26th Parliament · 2nd Session
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Drake-Brockman) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– [ desire to inform the Senate that the Minister for External Affairs (Mr Freeth) will leave for New York next Friday to lead the Australian delegation at the opening session of the forthcoming United Nations General Assembly. He expects to return to Australia on 28th September. During Mr Freeth’s absence the Minister for Defence (Mr Fairhall) will act as Minister for External Affairs.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for National Development. Was Mr Fairbairn correctly reported as having said in Darwin last Monday that it was unlikely that there would be another Snowy Mountains scheme in Australia because north Queensland was now the only part of Australia with large amounts of uncontrolled water? If so. can this be taken as an indication of the Government’s lack of policy on the development of Australia’s water resources? What hope can our perennial drought areas have when the Minister for National Development believes that our water problems are almost solved?
– J think 1 answered a somewhat similar question in relation to the Snowy Mountains Authority yesterday when I said that the conservation of water in the Australian States is a matter for the State governments concerned, and much as the Commonwealth and the Opposition may wish the contrary to be the case, whatever is done with the Snowy Mountains Authority it would be necessary to get the permission of the State governments to do any development projects in the States. They have informed the Commonwealth that they believe that they are quite equipped to conserve water in their own States if they so desire. If my memory serves me correctly our total supplies of water up to the present time are in excess of 50 million acre feet and at least 60% or 70% of that has been conserved under the administration of the present Government. We are proud of our record as far as national development is concerned, lt is quite stupid to say that we should keep the Snowy Mountains Authority intact. It was formed to do one job in Australia - the Snowy Mountains scheme, lt did a wonderful job in that regard. We acted under certain powers under the Defence Act. To think that the Snowy Mountains Authority can go around to every State doing development work and conserving water is completely wrong. The permission of the States has first to be obtained before this can be done. ] read the report of the statement made in Darwin by the Minister for National Development, lt is quite correct that the Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation will be used as a consulting authority in future and that a nucleus of the staff of the Snowy Mountains Authority will be retained. I repeat that we, as the Commonwealth Government, do not have authority to deal with specific projects in the States without their permission, and this they are not likely to give.
– J ask a question of the Minister representing the Minister for Education and Science. In view of the inspired leaks which have appeared in the Press during the past week indicating that shortly the Government will make an announcement about Australia converting to the metric system of weights and measures, will the Minister make a statement informing the Senate of the position that has been reached in the consideration by Cabinet of the report of the Senate Select Committee on the Metric System of Weights and Measures?
– The problems of conversion to a metric system of weights and measures are much more complex-
– This is a Dorothy Dix question.
– Yesterday Senator Poyser accused me of answering a Dorothy Dix question. He will know that he has not made any suggestion whatever to me about the question he has asked. Today, I anticipated, this being an important matter anil of current interest, that questions such as this might be asked so I came as well equipped as I could to provide information about it. The Senate will, on reflection, realise that the conversion to the metric system of weights and measures will create much more complex problems than those involved in the conversion to decimal currency. A great deal of work has been done by Commonwealth officials. Recently a paper was submitted to the Prime Minister and to the Minister for Education and Science. If the Government decides that Australia should convert it will be concerned to see that this is done in a way which will minimise the cost to Australia and maximise the voluntary co-operation of various sectors of industry. Industry certainly would be involved in the detailed planning. I cannot say when a firm or final decision will be made and announced. However, action to convert would be irrevocable and it is critical to ensure that the implications of a changeover to the metric system are examined thoroughly before that irrevocable decision is made. This is more important than making a hurried decision.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for the Navy. In view of the considerable discontent that exists in the Royal Australian Naval Reserve over delay in pay increases and the fact that it is now 18 months since pay increases were granted to Regular Naval personnel, will the Minister assure the Senate that enabling legislation to effect these increases will be enacted prior to the Parliament rising on 26th September?
