troops from Vietnam? If so, can the Australian people hope that Australian forces also will be withdrawn simultaneously? Will the Minister advise the Senate of what arrangements are being made by the Australian Government to meet such an eventuality?
– The second part of the honourable senator’s question is hypothetical, lt must be remembered that there will be a United States Presidential election at the end of the year and that we are receiving some potted versions of statements made by the various candidates. Whilst Senator O’Byrne has given an interpretation of what Mr Humphrey has said - and I do not challenge that for one moment - I have read in the Press that Mr Humphrey has tended to deny that he said that. I think it would be very wrong and very ill-advised to make tong term conclusions at this stage from Press reports of a Presidential campaign. If that position is accepted the rest of the honourable senator’s question is completely inappropriate at this point of time.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. I ask: Has his attention been drawn to two conflicting statements, one attributed to the Federal Treasurer and the other to the Premier of New South Wales, made at a meeting held in Sydney over the weekend concerning the amount of money New South Wales receives from the Commonwealth under the existing Commonwealth-State Financial Agreement? Does he agree that under the present arrangement the State of New South Wales receives less per head of population from the Commonwealth than do the other States and that the New South Wales Government therefore claims it is forced to impose increases in fares and other State taxes in order to provide reasonable essential services for the people of that State? If this is so, will the Minister be prepared to use whatever influence he has with the Prime Minister and the Treasurer to see that New South Wales obtains a fairer share of the revenue collected by the Commonwealth from the States, and will he use his influence with senators on the Government side representing the State of New South Wales to back the campaign being waged to secure a better deal for the people of that State?
– If I were to embark upon a considered reply to the series of questions asked by the honourable senator in relation to the Commonwealth-State financial arrangements, I am afraid that question time would become rather a shambles. The facts of the matter are that since we are now debating the Estimates it may well be that some vehicle could be used by the honourable senator there to pose a series of questions in relation to this matter. But let me say by way of short answer that the uniform tax arrangements between the Commonwealth and the States are matters purely for the Commonwealth and the States. The Premiers meet with the Commonwealth in June of each year. They meet in Loan Council also at that time. The matters to which the honourable senator refers must, of necessity, be resolved at those meetings, and not in the forum. There is no sin in any Premier wanting to advocate that he considers that his State should receive more. But, in the final analysis, this must be determined by the Premiers Conference or the Loan Council. As I recall the position, the Loan Council and the Premiers last met in June of this year, and, in fairness to all, it must be admitted that on that occasion there was no representation at the conclusion of those conferences along the lines of the case being submitted now. As to the statement by the Treasurer on Friday evening and what was said by the Premier on Saturday, I would emphasise that both honourable gentlemen were expressing their points of view. And it would be a sorry clay for Australian politics if they were not allowed to do that.
– 1 address a question to the Minister representing the Prime Minister and by way of brief preface 1 refer the Minister to the question which I asked of him last Thursday as to a memorial to the late Prime Minister, Mr Harold Holt, and the Minister’s reply thereto. Will the Minister ask the Prime Minister to give consideration to arranging for the naming of the new Victorian international airport the ‘Melbourne (Harold Holt) Airport’ to commemorate the name of Mr Holt, irrespective of the fountain or other similar type of memorial which may be erected in Canberra?
– Yes. As I recall the position, I expressed a personal opinion in response to the question asked last week. As I understand the question now asked, it is whether, irrespective of what may or may not be done ultimately in Canberra, the Prime Minister will consider associating the late Mr Harold Holt’s name with the new Victorian international airport. I will refer the matter to the Prime Minister.
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for Defence seen a Press report that the Boeing aircraft company has abandoned its design for a variable geometry supersonic transport? This dramatic and predictable decision is believed to be a direct result of the difficulties encountered in the Fill. Does the Minister believe that in view of this action further serious consideration should be given to Australia’s commitment to the Fill?
– A Press report that 1 saw related to the swing wing type of aircraft. As I remember, it did not make clear the reasons for the change of planning mentioned. Knowing some little bit about the problems of technology and the implications of aeronautical engineering problems, I should think it would be very dangerous for any of us to make assumptions. Although a swing wing may be suitable for one particular role, it may not be suitable for another. For example, for a strike aircraft the swing wing may have tremendous capabilities whereas, in different circumstances, for an aircraft carrying passengers and different types of loads, the swing wing may not be suitable at all. For all those reasons, I do not think we should make judgments until such time as we receive such full and comprehensive reasons as the company concerned may propose to give in relation to the decision.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Industry. 1 draw attention to the reply that the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry gave in relation to the voluntary restraints on the export of beef that Australian authorities are now implementing. As Australian exporters are now pursuing policies directed to the voluntary curtailment of volumes of exports that may harm the home industries of other countries, will the Minister give the Senate an assurance that, in like manner and prior to harm occurring- to Australian producers, the Government is energetically encouraging exporters lo Australia to use the same discretion in landing on the Australian domestic market volumes of. goods that may harm the indigenous Australian industries? -
– I remind the Senate and the questioner that I represent the Minister for Trade and Industry in this place. I do not enunciate policy for him. If questions of policy are asked, in all faith and sincerity I convey them to him. It is a tradition in this place that questions on policy are not answered.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Defence. In view of the many mishaps to the Fill aircraft and following inquiries into the causes of the mishaps, I ask: Has there been obtained from the reports any information which would suggest that the failures have been due to mechanical faults, or has some human error been responsible? If human error is responsible, is it because at this point of time the machines are so sophisticated, complicated and ahead of human comprehension that human control cannot cope with their complexities? Would that suggest that they need to be controlled by computer or some other electronic device?
– I am quite certain that I could not be expected to answer questions involving technical knowhow in respect of the Fill aircraft. The situation is that there is a motion on this matter on the business paper; but I have just been informed that in another place today the Prime Minister was asked a question in relation to the tabling of documents. With your indulgence, Mr President, and that of the Senate, I will give the information that was given in another place. It is related very closely, if not directly, to the question asked by the honourable senator. I am informed that in reply to the question that was asked the Prime Minister said:
As a government we wish to give to the Parliament of this country as much information as possible about the arrangements made for the purchase of Fill aircraft. But the documents contain some classified material which, for security reasons, will not be made public under any circumstances. The Attorney-General and the Department of Defence have been examining and are continuing to examine such documents to ses which parts of them do not contain or refer to such classified matters. But having said that, it still remains true that the documents are confidential arrangements between Australia and another nation. We would not expect such documents to be disclosed by another nation without previous consultation and agreement with us. We therefore need to consult the other nation concerned before disclosing them ourselves. This process is in train and when the availability of documents or part of documents has been determined, then a detailed statement will be made.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Customs and Excise, who represents the oil interests, although perhaps that is rather oversimplifying the position. Is he concerned that the Shell oil interests have rejected the New South Wales Government’s invitation to take up oil search rights off the coast of New South Wales? Can the Minister explain the Shell oil interests’ reluctance?
– I understand that several leases were thrown open recently by the New South Wales Government to enable oil exploration companies to search for oil. I do not knew the names of the companies that have been granted the leases, but I will raise the honourable sentor’s question with the Minister for National Development and obtain an answer.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. In view of the increasing number of government corporations, such as the Australian Wheat Board, now assuming the functions of government administration, does the Government intend to continue to deny the Parliament information of the daytoday activities of such corporations? If so, does the Minister agree that it is a serious situation when a widening area of governmental activity escapes any measure of parliamentary scrutiny?
– The honourable senator has opened up a very large and very interesting field for debate. He will know, as we all know, that these bodies are con.stituted as a direct result of legislation in the Parliament. We in the Senate, as do members in another place, discuss the merits of the bodies, propositions in relation to the form that they should take, and what their statutory commitments to the Parliament will be. So Parliament prescribes terms and requirements for the Wheat Board and other corporations. The generality of the honourable senator’s question would be a good subject for a debate in some depth, from which I would not shrink. I think we could gain some useful information from it. The forms of the House, particularly those in relation to General Business, would lend themselves to such a discussion, but basically, the Parliament has laid down the terms and conditions under which these corporations function.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior. In view of the imminence of the tabling of the final report of the electoral Distribution Commissioners, can the Minister give an assurance as to the simultaneous release of the report to both Houses of the Parliament?
– I will raise the matter with the Minister concerned and advise the honourable senator of his reply.
– That is what you always say.
– 1 am telling you what I will do in relation to your question.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry say which States of the Commonwealth are in agreement with the present proposals for wheat stabilisation and are prepared to initiate complementary legislation in line with the proposals? What is the latest date on which complementary legislation can be carried in the various States to ensure the continuation of the wheat stabilisation scheme?
– As far as I am aware four States agree with the Commonwealth’s proposals. The two States that do not agree are Western Australia and Victoria. I know that legislation must be enacted by the Parliament so that it can be enforced by, I think, 30th November, otherwise it will not be possible to receive wheat under the previous agreement. The matter is fairly urgent, as the honourable senator would be aware. I know that recently the wheat growers in Victoria held a meeting, as a result of which the Whip of the Australian Country Party in the House of Representatives, Mr Turnbull, was asked to arrange a delegation to interview the Prime Minister, the Treasurer and the Minister for Primary Industry. We know that the Treasurer is presently overseas. I am sorry, but that is the only information 1 can provide for the honourable senator.
– Has the Leader of the Government in the Senate an answer to the following question which I asked several times last week: Will the Government present to the Senate at an early time a statement dealing with the delays in the delivery of the Fill aircraft, its faults and its usefulness as well as the matter of the increased costs?
– I understand that there is on the Senate notice paper a motion requesting tabling of the papers referred to by the Leader of the Opposition. A question was asked on this subject a few moments ago and 1 gave- in substance, as accurately as I could,- the, reply given by the Prime Minister, in another place. The Prime Minister said that when the availability of certain documents is determined a further statement will be made. Until that statement is made I cannot give any further information in reply to the honourable senator’s question. .
– I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate: .When may I expect a reply to the question I asked last week about the total, cost to date - the amounts paid to date on account - of the Fill aircraft purchase? The Minister undertook to get me an answer: Surely it is a simple matter to give the figure requested?
– I. have sought some information from the Minister for Defence on this matter. At least before the’ Senate rises tonight I would hope to have’ some information available for the honourable senator, if it is not available to me by the end of question time today.
– J address a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration. In view of the termination of legislation in New South Wales which aided veterinary surgeons with degrees obtained at European universities to practice in New South Wales, will the Minister take the matter up in conjunction with the question asked earlier by Senator Murphy?
– Yes, I would be pleased to do that.
-I remind the Minister for Customs and Excise that some days ago I asked him a question about newsprint imported from Hong Kong. It has been reported that the Minister saw deputations on this matter yesterday. Has the Minister any information to give the Senate about newsprint imported from Hong Kong?
– I .do not have any further information on this subject. As soon as I can get it, I will get in touch direct wilh the honourable senator.
(Question No. 379)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice:
As 45% of Australia’s total trade and al least 80% of ils total oil imports pass through the Indian Ocean, and as British naval power, which has maintained the security of the Indian Ocean since the middle of the last century, will have been completely withdrawn within 2 years, what steps does the Government propose to take to meet this situation?
– The Minister for Defence has supplied the following answer:
The Government has a continuing interest in the security of the Indian Ocean area, particularly in view of its importance to our lines of communication and trade. Many other countries share our concern for the security of the region and as opportunities arise exchanges of view take place at various levels concerning the future security requirements nf the area. The United Kingdom will continue to have defence commitments in the Indian Ocean. The Government will also be considering the strategic situation in this area in the course of its current review of defence policy.
(Question No. 385)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration, upn notice:
– The Minister for Immigration has furnished the following replies:
An Asian student would not be taken into custody solely because his temporary entry permit has expired. Nor as a general rule would the deportation of a student be contemplated solely because he is making unsatisfactory progress with his studies.
In the normal course a student who has consistently failed to make satisfactory progress wilh his studies, and whose continued stay for studies at a lower level could not be justified, would be asked to leave. As a general rule the student departs voluntarily.
There have been instances where a person admitted initially as a student has abandoned his studies, his temporary entry permit has expired and his whereabouts have become unknown. This person is a prohibited immigrant and is liable to deportation. In those cases where the Minister for Immigration has issued an order for deportation, the deportee when apprehended would be taken into custody. Should circumstances at the time so warrant, the Minister for Immigration may decide that the order for deportation should not bc enforced.
Since 1950 more than 30,000 private students have studied in Australia. In this period only ninety-two persons who were admitted initially as students, and who subsequently abandoned their student status, have been deported.
(Question No. 390)
asked the Minister for Customs and Excise, upon notice:
Have subsequent events confirmed the assertion made by an accused, during a recent successful prosecution against bird smugglers, that he would give information that would crack the smuggling ring?
– The Minister for Customs and Excise has furnished the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
I assume the question concerns a recent successful prosecution in Sydney. The Department of Customs and Excise has not received any information from any person involved in this case which is of material assistance in its investigations into the operations of the alleged smuggling ring.
(Question No. 397)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for External Territories, upon notice:
– The Minister for External Territories has supplied the following answers:
(Question No. 409)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice:
– The Minister for Civil Aviation has supplied the following answers:
2, The amounts charged to TAA and AnsettANA for air navigation charges for the years 1959-60 to 1967-68 are as follows:
In addition to these payments by the two major domestic airlines, the international airlines, other domestic operators and the charter, training, aerial work and private aircraft operators altogether were charged a further sum of $22.536m for the period. Other revenue received by the Commonwealth included aviation fuel taxation which approximated S36m for the period from 1959-60 lo 1967-68.
(Question No. 412)
asked the Minister for Customs and Excise, upon notice:
– The Minister for Customs and Excise has furnished the following answers to the honourable senator’s questions: !. The lions were subjected to the usual quarantine requirements applied to animals imported into Australia.
(Question No. 429)
asked the Minister re-, presenting the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice:
– The Minister for Primary Industry has supplied the following answers to the honourable senator’s ques tions:
I direct a question to the Minister representing the Postmaster-General. With a view to encouraging decentralisation and the development of the rural sector of the community, will the PostmasterGeneral lake steps to either equalise the charge for connecting telephone services to isolated areas with the cost of such connections in urban areas or al least apply a substantial degree of equalisation as applies in relation to petrol prices?
The Postmaster-General has now furnished me with the following information in reply:
Because of the dispersion of rural settlers, it would be difficult for economic and technical reasons lo provide telephone services in country areas on the same basis as in urban areas. The conditions under which telephone services are provided in rural areas in Australia are being reviewed in detail and when 1 have received a report from my Department 1 will consult with my Cabinet colleagues on any changes which may be possible.
Can the Minister give any information as to when an answer can be expected regarding a possible change in the method by which the Postmaster-General’s Department requires some subscribers so affected to finance the full cost of upgrading telephone lines?
The Postmaster-General has now furnished me with the following information in reply:
I am expecting a report shortly from my Department following a detailed review of the conditions under which country telephone set vices are provided. When it is received, 1 will consult with my Cabinet colleagues on any dungea which may be possible.
The Postmaster-General has now furnished me with the following information in reply:
The results should be available shortly of field trials undertaken recently on a type of meter which the Post Office is considering for use by subscribers. The meter, if it meets the Department’s technical requirements, will be available to subscribers, as I have already indicated, as an optional facility for installation in their premises to record meter registrations on both local and STD calls made from their services.
– 1 present the report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works relating to the following proposed work:
Construction of beef roads, Northern Territory (1968 reference) - Willeroo to Timber Creek and Mataranka to Roper Bar.
I ask for leave to make a short statement.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Bull) - There being no objection, leave is granted.
– The summary of recommendations and conclusions of the Committee is as follows:
– I present the report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works relating to the following proposed work:
Laboratory Building for Division of Mineral Chemistry, Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, North Ryde, New South Wales.
I ask for leave to make a short statement.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT-
There being no objection, leave k granted.
– The summary of recommendations and conclusions of the Committee is as follows:
– Pursuant to standing order 28a, 1 hereby nominate Senators Bull, Cormack, Fitzgerald, Kennelly, Laught, Poke, Ridley, Dame ivy Wedgwood, and Wood a panel to act as Temporary Chairmen of Committees when requested so to do by the Chairman of Committees or when the Chairman of Committees is absent. My warrants nominating senators to act as Temporary Chairmen of Committees, dated 22nd February 1967 and 12th April 1967, are revoked.
Motion (by Senator Murphy) agreed to:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent Senator Murphy moving a motion relating to the order of General Business after 8 p.m.
– I move:
For the convenience of honourable senators I inform them that notice of motion No. 8 is the motion for the tabling of the Fill papers. Order of the day No. 10 deals with Southern Rhodesia and United Nations Security Council resolution 253 of 29th May 1968. Order of the day No. 8 relates lo the report of the Senate Select Committee on the Container Method of Handling Cargoes. My proposal is to discuss both these orders of the. day, if there is time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Consideration resumed from 12th September (vide page 666).
Department of Supply
Proposed Expenditure, $95,002,300.
– It will be recalled that when we finished our consideration in Committee last week a series of questions had been posed. I had undertaken to have answers prepared during the weekend. For the convenience of the Committee I propose now to give those answers. I should imagine that probably they will take me beyond the period of my first call. Perhaps another series- of questions could (hen be posed and I could finish the answers I already have prepared and, given a little more time for access to my advisers, where necessary, 1 could provide the additional information sought. I hope that that arrangement will be acceptable to the Committee. lt will be recalled that Senator McClelland referred to the provision for administrative salaries) in Division 720, subdivision I, item 01. He noted that according lo page 157 of the ‘Estimates of Receipts and Summary of Estimated Expenditure’ under the heading ‘Functional Summary’ there is to be an increase this financial year in the number of staff in the regional office in Victoria. He asked me to relate this situation lo the reported transfer of the central office of the Department from Melbourne to Canberra. The answer is that the central office staff transferred to Canberra in January 1968 and the remainder, to come in the second stage in January 1969, are included in the figures shown against the various central office divisions listed above the regional offices in the ‘Functional Summary’. The figure for Victoria reflects the expected increases as staff are recruited to fill the new organisation approved for the regional offices. There are still large executive branches dealing with contracts and production in all States.
asked also about the provision for freight, cartage and packing in item 04, subdivision 2, Division 720. He asked why expenditure on freight, cartage and packing was expected to increase by 20% over the expenditure of last year. The answer is that the incidence of carriage of safe-hand mail has increased considerably since the location of the central office in Canberra. The 1968-69 provision includes disturbance allowance’ payable to secondwave transferees and the associated movement of records and stores. He asked also for the reason for the increase of $57,000 over the 1967-68 expenditure for incidentals as provided in item 10 of subdivision 2 of Division 720. The answer is that the increase over the 1967-68 level of miscellaneous expenses chargeable to this item is chiefly attributable to legal fees related to departmental xerography patents, $10,000; additional costs of technical data on overseas stores, S3,000; additional costs associated with public exhibitions, $10,000; maintenance of the administrative computer, Melbourne, $21,000; an adjustment due to Great Britain arising from exchange variations in acquittance of Britain’s funding of the European Launcher Development Organisation project prior to the formation of the ELDO secretariat, $14,000: and cataloguing services, $6,000.
asked about the provision in item 01 of Division 722, which relates to reserve capacity maintenance at government factories. I had already answered a question on this subject in some detail. Senator McClelland sought an explanation of the provision of $4. 138m this year compared with an expenditure of $2.883m last year. A reduction in some factory work loads, particularly at the Government Aircraft Factory, Fishermen’s Bend, will result in the under-recovery through work performed of a substantial amount of the fixed overheads associated with the maintenance of government factories. This item recoups the Factories Trust Account in the amount of $845,000, which is the under-recovery. I think we all readily understand that when there is a tremendous capital investment in an organisation there is a problem if the plant and equipment are not worked. There is also a’ change in accounting arrangements whereby factories are paid for reserve capacity at the commencement of each month instead of at the end of the month, which has resulted in a significant increase in the provision for 1 968-69. The introduction of payment in advance, which was agreed with the Treasury, has the effect of requiring 13 months’ expenditure in this financial year. The extra month’s expenditure is estimated to be S4 1 0,000.
There was a question also as to the present position of licensing negotiations with French manufacturers to enable 30 millimetre ammunition to be manufactured in Australia. Agreements with two French organisations - -Manurhin Co., a private firm, and a government establishment - are in the process of being finalised. Technical data is now being received and we are preparing to get into production. An initial order for ball ammunition is expected from the Department of Air later .this year and deliveries will commence approximately 18 months after that. Honourable senators will appreciate the difficulty of negotiating these matters with other governments and organisations, it takes a lot of time, consideration and effort on the part of the people concerned.
Senator Keeffe referred to item 03, subdivision J, Division 720, which relates to the salary of the Secretary. 1 am sure that this answer lends itself to some appreciation. The appropriation was $15,000 and expenditure was $14,952, so there was a short-fall of S48. Senator Keeffe asked: Why was this? The daily rate of pay of all officers is calculated as 1/313 of the annual salary. Therefore the payment to the Secretary last year was $48 less than his standard salary. The rules Cor estimates preparation require that each item of appropriation be rounded to the nearest $100 upwards. In every twelfth year there are 27 pay days, as compared to a normal 26, and in that year payments will exceed the annual salary.
asked also how the price paid by the Department for the new clothing factory site in Coburg, Victoria, compared with valuation. The purchase was negotiated by the Department of the Interior. The price paid in 1966-67 was $335,000. It was not in excess of the valuation of the Department of the Interior. The honourable senator referred also to the provision for the Central Transport Authority in Division 734. The AuditorGeneral’s report at page 295 noted that an additional $404,000 had been spent in 196.7-68 on additions to and replacements for the transport fleet. Senator Keeffe asked what was the total number of vehicles and what were the types and makes on which the additional money was spent. The Stores and Transport Branch is responsible for a fleet of 3,857 passenger and goods carrying vehicles and 592 ancillary vehicles such as cranes, aircraft towmotors, etc. It is not practicable without a considerable amount t f administrative effort to list the types and makes of vehicle on which the additional morey was spent. The additional expenditure represented the replacement of 33 1 vehicles in the fleet which had reached the end of their economic life.
There was also a question about furniture removals, for which provision is made in Division 735. Senator Keeffe referred to the Auditor-General’s report at page 295 and asked how much was the loss arising from the fire at a contractor’s storehouse at Queanbeyan, why the compensation was paid by the Department, and was this not a private store and covered by insurance. The Commonwealth has been required to expend approximately $170,000 to cover losses of furniture and personal effects in the fire at a contractor’s storehouse in Queanbeyan, lt is general practice for individuals to lake out insurance on their property when it is put into store. The contractor covers only his interests in the storehouse itself. In these circumstances, where Commonwealth officers’ effects are at risk the Commonwealth invariably carries its own insurance rather than allowing officers to insure and then’ being responsible for reimbursing them. There is no doubt that over the years the Commonwealth has profited from this self-insurance policy.
Senator Keeffe referred also to storage services, for which provision is made in Division 724. He asked for what was storage capacity used and where were the stores located. Storage services for the Department of Supply, as distinct from storage facilities for other departments, are mainly in respect of storage of goods associated with the production of munitions, including aircraft. The principal items in this category are ammunition components and packaging, chemicals, metals, small tools, hand tools and toot equipment, radar and telecommunication components, machine tools for war potential reserve, various items held on deposit for munitions factories, aircraft raw material, parts and spares. The provision relates also to storage of strategic stocks of raw materials, and storage and handling of explosives in magazine areas and fuel in bulk fuel storage depots. These stores are in departmental storehouses located in every State, but predominantly in Victoria and New South Wales.
asked a series of questions relating to the future of the Weapons Research Establishment and Government factories. Over the past 4 weeks, and on last Thursday, 1 have endeavoured to assure him and the Senate of my concern to ensure that the scientific and technical capacity of the Weapons Research Establishment is utilised adequately. To some extent there will be duplication when we proceed to encourage private industry to develop new and improved techniques. However, it should be remembered that the Department’s research establishments are not equipped to be large scale producers of electronic equipment. We feel it is better to look to industry for these supplies.
In relation to the point made by Senator Bishop that the Weapons Research Establishment should be able to play a part in fulfilling some of the orders given to private contractors, I am glad to say that there has been an interchange of knowledge and capacity in the project studies carried out to date in Australia. I am sure the interchange which has occurred in the first phase of the Mallard project will continue into the latter phases of the project. So far as the Government Aircraft Factories are concerned, we are making strenuous efforts to obtain more orders. We hope that these will be productive of good results over the next few months.
Senator Keeffe is recorded on pages 665 and 666 of Hansard as having asked questions relating to non-Service departments, government authorities, other governments and private industry as referred to on page 296 of the Auditor-General’s report concerning work done in government factories. In brief, non-Service departments are those Commonwealth departments outside the defence group, for example, the Postmaster-General’s Department and the Department of Civil Aviation. The term ‘government authorities’ covers Slate Government departments and Commonwealth and State statutory authorities, for example, the electricity commission and the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority. The term ‘other governments’ refers to work performed for overseas governments, and private industry’ refers to Australian and overseas commercial firms.
The honourable senator also asked what is meant by emergency defence needs as referred to on page 297 of the AuditorGeneral’s report. ‘Capacity for emergency defence needs’ means plant provision made in government factories and in industry in peacetime to permit the rapid expansion of munitions and aircraft stores if and when the defence need arises. He mentioned plant re-equipment and asked why there was an increase of $48,000 over last year’s expenditure and whether it reduced capital expenditure. The amount of $240,000 has been provided in 1968-69 to meet the cost of rearranging production facilities in government factories and annexes. The rearrangement of plant and equipment which is carried out by the establishments is designed to meet- production costs and to improve efficiency. It does not necessarily reduce capital expenditure. The increase of $48,000 is required at the Ordnance Factory, Maribyrnong, to provide improved operating efficiency, and at the Ammunition Factory, Footscray, where major tasks include rearrangement related to ammunition and fuse production.
He referred also to the training of personnel and asked the reason for the increase of: $46,000- over expenditure in 1967-68. 1 inform him that provision has been made for an increase in residential training courses and seminars to be conducted in 1968-69.” There are 32 in 1968-69 compared with 15 in 1967-68. This activity was reduced in 1967-68 when training officers were seconded to implement procedures for the transfer of Central Office from Melbourne to Canberra. Membership fees to learned societies, expenses for overseas trainees, studentships and part time study assistance are expected to be higher than they were in 1967-68. I have passed on to honourable senators the information that has been provided for me. I hope it will be of some assistance to them.
– I direct the Minister’s attention to Division 734 - Central Transport Authority - vehicles and equipment, for which there is an allocation of $2,953,000. 1 am anxious to know the cost of the private hire cars which support the services provided by the central transport office at Woolloomooloo. What part of the $2,953,000 relates to the private hire of cars? What is the name of the firm which supplies the cars’? Does one firm provide all the services’? ls this the firm which supplies private hire cars for the State government service in Sydney? Unfortunately I was out of the chamber when the Minister replied to my questions in relation to the Antarctic Division. I do not want him to repeat his replies because J will read them in Hansard but 1 should like to know how many times in the last 12 months men have had to.be rescued from Antarctica for reasons of illness or injury. I know quite a few pf them have had to bc rescued. What means were adopted to bring them back lb mainland Australia? Who supplied the aircraft? What kind of aircraft was used?
I raise another point. What is the Government’s policy in relation to the Small Arms Factory at Lithgow? ls it proposed to develop its activities? fs any part of the production at the factory devoted to private contracts? For example, is it producing domestic goods? If that is so, why is it so? Are we not short of munitions and the kind of things that the Small. Arms Factor)’ can produce? 1 understand that the local people tire finding it difficult to get work in Lithgow and that the population in the town has been reduced very considerably. Lithgow depends on the small arms industry which has been there for 50 or 60 years or more.
– I rise again to refer to Division 720 following the replies that the Minister has given to my questions, particularly the question relating to the increase in staff in the Melbourne office of the Department of Supply. Frankly, I am at a loss to understand the Minister’s explanation of the increase in staff in Victoria and the statement in the introductory portion of the Department’s annual report. On page 157 of the document ‘Estimates of Receipts and Summary of Estimated Expenditure’ we see under the heading ‘Functional Summary. Regional Offices, Victoria’ an estimated increase in personnel of 41 - from 683 to 724 - yet, for each of the other States there has been a decrease in the average employment situation. No explanation is given as to why there has not been a substantial decrease in the number of people employed in the Central Office in Melbourne. The annual report of the Department states:
The first stage of the transfer of the Department’s Central Office from Melbourne to Canberra was completed in January 1968.
From that sentence one must assume that there has been a movement of staff from Melbourne to Canberra and that there has therefore been a decrease in the number of staff employed in Melbourne. The report goes on to say:
The second stage of the transfer is expected to b« completed in January 1969. The transfer is taking place with a minimum of difficulties, both officially and as regards individuals and families.
One would assume from that statement that the number of: staff employed in Victoria has decreased and that it will substantially decrease from January 1969. But, as I pointed out to the Minister, we find that, notwithstanding a decrease in each of the other States in the average employment, there has been an increase in Victoria. Therefore, in fairness to the Minister, I ask him and his departmental advisers how the statements in the Estimates documents and in the annual report of the Department square with one another? 1 notice under the heading of ‘Finance and Management Services’ in the ‘Functional Summary’ that there will be an estimated increase in the average number employed from 476 to 634, a difference of 158. This is quite a substantial increase when one appreciates that we live in the age of computerisation. The Minister has explained that included in ‘incidental and other expenditure’ is $21,000 for the maintenance of a computer in the Melbourne office. I would like to know why there has been this increase in staff.
The other matter to which I refer is Division No. 722 - Government Factories - Maintenance of Production Capacity. Last Thursday night I referred the Minister to an aspect I raised last year when discussing the Estimates regarding the Australian Government purchasing 30 millimetre ammunition from the Republic of France for use by Mirage fighters. The
Minister has now told me that finality is about to be reached in licensing arrangements with the French authorities. 1 understood him to say that technical data was being received, that the Department was preparing to get into production and that it was hoped that deliveries would commence approximately 18 months after that time. If I am wrong, I ask the Minister to correct me.
– That is substantially what 1 said.
– If and when the licensing arrangements are brought to finality to enable Australia to manufacture under licence 30 millimetre ammunition for Mirage fighters will it be manufactured by the Department of Supply or by private organisation operating under tender to the Department? In simple terms, is the Department tooling-up at this stage for the production of 30 millimetre ammunition for use by Mirage fighters?
Under the same division 1 refer the Minister to the 1967 annual report of the Department, which was then under the ministerial control of Senator - now Sir Denham - Henty. Under the heading Munition Supply’ in relation to the Ordnance Factory at Bendigo, at page 25, this appears:
In the commercial field, a wide variety of work included:
A number of cement kiln sections, 16 feet in diameter and weighing 50 tons each. Transport along the Calder Highway necessitated the temporary reinforcement, of railway bridges at Malmsbury and Woodend.
Fabrication and machining of components for a Westminster carpet-making machine, the largest part being a fabricated drum 12 feet in diameter and weighing 48 tons.
Three proof-coining presses for the Royal Australian Mint, Canberra, in addition to the twelve production presses previously supplied.
A large number of framing gates for car bodies for General Motors-Holden’s, representing about 165,000 hours of work for the factory.
I wish to point out that I, and the Labor movement, have no objection to this type of work being undertaken by employees of the Department of Supply if no other work is available. But there appears to be no reference in this year’s annual report to this type of work being done at the Ordnance Factory at Bendigo. Indeed, the only matter that approximates it so far as I can see is the statement that two 12-ton germinating drums, 12 feet in diameter and 47 feet long, were built for Vickers Ruwolt Pty .Ltd and that the Australian National University sought assistance in developing a shock tube for producing gas velocities of 35,000 miles per hour for space research programmes. I ask the Minister: Is the type of work carried out during 1967 being continued during 1968? If so, why has it not been set out clearly in the annual report of the Department.
I turn to the Small Arms Factory at Lithgow, to which Senator Ormonde also referred. On page 29, the annual report stated:
Work for commercial firms is about 10% of the current work load. Major items are golf-club forgings, machining of door-closer components, and forging and machining of coal and rock picks.
There is no reference in the 1968 annual report to this type of activity. T ask the Minister: ls this type of work being done at the Small Arms Factory at Lithgow? If so, why is it not set out in the 1968 annual report?
– I think that at this stage I should answer some of the questions that have been posed to me. I regret that the information relating to some of them is not readily available, but I use this occasion to make it quite clear that if I am unable to supply information during the debate on the estimates there will be a follow-up in my Department and the honourable senator who poses a question will receive a reply from me.
I have some information to hand now relating to questions asked by Senator Ormonde. He referred to the Antarctic Division. I remember reading in the Press myself certain reports about cases of illness down there. For instance, I remember reading in the Press a report about a scientist who had appendicitis and needed surgery. He was brought out. Some more information has corse to hand. It is somewhat like obtaining final results at election time. I have just, been handed another return relating to the number of people who have been rescued. The latest information is that in the last 2 years two people were brought out from Macquarie Island. They were brought out by the Navy. If any supplementary information is sought by Senator
Ormonde, it will be provided. Macquarie Island, of course, would be far short of our antarctic involvement in terms of position.
Senator Ormonde also asked for information about hire cars. The information given to me is thai the appropriation does not cover the hire of emergency transport. It covers the purchase of Government vehicles only. I repeat that private car hire does not come under this heading, but we will get an explanation for the honourable senator. There are many firms in various areas and 1 shall attempt to get information on this matter and supply it.
Both Senator Ormonde and Senator McClelland asked about the Small Arms Factory and the number of employees at Lithgow. The first thing to bear in mind is that the Department of Supply is not a client department. Its function is to attempt to supply the requirements of the Department of Defence, the Department of the Army, the Depart of Air or the Department of the Navy. The manner in which we operate is that we receive from the client department its notification of requirements which sets out certain .conditions such as time of delivery and so on. Therefore, we do work as required. The Department of Supply does not decide whether it is going to make 30 millimetre or other types of ammunition or a particular type of fire power, lt does what is required of it.
Since I have assumed the responsibilities of Minister for Supply, we have been seriously concerned about our work load at Lithgow. Indeed, 1 visited the Lithgow factory and received a deputation of union officers there. I think Mr Dudley, who is a very fine citizen indeed, was one of the deputation. These gentlemen posed to me the types of problems they had. All that my consideration and that of my Department has been directed lo has been having a full order book. The factory at Lithgow is in a peculiar position in that the City of Lithgow is built round the work force of the Small Arms Factory. Any deterioration in the work force there has very serious implications for the people of the city or municipality.
It is against that background that I want to make the point that over the years a certain amount of private work has been done. It is fortunate that this has been so because this private work has helped to keep the Small Arms Factory viable so that if and when the requirement might emerge, wc would be in a position to bring it to capacity production. Reference was made to the manufacture there of golf sticks or golf balls. This helped to fill the gap in the work load there at that time.
Reference has been made to excess capacity at Lithgow. When you have huge capital investment and do not use it to maximum capacity then, automatically, this is reflected in costs. There is no need to remind honourable senators that the maintenance of this expensive equipment costs money. It is my understanding that we have not got very much outside work there at present. I understand that it would certainly be less than 10%. Frankly, until we reach the point where we have enough government orders to bring the establishment to capacity, we hope that we do get orders to manufacture that type of civilian equipment that we can produce efficiently with the plant wc have, provided we do not conflict with private industry in doing the work. We want to do this work because it will help to keep our people gainfully employed. The situation here is like that which obtains in the aircraft industry where we are also doing everything we can in an endeavour lo keep our work force viable.
Senator McClelland adverted to some issues about which I had already given information. He asked how we reconciled the staff figures in the Estimates papers with those published in the annual report. Firstly he asked why the staff numbers in the Management and Services Division had increased in 1968-69. This is due partly to the inclusion in this Division of cadets in 1968-69 whereas they were included in the regional organisations in 1967-68. There will also be an increase in staff because we are now operating our own computer in preference to hiring the services of other computer centres.
As to reconciling the staff figures contained in the Estimates documents with those shown in the annual report, I would point out that the apparent decrease in staff in the regional organisations other than Victoria reflects an adjustment made by the removal of cadets from the strength of: these regional organisations to the central office organisation. There will not be any actual reduction in these regional organisations. You have to consider all of these answers together. I hope Senator McClelland will be able to sea the picture after that explanation.
The honourable senator also referred to 30 millimetre ammunition. We have now received technical data after negotiating for the requisite licences, and we are preparing to get into production. Tooling up for these things often takes a very long time. Our capacity to tool up is linked very closely with receipt of the data for which we are negotiating and the fact that we have received some data indicates that we have reached the point where we are now making a deal. Hie question was asked as to whether any sub-contracting would be done. There may be a little. Expedition will be the deciding factor. If we have the equipment to do the work at Lithgow or at the Government aircraft factories, we will do it. We will have to look at the load factor and decide whether it will pay us to set up certain equipment to handle the load. In some cases, naturally, having regard to these factors, some of the work would be done by sub-contractors.
Reference was made to the Ordnance Factory at Bendigo and our doing commercial work there. The same general argument applies here as applies to Lithgow. There is a certain amount of work being done. Here again, we need to keep our staff. If Government requirements are not sufficient to keep the staff fully employed, we do whatever other work we can obtain. The Ordnance Factory at Bendigo is still engaged in the production of a considerable number of commercial, items. There is no particular reason why its work was not listed in the departmental report. It should be appreciated that only a few paragraphs of that report are devoted to each factory. My Department likes to introduce different matters each year in order to show the whole picture. But there was no special reason why this factory was not mentioned this year. I repeat that, if there are questions in regard to the estimates of the Department of Supply which I do not answer in this debate, I certainly will pick them up in Hansard and see that answers to them are supplied.
– J wish to refer to the replies that the Minister has given the Committee. I say quite frankly that I am not satisfied with the reply on the covering of storage with adequate insurance. Nor am I happy again this year - this is becoming a hardy annual - with the statement made in relation to the purchase of the area of ground at Coburg. The Minister replied by saying that the Department of the Interior had made a valuation. One could pose a hypothetical case in which the Minister for Supply and the Minister for the Interior could get together and a mutual friend of theirs could be endeavouring to dispose of a piece of land. One Minister could say to the other: If you do not raise any question in your Department we will be able to make the sale’. I am not making an accusation. I am saying that if there is no more control over purchases of land than that, I do not think it is adequate. I intend to seek constitutionally further information in relation to this and other matters that have been glossed over.
I appreciate the Minister’s statement that if he cannot give all the answers while these estimates are being debated he will present the information later. I must say that that is an improvement. I hope that the information that is given later will be as detailed as possible, so that we will be satisfied in our minds that the Department is being administered properly. I realise that it is one of the major government departments. Of necessity, there must be many awkward problems to overcome. Do not let honourable senators think for a moment that 1 am blaming anyone associated with the Department. The Minister is new in the job. I hope that he will’ take the initiative and that if we do not receive all the information that we want this year there will be a considerable improvement next year.
Last Thursday evening I put questions in relation to the appropriations for storage services and government factories. Admittedly I did so rather sketchily. I hope thai when the additional information is given we will be given greater detail of what is covered under those two headings. I refer now to the appropriation - for disposals expenses. This year’s appropriation is very similar to the expenditure last year; there is a difference of only : a few thousand dollars. As I did last year, I ask: On what is the money appropriated under this heading expended? The departmental report states at page 46:
In 1967-68, disposals sales realised $8.2m - $6.Sm from auction sales conducted in all States and $1.7m by public tender arid other means.
I emphasise the words ‘other means’ because they are repeated at page 301 of the Auditor-General’s Report, which states:
Disposals of surplus Commonwealth property is arranged by the Board by public auction, public tender or quotation, or by other means approved by the Minister.
According to departmental records, sales on behalf of all departments arranged during 1967-68 and 1966-67 realised . . .
And then the figures are set out under two headings - ‘sales by auction’ and ‘sales by other means (mainly by public tender)’. There ii a tremendous. volume of disposals sales over a 12-month period. The amount involved is more than $8m. In anybody’s language, that is a lot of cash.
– It is $8m.
– That is a very trite remark. It is $8m, but it could have been a little more than that. Disposals sales is a major post-war business, lt has grown, par1ticularly in the last 10 years or so. That is the period in which this type of business has really mushroomed. I believe that we could obtain a lot more money for our disposals than comes into the Treasury. If a department overbuys and a certain amount has to bc disposed of, does not that show some inefficiency, in some part of the department? If material . becomes obsolete - the FI 1 1 aircraft is a case in point; I suppose the Government will be disposing of it in 12 months time because it is obsolete - and if we are to have this major business in disposals, it should be subject to the utmost scrutiny.
Honourable senators will recall that a few weeks ago I raised in this chamber the question of the sale of seven Dakota aircraft in South Australia. Theye were sold for an average price of about $10,000, as far as we can ascertain; but they were going on the market for resale at $50,000 to $60,000. I believe that in that sale the Australian taxpayers were undersold. Other points should be raised in this regard, particularly as to sales of other types of aircraft that have taken place from time to time. Some were sold on an agency basis. But I do not propose to raise that matter at this time. I believe that much more information needs to be available from the Department before it is raised. We should be very careful in the disposal of public property. When balanced against purchases for the year, the volume of disposals sales is significant. I will have more to say about that later.
I proceed now to the appropriations for travelling and subsistence and freight cartage and packing under the heading Defence Research and Development Establishments’. Last year’s appropriation for travelling and subsistence was underspent by $20,000-odd. This year provision has been made for an expenditure of $1,456,000 - an increase of $630,615. Will the Minister explain that tremendous increase? Could he supply me with more details in relation to freight, cartage and packing? Under Division 745 - acquisition of sites and buildings - the appropriation last year was $2,500. I assume that nono of this was spent. This year it is $16,200. How will that sum be spent? Under Division 746 - rent - the allocation last year was overspent by $39. This year the proposed expenditure is $380,000. My colleague, Senator Ormonde, has asked why aeroplanes, ships and other things are hired. If supply is such big business, should the money expended on rent for temporary premises, which is a continuing expenditure, be reduced by the acquisition of real estate? I do not propose that the Government should spend sums equivalent to what it spent on the Coburg investment.
asked a question about the supply of ammunition for the Mirage aircraft. I shall ask an additional question about the supply of ammunition and parts that will be necessary for operational purposes associated with the Fill. Will the ammunition be imported or manufactured locally? Will the other equipment that is constantly in use be manufactured overseas or locally? If during the last 2 or 3 years, since we have had the Mirages flying, we had been invaded by Japan or some hostile country and France had supported the invasion, she would have cut off our supply of ammunition immediately. We would have had 100 operational1 Mirage fighters, which would have been of no use unless peepholes had been cut in them so that Armalite rifles or other weapons could be fired through the holes. I think the present state of affairs is unsatisfactory in that we have to rely on other countries for costly equipment for our defence. Those are the major points that I raise now. I will have some more to raise later on.
– 1 regret the temporary absence of the Minister for Supply (Senator Anderson). He has been called into Cabinet. 1 will provide answers to the questions raised by Senator Keeffe. I understand that he is not happy about the answers given concerning the fire at Queanbeyan and the acquisition of the site for the Government Clothing Factory, and that he would like further information. He considered that the facts had been glossed over. The Minister for the Interior is responsible for the negotiation and the purchase of property. The vote is under the control of the Department of the Interior. The negotiations would be concluded by competent people of integrity. Senator Keeffe asked about the disposals expenses referred to in Division 720, and he also asked what ‘sale by other means’ meant. The answer provided is as follows: The expenses incurred under item 06, disposals expenses, are advertising expenses and auctioneers expenses, commissions and charges associated with the disposal of surplus stores. The costs are borne by the Commonwealth. The Department of Supply is the disposals authority for all stores declared for disposal by Commonwealth departments. ‘Sale by other means’ probably refers to the comparatively few sales which the Minister might approve under private negotiation, such as the sale of obsolete aircraft to museums and other bodies.
Senator Keeffe raised the matter of the increase in travelling and subsistence expenses and freight, cartage and packing under Division 729 in comparison with 1967-68 expenditure. He said that further detail would be appreciated. An Additional $3 .475m over and above expenditure in 1967-68 was necessary to implement the following changes in accounting arrangements: Firstly, recoveries previously credited to appropriate items in the sub-division are now passed to Consolidated Revenue. They amounted to $1.863m. Secondly, transfer from subdivision 1, salaries and payments in the nature of salary, of the salary and Service pay content of Service department support to the Weapons Research Establishment, amounted to $855,000. Thirdly, in accordance with the revised memorandum of arrangements, Jindivik equipment, formerly provided by the United Kingdom at no cost to the United Kingdom-Australia
Joint Project, is now a charge to the appropriation. It amounted to $750,000.
That gives a total1 of $3.468m. A net variation of $7,000 in general administrative and operational expenses accounts for the balance of the increase. In relation to Division 745 - acquisition of sites and buildings - Senator Keeffe asked how this amount will be spent. The answer is that the provision covers anticipated expenditure as against the programme brought forward from 1967-68, $3,000; the provision of parking facilities at the Government Aircraft Factory at Fishermen’s Bend, $4,885; the expansion of facilities at the ammunition factory at Maribyrnong, $.1,380; for stores and transport workshops at Stafford, Queensland, $6,850; for a stores department at Townsville, $866. In relation to Division 746 - rent - -Senator Keeffe asked why the appropriation was increased to $380,000. This provision was made on advice received from the Department of the Interior. The increase of $49,000 in the provision for 1968-69, compared with the actual expenditure in 1967-68, reflects in the main the full year cost of increases in lease rents approved in 1967-68 and a lease from the State of Victoria of Crown land at Fishermen’s Bend to permit expansion of the activities of the Aeronautical Research Laboratories and the Government Aircraft Factories.
Senator Keeffe also asked about the supply of ammunition, for operational purposes, for the Fill. He asked whether it will be imported or manufactured in Australia. This expenditure will appear in the Department of Air estimates. I am sure, if it is at all practicable, the ammunition will be made in Australia.
– I am interested in the payment to the Munitions Filling Factory, St Marys, Trust Account, which appears under Division 730 - working capital advances. Very often the Estimates appear to india:’e a lessening of internal defence expenditure when our external expenditure on defence, if I. might call it that, seems to be increasing alarmingly. The St Marys factory is right in the centre of a heavy industrial area. I have some knowledge that the employment there is falling off. I notice that the appropriation for 1967-68 was $30,000 and that $30,000 was expended.
For 1968-69 the appropriation is nil. Does that indicate that less working capital advances are being made to the factory at St Marys? It is a filling factory, but it could have other activities. Could the Minister give me an idea of the rate of fall in employment over the last 5 years? For example, were there 10,000 people working there 5 years ago and are there only 2,000 now? Could the Minister explain why the capital development is not continuing? ls the work that used to be done there being done somewhere else? That could be the answer, but people in the vast industrial area of St Marys are a little concerned that the Government is losing interest in the establishment there.
– J wish to refer to the appropriation of $4,605,000 for the maintenance of production capacity in government factories, and to the appropriation of $41,752,000 for defence research and development establishments. Can the Minister state the steps the Government has taken toward adoption of the report of the Senate Select Committee on the Metric System of Weights and Measures? The report was received by the Senate last May and has since been debated in this chamber. While the Committee was considering matters placed before it, it took some very important evidence from the Department of Supply. Officers from the Department made it very clear to the Committee that undoubtedly there are technical advantages in the employment of the metric system, particularly in design computation. I believe that economies would be effected in the vast sums of money spent by the Department of Supply if the metric system of weights and measures were adopted by the Commonwealth Government. I would like the Minister to inform me of the stage consideration of the report has reached.
As the report indicated, one prominent witness before the Committee said that the longer the conversion is delayed, the greater will be the expense. The witness estimated that the expense would rise by about 7% a year. It is a matter of fundamental importance for the Department of Supply. In time it could economise on the procurement and manufacture of goods. At present much scientific research is conducted in metric measurements but the production of many goods is not. To some honourable senators the matter of conversion to the metric system may sound a long way removed from consideration of the Estimates for 1968-69. However, 1 urge upon the Minister that he in turn should urge upon the Government the importance of positively considering the report of the Senate Select Committee on the Metric System of Weights and Measures. Because of the large financial savings envisaged, this question should not be considered as applying in isolation to Australia.
Throughout the world the use of the metric system is increasing. The standards for much of our mechanical and engineering work are laid down in the United Kingdom, where the metric system is used. I understand that by 1970 the standards laid down by the British Standards Institution will be in British metric measurements. I believe the Department of Supply would be considerably assisted if the Government could come to an early decision on this matter. It may take 10 years to translate the conversion into final action, but I think the Department of Supply would be greatly helped if the Government would announce a date of commencement and give an estimate of the length of time of the change-over. I would like the Minister to inform honourable senators whether he has anything to report on this important question as it relates to the Department of Supply.
– Since 1 last spoke in this debate 1 have received a reply to a further question asked by Senator Keeffe in connection with the sale of Dakota aircraft in South Australia. He said that he considered they were undersold. The answer provided to me states that Senator Anderson has already replied in detail to this question. I think that reply was given within the last 2 or 3 weeks. I have nothing to add except to report that the sale was by public tender, advertised both in Australia and overseas.
asked some questions about the Munitions Filling Factory at St Marys and the appropriations in Division 730. He pointed out that although there was expenditure of $30,000 on one item in 1967 68, there is no provision for that item in 1968-69. He referred to the fall in employment at the St Marys establishment over a period of 5 years. There ls no addition to working capital in 1968-69. This does not in itself indicate a falling off in activities. Working capital tends to remain unchanged in a time of equilibrium. The recent announcement about local manufacture of 500 lb bombs shows that there is no lack of interest in St Marys. Staff figures for the past 5 years are not readily available. I am quite sure the honourable senator will understand that. They will be supplied to him in writing at an early date.
Senator Laught referred to the appropriations for government factories and defence research and development establishments. He asked about the steps taken by the Government to consider adoption of the report of the Senate Select Committee on the Metric System of Weights and Measures. The reply I have been given states that the Department has issued an instruction that in buying capital equipment it is to buy plant which is in metric measurements or can be converted thereto.
– I have noted the replies given by the Minister lo a number of questions I have asked. Frankly, the reply given about valuation was not an answer at all. The Minister staled that it is carried out by competent people of integrity. That may be so. I did not wish for one moment to imply that there was any dishonesty in the practice. I simply think that the practice is wrong and ought to be looked at by the Minister or the Department. In reply to another question which I asked, the Minister gave a break-up of details about advertising, commission paid to auctioneers, and so on. Is there any great secret about this matter which prevents a complete break-up of details being given? Why can we not be told how much has been spent ofl advertising and how it has been spent, the commission paid to agents. or auctioneers and how much of disposals is carried out by private negotiation? Can we not be told the nature of the goods sold by this method? 1 hope there is no great secret about this aspect. It is a matter of great interest in the Commonwealth Parliament.