– The information that I have with regard to the claim referred to by the honourable senator is that the rates of pay of professional engineers and naval architects under the Naval Defence Act are determined by rates paid to similar professional categories employed under the Public Service Act. The honourable senator will be aware that the staff associations of these professionals, covering both the public and private sectors of industry, have presented their claims before the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. The Public Service Board is only one of the many respondents in the case. I understand that the case will resume before the Commission shortly.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration. Has the Australian Government participated in any discussion with the West German Government on ways and means of speeding up the processing of 12,000 individual compensation claims made by those migrants in Australia who were victims of Nazi tyranny during World War II?
– I am not certain whether this matter comes within the responsibility of the Minister for Immigration or the Minister for External Affairs. I shall take the matter up with the Minister for Immigration and obtain what information I can for the honourable senator.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport. Has the Minister noted the recent statement by Sir John Williams, Chairman of the Australian National Line, to the effect that delays in shipbuilding in Australia are disastrous and that whilst a ship takes 3½ years to build in Australia, a similar or larger vessel can be built in 9 months in Japan? Can the Minister give any reasons for the great disparity in building time and, no doubt, cost, which obviously must be penalising the Australian shipbuilding industry and seriously jeopardising its further expansion?
– I know full well that shipbuilding costs in Australia are far higher than they are in Japan and some other countries. That is why the Commonwealth Government grants a subsidy on vessels built in Australia. The honourable senator referred to the disparity in the time taken to build a ship. If the honourable senator puts that part of his question on notice, I will take the matter up with the Minister for Shipping and Transport and obtain an answer for the honourable senator.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Attorney-General. Has the Minister seen a statement attributed to the Deputy Prime Minister to the effect that he had, in his capacity as Minister for Trade and Industry, sent out 70,000 letters at the taxpayers’ expense because what he had been doing in Washington on behalf of the Australian wheatgrowers and the effect of it was being grievously misrepresented in the Australian publicity media? Will the Minister agree that if what the Deputy Prime Minister says is true it is a shocking indictment of the mass media in Australia, including radio and television, which come within the control of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board? In February of this year the Attorney-General, when addressing a seminar organised by the Australian Journalists Association, suggested that consideration should be given to the establishment of a Press council in Australia. Does the Government intend doing anything about the matter or will it use the taxpayers’ money to issue factual statements every time it thinks that it is being grievously misrepresented by the mass media, including those areas which are subject to Control Board supervision?
– I should think that the honourable senator would acknowledge that the question he puts to me is indeed a comprehensive one touching upon fundamental principles. I shall refer his question to the Attorney-General and await an answer, which I shall transmit to the honourable senator.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Supply. Is the Minister aware that the Department of Supply has called tenders for provisions of various types to be delivered to Mary Kathleen in north-west Queensland? Can the Minister inform the Senate whether the provisions will be supplied to persons associated with the setting up of a secret weapons testing establishment at Mary Kathleen? Can the Minister also advise how many people will be attached to the weapons testing establishment and whether the personnel are Australian, British or from some foreign country?
– Quite clearly the honourable senator does not understand the functions of the Department of Supply in regard to procuring for other Commonwealth departments. If he wants to ask some questions in relation to what may or what may not be set up in certain areas, then, quite properly, he should direct his question to the department concerned - or to the imagined department. The Department of Supply calls tenders on behalf of the various government departments. It is not within the province of my portfolio to give judgment on anything other than the fact that there will be an Army, Navy or Air establishment in some areas. The question as to what the establishment will be is not within the province of the Department of Supply at all. If the honourable senator imagines that he has something that he wants to bring out about some department, then he should direct his question to the department which he thinks is going to set up the particular organisation.
Mt ISA MINES LIMITED
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service recall the bitter strike which took place at Mt Isa and the arguments that were put up by Mt Isa Mines Ltd to avoid providing improved pay and working conditions to its employees which led up to the strike? Can the Minister supply the Senate with information as to whether some consideration will be given to sharing some of the tremendous rise in profits of 158% above last year’s figures with the men who made it possible - the employees who perform the arduous underground work? Is it a fact that dividends will be increased by 50%? Is this merely another example of how the average worker in Australia misses out on the benefits gained from the exploitation of his country’s mineral wealth?