This year’s Budget provides for expenditures exceeding S95m. A Budget of that magnitude makes the estimates of the expenditures of all departments df great importance. I cannot see any reason what soever for publishing less information In the estimates of the Department of Supply than in the estimates of other departments. A reference was made to some appropriations for Townsville. I would like to have some details of the operational role of the Townsville office. I should like to know what it will cater for and for how many sections it will cater. My other question relates to the disposal of Dakota aircraft. I have asked questions on this subject in the Senate and I have received replies, but I do not think those replies have been adequate. If a tender which is received is nowhere near the value of the aircraft to be disposed of, there is nothing to prevent another advertisement being published or fresh tenders being called. In any case, I asked for further information about the sale of the Dakotas but I did not receive it.
Why is this information being suppressed in relation to maintenance and other matters? But the implication of the sale of the Dakotas goes further than this. An additional question was asked about other aircraft that had been sold. It is true, as the -Minister said in reply to a question, that the Department has to dispose of Royal Australian Air Force aircraft. The story was that those other aircraft were sold for scrap or for museum use. but where did they finish up? There is an awfully strong rumour, which I believe has substance, that they went into war zones and were used as war planes. How do we know where the Dakotas have gone? We have been given no information on this. I am sorry to be so critical, but I do not think a Minister achieves anything or does credit to his government when he supplies a smart, evasive answer to a genuine question which is seeking information on behalf of the taxpayers. Even if the Minister is not worried about how the Government has spent $95m, many people are.
– My question to the Minister relates to the maintenance of production capacity at government factories. I refer particularly to reserve capacity maintenance, which is item 01 of Division 722. The estimate for 1968-69 for this item is more than $4m. The Auditor-General’s report shows at page 297 that included in this amount is the cost of maintaining a closed explosives factory at Salisbury. South Australia. Although that factory has been closed for quite a while, the cost of its maintenance for 1967-68 was $10,000. I should like to know from the Minister what factories are covered by this item. Are there many like the one at Salisbury, or does the item provide also for the maintenance of unused capacity in the government factories which are now operating at less than full production? What are the forecasts for the explosives factory in South Australia? 1 think it reasonable to ask this question if we are to continue to pay maintenance charges to keep it available for production. What are the prospects of this factory for giving employment and why is ii not operating at this stage? 1 ask for this information in view of the fact that the latest information I have about the amounts spent on war materials for our own defence requirements is that which came from the Minister for Defence (Mr Fairhall) who said that in 1965-66 nearly £123m worth of war supplies were imported while we manufactured almost £150m worth of war supplies. I should like to know what sort of surveys have been made to ascertain whether government factories should not get an increasing amount of this work so that the expenditure on maintenance of almost $5m can, instead of being a debit, achieve some productive capacity. I should like to know also about the prospects in relation to the production of war materials which the Department is making and selling overseas. In recent years these have earned about $4m or $5m. I refer to Jindiviks and other equipment. What are the prospects for sales of additional equipment to countries which are now purchasing equipment manufactured by the Department? In particular, what are the prospects for the coming year in respect of these items of manufacture?
– -In reply first to Senator Keeffe, I accept his statement that he had no intention of making any implication about the probity of the Department of the Interior. I accept also that he implied no reflection on the Minister for the Interior (Mr Nixon). However, I remind the honourable senator that in a consideration of the Estimates it is not possible to provide the amount of detailed information that he is seeking. I think that we in the Senate over the years have prided ourselves on the fact that the Estimates receive a pretty good going over in this place. This is as it should be. I think honourable senators are to be commended on the probing that they undertake and indulge in during the debate on the Estimates. But I reiterate that it is not possible to give much of the detail that is sometimes required. If the information is really needed by those who are seeking it we can, given time, get it for them, but it simply is not feasible to provide some of this detailed information virtually off the cuff..
The honourable senator said that he was not satisfied with the reply given by the Minister for Supply (Senator Anderson) in relation to the disposal of the Dakota aircraft. 1 have listened to the replies given by the Minister and, in all fairness to him, 1 think that they have been factual. There is no question that the replies have not been genuine, nor would I accept that the Minister has not given all information that it was possible for him to give. The honourable senator asked what was the real operational role of the Townsville office. I have been informed that the Department of Supply has opened this office in Townsville, that it is staffed by two people to handle the growth of the Army in the Townsville area and the consequential need for local contracting of supplies, which are mainly foodstuffs.
Senator Bishop sought information on item 01 of Division 722 which relates to reserve capacity maintenance. This amount is shown as $4,138,000 and is referred to in the Auditor-General’s report at page 297. He asked what factories were covered by that provision and, also, what, are the future prospects for the factory at Salisbury. The reserve capacity covers all thirteen departmental factories which were established for the production of munitions and aircraft. The closed factory at Salisbury is costing about $10,000 per annum. It is planned in due course to establish another explosives production plant and the Salisbury factory will then be dismantled. I think that I have now dealt with all questions that have been asked.
– Can the Minister explain why it is that when a person visits Woomera to see the Department of Supply installations he is not allowed, after travelling all that distance, to stay there overnight? I have had instances of this reported to me. A visitor is cleared to enter the establishment in the day time and is considered a fit and proper person to see everything that is to be seen during the day, but he is not permitted to slay there during the night. He has to leave the establishment, which is very inconvenient. 1 understand that the Government wants people to see what is going on at Woomera. I believe that many more people would go there if they were allowed to stay overnight. Can the Minister give information about that because it is sometimes a most embarrassing situation to explain to people who have to be told that they can go there but cannot stay.
– I ask the Minister a number of questions. Perhaps he does not yet have the answers to some of them. I ask about the orders which are expected for items manufactured by the Department for overseas buyers. I referred to Jindiviks. In recent years the Department has earned $5m or $6m in that way. What are the prospects for the future? I should like this information because to some extent the Weapons Research Establishment at Salisbury is dependent on overseas orders. I am interested to know what are our prospects for orders. Further, I asked the Minister about the amount which was spent in maintaining the Salisbury explosives factory, to which he simply replied that it would be closed for some time. I want to know why that explosive factory should be closed when we are spending such a lot of money to maintain it. Why can it not be used, particularly in view of the need to have work performed for the Weapons Research Establishment at Salisbury and Woomera and the need to have a complex which can supply establishments not only in South Australia but also throughout the whole of the Services? Why cannot consideration be given to the factory being used again?
– In reply to Senator Ormondelet me say that I have had the privilege of going to Woomera. I think I went there with a party of Government members and the position as to overnight stay to which he referred did not arise; we went there for the day. To be quite candid, I cannot answer the question. I did not know that this position existed. I shall make inquiries and if there is an answer I shall let him have it.
– It applies to individuals.I do not know about organised parties.
– In any event I shall make some inquiries. In reply to Senator Bishop let me say that on our visit we saw the Jindivik in operation, as he has probably done. It is a great invention which has been recognised overseas, having been bought and used by other countries. It is very gratifying to see an Australian invention of this kind proving so useful. The prospects for sales to overseas countries are somewhat less in 1968-69.I cannot give any more information. Perhaps the Minister could have done so had he been here.
Senator GEORGES (Queensland) (5.41] - I refer to Division 729, subdivision 2, item 06, which relates to development and technical services. The proposed appropriation is approximately $2m greater than the expenditure last year, which is a substantial increase. In connection with the Defence Standards Laboratory and the Tropical Research Unit at Innisfail, I should like to know whether any of this increase is to be spent on the development of biological warfare, and if so to what extent.
– I am informed that nothing has been spent on the side of biological warfare.
I want to follow up the question that Senator Georges raised. The Minister says that nothing has been spent. Is there an allocation for the spending of certain moneys in the coming financial year? Is there an allocation for planning along the lines outlined by Senator Georges? If the answer is in the negative, we will know where we are, but if it is not and if there is some preliminary planning we ought to be told about it.
– The only information I can give the honourable senator is that which is supplied to me by the departmental officers, and the answer is no.
Proposed expenditure noted.
Sitting suspended from 5.43 to 8 p.m. (General Business taking precedence of Government Business)
– I ask for leave to make an alteration to the motion of which 1 have given notice. The purpose of the alteration is to add the words: with the exception of any specification or reference which would prejudice military security.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Drake-Brockinan) - Is leave granted?
– Before I grant leave I ask for leave to comment on Senator Murphy’s request. I may well not resist it but I want to make a point about it.
– I indicate that if leave is not granted it is simple enough for one of my colleagues to move the amendment which I have staled publicly outside the House. I again ask for leave and if it is not granted that is the course I propose to take.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT - . Is leave granted?
– Before leave is granted 1 should like to make a comment.
– If leave is not granted, 1 shall proceed.
– Mr Deputy President, have I the right to make a comment before leave is granted?
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- No.
– I give leave and now ask for leave to make a statement.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– I want to make the point at the outset that I do not oppose Senator Murphy’s amendment on this occasion, but this is a very bad practice to adopt especially when notice has been given of a motion and honourable senators have prepared a case on that motion. That is why notice is given. It is most unsatisfactory tofind at 8 o’clock that there is a motion which departs very materially from the original motion. I hope that my remarks will be borne in mind for the future.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Is leave granted to Senator Murphy? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– I move:
Everywhere in the world there is growing disillusionment with parliamentary democracy. The disillusionment arises from the failure of Parliament to carry out its functions. The main failure is to supervise the executive government to make it account to Parliament for expenditure of public moneys and for its administration. It is the responsibility of a government to spend moneys.It is the responsibility of Parliament to see that the moneys have been spent wisely, that the nation has not been involved in foolish or unbusinesslike ventures. The larger the amount, the more important it is that both these duties are performed.
We are here dealing with one of the largest military procurement arrangements in history, certainly so far as the United States is concerned. I quote Senator McClellan, Chairman of the Committee of Government Operations, who, speaking of the contract in the United States, said:
This has been a very unusual and extraordinary procurement programme of a system, the most expensive, themost complex, in the history of the Service.
So far as Australia is concerned this is perhaps the largest military contract that has been entered into in its history. One of the necessary parliamentary procedures is that a government must disclose fully to Parliament its actions. It must disclose fully the documents into which it has entered by way of contract, or by way of other financial arrangements, with any other body whether it be another government, a company, an instrumentality or a person.
Enormous sums of public money cannot be spent on the basis that a government can say to another government, instrumentality or person: ‘Whatever we do in paying these enormous sums of money to you. or whatever we take from you, will be confidential, so confidential that even our own Parliament will not be able to supervise the expenditure of these moneys and see to it that we have acted in a businesslike manner, that the moneys have not been wasted, that we have protected the people of the nation’. If we allow to arise in this country a practice whereby governments can enter into arrangements with other governments and say: ‘This is confidential between us and no one can know about it; Parliament cannot be told about it and Parliament cannot examine the background of these matters to see whether proper procedures have been followed’, then where is parliamentary supervision?
There is a practice growing in this country - it has been manifested in this chamber in the last few weeks* - of the Government trying to throw a cloak of secrecy around all of its operations, whether those operations into which it enters are direct contracts, such as tenders for . airport concessions or the FI 1 1 aircraft arrangements, or whether they are arrangements through some instrumentality such as the Australian Wheat Board whereby the Government enters into enormous contracts with other governments’ overseas. This practice cannot be permitted to’ exist because it is directly subversive of parliamentary supervision of government operations. .1 hope that the Senate, by its vote tonight, will take a stand and insist that the Government observes the long fought for parliamentary tradition that governments must account to Parliament for their actions, for their contracts, for their arrangements.
So far as any problems of military security are concerned, the practice is that military or State secrets always, are handled in a commonsense way both here and overseas. The Parliament does not insist upon, and no one acting in the national interest would want, a disclosure of military secrets. We make it quite clear by this motion that we do not. For a number of years there has. been great concern both here and in the United States in relation to the wisdom of the arrangements made to acquire these Fill aircraft. We in Australia know that the cost has risen astronomically, from what was said originally in 1963 to be about $l25m to at least $3O0m now. 1 cannot say that those figures are correct and I am sure that no one else can say that they are correct. I suppose that the best answer was given in (his chamber not so long ago by Senator McKellar, who said that it was obvious that the Government did not know what the price would be and that it had never been ascertained. Those are not his exact words, but that is a summation of what he said.
There has been a history of deception, evasiveness, obscurity, doubt and suspicion surrounding these aircraft since their very inception. We know that there is most powerful evidence that political influence was used in the United Slates to direct the contract to the General Dynamics Corporation rather than to the Boeing company, although the Boeing company had made a considerably lower tender for the development and construction of the aircraft and had been unanimously selected on four separate occasions by the selection source boards of the United States. This selection was confirmed by superior military authorities but overruled by civilian defence authorities. The story of that and the association of persons who influenced the awarding of the contract to the General Dynamics Corporation and who .had an interest in giving the contract lo a company which would construct the aircraft in Texas is a great chapter in itself which ought never to be repealed.
The concern over that and other matters, the departures from the original concept, the grave faults which manifested themselves in the early years, the delays in the projected delivery dates and the queries as to the usefulness of the aircraft led to repeated investigations in the United States. The Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations of the Committee on Government Operations of the United States Senate has investigated matters surrounding the construction of the Fill aircraft in very much detail. 1 have before me some of the record of the investigation by that body. It seems that our colleagues in the United States Senate are able to have produced and made available lo them information of a type which the Australian Government regards as either covered by military security or confidential to the governments concerned. f wish to refer to some of the testimony given in the United States. A great deal of the testimony relates to the contract and the difficulties that have arisen under that contract between the United States Government and the contractor. From what has been said in this Parliament it seems (hat these matters are far too hush-hush ever to be revealed to members of the Australian Parliament. It seems that it would be a terrible thing to disclose anything of this nature. Yet here before me is document after document revealing all the information that apparently we are not grown up enough to be shown. The Australian Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) has said that Parliament cannot be told of the arrangements between the United States and Australia because of military security or because it is confidential. On Monday, 18th November 1963 the Assistant Secretary of Defense in the United Stales, Mr Gilpatric, was giving evidence before the Permanent subcommittee on Investigations of the Committee on Government Operations. He was asked by Senator Mundt:
Mr Secretary, may I ask as a preliminary question, are you familiar with the details of the sale of, or proposed sale of TFX planes to Australia?
If I may interpolate here. From reading the documents it appears that the ‘T’ means tactical, the ‘F’ means fighter and the X’ means experimental. Whatever the machine has ultimately turned out to be, it seems that it is not a tactical fighter. But that has the original concept of the aircraft and that is apparently what the Government thought it was buying for Australia. Mr Gilpatric said that he did not handle that negotiation himself but he was familiar with what was announced at the time and he knew of the agreement that was made between Defence Minister Townley of Australia and Secretary of Defence McNamara. He said he understood that twenty-four aircraft of the FI IIA version - the United States Air Force version - were to be sold to Australia and that the cost was to be $125m. At page 2526 of the record he gave information as to the present status of the contract, including the proposal. It reads as follows:
SALE OF Fill AIRCRAFT TO AUSTRALIA.
The Secretary of Defence and the Australian Minister for Defence agreed on October 24, 1963 to the purchase by Australia of twenty-four F111 aircraft with delivery beginning from the first US production availability in about 1967.
The total cost to the Australian Government, including the cost of one year’s spare parts and engines, associated ground equipment, training aids and the initial and operational training of crews in the United States was estimated at about S125m.
The financial arrangements provide for spaced payments over a period of years in accordance with the requirements of the Australian Defence budget. The first Australian payment of S20m was made on December 31, 1963. Australian payments will draw interest from the United States until overtaken by payments made to US contractors for the aircraft. Thereafter, to the extent that Australian payments may fall behind, Australia will pay interest to the United States al an equal rate.
The estimated cost of S125m covers the average unit cost of development as well as production and is based on presently estimated total production. The final cost to Australia may bc higher or lower than $!25m depending on actual costs data.
Having heard what the Prime Minister has said, perhaps it is terrible of me to reveal this confidential information in the Australian Senate! lt is something that has been available in the United States for about 5 years to anyone who has cared to get the document. Senator Mundt also asked Mr Gilpatric:
Could you tell the Committee whether oi not the planes bought by Australia called for thrust reverse rs?
Mr Gilpatric said:
At the present lime, there has been no decision made by the Air Force to incorporate thrust reversers in the Fi IIA or B. The mutter I believe is still under consideration, but a.s of now the plane still contains or the design still incorporates the dive brakes and spoilers that were in the original proposal, as T understand it.
That record goes on for hundreds of pages dealing with the sorts of practical things that the United Slates senators needed to know about the aircraft that were to be delivered to the United States and to Australia. These were matters on which they could determine whether the United States taxpayers were being robbed or were getting a fair deal. The record excluded whenever necessary any matters which the military authorities thought could constitute military secrets. A little later. Senator Mundt asked about payment for the planes from Australia. He said: ‘Are these cash purchases?’ Mr Gilpatric said:
Yes, Sir, $20m a year over a period of years, so that at some time we will be ahead of the Australians, wc will have collected more than the work that has been done on their order, and there may be a period of time when they will be behind, so there will be adjustments in terms of interest. When they have paid us more than the value of the work done represents, we will pay them interest on the excess, and when they are behind, wc will charge them interest on the balance they owe us. But the arrangement contemplates an installment sale of these aircraft for cash in dollars.
There were some more remarks about the Australians, and on page 2538 the chairman is reported as asking again about the thrust reversers. He asked:
Are they in1 the design that is sold to Australia or are they yet being added to the plane that is sold to Australia?
Mr Gilpatric said:
There is no specification in the contract between the two governments as to this particular feature. J. would assume that whatever our Air Force decides to include in its version of the TF111 the Australian Air Force will accept as well. lt seems - and I have no doubt that the commercial documents will show it - that Australia was buying whatever it was given at a price which was entirely in the control of the United States.
– A pig in a poke.
– Senator Cavanagh says it is a pig in a poke, but we were told at the time of the original arrangements by the Prime Minister of the country that we were buying an aircraft which 1 think he said could fly to anywhere in the world in 24 hours. I think that at that time it was suggested that it could fly at a speed of some 3,000 miles an hour. But so many statements have been made about this aircraft that I think it is impossible for anyone to have any certainly about it. The truth, of course, is that we were not buying an aircraft at all; we were merely entering into an arrangement on the basis of a design. What has ultimately come out of it is vastly different from what was originally contemplated.
We know that there was a great attempt to produce an aircraft which would serve the purposes of both the Air Force and the Navy. The expression used was ‘commonality’. There would be so much common to the two aircraft that really there were only subsidiary variations between them, and it was suggested that in this way a great deal of money could be saved. It seems that the unfortunate history is that this concept has entirely failed to the point where the Navy version has been abandoned. We got ourselves into this extraordinary arrangement of not purchasing aircraft but buying something that was merely a design, and we did it without adequate financial protection and under arrangements that were completely unbusinesslike. Indeed they were so unbusinesslike as to arouse the incredulity of the
United Slates senators who were listening to evidence on the matter.
I refer again to the document to which I have already referred at page 2525 where, after hearing the opening remarks of the Assistant Secretary of Defence to the effect that the cost of the aircraft to Australia was $125m, Senator Mundi is reported as having asked whether that was the final cost, and Mr Gilpatric is reported as having said:
Well, that is the estimated cost, senator, because at this stage it is not possible for either party, either the Australian Government or the United States Government to contract with reference lo a fixed amount. This is an estimate ot what it would cost for 24 planes of .an estimated total production of-
The number was deleted -
The best estimates the Air Force has been able to give is a figure that would produce a unit cost to the Australian Government of $5.2m on a programme basis. That would include spare parts, engines, and associated ground equipment, and some training.
Senator Mundt is reported as having said:
Just what kind of a contract do you have with Australia? Are they going to buy planes willynilly? If your figures are off $2m and the cost is $7-Jm a piece, are they going to buy them for $I0m? Have they any top limitation, or do they simply say: ‘We will take two dozen planes at whatever price they are?’
The Assistant Secretary, Mr Gilpatric, is reported as having said:
That is the way the agreement reads.
No wonder they do not want to produce the documents which will show a commercial arrangement. How could the Government justify to the Australian people ils entering into such an unbusinesslike arrangement in which it leaves itself without any financial protection at all, and by which it agreed to buy whatever was given to it? It was going to take the changes that were made in the United States’ version and it was really going to pay whatever the price was because it was left to the United States to control the price. One might think it was a fair thing that the senator should ask: ‘Haven’t they got any top limitation at all? Do you mean to say they have left it open ended - that whatever the price might rise to Australia is going to pay it for something that they have not seen fly?’
We know it did not fly because we know that what was originally conceived is not what is available today. Against this background of public concern in Australia, heightened by crashes of the aircraft, members of Parliament have felt here that there ought to be a proper investigation by whatever procedures are available in this Parliament of the course of this contract to see whether we are getting a fair deal and to see what the arrangements were and whether any bungling in the United States, whether in relation to the development of theF111B or otherwise, is being loaded against us. Ought not we as a Parliament know these things? Are not we entitled to see what the arrangements were in order to test whether what the Government did was financially correct or not?
When we turn to the documents, what is the answer given by the Prime Minister? On 11th September of this year he said it was unlikely that the Government would table the contract and other documents relating to the purchase of the F111. As we all know, within a few minutes of that statement, notice of motion was tabled by me in the Senate for an order for the tabling of the documents. On 12th Septemberthe next day - the Prime Minister said:
The Attorney-General has examined the original documents which incorporate the arrangements made by the Australian Government for the purchase ofthe aircraft and subsequent variations in those arrangements. The Government is not prepared to table these documents, which incorporate details of the performance of the aircraft and oiliermatters confidentialto the two governments concerned.
For example, 1 am told that incorporated in these documents is the contract made between the Government of the United States of America and the manufacturers of these aircraft. As to the rest of the documents in the tiles concerning this matter. the Attorney-General is continuing to make a close examination of them… provided such matters as security or confidential exchanges between the governments are not involved, a report will be made to the House on those other documents.
Over the weekend and today we have seen newspaper reports suggesting a change of mind on the part of the Prime Minister and that permission will be sought to reveal documents, provided that detail’s of the aircraft’s performance are deleted. Today the Leader of the Government (Senator Anderson) handed to me a copy of what was said by the Prime Minister elsewhere. The Prime Minister made this illuminating observation:
As a government we wish to give to the Parliament of this country as much information as possibleabout the arrangements made for the purchase of F111 aircraft.
I ask the Senate to consider that. Here we are in 1968, and after the tabling in the Senate of a motion calling for the production of the documents the Prime Minister says; ‘As a government we wish to give to the Parliament of this country as much information as possible about the arrangements made for the purchase ofF111 aircraft’. What have members of the Opposition been doing in the other chamber and here for thelast 4 years, except asking for this information? We have been asking question after question after question, seeking information as to the arrangements for the purchase of this aircraft. It is quite apparentthat that information has been denied to us. Now, in September 1968, and only after this motion has been tabled does the Government say: ‘We would like to give as much information as possible. We will ask the Attorney-General to have a look at the matter. We will see whether there are security matters’.
At first the information was covered too much with military security. Now this notion of confidentiality between the United States and Australia is put up as a cloak. What kind of arrangement of confidentiality between two countries is it if from 1963 right through to 1968 we have the documents dealing with this matter, which refer to the abandonment of the navy version and show that daily the details of these arrangements have been available to members of the United States Senate and others? What kind of nonsense is it to say: ‘But having said that about classified matters, it still remains true that the documents so expurgated are confidential arrangements between Australia and another nation, and we would not expect such documents tobe disclosed by another nation without previous consultation and agreement with us’? What did the Government do about it? When disclosures were made about some of these matters in the United States Senate and when MrGilpatric was asked questions, he did not run outside the Senate and say: I would like to ring up Australia and see whether we will answer the questions or not’. He gave answers straight out to those who were asking him questions.
What kind of a pretence is it to cover up these documents? We know whythe
Government is trying to cover them up. The reason is that when these documents are produced they will confirm that the Government entered into arrangements which were incompetent, which were irresponsible and which put Australia in an indefensible financial situation. The sooner the documents are made available to the Senate, the sooner we are able to examine the faults, delays and alarming increases in costs against the background of the commercial arrangements that have been made and the sooner we are able to examine the usefulness of this aircraft for Australian defence purposes, the sooner we will know where we stand. As it is, the contract involves an expenditure of about $100 for every Australian family, lt involves a very large sum of money.
Many people are concerned. 1 believe that members of the Parliament, because of their duly, are even more concerned than most to ensure that the procurement is one that will provide some proper defence for Australia. If the financial bungles that the Government has made have produced only an aircraft that is not suitable for our defence purposes, then the sooner we know that the better. If we end up with some aircraft which is all right, well and good. But whether the aircraft is good, bad or indifferent for defence purposes, this Parliament is entitled to know what commercial arrangements the Government entered into, lt is entitled to know what steps the Government took to protect: Australia against unwarranted increases in costs. Ti is entitled to know whether the Government acted in a businesslike manner.
We members of the Opposition believe - we have every reason to believe this from the material published in the United States and elsewhere - that the documents will confirm that the Government is guilty of financial incompetence and of irresponsibility to a degree never seen before in Australia. The Australian Parliament, is entitled not only to these documents but also to a full statement on the increases in costs, the faults, the delays in delivery and the usefulness of the aircraft. I ask that the Senate fake this motion as being one which is but the first step in the exposure of what has happened in connection with this contract. The Government’s practice of cloaking all its operations with secrecy can no longer be used as an instrument of suppression of the truth. The Parliament must insist upon the accountability of the Government to the Parliament. If it cannot be done in this case, when can it ever be done?
What possible justification is there for refusing to let the Parliament know what arrangements were entered into, especially against the background that it has been treated as a matter of course not only that the United States Senate should know what America’s own arrangements were, what difficulties had developed and what changes had been made, but also that it was entitled to know what were the arrangements that were made between the United States and Australia. If our Government has been stupid enough to enter into an open-ended arrangement with no proper financial protection for Australia, the sooner we know that for an absolute certainty by having the formal documents before us, the better it will be for Australia, so that it will never happen again.
– On 11th September the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy) put the following motion on the notice paper:
That there be laid on the Tabic of the Senate all documents, or copies thereof, which constituted the original arrangements made by the Australian Government for the purchase of Fill aircraft and all subsequent variations in the arrangements.
As would be expected, a certain amount of publicity was given to the matter and we saw the honourable senator doing the measured mile in the great act of calling upon the Government to put down papers. Very properly the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton), the Minister for Defence (Mr Fairhall) and I, as the Minister representing them in this place, drew attention to the obvious weakness in the proposition. The Leader of the Opposition did not wake up to the fact until 8 o’clock tonight - or if he did he deliberately did not change his notice of motion earlier - that his motion was completely and utterly untenable because no government, whether it be Liberal, Country Party, Labor or anything else, could live with a proposition which sought the disclosure of matters of military security. The debate tonight is a political exercise. The matter has been on the notice paper for some time and the Leader of the Opposition has tried to get the measured mile out of it. It was withheld and ultimately was brought on tonight. I suggest that either Senator Murphy was very dull or was playing politics.
– What ils wrong with playing politics?
– I do not suppose it is a sin to play politics, but the Opposition is dealing with a matter of importance because ultimately the security of Australia and the Australian people is involved. Do not ever forget that. The debate is not on the merits of the Fill. All the nonsense that we have heard about thrust reverser. and all the questions about capability, delays and financial arrangements are no part of the motion before the Chair tonight. If Senator Murphy had wanted to debate those matters he could have used the forms of the House by way of a resolution and we could have done so. Indeed, if I recall the position properly and accurately, on behalf of the Minister for Defence 1 made a defence statement which alluded to aspects of the Fill. Senator Cohen and others took up the challenge and the matter was debated. Nobody can quibble about that. Here we have a situation where the forms of the House have been used. Senator Murphy spoke about tabling papers. He wants to lay the ground for a debate. 1 suppose that the subject will become effective or worthy of debate only when the papers are tabled. I thought that the very purpose in asking for the tabling of papers was to facilitate an intelligent debate on the issues raised.
The original motion sought the tabling of papers. Then the cold draught came along and the motion was altered. Words have been added to it, in brackets, in relation to military security. I do not intend to become involved in a debating exercise on all the issues raised by Senator Murphy about the Fill. The Presiding Officer might very well rule me out of order because (hat would be inconsistent with the motion. The Leader of the Opposition moved for the tabling of the papers and, on reflection, for the tabling of the papers with exclusions. I have here a copy of the evidence given before the American Senate Committee, from which he may have read. I should hate to think that a statement made before that Senate Committee was the beginning and e»d of all argument.
– lt is sworn evidence.
– It may be sworn evidence, but it is evidence in isolation. That is not the issue with which we are dealing tonight. We are dealing with the tabling of the papers. Tonight Senator Murphy purported to take various phrases of the statements that were made. Ultimately he referred to the reply that was made by the Prime Minister in another place today. As courtesy demanded, and in accordance with the understanding between us, I gave a copy of that reply to Senator Murphy. He set out to make an argument and the whole of his argument on the substance of the resolution was met by the first words of the Prime Minister. I shall read them, and I. shall also read the whole paragraph because it gives a slightly different picture. The Prime Minister said: As a government we wish to give to the Parliament of this country as much information as possible about the arrangements made for the purchase of FI 1 1 aircraft-
Senator Murphy stopped there, right in the middle of the sentence.
– That is all he wanted to say.
– That is all he wanted to say. He did not want to quote all the Prime Minister’s words. The full sentence puts a completely different complexion on it. In the same sentence the Prime Minister said:
But. the documents contain some classified material which for security reasons will not be made public under any circumstances.
Therefore Senator Murphy’s argument was based on only part of what the Prime Minister said. Senator Murphy broke up a sentence and left the qualifying part out of the argument altogether.
– There is no substance in that argument.
– Tt is an exercise in politics. If you intend to indulge in an exercise in politics and to quote somebody, you should quote him in full. You do not break off and leave out the qualifying part of the sentence.
– Why is that?
– The honourable senator is a lawyer. I thought that the reason would have been obvious. I want to quote the remainder of the Prime Minister’s statement. He said:
The Attorney-General and the Department of Defence have been examining and are continuing to examine such documents to see which parts of them do not contain or refer to such classified material. But having said that, it still remains true that the documents Australia expurgated are confidential arrangements between Australia and another nation. We would not expect such documents to be disclosed by another nation without previous consultation and agreement with us. We therefore need to consult the other nation concerned before disclosing them ourselves. This process is in train and when the availability of documents or part of documents has been determined, a detailed statement will be made.
That statement puts it clearly on the line. That being so, Senator Murphy was forced to go for cover. He had to amend his notice of motion, f want to make this point-
– You are not making any points at the moment.
– Some people find it pretty difficult to absorb things.
– What does that mean?
– lt means that some people pick up things much easier than others. 1 suppose that is the way the good Lord makes us and we cannot help it. I. am not averse to dishing it out. I can take it. and I can dish it out also. But I think we should keep the debate on a reasonable level. In the Prime Minister’s statement there is a clear indication that the Government wants to give as much information as possible. I hope that memories are not so short that anybody would doubt the motives of the Prime Minister in relation lo the tabling of the papers.
– Why do you oppose the motion?
– I intend to move an amendment. Do not worry about that.
– Then give it to us.
– I will give it to you in my own time, at the conclusion of my speech. I repeat, because it has been referred to here and in certain Press communications that I have read, that I hope no-one will accuse the Prime Minister of not understanding the feelings of the Senate and of honourable senators. Memories would be very short if he were to be accused of that. I make it perfectly clear that the Government and the Prime Minister are most anxious to table the papers that can be tabled, bearing in mind the qualifications indicated in the Prime Minister’s statement and on which I am about to elaborate.
The tabling of documents is a matter that will revolve around the question of whether the documents are top secret, secret or confidential. I find it hard to believe that the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate would suggest that a government could blithely be prepared to table documents containing specifications agreed mutually or held by one government to be classified. It would be extraordinary for a government to enter into negotiations in good faith, involving matters of military significance and then to announce: ‘These are classified documents but we will table them and make them public’ How often would a government acting in that fashion be able to do business with another government, having been involved once or twice in such nonsensical behaviour? It is completely unreal to make the suggestion and honourable senators opposite know in their hearts that it is unreal.
I ask honourable senators opposite to consider this proposition: If they were approached, in their private or professional life and given information to be held sacred between them and their informant, and subsequently were. asked by a third parly for that information, would they spew it out and say: ‘Here it is’? How long would they remain in a profession or a business if they behaved like that? Even a small child knows that where arrangements are made between governments, in the interests of good government and security of either or both governments, of necessity the documents relating to the arrangements must be subject to classification.
I have forgotten how long the Labor Party was in office prior to 1949. Are honourable senators opposite suggesting that during the war years and the post-war period the Labor Government then in office did not enter into military agreements in which there was an understanding about the classification of the relevant documents? Do members of the Opposition think that they could survive as a government and have relations with any other government if, at the caprice or will of the Senate or any other body, they said: ‘All right, we will table the documents and they will become public property. They can be read on the front page of the newspapers tomorrow’? The point I am making is that the Government-
– The Minister is trying to-
– The honourable senator who is interjecting does not speak very often in debates in this chamber. I suggest to him that gently does it. In all documents relating to agreements between countries, particularly in respect of agreements dealing with military hardware or equipment, of necessity there must be classification. The Prime Minister and the Government are saying: ‘Look here. We are examining these documents. When we find material which has a classification we will keep it out of the documents. But we believe that the documents, within certain limitations, will be tabled.’
We believe that before we can properly discuss the basic question of the tabling of classified documents relating to arrangements between one government and another, good manners, decency, good government and sanity require that at least wc enter into negotiations with that other government. I am sure that honourable senators opposite know in their hearts that this is true. Senator Murphy’s weakness is that he has gone ahead of himself. I would have thought that the exercise would have been for the tabling of the papers, and then having had the papers tabled, to consider the arguments, which are not relevant to the motion, that he has produced tonight.
I believe that against the background of what I have said it is necesary for me to move an amendment copies of which will bc distributed in a few moments. 1 move:
Amend the motion by deleting the words in brackets at the end of the motion and adding the following words: ‘but excluding any material: (a) that is classified and should not be made public for security reasons; and, (b) that records confidential arrangements between Australia and another nation and cannot be disclosed without adversely affecting our relations with that nation.’ 1 suppose that in truth there is not a great deal between us. For that reason I would hope that the Opposition would accept the amendment proposed by the Government.
We could all then proceed to the next business and all feel very happy again. The final point I make is that I believe it has been apparent from the outset, to Senator Murphy and to all honourable senators opposite, that military classified information included in the relevant documents must be excluded before those documents can be tabled. I believe it is apparent to the general public - and I want to emphasise this point - that when we have an arrangement with another nation, the documents relating to which are mutually regarded as classified, before consideration is given to tabling those documents it is necessary to confer with that other nation as to the classification. For those reasons I hope the Senate will accept the amendment I have proposed.
– It would be safe to say that few matters, if any, have attracted more attention of recent times than the contract with the United States of America for the supply to Australia of twenty-four FI 1 1 aircraft. At regular intervals we have heard and read announcements of alterations in the cost of the aircraft. It has been even more disturbing to read from time lo time of the failure of these planes. Because of the accumulation of events surrounding the FI 1 1 aircraft, it can fairly be said without fear of contradiction that no responsible member of this Parliament, including members of the Government, could be happy and satisfied with the purchase contract and all that is involved in it. I am sure that no member of the present Government should be complacent and satisfied with every phase and aspect of the contract. For that reason I believe that Senator Murphy’s motion, asking for the tabling of papers in connection with the purchase of the aircraft, is timely, if not overdue.
At this stage I want to make it clear that my colleagues and I intend to support the motion asking for the tabling of papers, with the exception of any specification or reference which would prejudice our military security. I also want to make it clear that my colleagues and 1 would not have been a party to a motion compelling the Government to place on the table of this Parliament highly classified documents regarding the security of Australia and our ally, the United States of America. I was glad that Senator Murphy saw lit to amend his resolution to provide that qualification. I cannot understand why the Leader of the Government (Senator Anderson) should be so upset and disturbed with the amendment. I should have thought that he would have welcomed it because it is on all fours with what he has suggested as an amendment of his own. It is not vastly different, except perhaps for a word or two, and in general principle there is no alteration. I am prepared to say that I do not believe that Senator Murphy at any stage wanted to do any more than I did. Not at any stage did he want to breach military secrets, undertakings or highly confidential matter existing between the two countries, any more than I want to do so. I. certainly say on behalf of my colleagues that I would have thought very poorly of the Australian Government if it had breached or dishonoured any serious or important undertaking made to the United States Government in connection with this matter or any other matter with which they had dealt. 1 repeal thai I believe the time is ripe for a clean up on this matter. I should have imagined that the Government would have welcomed this. The Government must have an explanation for it all. If it has - and let us hope that it does have a satisfactory, complete and full explanation of it - let it disclose it for the good of Australia and the people whom we represent here. There can be no disputation about the rights of Parliament to this information. After all. we are the representatives of the people, we are the custodians of the people’s taxes and we are also answerable to the people for undertakings made by our Government with other governments. For those reasons, in addition to many others unnamed, we have a perfect right to ask the Government of the day to disclose by laying on the table of the Senate particulars with regard to this contract for the supply of twenty-four FI 1 1 aircraft - with the exception, as I repeat, that we do not expect the Government to breach and dishonour any agreement or understanding that it has with the American Government. We would not want it to do so.
No-one can dispute that this is not a healthy position. The whole affair is very disturbing. I am sure that when members of the Government received the information that the price of the aircraft was going to be considerably greater than expected, they would have been feeling rather grim about the whole affair. Who was or was not responsible for our ordering this aircraft I am not in a position to say. lt is alleged that Mr McNamara, the American Secretary of Defence, advised our representatives of the value of this plane which was only on the drawing boards, if it had got that far, and that he gave this advice over and above contrary advice given by the top brass of consultants in this field. Rut whether or not that is so I do not know. Perhaps the papers will disclose some of these facts.
What concerns me are the repeated allegations made in this connection and the adverse publicity that has been given to this contract, not only in our own newspapers but also in other newspapers overseas. ‘Fill fiasco - most foolhardy project of them all’, says the London Times’. Then it goes on in an article to ridicule the whole set-up and our undertaking to purchase these twenty-four planes. That is only a sample of the many stringent criticisms that have been levelled against this Government over this matter in many parts of the world. The ‘Sunday Times’ of London said:
America’s Fill fighter bomber is now shaping up as perhaps the most expensive technological failure in US aviation history. It may rank as the most foolhardy project in the history of any US industry.
Even the US’ Navy has cancelled its orders.
It is so heavy it cannot fly above 14,000 feet.
Us compressors stall at speeds greater thar 1,200 m.p.h. lt is so heavy, slow, and must fly at low altitudes that it requires a fighter escort.
– Is the honourable senator talking about the Navy version or the other?
– The report continues:
Test models of the cancelled Navy version were so heavy they could not take off from aircraft carriers.
– What is the dale of that?
– It continues: its low altitude range was to be 400 miles. It is now only 50 miles.
That i« dated 28th April of this year. I do not know whether those statements are correct. I am not in any position to confirm or deny them. However, I am in a position to say very definitely that those statements are very disturbing, to say the least, and that I have a right as a representative of the people to sift the statements on their behalf and on my own behalf to learn the truth of these things, to ascertain whether these statements are an exaggeration and are unfounded.
There have been suggestions that we might seek a release from our contract. I would be the last to advocate repudiation, but I think there are circumstances sometimes that would justify this action. However, I have been told or I have read somewhere that there are no special clauses under which Australia can be released from the contract. Surely there must bc some conditions of let out in the event of what we contracted to buy not being up to the specifications or the standard that we sought and hoped to get for the money that we are about to spend.
– Britain got a better deal.
– I am talking about Australia and America now. I want to know - and I hope that as a result of this motion, if it is carried, we shall find out - whether the Government acted wisely and whether we are to get value for our money even though there might be some increase on the original figure quoted, I think by the then Prime Minister, in 1963 at the height of an election campaign. He very indiscreetly mentioned a figure which was only an estimate. The same mistake was made in connection with the Sydney Opera House. Someone too early made an estimate of the cost, which was a long, long way from what it will eventually be. After all, with the changing times we can accommodate some of the increases, but they have been so marked that it is very difficult to accept that they are normal increases.
Another statement ls repeatedly made and read. Did the United Kingdom obtain a fixed price for its aircraft, whereas Australia was not able to get a fixed price? Are there any clauses in the Australian contract relating to fixed prices? Those are questions that have to be answered. Has the Govern ment any idea at all or any estimate of what will be the final cost of the Fill and associated parts? I am sure that it is not in a position to give us any idea of the final cost. That is a deplorable state of affairs and one that should be examined. Is it not a fact that the first cost estimate was $1 13.6m, that in August 1967 the new estimate was $2 16.1m, and that the latest estimate is $266m? Those increases merit and call for some explanation. What kind of clauses in our contract or agreement would cover such huge increases?
It has been reported that the United Kingdom Government’s cancellation of its order for fifty Fill aircraft cost $384m in penalties and lost defence sales. Are there any penalties attaching to our contract? I would be interested to know. Are penalties operating in other directions, such as for late delivery? They are all matters on which we should be informed. Let me say again that the Government itself should welcome the opportunity to place the papers on the table of this Parliament. It should welcome the opportunity to put the cards on the table and clean up this apparent mess without any further haggling or recriminations. Only 12 months or so ago we had the discussion about the VIP aircraft. There was not a great deal in the matter except for the Government’s bungling of the whole case. If it had been big enough to answer the questions asked and place on the table of this Parliament the records with regard to passenger lists and other particulars the matter would never have reached the mammoth dimensions that it did reach. This showed the Government up in a very poor light in public opinion. It showed the Government to be a government that withheld information from the representatives of the people when this was sought.
Do not let us have a recurrence of this because it is no good for the Government and it is no good for the Parliament, and the people of Australia are just sick to the tonsils of all this side-stepping and shuffling that goes on with regard to matters which are their concern. We are only a few of the general public and it is a mistake for any of us to presume that we have a right to cover up any of our deliberations or any of our transactions as a parliament, which after all are the public’s affair and we, after all, are only temporary agents for the people in all of our deliberations and all of our work. Let us be in the open about it and let us tell the people just what the position is. If for some reason beyond the Government’s control the prices have got out of hand, let us say so. Many people get estimates even for ordinary cottages today and find that the estimate is greatly exceeded before the cottage is tenantable. Let us throw the cards on the table and tell the people the truth about these things, and there will be less cause for heartburn, less cause for suspicion and less cause for criticism.
Many references are made in the newspapers to a ceiling price of $5. 95m for each FI 1 1 aircraft. Is any ceiling price contained in the documents that we are asking to be placed on the table of the Senate? ls there any ceiling price in the contract signed by the two governments or by the company and the Australian Government? They are questions that we have a right to ask and they are questions that the Government has a duty to answer. The Minister for Defence (Mr Fairhall) has said that the Fill will not be used in Vietnam. Is the F4 Phantom suitable for use in Vietnam? Could eighty Phantoms have been bought at a cost no greater than what we will pay for the twenty-four Fill aircraft? That is a point and I should like somebody in authority, with the knowledge and in a position to answer, to tell me if that is the case, lt is said that the so-called latest final cost of the twenty-four aircraft covers engines, crew training and ground support equipment, ls it a fact that to include missile systems in the jets an additional $34m would be added to the cost? I do not know but that has been stated. If that is true, let it be confirmed and then we will know just where we are going.
I repeat that I cannot see any cause for complaint by the Government that this motion should be proposed. I think it is timely. It could prove of great value to all of us, including members of the Government. In the event of this motion being carried and the Government tabling these papers I think they should be examined so that we will get the greatest value from them. The amendment proposed by the Leader of the Government forestalls to some extent the following amendment which I foreshadow:
Al the end of the motion add the following words: and that on such tabling, if it then appears to the Senate that the documentation is of such volume or complexity that detailed examination is necessary for complete evaluation, the documents be referred by the Senate to the Joint Committee of Public Accounts for examination and subsequent report to the Senate, and that the Committee be directed to advise whether at ali stages of the committal of public moneys adequate provision was made for the protection of the Consolidated Revenue Fund.
Those are the terms of my foreshadowed amendment. I think Senator Murphy will appreciate the necessity for it because a 12-feet high file of papers coul’d be placed on the table of the Senate and we would have to adjourn the sittings of the Senate for some time to examine them. I think my proposal is a more businesslike way of going about it. We should refer the question to the Public Accounts Committee anil obtain a report on matters about which we are anxious to learn something.
– When do you think we would get the report if the papers were so voluminous?
– A good committee in no time would separate the sheep from the goats or the chaff from the dust and would produce what we want it to produce - the things that matter. I have avoided as much as possible making any prejudgment on these matters: I am not in a position to know. I have endeavoured not to be unduly critical of any phase of it because I am not possessed of the circumstances nor do I know the details associated with the discussions, the negotiations and everything that has gone on, but in common with my fellow citizens of Australia I do know that the whole matter is something about which we have no cause to be pleased or complacent, f also know that it merits some measure of investigation and report. For. that reason my colleagues of the Democratic Labor Party and I believe that the motion is timely and we propose to support it.
– 1 rise to indicate not only that I am supporting the motion moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy) but also that we are prepared to accept the addendum that has been suggested by Senator Gair. If the Senate comes to the conclusion that the papers should be tabled and if, because they are so mountainous, voluminous or complex, the Senate feels that they require study by some body other than the Senate, we can see no difficulty about that as long as the Senate retains control of the matter so that ultimately there is a report to the Senate. In those circumstances the point we seek to establish would be satisfied and I make this quite plain at the beginning. The second thing I want to indicate is that the amendment proposed by the Leader of the Government (Senator Anderson) is not acceptable to us because it is a mere device to escape the decision of the Senate which will surely follow this debate, that is, that these papers be tabled subject to the exclusion of matters pertaining to military security.
We listened tonight to two extraordinary speeches. One was delivered by the Leader of the Opposition who set out the issues that are at stake in this debate with devastating clarity.
– That is what it was? I did not understand it.
– In that case one would have to speak very clearly and very slowly to make anything understood by you. The second remarkable speech was made by the Leader of the Government. To listen to him one would have thought that the Government’s attitude was that it was most anxious - I am quoting his exact words - to lay all this information before the Senate, that it was straining at the leash, that it would leave no stone unturned to see that as much as possibly could be put before the Senate would be put before the Senate.
All 1 want to say is that it squares ill with what has fallen from the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) in the last few days. When the Prime Minister was first asked by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard) in another place just a few days ago - on 1 0th September - to table these documents the Prime Minister said: i will consult with the Minister for Defence ami the relevant departments to see whether this should be done. i am nol at all clear at the moment in my own mind that it is something (hat should be done.
On the next day he said that he did not want to be completely definite but he thought it unlikely that the documents would be tabled. Then on the very next day he said:
The Government is not prepared to table these documents which incorporate details of the performance of the aircraft and other matters confidential to the two governments concerned.
Over the weekend the Prime Minister, speaking outside the Parliament at the opening of an industrial establishment in Melbourne, promised everyone that the documents would be tabled. Then within a day he apparently had another change of heart and we now find the Government arguing that there are very grave difficulties in the way of tabling them. It is not the Leader of the Opposition who should be criticised for amending his motion to provide that security matters should be excluded; il is this Government which should be criticised and attacked most vehemently for being a change daily government on this issue.
This Government has fobbed off every inquiry over the last 3 or ‘4 years about the cost of the FI II, about the details of the contract, about the performance of the aircraft and about the purposes for which the aircraft would be used if and when we ultimately got it. Although questions have been asked, both inside and outside this Parliament, for many months now we still have not had an aircraft delivered in proper operational condition and so far we have spent an amount equivalent to the original estimated cost of the aircraft. We have paid out $120m-odd already and do nol yet have an aircraft which will fly. All I am saying is that any government which would resist the fullest inquiry into performances in these circumstances is a government that should not be allowed to sit on the Treasury bench. I believe it is as simple as that.
A great deal has been said about the history of this matter. Some figures were quoted by the Leader of the Opposition and by Senator Gair. I remind honourable senators that the Government has already expended the entire amount that was originally proposed for these aircraft. In fact, if my arithmetic is correct, it has expended more. I have several times asked the Leader of the Government in the Senate to tell me how much the aircraft have cost the Government so far. Working on figures given in the Senate on 9th May 1968. I have estimated it to be about $121 in. By February 1966 the estimate of $125m had risen to SI 84m; by May 1967 it had risen to $213m; recently it was given as $266m; and it is now predicted to be not less than $300m - if and when we get the aircraft. That is a performance which, on the face of it, demands a proper explanation by the Government.
But what happens when the Opposition asks for an explanation? We are told it is very difficult for the Government to give an explanation as there are certain matters that the Government may not be able to disclose. But it has never been suggested that the Opposition wanted information laid on the table of the Senate that was of a security nature. I do not think that anybody in this chamber could suggest that the Opposition was after such information.
What the Opposition wants to know is: What sort of contract did the Government enter into? What were its provisions? What cost escalation stipulations did it contain? Did it have any escape clauses? Under what circumstances could the contract be voided by the Australian Government if it were not satisfied? Was there any time limit within which the contract had to be performed by the manufacturers, or was it so open-ended or one-sided that any objective person looking at it would say that it was not a contract negotiated with due regard to Australia’s best interest? We do not have to speculate here. These questions were asked in the United States Senate before an investigating committee a considerable time ago. Senator Murphy has already read to the Senate the question asked by United States Senator Mundt of Mr Gilpatric, the Assistant Secretary of State, as to the nature of the contract made between the Australian Government and the United States Government. I think the question and answer are worth repeating because if they did not sink into the minds of honourable senators opposite on the first occasion they should do so this time. Senator Mundt asked Mr Gilpatric:
Just what kind of contract do you have with Australia? Are they going to buy planes willynilly? If your figures are off $2m and the cost is $7.5m apiece, are they going to buy them for $l0m? Have they any top limitation, or do they simply say: *We wilt take 2 dozen planes at whatever price they are’?
Mr Gilpatrie’s answer was:
That is the way the agreement reads.
Obviously they were referring to some document that they had been considering which embodied the agreement, whatever it was, between the manufacturers or the United States Government and the Australian Government. Is any honourable senator game to stand up in this chamber or anywhere else and say that the Parliament, of which the Senate is one of the two chambers, and the people, are not entitled to examine the essence of the contract, excluding any military material, and to pass some judgment upon whether it represents a responsible attitude towards Australia’s defence procurements?