– I well recall the disastrous strike which was caused at Mt Isa some 2 years ago. I also well recall that the economic disadvantages of that strike were reflected in the company’s progress for quite some time.
– And in Queensland’s economy.
– And in the economy of Queensland, as Senator Gair interjects. I regret that there is any implication in Senator O’Byrne’s question that he does not regret the strike. I would think that we would all be pleased to note the handsome improvement made in the profit of Mt Isa Mines Ltd. As to whether there are any arrangements for profit sharing in the company, I am not informed, but I shall take pleasure in obtaining the information and, at the earliest opportunity, in imparting it to the Senate. I have no doubt whatever that in that enterprise proper arrangements for participating in the prosperity of the enterprise have been ensured by both the men and the unions representing them as well as in no small measure by the management which would wish to ensure that as a major factor in its prosperity.
– I address a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. I refer to a statement made by the Minister for Primary Industry on meat shipments to the United States in which he said:
Our limited access to the United States market - a total of 225,090 tons this year - and the growing difficulties of access to other markets, possibly even including Brimin, indicate a need for the industry to carefully examine its present marketing arrangements.’
Does this mean that the Minister considers that the meat industry should rationalise its shipments of meat to the United States? If this is so, does the Minister agree that such a scheme would present great difficulties and possible dangers for producers and exporters in a country such as Australia where seasonal conditions are unpredictable?
– I understand that when he was commenting on this proposition of supplying meat to the United States market, the Minister was more or less suggesting that those engaged in the meat industry should get together and formulate a plan under which Australia could supply the American market with the quota that it got each year over a spread of 12 months. The Minister suggested this because in the last 2 years Australia has filled its American meat quota at least a couple of months before the end of the year. If those engaged in the industry got together they would be able to prevent the violent fluctuations that occur immediately the Australian Meat Board announces that the quota has been filled. In the latter part of his question the honourable senator mentions that the rationalisation of meat shipments to the United States could be affected by seasonal conditions. I should think that in the southern parts of Australia, particularly in the months from September to the end of the calendar year, stock is reaching a condition in which it is saleable within Australia. Therefore I can see no grave difficulty if the people in the meat industry were to get together and formulate a plan to rationalise shipments of meat to America over the whole 12 months.
– I address a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Education and Science. Is it a fact that it is some months since the Government received the Sweeney and Wiltshire reports concerning staff salaries and courses in colleges of advanced education? Is the Minister aware that there is considerable concern and dissatisfaction in the colleges at the Government’s failure to make the reports public and to take appropriate action on their recommendations? Why is the Government being so dilatory about the matter? Will the Government table these reports in Parliament without further delay?
– I am entitled in answering this question to express resentment at the reference to dilatoriness on the part of the Government. The Government has received these reports which involve reference to the States. The States are entitled to have consultation on these matters - that is going on at present - before decisions are made on the reports.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for the Army aware that a new process has been developed in the United Kingdom whereby foodstuffs may be preserved indefinitely without freezing, tinning or dehydration? Can the Minister advise whether the Army Food Research Establishment at Scottsdale in Tasmania has access to the process and whether the process has any application for armed Services food supplies generally?
– The honourable senator’s reference to the Army Food Research Establishment at Scottsdale brings vivid memories of a visit to the area some 2 years ago when 1 was greatly impress; d with the forwardness of the food processing methods and the delectable items of food to which we were treated. I am obliged to Senator Rae for calling my attention to this claimed breakthrough for food processing in England. Whether or not the Scottsdale establishment has had access to this method and experimented with it I do not know, but I shall have the question referred to the Minister of the Army Lor reference to that establishment.
– 1 ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate whether he is aware of the text of an address delivered by the Prime Minister at a Liberal women’s rally in Brisbane on 30th July 1969 in which he stated inter alia:
I hope nobody will imagine when I say that I am talking about the possibility of abolishing the means tesl. I am nol anil it (the means test) should nol be abolished.
In view of such a positive statement, is it to be construed that the Government has no intention of adhering to its previously stated declaration lo abolish the means test?
– I have not had the advantage of seeing the text of what the Prime Minister said and 1 would not presume to make a comment on it without having had the advantage of the full text because sometimes in giving emphasis to certain comments in a speech one might, perhaps unintentionally, give a wrong impression. As to the overall question of the means test - I want what I said in the first place to be separated from what I say on the question of the means test - I merely point out that we are in the course of a Budget session and we are currently debating the Budget. The Budget speech, which was the voice of the Government, made it abundantly clear that by means of a tapered means lest we will give astronomical additional benefits to something of the order of a quarter of a million people, pursuant to Government policy.
– Yes, indeed, in terms of both taxation concessions and other benefits. People who never before received a partial pension are to receive it. In addition they will receive a taxation con cession. So there can be no doubt of the Government’s intentions in relation to recognising the need to give aid or assistance in terms of social service benefits to those who most need it.
– Has the attention of the Minister-in-Charge of Tourist Activities been directed to the very colourful and very descriptive publication on Australian life and industry entitled ‘Dynamic Australia’? ls he aware that the publication was compiled and published by the Australian Publicity Council, which is a non-profit organisation? Will he review this book? Will he give consideration to a request that the Government urgently secure copies of this book and have them distributed to all schools, universities and colleges of advanced education for the benefit of future Australian citizens? Will he, as Minister-in-Charge of Tourist Activities, have this publication distributed to overseas offices where tourism lo this country can be encouraged?
– The honourable senator’s question is very greatly welcomed by me. I have taken a continuing interest in this publication because of the vivid impression that it made upon me. It is one of the most beautifully illustrated reviews and descriptions of every facet of Australian life - particularly national development, art and education - that ] have seen. I could not think of a more appropriate suggestion than that a copy of it should go to every school and other educational institution in the country.
I inform the honourable senator that I have taken continuous steps to promote the recognition of this worthy effort on the part of the Australian Publicity Council. I am pleased that he referred to the Council as a nonprofitmaking enterprise. He can be assured that the Australian Tourist Commission purchased quite a number of copies - I forget the number - and saw to it that they were distributed through its overseas posts. I also inform him that on the parliamentary delegation which I had the honour to lead to Japan, Korea and Taiwan, we had the greatest pleasure in choosing this book as a gift to be given, as an emblem of the Australian visit, to (he various dignitaries whom we had the pleasure of visiting.
– Is the Leader of the Government aware that, according to the latest poll, 68% of Australians now favour the cancellation of the Fill contract? Will the Government consider the weight of public opinion and cancel the Fill contract?
– I think everybody would be prepared to recognise that the Fill is a highly technical, complicated and, indeed, involved product of the science of aeronautics. I did not see the result of the poll to which the honourable senator referred. It may well be, as he suggests, that a majority of people think that the contract should be cancelled. I go back to my first proposition. Clearly, the position must always be that a government needs to have the advice of its technical experts in a matter such as this, and I would not be impressed very greatly with the judgment of a gall up poll in a matter of such advanced technology which concerns probably the most sophisticated aircraft the world has ever seen.
– I ask the Leader of the Government: Has his attention been drawn to the current call by the Heavy Engineering Manufacturers Association for an Australian industry policy and the criticism by that Association that closer relations between government and manufacturers exist in most other industrialised countries, to the advantage of those countries? What action is proposed in these matters by the Government to develop a more effective industrial policy within Australia and to avoid reliance on foreign supplies?
– This is a very comprehensive question and I would like to give an answer in some depth because there is a whole pattern of governmental association with industry. The honourable senator will recall that in the Department of Supply are 10 advisory committees which are made up of various groups of leaders in industry. They form themselves into panels in various categories to give advice to the Government. They meet from time to time and make recommendations on the problems which emerge in relation to the Australian aspect of their particular industry. That is in the Department of Supply. In the Department of Defence a high degree of co-operation also is sought, as there needs to be, in the fields of technology and of industry. At the ministerial level at least once a year various industrial groups including the Australian Council of Trade Unions are invited to attend and put to the Executive their views on the problems of the economy and special problems that may emerge in industry. In giving a short answer I say that there is quite a wide pattern of recognition by the Government of the need for co-operation in the field to which the honourable senator alluded. I feel that there is a more comprehensive answer across a wider canvas that I could and should be able to give, and I will do this at the first opportunity.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Industry. Is it a fact that the United States of America imposes a high tariff on the import of Australian wool? Does the United States impose restrictions on the import of base metals from Australia? Does the US impose quota restrictions on the import of Australian meat? Does Australia impose any restriction on the import into Australia of any goods from the US? If Australia does impose any such restrictions will the Minister supply a list of them?