– There can bc no dispute on that point.
– Let us be absolutely clear about this; there was a dispute up to this afternoon. The Government would not be even remotely toying with the idea of producing any of these documents if this motion by the Leader of the Opposition had not been put on the notice paper, lt is only because the Government realises that the Senate will require the tabling of documents that the Government is now struggling for so much elbow room in its amendment that it can slide out and say that it need not tell the Parliament anything as the matter is confidential. We will have to take the Government’s word that the matter is confidential. Let the Senate have the documents and see what it docs with them when it gets them.
The Opposition expects the Government to measure up to the spirit of the Senate. The Government need not bother taking too defensive an attitude because sooner or later the Opposition will get the information it requires. There will be a time when matters that affect security today will no longer affect security and there will be a time when matters that are argued to be confidential between governments will no longer be so because of the passage of time. The Opposition will get the information it requires sooner or later. If it is not the present honourable senators who comprise the Opposition it will be the senators that follow us. If any document is withheld from the Senate it should be on the word of a responsible Minister that its disclosure would prejudice the security of the country. One could not quarrel with such an exception. One could range very wide in this debate, but the Opposition has sought to confine the discussion to the issue of getting at the facts and details. The Opposition has criticised the escalating cost of the Fill aircraft. lt does not know what kind of provision is contained in the contract in regard to costs except for what Mr Gilpatric said about the way the agreement reads. He seemed to suggest that all Australia has said is: ‘We will have 2 dozen of them. Send us the bill.’
– Cheaper by the dozen.
– We do nol know if it is cheaper by the dozen. Of course, it turns out that we have been paying a substantial part of the research and development costs of this project. When we ordered this aircraft it was only on the drawing board. Australia may not have purchased the Fill if there hud not been an election pending in November 1963.
– That is a cheap comment.
– lt. is not a cheap comment, lt is a comment that has been made by many responsible journals after the event. This morning’s editorial in the Launceston ‘Examiner’-
– ls it an authority?
– I would like honourable senators to listen to this.
– lt is a capitalist Press.
– Senator Sim would have to apply his remark that it was a cheap comment to everybody who has made this comment. The editorial stated that there was little doubt that the Menzies Government ordered the aircraft as a political gimmick, lt has now turned out to be a controversial aircraft. Previously in debates on defence. 1 have said that none of: us know, nor can we say for certain, that this is a bad aircraft. I hope that it turns out to be a very good one. But there are reliable journals in the United States which regard it as a complete fiasco. A United States News of the World’ report of 25th September 1967 indicated that the Pentagon’s nickname for the aircraft was McNamara’s Albatross’. ‘Barron’s National Business and Financial Weekly’, a United States publication, said on 1 8th September 1967 that it was time that the United Slates cut its losses on this aircraft, which it called ‘scandal ridden’. Other independent journals have said it could be a strategic set back to the country. 1 am not concerned to canvass every criticism that has been made, or indeed to accept it. But I would ask the Senate to accept the approach that the matter is so controversial that there is a great question mark over it. There was even a question mark over it on the morning when the Minister for Defence took delivery at Fort Worth. The great question then was: ‘Now what do we do with it?’ These are questions that the public is asking They are questions that the Parliament is asking and they are ultimately related to the question whether, when this agreement was negotiated, it was done in Australia’s best interests, and with responsibility. I suppose many members of the Government have had occasion to blush and shudder at it since then, but we have all had to live with what the then Prime Minister. Sir Robert Menzies said about it just before the 1963 elections. He said this:
All 1 can say is thai if any honourable member on either side of this House had pui before him a proposition arising from the mass production techniques in the United Slates so immeasurably favourable lo the taxpayers in terms of pounds, shillings and pence, he could not have rejected it. Thai is where we stand.
Looking buck, it is altogether too difficult to square that optimistic forecast and assessment with the reality as it has turned out to be.
I have said all I want to say about this matter. 1 believe that the Senate is measuring up to its responsibility in pressing for the tabling of these documents subject to the reservation that we have included, and accepting the addendum that was proposed by Senator Gair, ff we failed to take action of this kind when we had the opportunity to do so we would be accepting the proposition that a government can constantly turn its back on the Parliament and the people and decline to be cross-examined or to assist in the evaluation of its own policies and its own conduct in relation to matters of very great importance.
We will not be party to that. We believe that the Government has to accept the challenge. There is no reason whatever why such documents as do not relate to security should not be disclosed. Frankly, I do not believe there is all that much in this that would be protected by the description of security. I believe that this is a commercial document. The specifications may be classified. There may be one or two other matters that may be classified, but I would be surprised to find that there is not a great mass of documents centring on the original contract that can properly be laid before the Parliament, and that, in the interests of justice, truth and getting at the facts, should bc laid before the Senate.
Senator SIM (Western Australia) (9.44] - After the statement by the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) today, I had a suspicion, when Senator Murphy spoke, that this motion was no more than a political exercise. After hearing Senator Cohen and watching his antics and showmanship, I am convinced that it is no more than a political exercise. The Prime Minister made a clear statement today. What he said in the past is irrelevant. The only matter that is before us is his statement today.
– He might make another one tomorrow.
– That is another of the rather cheap comments we get from the Opposition. If I may say so, these cheap comments illustrate the lack of material the Opposition has and only confirm further my original comment that this is no more than a political exercise. The Prime Minister today expressed a willingness and indeed a desire to give Parliament all the information possible. He made two further comments. One was that he excepted classified documents for security reasons. I take it the Opposition agrees with that. The second reservation is worthy of quoting. He said that he was not prepared to table confidential arrangements between Australia and another country. He went on to say:
We would not expect such documents to be disclosed by another country without previous consultation and agreement with us.
If the members of the Opposition disagree with that, let them stand up and say that they do not mind another country disclosing, without consultation with us. confidential agreements made between themselves and us. If that is their policy, then I accept it. It is one of irresponsibility, but I accept ft.
The Government, in its amendment, merely makes it clear that we accept the responsibility that we do nol disclose confidential arrangements between one govern ment and another without the consent of the other government. To adopt any other policy would be to adopt a policy of sheer irresponsibility which would make further agreements between governments impossible. I find it impossible to believe that members of the Opposition, if they wish to set themselves up as a responsible Opposition, would take any other view than that. Subject to those reservations, the Prime Minister is prepared, indeed willing, to table the documents relating to the Fill aircraft.
Senator Cohen praised Senator Murphy’s speech. As I listened to him he rather reminded me of a well known judge in Victoria who once remonstrated with a rather rambling lawyer by saying that he circumnavigated the whole globe of irrelevancies. Worse than that, Senator Murphy set himself up as prosecutor, jury and judge. He laid the charge that we know that powerful political influences were used in the United States to take this contract away from one company and to give it to another.
– Which is true.
– The honourble senator says it is true. We have heard allegations made by Opposition senators about the credibility of this Government on many occasions. In a few moments 1 shall examine the credibility of members of the Opposition and see where they stand. The accusation to which I have referred was made by the Opposition without the slightest evidence being produced to support it. Where is the evidence that we know political influence was used? That is a damaging statement. One would nol expect a man with the experience and knowledge of the law that Senator Murphy has to make a statement such as that unless he were prepared to produce proof.
– All the evidence is on his table.
– 1 expect him to produce it. If it is on his table, let him get up and say so. Senator Murphy said we ought to know whether there has been any bungling. Then, having said that, he found the Government guilty of incompetence and financial irresponsibility. If he knows all these facts and if he believes all these things, one wonders why he requires these papers. As I have said, he has set himself up as prosecutor, jury and judge.
– If the honourable senator is not careful he will sprout wings.
– It is possible that I could sprout wings, but .1 would question whether the honourable senator could. 1 suggest that we are entitled to examine the credibility of the Opposition. 1 notice from the Western Australian newspapers that over the weekend the Leader of the Opposition in another place (Mr Whitlam) flew across to Western Australia to give us the benefit of his great wisdom. Having arrived there, he made a statement to a newspaper - in fact to more than one newspaper. It was reported that he claimed (he crisis over the FI 1 1 resulted from overhasty action by the Menzies Government in 1963. He was reported to have said that there was a general election pending and the Menzies Government rushed in and bought this aircraft without consulting the Royal Australian Air Force.
– Hear, hear!
– The honourable senator should be careful. I am very pleased that he said ‘Hear, hear’ because I am testing the credibility of the Opposition. Here we have the Leader of the Opposition making the statement that the Menzies Government rushed into ordering this aircraft without consulting the RAAF. Let us look at what happened.
– Come on.
– I ask the honourable senator lo be patient. It is all coming. On 22nd May 1963 Sir Robert Menzies said, as reported at page 1.671 of Hansard:
An on the spot evaluation by a learn of qualified experts is necessary, as it was in the selection of the Mirage. Such a team will be sent overseas at an early dale, under the Chief of the Air Staff, to investigate and report.
That reflects on the credibility of the Opposition.
– To report on what?
– I know that this is worrying members of the Opposition. The Leader of the Opposition said that the RAAF was nol consulted. A team of eight RAAF officers went overseas in June 1963. It was under the leadership of Air Marshal Sir Valston Hancock, the then Chief of the Air Staff.
– That was the opening of the election compaign.
– That is another of the cheap comments that come from members of the Opposition. I can understand their being somewhat uncomfortable at the moment, in view of the statement made by their leader, if he is their leader. The RAAF team consisted of “the Chief of the Air Staff; Air Commodore Marshall, Controller of Technical Plans, Department of Air; Group Captain Read, Director of Operational Requirements, Department of Air; Wing Commander Marshall, Technical Staff Officer (Armament), Department of Air; Wing Commander Robb, Deputy Director of Telecommunications, Department of Air; Squadron Leader Brownley, Equipment Staff Officer, Department of Air; Squadron Leader Whitehead, Technical Staff Officer (Engines), Department of Air; and Mr Douglas, Assistant Secretary, Department of Air. So a high quality RAAF team went overseas in June 1963.
While overseas that highly qualified and expert team evaluated a number of aircraft. In fact, it evaluated five aircraft including the Fill and the TSR2. Members of the Opposition are fully aware of the latter aircraft because we heard from them day in and day out that it was the one that Australia should purchase, lt was a British aircraft. Members of the Opposition should remember that the RAAF team evaluated five aircraft and then returned to Australia and made a report. After evaluating these aircraft, it recommended to the Government the purchase of the FI 1 .1 not only lo meet Australia’s immediate requirements but also to meet our long term requirements. We were looking for an aircraft that would have a life of 15 or 20 years. The alternatives were to have the TS.R2, which the Opposition wanted the Government to buy and of which only a prototype flew, the Fill or some other aircraft that was flying at that time. lt is also worth noting that the United Kingdom, after deciding not to go ahead with the production of the ill fated TSR2, placed an order for fifty Fills. The fact that that order was cancelled had nothing to do with the technical qualities of the aircraft: it was purely a matter of finance. I listened to Senator Gair and Senator Cohen quoting Press articles. What technical qualifications the writers of those articles have no-one knows - except, of course, for qualifications in sensational journalism. My mind went back to a statement made by the Chief of Staff of the Royal Air Force. Only a few months ago he lamented the fact that the British order for the Fill had been cancelled. He said that the RAF badly needed that type of aircraft to replace the now obsolete V bombers. He expressed his confidence in the Fill aircraft.
I ask Senator Gair and Senator Cohen to put the knowledge and experience of the Chief of Staff of the RAF against those of the unnamed journalists. I cannot believe that anybody is not aware of the statement made by the Chief of Staff of the RAF. I believe that it would have been fair to quote him as an authority. After all, the British have had a long experience of the purchase and operation of aircraft. So we see that the credibility of the Opposition will not stand up to any examination. We have heard statement after statement from Mr Whitlam and others. Quite frankly, those statements have been proved to be completely false, just as the statement to which I have referred has been. If they felt that they were on strong ground there would be no need for them to get down and use these rather snide tactics in order to get headlines and to mislead the Australian public. Members of the Opposition are fond of attacking us for placing the order for the Fill. That order was based on the best technical advice that the Australian Government could obtain, namely, the advice of its own Air Force officers.
In recent times we have heard the Labor Party advocate that we should have bought the Phantom or the Vigilante. The Phantom is a fighter aircraft; it is not a strike aircraft. The RAAF, in its wisdom, believed that Australia had to have a strike aircraft. The Phantom was evaluated alongside the Mirage, and the Mirage was selected. The complete ignorance of members of the Opposition is shown when they stand up and say: ‘We support the Phantom’. The fact is that today the Phantom is an obsolete aircraft and is going out of production. It lacks range. In Vietnam it has to be refuelled in the air. That has increased its vulnerability. The Vigilante, which was also suggested by the Opposition, will cease production in 1970.
Had we followed the advice of the Opposition, we would have had to buy an aircraft at a cost of about $l96m, which was the RAAF estimate, and by the present time or in the near future we would have had to replace it. Let us consider what the cost would have been if the suggestions made by the members of the Opposition had been adopted or if they had been in government and had ignored the advice of their departmental officers or experts. It is fair to ask whether they would have ignored the advice of their experts. I do not expect an honest answer to that question. I know that I would not get one. But it is fair to say that if they had been in office and had ordered the TSR, which did not fly, the Phantom or the Vigilante, today we would be faced with the problem of re-equipment with a modern aircraft.
From time to time members of the Opposition have cast some doubt on the range and performance of the Fill. We know that most of this information is necessarily classified. We also know something that is not classified, namely, that it can fly across the Atlantic Ocean - a distance of about 3,000 miles - without refuelling. It is also interesting to note that when the British Government placed its order for the Fill it intended to use them in the South East Asian region. It is significant that the British Government intended to use them in the region of the world in which we live.
I wish to refer to one or two comments that Opposition senators made in their attack. By implication or outright statement we have been told that this aircraft can operate only from Amberley. This statement is like so many made by the Opposition. It is just not true. The aircraft can operate from any airfield which has a runway of 8,000 feet or longer. It can operate from bases at Learmonth, Tindal, Darwin, Townsville and from any other airfield with a runway that is 8,000 feet or longer. It is quite untrue to suggest, as has been suggested, that the aircraft has limited operational capability and can operate only from Amberley. It can operate and is designed to operate from forward bases. The credibility of the Opposition does not stand examination. The view of the experts in the RAAF and the view of the Government is that the Royal Australian Air Force is not truly effective unless it has a strike aircraft. The FI 1 1 is a strike aircraft.
A great deal has been made of the problems which have arisen, lt is a revolutionary aircraft and, as such, is bound to have problems associated with it. We hear about the number of crashes of this model and it is condemned because of this. I think it is fair lo examine the question of crashes of modern aircraft because no model that has operated in the past or is operating today has not had a number of fatal crashes. When we look at the figures we find that the Fill compares more than favourably with any other modern aircraft. I will take the first 10,000 hours of flying as a base. The FI 00 had 13 major accidents, the F101 had 16, the FI 02 had 12. the Ft 04 had 17, the F105 had 12 and the FI 06 had 8. The Phantom, which is the F4, in the first 5,000 flying hours had 6, while the Fill had 2 in the first 5,000 flying hours. For the first 10,000 flying hours the Fill had 7 losses only, plus 1 recently. The Fill compares well with any other modern aircraft and cannot be condemned because of the number of crashes.
If we examine the attack of the Opposition we find that much of it is based upon false premises and in some cases - and I refer to a statement made by the Leader of the Opposition in Perth - upon false statements. If the Opposition believed that it had a strong case there was no need for the Leader of the Opposition to make the statement that he made in Perth, which is so easily disproved. There is no objection to tabling papers. The Government has made that clear. The two reservations relate to information classified for security reasons - and the Opposition does not want that tabled - and documents concerning government-to-government agreements. Subject to that 1 support the tabling of the papers. I support the amendment proposed by the Government because I believe it. puts beyond doubt the issue that only those papers should be tabled which do not in any way put Australia in a position where it does not honour agreements with other countries that might in the long term reflect very badly on us and react against us. 1 have no objection to the motion for the tabling of the papers.
(10.4] - Tonight the Senate is dealing with a motion proposed by the Opposition for the tabling of papers which constitute the original arrangements made by the Australian Government for the pur chase of Fill aircraft and all subsequent variations in the arrangements. Senn tor Murphy rather vehemently entered upon his advocacy of that motion by suggesting that it was needful for him to express in strong language the accountability of the Government to the Parliament for the expenditure of public money. Senator Anderson, who led for the Government, and Senator Sim, who has just spoken, made it abundantly clear that the Government acknowledges that proposition. The Prime Minister (Mr Gorton), in a reply in another place, today made it perfectly clear that:
As a government we wish to give to the Parliament of this country as much information as possible about the arrangements for the purchase of Fill aircraft.
I should have thought that in the light of that statement it was a mere rhetorical exercise on the part of the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy) to speak as warmly as he did about the accountability to Parliament because the Prime Minister has gone out of his way to make it clear that as a government we wish to give to the Parliament of this country as much information as possible about the arrangements for the purchase of FU 1 aircraft.
The Government, in deciding to purchase a bomber aircraft of this kind, obviously was dealing with matters of high military significance to the country. As one authority said recently, matters such as documents that come under the scrutiny of an enemy eye and which give a clue to the significance of weaponry, even from the point of view sometimes of its economic price or the volume of programme of construction, have to be assessed insofar as their disclosure is or may be prejudicial to the security of the country. The Leader of the Opposition has endeavoured to take care of that situation, although some of the remarks that Senator Cohen let fall seemed to detract from Senator Murphy’s exception. Senator Murphy couched his exception in the following language:
The Leader of the Government (Senator Anderson), thinking that not explicit enough, has advanced for the Senate’s consideration an alternative exclusion in these terms: but excluding any material (a) that is classified and should not be made public for security reasons; and, (b) that records confidential arrangements between Australia and another nation and cannot be disclosed without adversely affecting our reunions wilh that nation.
– There is no such arrangement existing.
– J am not here to confirm facts with regard to that, although since this matter was raised I have spent many hours making myself acquainted with a small portion of the files. So far I have been able to peruse but sufficient of them to indicate that tse second part of the amendment proposed by the Leader of the Government is very relevant and factual. 1 listened intently to Senator Gair’s remarks as to the difference, if any, between the two motions. 1 took longhand notes at the time. I gathered that Senator Gair holds that the exception in Senator Murphy’s motion and the description in Senator Anderson’s motion of the material that the Government would seek to exclude are on all fours, and that there is no vast difference in general principle between them. That is my understanding of the sense in which Senator Gair interprets the two proposed amendments. As to the relevance of paragraph (b) in Senator Anderson’s motion. Senator Gair went on to make it clear that he would not wish to be party to anything that would savor of a government’s breach of a confidence with another nation. He said it was important that international undertakings should not be broken or repudiated, and that he would think very poorly of a government that did conduce to the repudiation of such an undertaking.
I have referred to that part of Senator Gair’s speech because of his interpretation of the parenthetical part of Senator Murphy’s motion which, at the time, Senator Gair was disposed to support. On that basis, he said that there was not any substantial difference between that part of Senator Murphy’s motion and Senator Anderson’s amendment. So that there will be no lack of candour in this debate, having regard to Senator Cavanagh’s interjection. I ask honourable senators to cast their minds back to the circumstances in which the arrangements for the purchase of the Fill aircraft were made, lt will bc remembered that the arrangements were made in October 1963. At that time the FI IIA aircraft, or TFX as it was then called, was on the drawing board. A new programme of bomber construction was in its early stages. The United Kingdom was then developing a programme for the TSR2 aircraft. Honourable senators will remember that there was something of a competition between the two countries to sell their aircraft to Australia. There was the greatest anxiety on the part of both the United States of America and the United Kingdom at that time that the terms, including price specifications, should not be made public. Senator Cavanagh may ponder whether it would be expected that the documents themselves would contain clauses obligating Australia to restrict or prevent the disclosure of such terms. I ask Senator Cavanagh to exercise the function of thinking and, postulating the possibility that the contract requires the purchaser not to make public matters relating to the terms of the purchase-
– Does the Minister say that the contract implies that?
– I did not say that. I asked the honourable senator to consider that possibility for the purpose of the Senate’s expressing the exception which is the matter in issue. The Government has said that it is willing and anxious on request to table the papers, but as all speakers in this debate tonight have acknowledged, the Government has an imperative duty in the interests of the security of this country not to make public anything that would prejudice our security, arising out of such tabling.
– We do not disagree with that.
– No, as I understand it. I was only developing this matter for the purpose of interesting the Senate in any possible difference between the expression of the Government’s proposed amendment and Senator Murphy’s parenthetic exclusion.
– I think they mean the same, in substance.
– I gathered that the honourable senator took that point of view.
I was referring to a few aspects of the matter hoping to persuade the honourable senator to think that the expression of the Government’s proposed amendment is preferable. 1 would even appeal to the Opposition to consider the Government’s proposed amendment. I suggest that it certainly is in accordance with proper principle. 1 ask Senator Cohen to consider some of the discussions that have recently taken place in the law courts with regard to privilege against disclosure on the ground of public interest. He may be reminded that what has been there said as a fundamental proposition is that documents that are prejudicial to security or to diplomatic relations should not be disclosed. That is one expression used by Lord Reed.
– They have already been published in the United States.
- Senator Cavanagh says that they have all been published in the United Slates. About 2 or 3 weeks after Mr Townley was in the United States to negotiate trie purchase contract, the Congressional Committee was sitting. I think it resumed on 19th November. The record shows that a few general questions were addressed to the Deputy Secretary of State about the transaction Mr McNamara had negotiated for the building of FI IIA aircraft, and then as to Australia’s purchase of them, lt will be noted that the particulars of the contract were not produced to the Committee. With the full assent of the Committee the witness was permitted to make a statement on the contents of the contract document. So far as I remember, the Committee did not suggest that there was any lack of credence due to the witness, who could make up the statement from the document.
The record shows that statement to be the substance of the Australian contract, lt refers to the first payment of $20,000 having been made on 31st December 1963, although the witness was giving evidence on 19th November 1963. So it will be seen that the witness was allowed to give the substance of the contract and then, as the record of the evidence went through its processes of transcription, no doubt after the Committee had suggested that it should bc censored by the security people, that reference was obviously incorporated after 31st December 1963. So what appears in the Congressional Record is nothing at all of the compact document; it is a statement of the suhsinr.ee of it. I make that remark only for the purpose of further consideration by Senator Cavanagh.
I was putting to the Senate that consideration would suggest that if we have proper regard for principles we will adopt the Government amendment which, as Senator Gair interprets it, is to the same effect as the Opposition’s amendment. As to the exception, if that view is adhered to, I do not suppose it will matter very much which form of words is finally adopted by the Senate. All I am suggesting is that having regard to the predominant interest and duty of the Government to preserve the secrecy of all1 the documents which pertain to the military security of this country and all documents which, by reason of diplomatic or international arrangements are required to be kept within the confidence of the Government, it would be preferable to adopt the form of words in Senator Anderson’s amendment. I hope to persuade the Senate to adope that course.
If I may pass on from that, the next point I come to is Senator Gair’s adumbrated amendment, lt is his suggestion that if the documents are voluminous or complex they should be referred to a practised committee of the Parliament, the Joint Committee of Publ’ic Accounts, which could be asked to give advice to the Senate and report, after scrutiny of the documents, whether at the time of committal of moneys all adequate provision was made for the protection of the Consolidated Revenue Fund. If the situation is as Senator Gair envisages - it is quite obvious that he has had an indication of the voluminous nature of the documents on the file with relation to the Fill aircraft - in my view it would be quite in accordance wilh the practicable course that some practised committee should perform the office of scrutinising the documents lo see whether proper financial obligations were carefully observed by the Government in entering into the contract. I should have thought (hat perhaps it would have been better to deal wilh that after the documents were tabled. However. I put that suggestion for consideration only; 1 am not voicing any real objection to it in the terms in which it was moved. 1 have said enough to indicate that the Government is on common ground with Senator Gair when he says that the Government should welcome the opportunity to put the papers on the table. Although it has been said that we are not here tonight to debate the merits of the transaction, I shall indicate in my few terse, blunt statements some reasons why I think the Government would welcome a full scrutiny of these documents. First, we have been asked to listen to a suggestion read from a newspaper, the ‘Examiner’ of Launceston, that this transaction was entered upon as an election gimmick. The fact. is. as the record incontrovertibly proves, that as early as May of that year, the transaction being in October, a very experienced bomber evaluation committee, consisting of the distinguished officers whose names were read out by my colleague Senator Sim, was sent abroad for the purpose of reporting to the Government on the appropriate unit to replace the Canberra bomber, lt was the common opinion on both sides of the House that in 1 963 it was prudent to be considering a replacement for the Canberra bomber. Mr Whitlam - none other - said, as reported in Hansard in October 1963, the very month in which Mr Townley was able to negotiate this purchase:
The Labor Party believes that the Canberra should be replaced immediately. We would acquire a small number of replacements, possibly the Vigilante or the Phantom, to fill the bill until the TFX or some other suitable plane is available in 4 or 5 years’ time.