– The best way to answer this question is to say yes, I will supply the list. I will give a comprehensive answer, and this may then attract from the honourable senator further questions on the subject.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration inform the Senate whether further progress has been made in the signing of an immigration agreement between Yugoslavia and Australia?
– The honourable senator has for a considerable time shown a keen interest in this matter and I am pleased to be able to give him further information.
Negotiations are proceeding between the Australian and Yugoslav governments for an agreement on the residence and employment of Yugoslav citizens in Australia. The draft agreement envisages an assisted passage programme from Yugoslavia. Discussions on the proposed agreement were first held by the Minister, in Belgrade in December 1968. The Yugoslav authorities are currently considering the latest Australian draft and it is expected that their reaction to it will be made known shortly.
In the meantime assisted passages from Yugoslavia are available to daughters of 15 years of age and above joining fathers; sisters of 16 years of age and above joining brothers; fiancees; and single females of marriageable age sponsored by any resident of Australia. Yugoslav workers in Australia may now nominate their wives and dependent children for assisted passages under (he financial arrangements announced by the Minister for Immigration on 27th July 1969.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Supply in his capacity as Minister representing the Minister for Defence. Is the Minister aware that the Department of Supply has called tenders for the supply of provisions of various types to be delivered to Mary Kathleen in northwest Queensland? Can the Minister inform the Senate whether the provisions are to be supplied to persons associated with the setting up of a weapon testing establishment at Mary Kathleen? Can he also advise how many persons will be attached to the weapon testing organisation and whether they are to be Australian, British, or from some foreign country?
– I rather suspect that this question is almost identical to the question I was asked earlier. I think the best way to handle it is to wait until we enter into the debate on the Estimates later today, I hope. The estimates of the Department of Supply will be the first to be considered. Any information I can obtain from my officers I will then make available. However, I do not want the honourable senator to think I am being difficult over this matter. I am not. I am merely saying that the Department of Supply functions as the procurer of supplies for the Services. 1 have taken on board the refinement that the honourable senator has included in his question. I. will obtain all the information I can from my Department. I might even go further and get information for the honourable senator from the Department of Defence if it is available.
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for Health seen a report in the ‘Australian’ of 8th September which said in part that Australia has one of the most inadequate and incomplete health schemes of any of the world’s wealthy and modern nations? Is the Minister aware that the Australian Labor Party’s health scheme outlined by Mr Whitlam, the Leader of the Australian Labor Party, will alter this bad image and will give the people of Australia one of the most adequate and complete health schemes of any of the world’s modern nations?
– I think the point raised by the honourable senator concerning the health scheme of the Leader of the Australian Labor Party has already been very adequately answered by our Minister for Health. However, f again stress in respect of this scheme that what is being promised to the Australian people is a very much more costly health scheme, without comparable advantages.
– I direct ray question to the Minister representing the Treasurer. Does the taxation review which the Treasurer has said is proceeding encompass a re-examination of the question of donations to overseas aid organisations, with a view to removing the ban which prevents tax concessions being granted for such donations?
– I am not aware whether such donations would be encompassed in the review. I will find out. I recall that in the past Senator Willesee has asked whether donations to an organisation could be allowed as tax concessions. Questions about particular organisations are immediately re-examined. Answers come back to me as the representative of the Treasurer in the Senate. Questions have been asked about various organisations, including an organisations related to the United Nations. Each time a question is asked the matter is re examined and a decision or a reply comes to me from the Treasurer. I do not know whether in the general taxation review there will be an examination of organisations in respect of which tax concessions have already been granted and other organisations that may be added. I will find out and let the honourable senator know.
– Does the Minister representing the Attorney-General recall that yesterday I asked him to compare the prison sentence of 2 years without parole imposed on a young man for a breach of the National service legislation with the sentence of 3 years without parole imposed on a young man for a horror killing? Does the Minister also recall that he answered as follows: ‘There is obviously some strain of unreason here.’? Is this an admission by the Government that it has been unreasonable in its application of the law?
– Not at all. The answer should be understood in the opposite sense.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Treasurer. If there is to be a taxation review will the Treasurer consider lifting the maximum denomination of tax stamps from $20 to $50? A person earning perhaps$1 50 a week in a small establishment finds it impossible to fit the requisite number of stamps of a maximum denomination of only$20 on the back of his stamp tax sheet.
– My understanding is that the taxation review related to income from personal exertion. It developed from suggestions that had been made in the community that the tax paid by people in the middle income group on income earned by personal exertion needed review. It was in that context that I understood the Treasurer’s suggestion mat in the fullness of time there would be a taxation review. I will, as I always do, submit the honourable senator’s question to the Treasurer so thathe can consider the aspect raised in any review he may make.
(Question No. 1300)
asked the Min ister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice:
In what way does the United States’ reduction of planned Fill’s and plans for a new supersonic bomber affect Australia’s strategic use of the F111.
– The Minister for Defence has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
To the best of our knowledge and belief, none.
(Question No. 1339)
asked the Minister for
Repatriation, upon notice:
– The Acting Minister for Repatriation has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
(2)I am advised that the Commonwealth electoral law provides that no person who is of unsound mind . . . shall be entitled to have his name placed on or retained on any roll or to vote at any Senate election or House of Representatives election. Only such patients at Wacol who would be within this provision are debarred from enrolling and voting. The right to enrol and vote remains available to all other such patients. Qualifications for voters in State elections are within the jurisdiction of the relevant Slate Authorities.
(Question No. 1373)
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice:
Has a request been received from the Queensland Government for a subsidy or special payment to cover the transport of patients in receipt of age and similar pensions, when such patients are transported for medical treatment by the Queensland Ambulance Transport Brigade; if so, what action has been taken by the Commonwealth Government.
– The Treasurer has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The Queensland Government has not, as far as I am aware, made a direct approach on this matter for some years. The 1968 Conference of Health Ministers, at which Queensland was represented, did however put forward a case for recognition of ambulance services within the Pensioner Medical Service. The State Ministers for Health have, I believe, been informed that the Commonwealth is not prepared to accede to the proposal.
(Question No. 1377)
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice:
– The Postmaster-General has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
(Question No. 1382)
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice:
Pending the completion of the permanent television transmitting station at Cairns, will a temporary translator be installed to improve television facilities for residents of the Babinda area.
– The Postmaster-General has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
No. The permanent Cairns television stations are expected to be completed on Mr Bellenden Ker by the end of 1971. It would not be justifiable economically to provide temporary facilities in particular centres which will be served by those stations, such as Babinda, for the period to 1971.
(Question No. 1408)
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General upon notice:
Can the Postmaster-General advise the likely date when television facilities will be available to residents of Roma, Charleville and other southwestern centres of Queensland.
– The Postmaster-General has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The proposals to which the honourable senator refers are included in the seventh stage of television development which I announced in Parliament on 15th May, 1969, involving the extension of the national television service to a further 38 areas.
At present the technical planning of the stations by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board in conjunction with my Department is proceeding but it is not practicable at this stage to indicate the likely completion dates for the various stations. I should say, however, that as I stated in my announcement of 15th May, the seventh stage of development is to be implemented over a four year period.
(Question No. 1418)
How many of the fourteen welfare officers recently appointed by the Department will operate in migrant hostels in New South Wales.
On what basis will they be allocated to hostels in New South Wales.
What languages will be spoken by the officers who will be posted to the Villawood, Matraville, Heathcote and Berkeley hostels.