So the Labor Party, in the year in which we were indulging in this election gimmick, was saying that the immediate replacement of the Canberra bomber with the TFX - now referred to as the FI 1 1 - would suit it because until it became available in 4 years’ time it would buy an interim bomber. The nonsense of that has been revealed tonight by Senator Sim by referring to the programme stage of these two aircraft. However, my colleague did not refer to the cost. The cost of these two interim aircraft would have sent sky high the cost of the FI 1 1 project, with which we as well as the Opposition are concerned. It would have been a way over and above the $US300m to which the Minister for Defence (Mr Fairhall) referred in his statement to the House of Representatives in May in giving an estimate of the final cost of the Fill. So the Opposition was arguing then not merely for an immediate replacement of the Canberra bomber; it was not merely arguing that we should buy the TFX for 4 years hence; it was arguing that we should as an interim stopgap measure, buy other expensive air craft . which were moving towards obsolesence. In those circumstances it is suggested that we indulged in an election gimmick.
– -What was the contract?
– The second point I wish to make is more interesting still. I ask only for a hearing and, if honourable senators opposite do not mind, an exercise in understanding. My point is that when the bomber evaluation committee returned from its very extensive studies abroad it listed five planes that were capable of consideration. The TFX was reported as being the most appropriate, the best performer, the bomber to suit Australia’s requirements best, but having regard to the time that was expected to intervene between then and delivery there was some risk that the Canberra bomber would cease to be effective before the TFX could come into operation. But the outstanding fact is that the Press of this country has never printed that the Government has stated repeatedly that of those five aircraft then available to us the TFX was the cheapest of the five - not cheaper by threepence but cheaper by many millions of dollars. There was not a great difference with regard to the first-
– But you did not sign the contract to stipulate the price.
– We have our great experts like Senator Cavanagh.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Drake-Brockman) - Order! In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
The Senate divided. (The Deputy President- Senator T. C. Drake-Brockman)
Majority . . 2
Question so resolved in the negative.
– I was referring to the original cost of the aircraft and I had said that of the five bombers evaluated by the committee the TFX was the cheapest and the cheapest by far. Some virtue has been extracted from the candour of the United States in discussion of these matters and honourable senators have gone to the record of the Congress of 19th November 1963. Just in passing, 1 should like to call attention to the fact that but 9 days before that on 10th November 1963 our own Minister for Defence, the late Mr Townley, made a statement on this matter in which he disclosed the approximate price and then went on to say that the bomber evaluation team had reported the TFX to be the best for Australia’s purposes and that it would be provided to Australia on the most favourable price and other terms that we had ever been offered in the history of the Air Force. Mr Townley drew attention to the observation already made by the Prime Minister that the FI IIA cost to Australia was very considerably lower than that of the TSR2. That is the second point I wish to make clear.
The third point is one that has been adverted to by Senator Gair this evening as lo whether there is any ceiling to the cost. It has been made quite clear in the speech of the Minister for Defence in May of this year that there is a ceiling and the ceiling adopted was the same as that which, after the TSR2 was abandoned, the United States conceded to the United Kingdom when it purchased first 10 and then. I think, 50 TFX or FI IIA aircraft. I am at liberty to disclose to the Senate just what appears upon the British record. We might have certain things that are confidential between us and the United Kingdom that we cannot disclose but for the information of the Senate I bring to mind the White raper that is in the defence review for 1966. At page 11 of that document, a public document from the British Government, appears:
The ceiling unit price for the basic aircraft wau $US5.95m or about £2.1m covering production costs, and a contribution to the United States research and development costs will apply to the total purchase and this will be met by credit terms spread to 1977.
It has not been suggested that the Australian purchase did not include its proper proportion of the research and development cost of this bomber. All I am saying is that a ceiling price has been negotiated between the Australian and American authorities on the basis that I have mentioned.
The next thing I want to raise is the responsible references that have been made to the performance of the Fill. If we see trenchant criticism which we are not able to vouch for or to verify, either from expert evidence given to us or from our own experience, it is quite legitimate to refer to it, but I hardly think it is the best contribution to the defence of the country to seek to get undue newspaper publicity of criticisms that prevail in the world of journalism to the effect that the TFX is an ill performing unit. The Minister for Air (Mr Freeth) spoke in the debate in the House of Representatives in May and it is obvious either that his speech was not assimilated or that it has been disregarded deliberately. Remember that Mr Freeth has some knowledge of Air Force terms. He stated that the losses sustained by this aircraft - the TFX or the Fill - in the first 5,000 hours of flying were better than most in previous recent experience. The actual major accident record to which he referred indicated that the FI 00 suffered 7 accidents, the FI 01 had 11, the FI 02 had 9, the FI 04 had 14, the F.105 had 8, the F106 had 7, the F4 had 6 and the Fill had 2. Of the whole of that group the Fill had the best performance.
There has come into my possession today an Air Force space digest, the credibility of which I do not know but its format and authority indicate to me that it is worthy of quotation. Mr Claude White, senior editor of the journal published in July 1968, said that some things were not secret. For example, there was the standing record of the number of major accidents in the first 10,000 hours of Hying. The Fill A was compared with other century series fighters with this result: FI 00. 13 major accidents; 7101, 16; FI 02. 12; FI 04. 17; F105, 12; FI06, 8; and FI IIA, 5. The five FI IIA accidents did not include one loss after the 10,000 hours mark was passed and one accident involving the Navy’s FU IB version. And of course it does not include the accident that was reported last week. A responsible attitude to the record should allow the understanding to develop that, if those are the facts, by comparison with other bomber programmes the experience of the Fill suggests that on the basis of safety reliability it is superior-
– Goodness me.
– I suggest that proves incontrovertibly to the willing mind, the balanced, the intelligent, that on a safety reliability basis it is superior to any of those aircraft that I have mentioned. There was incorporated into the Congressional Record of March of this year for the consideration of the Senate an article by the Associate Editor. Mr W. Ireland, who said that this bird was man made. He referred to the Fill, formerly the TFX, as probably the most fantastic flying machine American ingenuity had ever conceived.
– What is the date of that?
– This is an article published in the March edition of ‘The Nation’s Business Magazine’ which was incorporated in the Congressional Record. Mr Claude White, in the article to which I have referred, went on to say that indications were that the FI I. I.A, under observation by more sophisticated reporters, was being accepted as a weapons system in its own right capable of the most accurate allweather weapons delivery in air history. I do not ask honourable senators to accept that but it is due to the nation and to the Air Force, which has recommended this plane and which is to fly this plane, that we at least should balance the record by some opinion as to the aircraft’s merits.
I have referred to the original cost of the aircraft and now I wish to refer to the escalation of cost. People have said glibly: $US125m was the estimated original cost but now it is up to something of the order of $300m’. May I be permitted lo say that we should first consider the cost of the machine itself. If we do that we will find that the cost has not increased by much more than 30% or 40%. However when you consider all the support equipment that is necessary to make this highly sophisticated machine operational in Australia where we do not have the manufactory to call on, there you find a tremendously increased cost. I am not at liberty to disclose the figures at this stage, but the escalation is quite significant. However, it is not out of line with modern aviation experience.
I will give some other examples. Those who wish to check my figures may find them set out in the House of Representatives Hansard for May of this year. The cost of the Anglo-French Concorde programme was estimated at £Stg120m 3 or 4 years ago and today it is estimated at £Stg500m. There are other instances of price increases for defence equipment. In 1960 the Bloodhound missiles cost $6. 2m. In V967 their replacements were estimated to cost $ 1 8.443m. Each figure included spares. In 1964 the Caribou aircraft: cost $667,000. In 1968 its replacement, the Buffalo aircraft, was expected to cost $2.024m. So that when one gets into the realm of escalation of costs in relation to defence aircraft one ought to put a measuring stick on one’s perspective before regarding oneself as a competent critic.
Taking into account the five points that I have made, T feel that if the Government finds itself able to disclose these matters, having regard to its highest obligations in the interests of national security and to its obligations to other countries, it will welcome the opportunity to produce the required documents and lo debate them. The Government will support the motion for the tabling of papers but it will seek to amend the motion in the terms moved by Senator Anderson. If Senator Gair proceeds with his amendment the Government will listen to and respect what he has to say.
– I propose to be very brief on this occasion. I cannot see why there is a sense of urgency about this matter all of a sudden.
– All of a sudden!
– Yes, all of a sudden there is a sense of urgency about this matter. Why the urgency? The Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) has given an undertaking that is subject to certain conditions. I imagine that his qualification can be cleared up within the next 2 or 3 weeks. Does it matter if the Senate waits another 2 or 3 weeks before the information that it quite properly requires is given?
– The Government said that it would not give the information to us at all.
– The honourable senator will have an opportunity to speak at a later stage. I fail to see the reason for the urgency that seems to be in the minds of the Opposition. There is no justification for it at all. I think that the amendment moved by the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Anderson) is quite fair, ft does not debar the papers from being tabled in the Senate, so that honourable senators will have an opportunity of examining them. Although the Leader of the Government’s amendment contains certain reservations, surely his reservations are fair and reasonable, lt is all very well to say that the Senate should not have to wait until the Government has had consultations with its allies in regard to the tabling of this information, but J differ on that score.
Australia entered into agreement with another nation for the purchase of these aircraft and, as has been pointed out by previous speakers, it is obvious that certain matters in connection with the agreement that was entered into could not possibly be made public. It could well be that it would inconvenience the other nation that is our partner if we were to go ahead and make public some parts of the agreement that was entered into, even though we did so with all the goodwill in the world. Is this the right way to go about maintaining cordial relations with the strongest ally Australia has? I want to remind the Senate of what happened when the Australian Labor Party, which is the Opposition at present, was in power and when the same nation that the present Government has entered into an agreement with simply could not trust the then Australian government.
– Cut it out.
– This is the truth and the honourable senator knows it is. He may not like it but it is the truth.
– lt is not nonsense. It it the truth. The same thing would happen again if the Opposition were in power. Thank heavens Australia is not being governed by the present Opposition. Otherwise Australia would not have any allies. The Opposition acts in such a manner that no allies would trust it. This happened before.
Senator Murphy picked out certain statements ; enough to suit him ; made during the course of a United State committee investigation. As Senator Wright said, most of those statements were made available by the late Athol Townley shortly after he entered into agreement with the United States. Yet they are now brought forward as though they have just been made public. Over the years the Government has been condemned because Australia’s armaments have been obsolete or because we did not have enough armaments. But when the Government enters into an agreement to get the most modern aircraft of its type in the world it is criticised, because of what [ call the teething troubles of the aircraft. The FI 1 1 has proved so far to be unquestionably the best aircraft of its type in the world. Nothing can be compared with it. The Government has been condemned for not having modern equipment. Once it obtains modern equipment I do not think it should continue to be criticised. However, I realise it is an Opposition’s job to criticise.
I think it was obvious to any reasonable person that the original estimate of the cost might possibly need to be revised. I feel that this point was made very well by Senator Wright. In my view the very modernity - if I can use that term - of thu aircraft indicated that estimates could not be given with any degree of accuracy. Also it should not be forgotten that a lot of modifications have been made since this aircraft was first ordered. 1 have asked myself: ls the Opposition really concerned about this aircraft? Is it concerned that Australia is to be provided with the most modern aircraft of its type? Or are the members of the Opposition merely concerned with trying to develop a political issue which they hope will do some damage to the Government? 1 do not mind their trying to do damage to the Government. That is their role. But 1 think it is a very poor show when, in trying to do damage to the Government Opposition members or the Press or anybody else does harm to the country. This is what the Opposition is doing at the moment.
– lt is not rubbish. I. say emphatically that time and time again when the defence of this country is at stake we have seen obstacles put in the way of our defence by the Opposition. Unfortunately, 1 suppose we shall see this again. That is why honourable senators opposite are where they are and why we are sitting on this side of the chamber. After all, the Australian public will not be fooled. 1 said earlier that this country with which we have entered into an agreement for the supply of this aircraft is our strongest ally today. That is something which we all need to keep in mind. I am not suggesting for one moment that when we are endeavouring to purchase these aircraft we should allow that country to overcharge for them. I am quite convinced that the charges being made are fair not only to us but also to the country that is producing the aircraft, and they are consistent with the cost of it.
Members of the Opposition seem to doubt my statement about their altitude where the defence of this country is concerned. I ask them to remember the attitude they adopted towards North West Cape a couple of years ago and the attitude they adopted in connection with Manus Island. Thi.= incident is but typical of the attitude adopted by Opposition senators. Why do they not wake up? I submit that honourable senators opposite would do well indeed to let matters stand where they are until the Prime Minister has had an opportunity to carry out the undertaking he has given to find out from the United States what: information is classified in their opinion. Ido not suggest by any means that he should get their permission. But he has given an undertaking to find out what they feel is classified and then to table the other information here. He is prepared to do that and I think that is what should be done. I make no bones about that. 1 do regret the innuendoes contained in the speech delivered by the Leader of the Opposition. He seemed to imply that there was something underhand going on in connection with the delivery of this aircraft. I do not know whether he sought to convey that impression. Let me remind the Senate, and the Opposition in particular, should there be any need for a reminder - surely there should not be - that no breath of scandal has ever been attached to any member of this Government since we became Une Government in 1949. That is a record of which every one of us should be proud and, because of that record, I merely dismiss Senator Murphy’s innuendoes as unworthy. It is absolute nonsense to suggest, as was suggested by one member of the Opposition, that the Government intended to retard any inquiry. There is no truth in it all all. I conclude by saying that I am informed by one who should know that when contracts are entered into between two countries it is the commonly accepted practice that no details of any agreement between them shall be made public by one country without the consent and knowledge of the other. In view of all these things, I say to the Senate that it should either defeat the motion submitted by the Opposition or accept the amendment moved by the Leader of the Government.
– Madam Acting Deputy President-
– On a point of order: Does this involve the closing of the debate?
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT - (Senator Dame Ivy Wedgwood) - The
Leader of the Opposition can speak to the amendment.
– I intend to close the debate. I have been called.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT - The debate cannot be closed until after the amendment has been put.
– Madam Acting Deputy President, this is an important matter and we would like to see the Senate come to a conclusion on the subject, lt has been argued at very great length. The pertinent issues have been fully canvassed and we think that the Senate should come to its conclusion as speedily as possible. We have seen a number of speakers on the Government side put forward much the same kind of argument and iit looks as if some process of stalling is to be engaged in so that, perhaps by exhaustion, honourable senators might be induced to give it away and the Government might be able to delay what it considers to be the evil day.
The issues are clear and, as was said by Senator Gair, it is timely for this motion to be put. We have waited for years for the Government to put before the Parliament the full information that it now says it is anxious to put before the Parliament. Why did it not present it before? I would like to thank those honourable senators who have assisted by their assiduity and persistence in seeking out documents. In particular I would like to thank Senator Poyser who obtained the documents from the United States of America from which I quoted earlier and which were used by Senator Cohen also on an earlier occasion.
– On a point of order: I regret that I was .not here when the honourable senator commenced his remarks. If he has moved to close the debate by way of a motion, which is commonly known as the gag, we resist this action. I do not see the point of his discussing the subject matter as he is now proceeding to do. It seems to me that the question of the closure of the debate should be put, because obviously we will resist it.
– I rise on a point of order. I submit that Senator Murphy is not closing (he debate. There is an amendment before the House. Consideration of the amendment comes first and debate on it has yet to be concluded. Therefore Senator Murphy can be heard on the amendment. There is no proposal for closure at the moment.
– The other matter can be discussed once we have disposed of the consideration before us now. The amendment relates to the matters which, wc have seen, have been dealt with in the United Stales. They have been dealt with at large and great consideration has been given to them in detail. No pretentions have been made that there is any confidentiality about these matters. The Government is seeking to put forward something which would serve to cloak its action in not tabling the documents that are sought.
Once again I make it clear to the Senate, in relation to the Government’s amendment, that what the Opposition is seeking in the motion is the production of the arrangements made as to finance - the commercial arrangements and the provisions which would ensure that we were getting what we were bargaining for and that we were placed in a position in which Australia could be properly protected. Noone is the slightest bit concerned with military secrets. The Government knows well that the documents that completed this transaction - the memoranda of understanding - do not contain military secrets. They are documents which, in their very nature, contain the commercial arrangements that have been made. As I have said and as is apparent from what has been said in the United States, the documents will disclose the foolhardiness of the Government. The Government’s amendment is designed - and one can see from what was said by Senator Wright that it would no doubt be used for this purpose - to avoid the placing before the Senate of the documents which should properly be placed before it.
On the general question of confidence, one should remember that the Government, when it enters into any arrangement, does so on the basis that it is a government and is responsible to the Parliament. Do not let anybody tell me that the United States Government enters into any arrangements on the basis (hat commerical matters of this kind, including the protective clauses but leaving aside actual military secrets, will not be disclosed to the United States Congress when it asks for them. I have never heard of anything so ridiculous. All these documents convey the exact opposite. That is completely inconsistent with the whole record of legislative control of the Executive in the United States. The whole system is based on that. Honourable senators know that the arrangements into which the United States enters, whatever they might be, are made subject to the Constitution of that country. In the same way, arrangements entered into by the Australian Government are known bv the whole world to be subject to the Australian Constitution. Any government of this character enters into arrangements on the basis that it is responsible to Parliament and must account to Parliament.
Questions of military secrets are right out of this debate. No-one is concerned with them. No-one wants them, although it is apparent that what the Government in this case regards as being a military secret is not so regarded in the United States. We do not ask for anything in the nature of military secrets but we do not want the disclosure of those documents that will show the ineptitude of this Government and its failure to protect the people. The motion, with the amendment that has been suggested by the Leader of the Democratic Labor Party (Senator Gair), will reach that goal. Therefore, I ask the Senate to reject the Government’s amendment and ultimately to pass the motion with the addendum that has been proposed by the Democratic Labor Party.
– Firstly I wish to comment on what Senator Murphy said recently about exhaustion. He said that we had debated this matter al great length, lt is a great pity that members of the Opposition did not also debate it at great depth. Almost from the time the motion was moved, members of the Opposition have departed from its substance and have chased all sorts of rabbits down various burrows.
I wish to address some remarks to the second leg of Senator Anderson’s amendment. Tt seems to me to come to the crux of the whole subject matter of this debate. The Opposition seems to have adopted the attitude of not supporting the second leg of Senator Anderson’s amendment. I am surprised that the Australian Democratic Labor Party supports the Labor Party in its attitude. 1 would have thought that a convention had developed over the years that communications as between a Prime Minister and a Premier were not disclosed without the consent of both parties. I am sure that Senator Gair will correct me if I am wrong in my understanding of the position. But if this is a valid convention as between Prime Ministers and Premiers surely it is equally valid in respect of com munications between the Australian Government and overseas governments.
Why does the Opposition oppose the second leg of Senator Anderson’s amendment? 1 can only suggest, as I did in my speech on the Budget, that the Labor Party has been in opposition for so long that it cannot, act constructively. It does not have the faintest conception of how a government should act. The Labor Party’s opposition to the second leg of Senator Anderson’s amendment is in line with permanent Opposition thinking. Why should it worry whether arrangements between governments are upset? It will never bc in government. It will never be in a position to enter into arrangements with any government because by its altitude and mentality it has condemned itself to permanent opposition. This has been the tenor of speeches from the Opposition tonight. Honourable senators opposite have not displayed a responsible attitude to the matter of one government dealing with another. Honourable senators opposite seem to imagine that a sense of responsibility in conducting business at government level is of no importance. They seem to think that governments would speak to each other in confidence and disclose their hand even if they knew that these matters could be tabled in a place such as the Senate. I think it is unreasonable to expect the Government to disclose all of the matters referred to in the second leg of Senator Anderson’s amendment.
– The honourable senator knows that there is no such thing.
– It is all very well for Senator Cavanagh to make that remark. He seems to have some knowledge about this matter which he has not been prepared to disclose tonight. In view of all the comments indicating that so much knowledge resides in honourable senators opposite one would imagine that we would have had some evidence produced tonight, instead of which we have had a series of statements debating the merits and demerits of the aircraft and having nothing to do with the substance of the motion.
– Does Senator Withers not agree that we would be assisted by having the documents and the facts before us?
– From the moment the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) first spoke on this subject 1 have never understood that there was any inhibition on his part to produce the documents, subject to the safeguards mentioned by Senator Anderson. For the life of me I cannot understand why the Opposition will not accept this proposal.
– The Prime Minister will produce only what he wants to produce.
– It is easy to say things like thai if one is prepared to take the irresponsible Opposition attitude. If Senator Cavanagh thinks that the Prime Minister is without honour, is a deliberate double crosser and is not prepared to tell the truth, let him say so, but to sit back and by innuendo and interjection make the suggestions that he has been making tonight is unbecoming. The Prime Minister has made no bones about his attitude. The Leader of the Government in the Senate has said that the Government is prepared to produce the documents, subject to certain provisos. We have had assurances in this regard from Senator Wright and Senator Mckellar - both members of the Ministry. What more does the Opposition want? Does the Opposition wish to have the documents disclosed willy-nilly without any regard whatsoever to the security of the country? lt is no use saying: ‘Yes, we believe thai matters affecting military security should not be disclosed’ and not attempting to define military security. That is humbug. The Opposition is not prepared to accept the proposition that confidential arrangements between Australia and another nation should not be disclosed without the consent of the other parly. This is something which the Opposition has not been prepared to face in the debate:
Having listened to the debate, one could hardly imagine that we were debating the substance of Senator’s Murphy’s motion. Honourable senators opposite have talked about the aircraft, its capabilities, its cost and’ everything associated with it, but one thing that no honourable senator opposite has been prepared to. talk about, nol even Senator Murphy when he rose to speak as I imagined against Senator Anderson’s amendment, is the second leg of the amendment. Senator Murphy skirted it. Yet this is the crux of the debate in which we have been indulging since Senator Anderson resumed his seat some 2± hours ago.
– Senator Anderson was not very bright about his amendment. He did not have it written out or typed out. He was very casual about it.
– I am not responsible for what he may or may not have done. Senator Gair may have knowledge that I do not have, but I have yet to hear anybody from the Democratic Labor Party stale his views on what should be disclosed about confidential arrangements between Australia and another nation. I think it is time honourable senators opposite started to speak about thai matter. We on this side of the chamber make no bones about it. We think, as a matter of normal, civilised arrangements between nations, one should not disclose information of this kind if one wishes to deal in a civilised and confidential nature with other nations in the future. I do not think there is much more to be said.
– You have said nothing so far, so sit down.
– Al least I have had sufficient intestinal fortitude to rise and say what I think. I have not just sat here and made the kind of interjection for which Senator Cavanagh is noted. 1 have never yet fallen for the proposition in which the Opposition seems to believe, that vulgar abuse is a valid substitute for argument. If we accept that as a proposition we do so at our own peril. I support the amendment moved by Senator Anderson. I trust that those who have the real interests of the country al heart will do the same.
Senator LITTLE (Victoria) [11.231-1 will not speak for long because I too would like to see a decision taken on the motion and the amendment. I feel that some points which have crept into the debate should be answered on behalf of the Australian Democratic Labor ‘Party. 1 do not agree that one can discuss the present motion in relation to the Fill without mentioning the aircraft and its suspect aptitude to perform in accordance with the original expectations. If it were not for that aspect we would not be discussing the matter now. Probably the aircraft would have been delivered according lo schedule and it would not have been necessary to discuss this motion in relation to tabling the papers. How can we ask for the tabling of the papers without referring in some way to the suspected deficiencies that arc being disclosed in the early stages of the development of this weaponry system, as described by Mr Fairhall, not as an aircraft but, as Senator Wright put it also, a weaponry system? 1 noticed that Senator Wright adverted to the price for the basic aircraft as distinct from (he ultimate price to Australia. He referred in certain ways to the volume of production and to the price itself as being one of the pieces of information that could well be classified. Whether they were accurate or inaccurate I am not in a position to say, but 1 have heard canvassed throughout the world pretty close approximations of the price and, without any doubt, the volume of production. Everybody knows how many Fill aircraft Australia has ordered. Everybody knows how many England ordered. Of course England later cancelled its order. Everybody knows how many aircraft the United States has ordered. As they seem to be the only governments that have indicated that they wish to accept these planes, the volume of production generally is known throughout the world.
That does not exclude the possibility that this contract contains classified information. We support the idea that that information should be reserved as the right of the Government and should not be produced here. Paragraph (b) of the amendment moved by the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Anderson) contains these words: that records confidential arrangements between Australia and another nation. . . .
The operative words are ‘confidential arrangements’. I was wondering whether any need exists for the expression ‘confidential arrangements’ in respect of matters that seem to be widely canvassed in the newspapers of the world. If these arrangements were of such a character that another nation asked that they be regarded as confidential, I would regard them as being classified. Surely - 1 think that this was the point that Senator Gair made - if they are merely arrangements with another government and that government has not requested that they be kept confidential the arrangements in themselves do not make them confidential. The attitude of any government that makes an arrangement with another government without requesting or specifying that that arrangement should be confidential would be to expect that that other government, in a democracy anyway, would disclose the arrangement to the Parliament of the country concerned. I do not accept the broad interpretation that any arrangements that have been made with any other country necessarily are confidential unless it has been so specified at the time of the making of the arrangements.
– Or understood?
– ‘Or understood’ would not be sufficient in my mind. Unless a government has the commonsense, if it considers it important enough, to demand specifically that certain arrangements be confidential, it cannot enter a world of imagination like Alice in Wonderland and dream up for itself the thought that it was understood that the arrangements were to be confidential. If matters are to be confidential between nations so that they will not be disclosed to the parliaments of those nations, that should be clearly specified so that no doubt can arise or so that it cannot be left in the realm of possibility. This, of course, excludes the possibility that lawyers live on. Lawyers have their arguments as to what was meant after the ball. If a government wished to have a completely confidential arrangement, it would have the sense to say so and to say so in such explicit terms that it could not be just merely understood or dreamed about but given as a guarantee by one government to the other. If that was so, the matter would be classified.