Do these postings also include the Bonegilla Hostel in Victoria.
Commonwealth Hostels Ltd. appointed and employs the welfare officers mentioned. They are not employed by my Department. Of the fourteen, seven, together with two others previously appointed, making a total of nine, will operate in migrant hostels in New South Wales.
One to each of the following hostels - Bradfield Park, Villawood, Westbridge, Cabramatta, Bunnerong. One to each of the following groups of two hostels- Dundas/Broughton, East Hills/ Heathcote Road, Matraville/Mayfield, Fairy Meadow/Unanderra. 1 ask leave to incorporate in Hansard the languages spoken by the officers posted to the various hostels.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Order! Is leave granted?
Senator Cavanagh - No
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Leave is not granted.
– On the voice of. Senator Cavanagh, leave is not granted. We will remember him. The reply continues:
Matraville: English, Spanish, Italian and Portugese. Other languages spoken by members of the staff of Commonwealth Hostels Ltd. who are available as interpreters are French, Greek, German, Dutch, Yugoslav, Hungarian and Polish.
Heathcote Road: English. Other languages spoken by members of the staff of Commonwealth Hostels Ltd. who are available as interpreters are Italian, Yugoslav, German, Spanish, Portuguese, French and Czech.
None of those languages, I assume, is intelligible to Senator Cavanagh. The reply continues:
Berkeley: This hostel is closed.
No. The Bonegilla Migrant Reception Centre is operated by the Department of Immigration.
(Question NA 1440)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice:
– The Minister for Labour and National Service has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Station-hand employees in Queensland are not covered by any Federal award.
Fill AIRCRAFT (Question No. 1446)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice:
As the Government has spent over $l83m on the F-111 aircraft without taking delivery of a single aeroplane, why has the Government not suspended payments on the purchase while it wrestles with its doubts which are obviously so serious that the Government has not yet been able to make up its mind whether to cancel the order.
– The Minister for Defence has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
As stated in the answer given on 5th November 1968, to a similar question from Senator Cohen, the Australian Government has undertaken to reimburse the United States Treasury for work performed and materials supplied by the contractors for the aircraft.
(Question No. 1356)
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice:
Did the Prime Minister’s use of the word Malaya’ at the Five Power Conference have the meaning, suggested throughout the publication Malaysian Digest’ of 30 June, that Australia’s commitment in Malaysia is only to the Peninsula of Malaya; if so, why does an Army publication refer to Singapore and Malaysian troops.
– The Prime Minister has provided me with the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Australia’s commitment reamins as defined in my statement in the Parliament on 25 February last.
(Question No. 1332)
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice:
– The Prime Minister has provided me with the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The Public Service Board has advised me that -
The living allowances for Australia-based staff at overseas posts are reviewed following inspection by officers of the Public Service Board which are normally carried out at intervals of 2 to 3 years. However, allowances may also be reviewed between these inspections if circumstances warrant such action.
The posts listed by the honourable senator were last inspected as follows:
Washington - October 1967
Tokyo- July 1968
Stockholm- September 1968
Djakarta- July 1968
Manila- June 1968
Living allowances were reviewed following these inspections. In the case of Washington the living allowance has been reviewed twice without inspection since October 1967, the last occasion being with effect from March 1969.
(Question No. 1326)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice:
– The Minister for External Affairs has furnished the following reply:
(Question No. 1414)
asked the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice:
– The Postmaster-General has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Has the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral seen an article in today’s Brisbane Press referring to an alleged mix-up in the issue of new telephone numbers to some 6,000 subscribers in that city? Will the Postmaster-General stale whether steps are usually taken to ensure that calls are intercepted and diverted to the new numbers pending completion of delivery of the new telephone directories?
On 21st August 1969, Senator Milliner asked me the following question:
I direct a question lo the Minister representing the Postmaster-General. Could the exercise of some foresight by the Postmaster-General’s Department have avoided Queensland’s present mix-up over telephone numbers, when some 6,000 subscribers numbers were changed as from last weekend but the distribution of new directories setting out the altered numbers started only a few hours before the changeover of telephone numbers look place, thus inconveniencing thousands of subscribers? Will the Minister indicate the reasons for such mismanagement?