What in the devil are all the arguments about? Let us take some of criticism that has been suggested tonight. I was amazed to hear that matters between the Prime Minister and Premiers were confidential, particularly after the amount of material I have read in our newspapers recently even when the Prime Minister and the Premiers concerned are of the same political persuasion. At the moment a great deal of criticism seems to be exercised by Premiers of the Prime Minister and the Federal Government, irrespective of the correspondence that may be going on between them.
– Has the honourable senator ever heard of Bolte’s famous letter?
– I do not know that it is very relevant to the prospect we have before us. The philosophy was canvassed by Senator Mckellar that if the documents were laid upon the table of this Parliament it could do harm lo this country. I remind him that a lot more harm will be done to our security if there is a persistence with the half-truths and non-supply of information to the Australian public, not only on questions about the mode of our future defence, but also on precisely what is taking place today in other parts of the world.
I criticise the Government because we arc getting so little information. We are being starved of information and facts. About half the population seem to be swallowing false information because we are not getting the facts presented in the way demanded by our modern mode of life. If Government supporters want to harm this country in terms of defence, 1 say they should persist with the attitude being adopted. In that way far more harm will be done to our future security than by telling the people honestly and precisely what is going on.
After 4 years of talk about the Fill aircraft, it has been praised in some quarters and has been criticised by an apparently reputable writer of an article quoted oy Senator Gair. The article was not written by a reporter unqualified in any way to offer criticism of the aircraft, lt was published in the London ‘Times’ under the signature of Harlow Unger of New York. 1 do not know whether he is an expert in this field, but I. would not imagine that a journal of the character of the London Times’ would publish an article unless the signatory had some authority in the field about which he was writing.
– Does the honourable senator prefer the writer of that article to our Air Force experts?
– I do not think our Air Force experts have assessed the current situation. They made their assessment 4 years ago when the Fill was on the drawing board. Their assessment may still be right. I am not saying that they are wrong.
– Does the honourable senator deny that our Air Force experts have been on the site for the past 3 years?
– I am not denying anything about the Air Force. I am not here to protect the Air Force. If there is a doubt, that is the responsibility of the Government because we have not been told enough about the transaction. Tonight we are trying to wipe out suspicion in t’“.e interests of our defence. We want to know more about it. Harlow Unger is tremendously critical of the Fill, lt has developed from the drawing board to the stage where it will fly, under certain circumstances. But if Harlow Unger is to be believed, its performance is not anywhere near the specifications that were first suggested for the aircraft. It is not the weight it was supposed to be; it is heavier.
– Was not the writer of that article referring to a different plane altogether - the Navy version?
– If the honourable senator reads the article he will see that the writer is not referring to the Navy version. He is referring to the Air Force version which is the aircraft we are concerned with today. I do not join in criticism of the Fill because I do not know enough about it to do that; but when this type of criticism is made, in the interests of everybody the atmosphere should be cleared. Otherwise suspicion and doubt will continue. Confidence will be undermined not only in this defence project but in all other defence projects of this country. That is indeed important. One of the strongest factors in the defence of any country is the morale of its people. The morale of the people in this country is suffering greatly from the lack of information about the difficulties that are developing and could be expected to develop out of such a completely revolutionary system of weaponry as that with which we are now concerned, of which this aircraft forms part. I hope that we are not to get only that part of the weaponry which is the aircraft itself.
I believe that the figures Senator Wright quoted tonight cannot be accurate, particularly those relating to the ceiling price that he suggested applied to Australia as well as to Britain. Surely he was not speaking of the figure it will cost Australia for this aircraft, because the figure he quoted seems to me to be in excess of the ceiling price that was placed even on the basic aircraft itself. I might have a poor conception of a ceiling price, but I understand that it is the highest price we could possibly pay. The figure quoted by Senator Wright does not appear to me to be the price for which we will eventually get this aircraft. However, the production of the papers we are demanding might clear up this doubt in my mind. If there is a doubt in my mind, surely there must be a doubt in the minds of many Australians. Those of us who have been tremendously interested in the defence of Australia believe that we will never develop unless we survive. In other words, the development of this country depends upon our capacity to guarantee our own security. The Democratic Labor Party has been interested in political thinking about defence and its members have not been among the critics of the Government or of the Air Force experts who were game enough to recommend the purchase of this system of weaponry when it was still on the drawing board. We have said that it is far better to purchase in that manner than to finish up again with something like the Wirraways which we attempted to use as fighters when (be security of this country was challenged once before. We agree with forward thinking in defence.
It has been suggested that, though the decision to purchase the Fill was not necessarily made for political purposes, the mature considerations that a project of this magnitude should be given could very well have been foreshortened because of the imminence of an election at the time when the decision was made. The suggestion I heard here tonight confirms in my mind a suspicion which I hope will be dispelled, in the interests of Australia, when the papers are presented. It was suggested that it was only a few months before the final decision was made that the experts of the armed Services of this country made the necessary inquiries and gave consideration to this project, which was then only at the drawing board stage. In my humble, inexperienced view, even experts of that calibre should have taken 6 months or even longer before recommending such a project. A decision by the Government on the requirements of the whole future defence structure, of which this weaponry system is only one part, could not properly, in my opinion, be made in days, weeks or even months. The taking of that decision could very well have extended over a far longer period than that if the Government had wanted to give the matter mature consideration before committing Australia, not only to the expense, which really is incidental if this project will provide the defence that we need, but also to this one mode of defence which might or might not blend with all other aspects of defence of Australia. This blending, I remind the Senate, is absolutely necessary with the modem, sophisticated armaments that are required to defend a country adequately today.
I believe that the resolution which is before the Senate should be carried. I believe that it is only sensible to accept the provisions in the amendment, which have been substantiated by the proposition foreshadowed by Senator Gair. These are required if the Australian people are to regain their confidence in a project which is so important to our defence. Should not we in this chamber, as representatives of the people, be regarding this not as merely a political issue to be discussed on a party basis, but rather as one which is important to the defence of Australia? Only on that basis can we re-establish in the minds of the Australian people confidence ;n this project, which is such a major one in the whole complex of Australia’s defence.
– This motion having been introduced to the Senate, I indicate quite clearly my support for it. In those moments when speakers from the Opposition have concentrated upon the motion which they put before the Senate and have advanced arguments in its favour I have found myself to be in general agreement with them. I suggest that no honourable senator could tolerate a situation in which any government could enter into arrangements and withhold those arrangements from members of the Parliament. Of course there will be some occasions when considerations of security or other justifications would warrant the Government coming before the Parliament and saying: ‘For these reasons we are unable now’, or ‘we are unable at any stage to give you the details and these are the reasons’. On this occasion the Government indicated, as clearly as words can express a meaning, that it was prepared to table the documents relating to this transaction, subject only to two requirements.
The first was that nothing which affected security would be divulged. The second was that tabling would be subject to negotiations and consultations with the United States Government as to whether or not that Government had any opinion lo express on whether these matters which the Australian Government regarded as confidential should be disclosed.
The statement of the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) which was made today indicated clearly that, subject to those discussions with the United States Government, the documents would be produced. We now have tonight, after that statement, a resolution moved by the Opposition seeking the tabling of the documents. In terms of what is necessary, the objective sought by the resolution is quite unnecessary unless - and this argument was not advanced - the Prime Minister’s statement today is regarded as having no validity. My sole purpose in rising is to direct the Senate’s attention to certain statements which have been made by the Opposition in support of its motion. I think it is fair to say, and the record supports it, that the Opposition has been conniving in an attempt to hoodwink the public as to the facts of this Fi 1 1 transaction. Facts have been ignored, extravagant allegations have been made, and the characteristic of these allegations has been their misleading nature.
– Are these not good reasons for the tabling of the papers?
– The honourable senator can use the arguments as he pleases. All I am concerned to do, as far as 1 am able, is to look at the record and put the record straight, and I would have thought that any member of this Senate, after the protestations that have been made about the rights of members of Parliament, would have been equally concerned for the truth. One item in the record is that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) said in Perth over the weekend that the initial decision to take the FI 1 1 was a hasty decision made without consulting the Royal Australian Air Force. This was a specific statement, unqualified and clear in its purport. lt was untrue.
– Did you hear it or did you read it in the Press?
– I did not hear it, I read it, and Mr Whitlam has not denied it. Indeed, he has affirmed it. If Senator Wilkinson wishes to suggest, as his interjection implies, that this statement was not made, I invite him to get up and say that if was not made. Let. us then see how the record stands. The statement made by Mr Whitlam comes ill from a man who is pitt before the people of this country as a man of credibility who ought to be believed.
– What has this to do with the subject before the Senate?
– If the honourable senator thinks 1 am hitting hard let me say that I intend to hit hard. 1 feel that there is an obligation on the Opposition when it attacks the Government at least to be accurate and truthful in its allegations. On this issue the record discloses that far from the account given by Mr Whitlam being true-
– ls this the record .ve tire calling for?
– Let me say what the record states. It shows that far from what Mr Whitlam said being true, in the year 1963 the decision to purchase the Fill was based upon an evaluation made by a Royal Australian Air Force team which was sent abroad to evaluate various types of aircraft. How, in the light of that fact, which is public knowledge, the Leader of the Australian Labor Party can go around the country making statements which are patently untrue can only be explained on the basis that he is careless with the truth.
Much that has been said here tonight can be similarly categorised. Senator Murphy, when introducing his motion, said that for years there has been doubt as to the wisdom of the arrangements, that costs have risen astronomically, that there has been a history of deception, a history of evasiveness and a history of uncertainty and doubt about the arrangements. He did not at any stage indicate where there had been deception and I suggest there has been no deception. He gave no illustration of evasiveness, and I say there has been no evasiveness, and I think the record bears me out.
– Read our questions in Hansard.
– 1 propose to do exactly that. On 19th May 1967 Senator
Murphy received a reply to a question he had put on notice. His question was in these terms:
This is the kind of question that has been posed tonight as the justification for the demand for the tabling of documents. Yet in May 1967 Senator Murphy had asked a question and had received an answer. For the benefit of honourable senators I propose to read the answer. Senator Gorton, as he then was, said:
The Minister for Defence has provided me with the following answers to the honourable senator’s questions:
As recently made clear by the Minister for Air. we ordered the FI 1 1 aircraft fourteen months before the nrst research aircraft flew, and at a stage when there was very little information on which to base costs. It was posssible at that stage, therefore, to give only an order of magnitude estimate of the likely cost of the project. The formula included in the original arrangement on which cost was to be determined was the average estimated unit cost of development and production based on the total production run rather than the actual cost associated with the production learning curve at the lime of delivery of the aircraft. From December 1964, more definite information upon which to calculate the costs of the aircraft has been emerging and we have since been pursuing enquiries about the cost of the aircraft and. in particular, the possibility of putting a ceiling upon the cost.
The agreement with the United States Government provides that the same conditions will govern the cost of the basic aircraft as applied to the sale of the aircraft to the United Kingdom i.e. that there is a ceiling price of $US5.950m per aircraft, subject to escalation of labour and materials from a basedate of 5th April 1965, and the cost of major engineering changes made to the aircraft. The effect of the ceiling price of $US5.950m ner aircraft is, firstly, that regardless of the production run we shall pay not more than $US5.9S0m per aircraft except to the extent that prices in the United States may escalate or to the extent to which we may modify the aircraft. We could, on the other hand, pay less than this amount if the actual cost proves to be less than the cost allowances included al present in the estimate. As stated by the Mnister for Air on 9th May, the total estimated cost for 24 aircraft at present is $US237m, covering the cost of the basic aircraft, with the addition of supporting equipment and services, lt is clear that there will be further increases, but it is impossible to say al this stage what the final estimate will be.
I challenge any senator who is prepared to look at this question and answer objectively to say that there is deception or evasiveness in any part of it. On the same day, because the questioning was not limited to Senator Murphy, Senator Devitt received an answer to a question on notice. He had asked:
The Minister for Defence has provided me with the following answers to the honourable senator’s questions:
Those questions and answers, which were given on 19th May, followed a. very full statement which is in the record and which was given by the then Minister for Air in the House of Representatives on 9th May.
We all recall that on 2nd May this year a defence statement was made. In that statement the Minister for Defence (Mr Fairhall) detailed the position with regard to the cost of the Fill. He indicated that the basic price, which was subject to the conditions which had been stated in May, still applied, that a further condition was specifically stated and that modifications had been made to the aircraft by the United States Government at a cost of $100,000 per aircraft. The Minister stated that he was unable to say whether or not that would be under the ceiling or would pierce the ceiling.
He also indicated that the price was the price of the basic aircraft in a flyaway condition, and that weapons and assisting equipment would involve an approximate total cost of Si 20m. He indicated that that was an estimate and went to considerable length to explain why it was an estimate. He said that in the field in which this activity was taking place it was not possible to determine the cost, and one of the reasons for saying that lay with the multitude of parts which were involved. All this material is on the record. If honourable senators were as concerned as they have professed to be about facts which were not available to them, the solution is not to be found in the terms of the motion which was put forward tonight; it is to be found in the terms of their own diligence in seeking and finding the answers in Hansard.
– Are you not supporting the motion?
– I have indicated that 1 am supporting the motion, but I am speaking because some of the arguments raised by the Opposition in support of it are totally fallacious. I have suggested that by examining the records the arguments can be shown to be fallacious. As I. have indicated, if anyone cares to search the records he will find that this position has been long known. The Opposition attacked us earlier on the basis that if the facts were known we should have divulged them at an earlier date. I suggest that the record indicates that they were divulged. But if, on the other hand, the Opposition is sincere in the claim that it now makes that this material should be brought forward, it appears to me that there has been a lapse of 5 years in which there has been an unexplained delay on the part of the Opposition. If the Opposition was so concerned with the arrangement made - there is ample evidence about the arrangement in Hansard, questions having been asked about it in 1963 - why has it waited 5 years to raise this question? Indeed, one may ask: Why has the Australian Democratic
Labor Party waited for 5 years to assert its position with regard to this matter? What has happened, of course, is that this motion has been used for the sole purpose of political! advantage on the lines that I indicated earlier - to take advantage of what is believed to be some popular gain in hoodwinking the public as to what the true facts are. lt is very easy to see what has happened. On 7th September 1968 the Minister for Defence, in accordance with a longstanding arrangement, went to Fort Worth where he was to receive the first of the twenty-four aircraft. While he was there he was informed of a fault which had been discovered.
Sitting suspended from 12 midnight to 12.30 a.m.
– It is apparent that this motion came before the Senate because the Opposition saw some possibility of political advantage when a further fault was discovered in the Fill on the weekend of Saturday and Sunday, 7th and 8th September. When the Senate resumed on 10th September questions were asked, both in the Senate and in another place, with regard to whether a statement would be made setting out the full facts relating to the Fill, the circumstances of the Government’s commitment in the light of the events which had occurred and generally to explain the position arising out of the discovery of this fault. Full answers were given which indicated clearly the present position.
As to the proposal that the documents relating to the Fill be tabled in the Senate and in another place, a clear statement was made that that matter was under consideration. When the same kind of questions were renewed in the Senate on 11th September, again the answer was given that the matter was under consideration. It was on 11th September that Senator Murphy gave notice of his motion, thereby indicating clearly that irrespective of the Prime Minister’s decision as to the documents to be tabled, a motion was to be debated in this chamber relating to the presentation of these documents. That, I would suggest, is a clear indication that the motion was set down because of the political advantage it was believed would accrue from debating it. That is the position at the moment.
– There is not an election in the offing. What political advantage would there be?
– Senator Little has asked what political advantage there would be. I am sure he has been reading the newspapers and has noticed the publicity attaching to the controversy surrounding the Fill and doubtless he has noted also the publicity which has been given to the views of those who, for a variety of reasons, oppose what the Government is doing. If this particular hostility can be developed further, then in terms of long range politics, if not in terms of short range politics, there would be advantage to those who hold that view. I am suggesting that this debate is designed solely to further that publicity.
As I have said, my primary purpose in rising was, as far as I was able, to set against the record statements which had been made by members of the Opposition so that the inaccuracy and misleading character of those statements could be seen clearly. If anyone approaching this matter objectively is prepared to look at the record, he will see that the fundamentals upon which the Opposition has based its motion cannot be sustained. I have indicated that the general proposition inherent in the Opposition’s motion that the Parliament should be able to learn the facts is a proposition which I support. I have indicated also that on appropriate occasions certain exceptions should be recognised. One exception is recognised in the motion - that where issues of security are involved it would be imprudent to require, and in fact it is not required, that details as to those matters should be published. I have indicated that there are other circumstances which, from time to time, can be explained to the Parliament and which would warrant the Parliament accepting the explanation which is given. I have referred already to the statement which has been made by the Prime Minister. I have indicated also that the negotiations which are envisaged are negotiations to ascertain whether or not documents of a confidential character can bo released by the United States Government. Our Government has clearly indicated that it is desirous of making available as much material as possible. Tt has been indicated that the Attorney-General (Mr Bowen) has been examining the papers with a view to sifting that which can be made public having due regard to the considerations that I have mentioned.
There is a well recognised rule, which applies to dealings between Federal and State governments in this Commonwealth, thai where letters and communications pass between a Premier and the Prime Minister those communications are not made public unless the consent of the parties is obtained.
– Sir Henry Bolte puts them in the Press.
– -I challenge the honourable senator to point at any time to an instance of Sir Henry Bolte or (he Prime Minister publicising something in breach of a confidence. Frequently - -and there have been many instances this year that come to mind - statements have been made that documents will not be made public until there has been consultation with the party receiving them or the other parly to them as to whether or not they may be made public, lt is the standard practice.
– Does the honourable senator think that America is obliged to do the same thing - to consult with us too?
– If it is a matter of confidence as between governments, I would expect the United States Government to do precisely the same thing.
– What about the evidence before the Senate committee in America?
– The evidence before the Senate committee is no different, I suggest, from the evidence that has been put before this Parliament. If honourable senators are concerned to get the legal1 terms in which all this is couched - and that is what is contained in the documents - then of course it is obvious that that is the purpose of the motion. But if they merely want to get the summary - the bald facts and figures - they can get them from our own Hansard just as they can get them from the United States Congressional Record, because basically they contain the same material.
– The Senate committee meets in public.
– It is all right for Senator Poyser to interject that it holds public hearings. Hansard is a public record just as (he Congressional Record is a public record. But we are not concerned with these matters. What we are concerned with are confidential - be they expressly confidential or be they impliedly confidential - communications passing between governments. Senator Little suggested, with a reasoning that was not altogether consistent as he went through it, that we ought not to give validity to confidential communications which are not expressly made confidential. But much of the business of individuals and much of the business of members of the legal profession, as Senator Little’s colleague, Senator Byrne, well knows, is not conducted on the expressed basis of confidence; it is conducted on the basis of an implied recognition that certain things said between members of the legal profession, and said between heads of government, are. unless they are expressly made open, regarded as confidential. To take a homely example, honourable senators will remember that the Premiers Conference which took place in June of this year was, for the first time, made an open conference. Up to that stage such conferences had always been held in camera. That was the presumption on which they were based.
– My friend is misinformed. AH Premiers Conferences are open to the public and the Press. Meetings of the Australian Loan Council are held in camera.
– Senator Gair has a vast experience and I defer to his knowledge of what happened when I was very young. Certainly prior to 1965 the conference-
– The honourable senator is mixing it up with the Loan Council.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT - Order! The honourable senator must not attempt to disparage another senator, even by interjecting.
– The honourable senator disparaged me.
– It is apparent from the records that although previous premiers’ conferences were held in camera it was decided that the 1968 conference should be held in public. I merely instance this to indicate that there are certain traditional and accepted ways of doing things as between heads of government. The Australian Government regards its com- munications with the United States Government as confidential, lt recognises that in the material which it has is information which is confidential. All the Government seeks to do is to have a clearance from the other party to the agreement as to whether or not it has any objection to the Government releasing that material. That has been expressly stated by the Prime Minister.
I would have thought that, if there is virtue in Australia taking the view that its communications are confidential, those who advocate disclosure of those communications without reference to the other party are advocating a questionable standard of conduct in foreign relations. This is not a standard that, by and large, 1 would recommend under any circumstances. It is not the standard that this Government is following. That is really the issue here. I would have thought it was as clear as could be that disclosure of confidential communications could have results inimical to Australia’s welfare. The Government’s indications that the communications are confidential should be accepted by the Senate as being reasonable. lt may be that within a relatively short time - I am not able to express any view on this but can only proceed on the basis of expectation - there will be some reaction from the United States Government as to how it feels about the Australian Government’s request. The Prime Minister’s statement clearly indicates what the Government would do in such circumstances. I think it is apparent that if the Opposition and the Democratic Labor Party are prepared to support a policy which in fact involves Australia making public its relationship with the United States Government I hen both the Opposition and the DLP should stand on record and be judged that that is the way in which they behave. The Australian Government is seeking to promote and develop its relations with the United States Government. That is an objective of the Government’s policy in which it has been consistent. I would have thought that in matters such as this we could go along with what the Government is proposing.
I return to where I started. This debate tonight, centred as it is on the FI 1 1 aircraft, is designed to foster certain popular ideas that are contrary to what the Government has done and what it is doing. 1 think it is apparent from what some honourable senators have said - particularly Senators Sim and Wright - that Australia’s decision to purchase the Fill represented a notable step towards getting the best equipment that modern technological developments could provide. At the time another aircraft was considered. I refer to the TSR2, which was favoured by the Opposition at the time. Both aircraft were on the drawing board. In the end result the TSR2 was not pursued by the Government and the British Government decided not to go ahead with it. If the decision had been made to purchase the TSR2, as the opposition wanted. Australia’s defence position would have been far worse than it is alleged to be at present. The Government took its decision in 1963 on the only basis available to it. lt is obvious to anyone using commonsense that a fixed price could not be obtained in 1963 as all that existed was an aircraft on the drawing board. No prototype had flown. The Opposition, having dwelt in an air of unreality for 5 years, suddenly seeks by ways that are not to its credit to try to develop some political capital out of this issue. I trust that in due course when the facts do become known the Opposition will suffer because what it has attempted to do is of a grossly misleading character.
– lt is refreshing to find unanimity in this chamber on the matter of the tabling of papers relating to this aircraft. It is interesting that we have an original motion and three amendments. Each Party is anxious to have the papers tabled. The Opposition, the Government and the Democratic Labor Party agree that there should be laid on the table of the Senate all documents or copies thereof which constituted the original arrangements made by the Australian Government for the purchase of the Fill aircraft and all subsequent variations in the arrangements. It is only at that point that there is any division of view. In short, we are all anxious to see documents tabled. I hold firmly to the fact that the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) has intimated that he will do so. Our debate this evening is directed towards something that the Prime Minister at this moment is attempting to do, having due regard to the arrangements that we have with the United States.
I make the point that we will see these documents tabled. What the Opposition is seeking, what the DLP is seeking and perhaps what interested senators on the Government side are seeking are those original documents which form the basis of the financial arrangements with the United States regarding the purchase of these aircraft. Any discusion about performance or other technical details is not relevant to this requirement. I believe that the documents we will receive have been mentioned on a number of occasions. It has been made very clear by the Minister and in other quarters that the documents that would form what we expect to be the original contract are probably a very light agreement.
I take the points as they emerge from a statement made by the Minister for Defence (Mr Fairhall) on 2nd May 1968. He refuted the allegation that the Government undertook this purchase as an election proposition. He made it quite clear that it was in June 1963 that a mission of the Royal Australian Air Force was sent overseas. In August of that year the mission reported a detailed evaluation of five aircraft. Then on 24th October of the same year the then Prime Minister announced the Government’s decision, accepting a proposal put forward by the Secretary of Defence in the United States, Mr Robert McNamara. I ask the Senate to note that, as the first entry in a negotiation of the Australian Government to purchase the aircraft. In the course of personal negotiations with our then Minister for Defence, the Secretary of Defence in the United States, Mr Robert McNamara, put forward a proposal under which his Government offered to supply twenty-four Fill aircraft to Australia, according equal priority with deliveries to the United States, at a general order of magnitude of cost, based on a production run of 1,500 aircraft, which was then estimated to be approximately $US125m to cover the aircraft, the first year’s spares, ground handling equipment and crew training. The offer made by Mr McNamara, obviously with great sympathy for our position, took account of a number of potential difficulties. The Minister for Defence then outlined those difficulties.
– When was that offer made?
– I take it that it was made just prior to 24th October 1963.
– You do not know the actual date?
– The actual date is not stated but I doubt that that should interest us so much as an agreement which might have been reached on the basis of acceptance or rejection of an offer from the United States.
– Would you accept an offer of this magnitude involving a bill of this magnitude in 1, 2 or 3 days?
– The Senate is seeking the tabling of firm documents and the Opposition no doubt will seek to hit at the Government and base its attack on the documents which are finally tabled. I am explaining to the Senate that the Minister for Defence pointed out quite clearly that negotiations which led up to the agreement originated from an offer made by Mr McNamara the Secretary of Defence in America. The Minister for Defence went on in his statement to outline the negotiations which followed from the offer. He said that the Government was familiar with the risks, particularly the price risks in committing itself to a developmental project of this nature. He said that the Government could have waited until the position was clearer, sacrificed early delivery of the aircraft, and, in doing so, taken perhaps a serious risk with the security of this country. He said that the Government did not think that this was acceptable.
The point I am emphasising is that some months ago the Minister for Defence warned that we could not expect a gilt edged contract. This was an agreement between two governments. Senator Gair suggests by his amendment that the Public Accounts Committee might take an interest in this matter at some stage. Therefore, it might be of value to members of the Opposition as well as members of the Government if I draw the attention of the Senate to the minutes of evidence taken by the Public Accounts Committee on 21st August 1967 when that Committee was seeking information from the Department of Air as to what had been gained by its expenditure on the F111C aircraft. 1 propose quoting from two or three pages of the transcript of that evidence.
– Do you think that will convince anyone?
– It might convince those who have a little intelligence. I refer first to page 74 of the transcript of the evidence where I asked certain questions which I feel eventually led to a very interesting statement from the Secretary of the Department of Air. The first question I asked was:
In the case of the F111C aircraft, did your Depart mem check the assessments made by the United States authorities?
Mr Sutherland answered:
No. We were unable to check them. We know how they were made up. They were said to be the estimates provided by the General Dynamics Corporation; just the estimates of the United Slates Air Force of deliveries which would be made in respect of support equipment during the year. You will remember that in our first submission we referred to the fact that we were investigating this with an idea of getting better estimates from the Americans. We had a team in America recently on the Fill but it was unable to get any assurance that the estimates would be any belter than they are at present. We are entirely in their hands. 1 can, of course, take some action to make a judgment but I am making a judgment from a very remote situation. It mav be a bit dangerous, I could come to the Committee next year and find out that we are well and truly overspent on this item.
Senator Fitzgerald then asked
Were any difficulties placed in the way of investigating this matter?
Mr Sutherland replied:
Only the difficulties of a tremendous organisation; of being able to get right down to the working level. This is a bit difficult, lt is difficult to find the man who actually does the estimate. Apart from that you are dealing in a field where perhaps people do not want to disclose certain things at that stage, because the Fill is not yet costed in its entirety.
– The honourable senator should incorporate this in Hansard.
– No, the honourable senator should be anxious to hear it now. 1 then asked:
I take it that on the original purchase we do not have an accurate estimate. You comment that you could make some assessment which may be very much remiss even today regarding estimates. Has there been genuine progress towards the study of estimating items such as this? Do you feel there has been any progress made if this is a principle of purchasing which is likely to take place in the future?
Mr Sutherland answered:
Yes, although in this particular field of an aircraft which is on a drawing board it is diflicult to know exactly how you will spend money in respect of one particular section of it, namely the Australian section of production. After all, the contractor is under pressure all the time to produce estimates for his own American organisation. We did express dissatisfaction to the Deputy Secretary of Defence, Mr Kuss, when he was here recently. 1 attended meetings with him. He said that he would look into the matter; but so far we have had no results on this estimating question and the annual disbursements.
– Was that reported to Parliament?
– Yes. The answer continued:
Actually, all that the Americans bill is for is the disbursement to contractors and subcontractors. The primary contractor, of course, is the General Dynamics Corporation. The Americans bill us for the amounts that they think they will pay out to those contractors and subcontractors. only in respect of our particular aircraft along the production line. You can see that it is quite difficult to segregate aircraft along a production line of some hundreds of aircraft. It is quite difficult to say: ‘That portion of the expenditure belongs to Australia, so we will bill Australia for that; this portion belongs to the United Kingdom; and the balance belongs to America’. I realise the problem, having fiddled around in this game for a long time.I realise the particular problem in the case of a contractor trying to estimate when he is pulling aircraft off a production line to go to different sources. It must be very difficult to estimate the particular amounts in each year.
The Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee asked:
Is the basic contract for the procurement of these aircraft at the price you have indicated along the lines of a basic contract?
– You have already inquired into this. What are we arguing about?
– Well then, we could have saved ourselves a lot of trouble earlier. The Chairman continued:
Does this spell out the sort of claims about which you have been talking and which will be offered to the Australian Government from time to time for payment? Is this basic contract confidential to your Department alone? Would it be available as a basic document for the AuditorGeneral to check as you pay from time to time throughout the years of the contract?
In answer, Mr Sutherland said:
I think the document is confidential to the United States Government. We have seen extracts of it at various times. But it does not specify anything about Australian production. It purely specifies the contract between the US Government and the principal firm and the firms of subcontractors concerned. The Americans have a slightly different system of contracting from ours. They start off with a letter contract which merely gives authority for a certain amount of money to be spent. I am not sure on this point, but I think I read recently in extracts from our information from Washington that the final contract has been signed recently - only within the last few months. I am referring to the full production contract. You must realise that the Americans decided that they would build twentythree prototypes of this aircraft. The first twentythree aircraft are purely developmental aircraft.
Then after a question regarding auditing matters was directed to the representative of the Auditor-General’s Office, I asked the following question:
Let me take the Chairman’s original question a little further. Are there more documents than this letter contract? It is not actually a letter of contract; it is a letter of agreement to provide funds up to a certain limit, is it not?
Mr Sutherland’s answer was:
Yes. I am speaking of the American document, not the Australian document. 1 then asked:
Could you tell me what are the contract documents that we have?
– The honourable senator asked that question with great modesty, of course.
– Had we started on this basis we could have avoided a lot of discussion. Let me repeat the question that I put to Mr Sutherland, a First Assistant Secretary in the Department of Air. It was:
Could you tell me what are the contract documents that we have?
His answer was:
First of all, a memorandum of understanding between the late Mr Townley and Mr McNamara, the Secretary of Defence. That was the outcome of the original negotiations for this aircraft. Then we have a document called a technical arrangement, which lays down in fairly broad terms, if you like, the contractual arrangements between the Australian and American Governments in respect of this aircraft 1 will not quote further from that transcript. I put it to the honourable senators that it has been before the Senate and has been available to members of the Opposition as well as to members of the Government parties. Information on the actual formulation of the original purchase of the F111C was made available many months ago. The Opposition, in attempting now to have some papers tabled, in fact is calling for documents, the basis of which was stated many months ago.
– Because of the hour I will be very restricted in what 1 say. When I hear exclamations as 1 stand up to speak, I must point out that I do not often take up the time of the chamber. This is a very important matter. I have listened with very great interest to the debate that has taken place. Lt has rambled over a wide range of aspects that I do not think the motion or the amendments cover at all. In my opinion there is very little difference between the views of the people on the respective sides of the chamber. The desire is for the tabling of papers relating to certain aspects of the purchase of the FI 1 1 aircraft.
Members of the public have a deep concern in this matter. As was pointed out by Senator Gair, I think it was, they are the people who finance the workings of this nation. They are therefore entitled to know, and the Parliament is entitled to know, about the workings of the nation. Some Ministers may believe that senators and members of the House of Representatives should not know details and that members of the public should not know details. But that is the right of the Parliament and members of the public. On both sides of the chamber there is a feeling that the information sought should be laid on the table. We almost have agreement on that.
The basis of the Opposition’s motion has nothing to do with the type of aircraft and whether one aircraft was more suitable than another. In fairness lo the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy), let me say that he did relate his remarks to the financial aspects of the dealings. Senator Gair spoke in a similar strain. In my view what this Senate and the public generally want to know are the financial and delivery arrangements for this aircraft. Because of accidents in which this aircraft has been involved and because of structural defects that have been revealed, undoubtedly some sections of the public wonder whether it is a suitable aircraft for Australia to purchase, but this is not our concern in voting on the motion and the amendments tonight. Our concern is to know the prospective cost of the aircraft. We want to know the limit to which this Government is prepared to go in purchasing these aircraft. Did the Government give a carte blanche order for the purchase of these aircraft? Was there an escape clause in the contract in case the aircraft became too costly? These are ordinary matters of business which would be covered in any business transaction. The tabling of the papers in the Senate will allow us to make a thorough investigation. It will allow the Parliament and the public to be enlightened. This seems to me to be the crux of the matter.
I cannot see anything wrong in these things being made known. The Government has sought, by way of amendment to the motion, to refrain from tabling any material which is classified and which should not be made public for security reasons. On my reading of it, the Government’s amendment in that respect is on all fours with the motion moved by the Leader of the Opposition. But the Government goes further in its amendment and submits that records and confidential arrangements between Australia and another nation cannot be disclosed without adversely affecting our relations with that nation. I cannot see how the tabling of the required information would affect our relations with the United States. I may be ignorant on these matters, but I have been in business for years and I cannot envisage the tabling of these papers affecting our relations with the United States. As I interpret the Opposition’s motion and the amendment moved by the Australian Democratic Labor Party, what are sought to be tabled are the financial arrangements relating to the purchase of this aircraft. These are very important matters. Nobody would want to see tabled material of a classified nature or material which for security reasons should not be made public. T do not think either the Opposition or the Democratic Labor Party would desire that such matter be tabled.
The weakness in the Government’s amendment, as I see it, if there is a weakness, is that it would allow the Government to play politics in a matter such as this and to hold back something that should be revealed to the public. I am sure that the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Anderson) will give an assurance that the Government has no intention of holding back anything that should be made public. The paramount objective as far as we arc concerned is to have tabled papers outlining the financial arrangements, the delivery dates and so on relating to our purchase of the Fill. Australia made a purchase from a firm in the United States. Certain things have gone wrong in delivery. in construction and particularly in cost. The financial arrangements seem to have gone completely awry. So it is important that the relevant papers be tabled. In view of the Government’s concern for its relations with another country I propose to support its amendment, but, in the event of the amendment not being agreed to, unless the Government proposes an amendment more acceptable to the Senate I will support the amendment proposed by the Democratic Labor Party.
That the words proposed to be left om (Senator Anderson’s amendment) be left out.
The Senate divided. (The Deputy President, Senator T. C. Drake-Brockman)
Majority . . . . 2
Question so resolved in the negative.
– 1 now move the amendment, which was foreshadowed by Senator Gair. I move:
Mr Deputy President, I do not feel that at. this stage, after such a long debate, it is necessary to speak at great length on the amendment that I have moved. Nevertheless, considerations which are peculiar to this amendment arise. These are different from those raised during the debate on the question just resolved. Honourable senators will see that this is purely an amendment directed to the practical means by which the investigation of any tabled document can be undertaken competently. The Senate insists on its right to have certain documents tabled. But the Senate naturally by its composition and the demand on its time is not equipped for a detailed examination, particularly of voluminous documents about which, by virtue of their complexity, the investigators might require some expert assistance which might not be readily available in the deliberations of the Senate.
Therefore, we feel that there is at hand the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Public Accounts which, by ils statutory character, is equipped for such a task, and that this is the type of task which should be entrusted to it. I refer honourable senators to section 8 of the Public Accounts Committee Act 195.1-1966 and specifically to paragraph (d) in which the recitation of the duties of the Committee is set out. Section 8 (d) reads: to inquire into any question in connection with the Public Accounts which is referred to it by either House of the Parliament, and to report to that House upon that question. . .
We have had some concern in this chamber in more recent days over the question of the supply of information to the Parliament. Questions have been asked in relation to the price at which Australian wheat is being sold overseas, more particularly to Communist China. Answers have been given that the Australian Wheat Board is an independent authority and that that is a customer-client relationship. We are told that questions cannot be answered respecting these matters in public interrogation in the Senate. I know that the practice is, with the growth of public corporations, which was the subject of a question asked by me of the Minister for Supply (Senator
Anderson), that such questions are not answered in relation to operating public corporations. But we must realise that this is a constantly extending field of governmental activity. As this field proliferates there would be a gradual increase in the denial of information over wide areas of government administration.
That is a serious matter. Therefore, more particularly as the matter on which we are concerned in this debate, which is not the functioning of a government corporation but the functioning of a government department which traditionally is subject of scrutiny and the Minister in charge of which is subject to parliamentary interrogation, there is certainly no reason why the proper adequate information should not be presented in relation to a matter arising in departmental administration if this information is sought by either House of the Parliament. That is why in this matter the Senate is insisting that this information be supplied, with the safeguard that has been written into the motion that information of a classified character should not be subject to interrogation.
The Public Accounts Committee, as I say, is equipped to handle this inquiry. It is a statutory committee of all parties and of both Houses. The significance of the suggested reference by the Senate of this matter to the Committee is that while it will remain a reference under the control of the Senate the reference actually will come under the scrutiny of those who sit in another place as well as those who sit in this place. To some extent, therefore, this more detailed examination in a sense will be a detailed examination of the reference by the total Parliament, by both Houses of the Parliament.
Some years ago - in 1953 or thereabouts - a major investigation was undertaken in relation to the Australian Aluminium Commission in Tasmania, lt was suggested at that time that there might be a reference by the Minister concerned or by the Parliament to the Public Accounts Committee in relation to the Bell Bay aluminium works. From memory, the Committee on its own initiative had decided to embark upon such an investigation. It conducted an investigation to the point of bringing in its findings, which were presented to the Parliament. The ultimate cost of that project was re assessed because costs were accelerating and pyramiding. From time to time the ultimate cost was reassessed and the Public Accounts Committee found it necessary to scrutinise the re-estimates and the general administrative conduct and efficiency, particularly of the financial control of the project
The amendment to which I am addressing myself, proposed by the Democratic Labor Party, has a similar purpose. An investigation is contemplated not to discover whether the Fill is a particularly good aircraft or suitable for the purpose for which it is sought. That is not the purpose of the contemplated investigation, except perhaps in an indirect way as it might be reflected in the financial aspects of the whole project. We want to know what we think the Public Accounts Committee is particularly designed to discover; that is, the degree of adequacy or inadequacy of the financial control exercised in a matter which requires an enormous appropriation of the Consolidated Revenue. In such a case there should have been continuous Treasury and departmental scrutiny of the appropriations as they mounted from day to day and year to year, and from variation to variation. There may have been this type of financial scrutiny. It may have been continuous and efficient, but we do not know that. The object of the exercise is to put into the hands of a competent investigatory body the material which would enable it to discover and report to the Senate whether such control has been exercised competently and continuously.
Senator Webster made a very valuable but regrettably belated contribution to the debate in which he pointed out that the matter of the Fill aircraft purchase has already to some extent come before the Public Accounts Committee. Of course, I take it that that matter was rather incidental to the whole investigation of the Department of Air. Even in the short compass canvassed by Senator Webster it was obvious that the Public Accounts Committee would be able to do a tremendously good job in this matter because I think it can fairly be said that in the short reference by Senator Webster more information was disclosed on this subject to honourable senators than has been disclosed in our deliberations for many months. It was certainly an eye opener to me. It underlined the fact that if the Public Accounts Committee is briefed by a particular directive to investigate this matter, there is every reason to believe that a complete and total examination will result in conclusions which will reassure the Australian people, if they are to be reassured, that the project has been properly handled and that the public revenue has been adequately protected from the beginning to the present time. That is what we are hoping.
The object of our proposed amendment is not wantonly to throw this matter to the Public Accounts Committee. That is a contingent matter. If when the documents are tabled, in the opinion of the Senate they are so voluminous or complex as to make detailed examination more appropriate by a specified body, the Senate should resolve so to direct. This is not merely a wanton attempt, to have the documents thrown for political purposes to the Public Accounts Committee for examination. The Public Accounts Committee is a competent and responsible body appropriate to embark upon an adequate examination in an important field of public administration.
I commend our proposed amendment to honourable senators with the final comment that if it is decided to refer the matter to the Public Accounts Committee, the resolution should specify an appropriate time so that the investigation would proceed promptly and a report would be made which would enable the Australian public to be reassured at the earliest possible opportunity that the public revenue is being protected. I commend the proposed amendment to honourable senators.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- ls the amendment seconded?
– I second the amendment.
– I move the following amendment to the amendment moved by Senator Byrne:
Add the following words: ‘provided thai this shall not require the tabling of documents or parts of documents which set forth arrangements that are confidential between Australia and another nation and which in the absence of agreement with that nation cannot be tabled without prejudicing our relations with that nation’.
I take it honourable senators will realise that in moving this amendment through me the Government has informed the Senate that it accepts the amendment moved by Senator Byrne on behalf of the Australian Democratic Labor Party. I remind the Senate that the amendment moved by Senator Byrne provides that any documents that are tabled may be the subject of an inquiry by the Public Accounts Committee. All senators have had experience of the power and publicity attaching to committees of the Senate. These committees hear evidence under oath in public and they have great power. Senator Byrne quite rightly said that the Public Accounts Committee was a safeguard to the people’s rights, and we all agree with him. But I believe that in turn h would agree with me that over and above that the Parliament has to be the safeguard of the nation’s security and honour and has to ensure that this nation preserves its friendship with its allies and trading partners. So I ask the Senate to consider this amendment sincerely. 1 ask that consideration of the amendment be taken out of the realm of party politics; I believe it truly and absolutely affects the interests of Australia very deeply. If we call into public inquiry documents that can let out to the enemy a defence secret or defence security information of our allies, we are not only doing a great disservice to the nation involved but are putting in jeopardy our friendship with our allies and our chance of maintaining them as allies, friends and trading partners. If this inquiry were entrusted to the Public Accounts Committee and a document that could cause this leakage of information were included in the documents given to the Committee, we in the Senate would be held directly responsible. We could never by any motion, speech or apology undo the harm that we would have caused. The hour is late and I believe I can say quite truthfully that this amendment would not inhibit the Public Accounts Committee, lt does not take away the objective that the Democratic Labor Party has set its mind to and that the Government has agreed to accept. All it does is ensure that this Parliament in a hasty action does not permit documents to be tabled which can jeopardise our security or the security of an ally or our friendship and honour as a trading nation. Once we breach that honour never again do we deserve to be trusted. So I do hope that the Senate will unanimously accept this worthwhile amendment.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Is the motion seconded?
– I second the motion.
– Mr Deputy President, I rise to order. I ask you to rule out this amendment on the ground that it is in conflict wit rr standing order 133 which states:
No question or Amendment shall be proposed which is the same in substance as any Question or Amendment which, during the same Session, has been resolved in the affirmative or negative, unless the Order, Resolution, or Vote on such Question or Amendment has been rescinded:
There are other words which do not relate to this. We have just had put to the Senate and rejected a proposal dealing with the tabling of documents. It included the words: hut excluding any material that records confidential arrangements between Australia and another nation and cannot be disclosed without adversely affecting our relations with that nation.
That is the proposition that has been rejected, yet immediately we find that a proposal is put by way of an amendment to the motion moved by Senator Byrne in these terms: provided that this shall not require the tabling of documents or parts of documents-
That is what the original motion was about and what the amendment which was rejected was about. It continues: which sets forth arrangements that are confidential
The amendment which was rejected contained the words: ‘that records confidential arrangements’, and that is the same thing, in substance, in any man’s language. The amendment continues: between Australia and another nation-
That is what the previous amendment referred to- It goes on: which in the absence of agreement with that nation cannot be tabled without prejudicing our relations with that nation.
The other amendment stated: ‘and cannot be disclosed without adversely affecting our relations with that nation.’ Surely in any man’s understanding of the matter this is the same in substance as what has already been rejected by the Senate. Here is one of the clearest cases you could ever have of two things being the same in substance. Therefore, Mr Deputy President, I ask you to rule this amendment out of order because it has just been rejected by the Senate.
– Speaking to the point of order, I submit that the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy) has clearly misinterpreted the standing order which is designed to prevent a repetition of the same question in substance coming before the Senate. The resolution which has been negatived by the Senate contained two propositions, (a) and (b). The amendment now proposed is an attempt to put before the Senate simply one of those propositions. It does not follow that because the Senate rejected the two-fold resolution a single item of that resolution would not be acceptable to it. I submit that upon that simple and fundamental ground the objection based on the standing order is completely misconceived.
– I support the point of order taken by Senator Murphy. I submit that what has just been said by the Minister for Works (Senator Wright) is entirely misleading, and 1 use those words advisedly, lt is an attempt lo obscure a question which is perfectly clear. It is necessary to look at what was put originally by the Leader of the Government (Senator Anderson) who moved an amendment which had two prongs. Two types of material were to be excluded. The first type was material which is classified and which, for security reasons, should not be published, and the second type was material that records confidential arrangements and the like. Senator Wright in effect admits that what is now put forward is, in substance, part (b) of the previous amendment. The previous amendment moved by Senator Anderson was in two parts, (a) and (b), and Senator Wright concedes, as I understand the situation, that what is now being put forward in Senator Marriott’s amendment was in substance part (b) of the original amendment. But in fact part (a) is already incorporated in the motion moved by Senator Murphy. So the only distinction between what is now proposed and what was conceded to be in substance identical with Senator Marriott’s amendment is what is now put up. In other words, we had the two sections, (a) and (b); (a) was common ground, in substance, between Senator Murphy’s motion and Senator Anderson’s amendment. The Government lost, that one and is now trying to put (b) back in after it has been rejected by the Senate. I submit that it is as clear as crystal that the amendment now being proposed is the same in substance as an amendment which has already been negatived by the Senate.
– I wish to speak to the point of order very briefly. In the first place, parts (a) and (b) of my amendment, as Senator Wright properly pointed out, were two items. We could very well have a situation in which an amendment could be lost because senators in their judgment did not like part (a) of my amendment.
– But (a) was in mine.
– It is in a different form. That is the first point. Then when we come to the second point, there is a nice distinction between this proposed amendment and my amendment. Senator Murphy glossed over it very quickly. The amendment proposed by Senator Marriott contains the words ‘confidential between Australia and another nation and which in the absence of agreement with that nation’. That could bring in a level entirely different from that of my original amendment. For those reasons - and I think we have canvassed the issue fairly well on both sides - I do not accept that standing order 133 is applicable, and I suggest that the amendment should be put to the vote. If I may say so - and I may be out of order in doing so - the result of this would be that we would have Senator Murphy’s motion, Senator Gair’s amendment and then the amendment now moved, and I should have thought this would be a very fine conclusion to our long day’s work.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- I have studied the two amendments closely. I believe there is some similarity but I do not think they are the same. Therefore the point of order is not upheld.
Senator MURPHY (New South Wales-
Leader of the Opposition) - I dissent from your ruling, Mr Deputy President, and I move:
That the ruling be dissented from. (Senator Murphy having submitted in writing his objection to the ruling) -
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT - Is the motion seconded?
Motion (by Senator Murphy) agreed to:
That the question of dissent requires immediate determination.
That the motion of dissent (Senator Murphy’s) be agreed to.
The Senate divided. (The Deputy President - Senator T. C. Drake-Brockman)
Majority . . 4
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Drake-Brockman) - The question now is, that the words proposed to be added, as moved by Senator Byrne, be added.
– Speaking to the amendment, which is the only vehicle that enables me to speak now. I want to make it clear that whilst there will not. be a vote on Senator Byrne’s amendment, we will vote against it when it becomes part of the motion because of our strong conviction that this proposed addendum, which does not now find itself in the motion, leaves the situation where this very serious matter that we are considering is unresolved. Therefore we cannot accept the motion without this particular provision, which would recognise the confidential nature of arrangements between nations. It would prejudice relations. For that reason, because it will not be in the motion, therefore we must vote against the motion.
Amendment agreed to.
– in reply - I take it that no-one else wishes to speak at this hour of the night, lt has been a very long night - it is a very early morningand the Senate would like to reach a conclusion. 1 would think that the documents which were mentioned by Senator Webster would, perhaps, be the most important that ought to be tabled, if this motion is carried. As I understand from him and otherwise, that there would be nothing in those documents which would prejudice military security. But they might well confirm the feelings of many, and as demonstrated in those other documents, thai the Government did not act in a businesslike manner. I refer to the memorandum of understanding which was made, I think, in October 1963 and to what Senator Webster described as the technical arrangement which was made, I think, on 18th June 1964. Perhaps if those documents, and par.ticularly the latter document, were tabled in the Senate that might go far to meeting the requirements of the Senate.
The fears that have been expressed about all sorts of military secrets being produced are, I think, without foundation. Having read some of the documents that are on the table before us, it is hard to imagine that we would be interested in more of the details of the aircraft than have already been produced for the public record in the United States. What has happened here tonight has been very important in the history of the Senate and of the Australian Parliament. We are establishing, and perhaps reestablishing, the right of the Senate to require the tabling of documents without which we cannot see whether the Government has been carrying out its duty.
Honourable senators who have looked at the Congressional documents of the United States and at parliaments elsewhere probably have been amazed at the difference between the procedural approaches here and in those places. Hitherto this Parliament has been treated with nothing more than contempt by the executive government. The Parliament deserves to be treated in that way if it fails to use the procedures which are available. We have not been carrying out our responsibilities to the Australian people because very great powers are available, in both Houses of the Parliament, to see to it that the Government accounts for its actions.
We should not allow bungles to go on. We should not allow matters to be cloaked in secrecy which are not entitled to secrecy. For a very long time we have allowed the Government to adopt the attitude that it can conceal from the Parliament anything that it wishes to conceal. This practice has developed but I think now we will see a turn in the tide and from now on the Parliament will insist on far more accountability on the part of the Government to the Parliament than we have seen for a very long time.
I think then that the Senate should endorse this motion as it has been amended and let us set about the task of examining what the Government has done and. if necessary, refer the matter to the Public Accounts Committee. That will be the first step in the Australian examination of the Fill affair, and I trust that it will end in the realisation that we will never again tolerate the amount of secrecy which we have permitted so far.
That the motion (Senator Murphy’s) as amended, be agreed to.
The Senate divided. (The Deputy President - Senator T. C. Drake-Brockman)
Majority . . 4
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 1.58 a.m. (Wednesday)
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 17 September 1968, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1968/19680917_senate_26_s38/>.