The Postmaster-General has now furnished me with the following information in reply:
Six thousand lines were cutover to new numbers in Brisbane over the weekend of 16th and 17th August. Calls to the old numbers are being intercepted and callers redirected by recorded voice announcements to special information positions, where operators provide callers with the correct numbers. In the case of 29 large business houses the recorded announcements give the actual new number of the organisation concerned. These are normal procedures wilh cutovers of any size.
The problems faced by the Department in an operation of this nature and the procedures adopted lo minimise inconvenience to the public were set om fully in a letter from the Director. Posts and Telegraphs, Queensland, to the Editor of the Courier Mail Brisbane and which was published by that newspaper on the 2lst August.
– On 19th August Senator Sim asked me a question about the salaries of professional officers in the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation and I undertook to take up his question with the Minister for Education and Science, who has now furnished me with the information. With the concurrence of honourable senators. I shall incorporate the answer in Hansard.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- ls leave granted?
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Leave is not granted.
– The answer is as follows:
There are three main groups of professional officers to consider - scientific services officers, experimental officers and research scientists, including Chiefs of Divisions. The executive of the CSIRO has already made adjustments lo the salaries of scientific services officers in line with action taken in the Public Service for professional scientists - chemists, geologists and other designations for which a science degree is required. The salaries of experimental officers is a matter currently the subject of discussions between (he CSIRO executive and the Public Service Board.
I understand that adequate evidence is not available at the present juncture, either by comparison with the private sector or internally within the public sector, to permit of a similar course of action being taken in respect of research scientists. The claims of research scientists are currently being heard by one of the Deputy Public Service Arbitrators, Mr O. O. O’Reilly, and the case is expected to finish mid-November 1969. This case is not confined to CSIRO research scientists and claims filed in respect of research scientists in the Department of Supply and the Australian Atomic Energy Commission are being heard concurrently with the CSIRO case. I am advised that the Associations concerned are bringing a great deal of evidence before the Arbitrator and this involves time. I should also remind the Senate that the Government took action earlier this year to appoint two Deputy Public Service Arbitrators to facilitate speedier hearing of cases before the Public Service Arbitrator.
– On 28th August Senator Bishop asked Senator McKellar a question concerning the leave entitlements of members in Vietnam. In Senator
McKellar’s absence I have been furnished with the following information by the Minister for the Army:
At present, a member who serves for a period of 12 months in Vietnam may earn a total of 42 days not 68 days as suggested by Senator Bishop. These 42 days, which may be accumulated until the member’s return to Australia, are made up of: 18 days annual recreation leave 12 days remote locality leave 12 days in lieu of Sundays and public holidays worked.
However, approval has recently been given, pending statutory endorsement, for the introduction of War Service Leave at the rate of 18 days for 12 months service in Vietnam. Provision will be made for a member to be granted pay in lieu of the War Service Leave but the provision for 12 days leave in lieu of Sundays and public holidays will no longer apply.
The effective date for introduction of War Service Leave is 1 July 1969. From that date a member returning to Australia after 12 months tour of duty in Vietnam will be credited with 30 days leave plus 18 days War Service Leave compared with the current 42 days. His leave entitlements will thus be increased, not reduced, under these conditions.
My question is directed to the Minister representing the Postmaster-General. Following a statement made yesterday by the Postmaster-General that a United Kingdom contractor has failed to deliver principal equipment on schedule for the east-west telephone link, can the Minister assure the Senate that the penalty clause in the agreement, which is intended to minimise such delays, in the public interest, will be put into effect? If it is not to be put into effect what action is intended?
The Postmaster-General has now furnished me with the following information in reply:
The contractor is aware of the concern of the Post Office at the delay in completion of this contract and is making special efforts to minimise this delay; he is also aware that the Post Office is watching closely the delay and any costs flowing from it with the penalty and damage clauses of the contract in mind. However, there are several factors which must be taken into account in deciding on the application of those clauses, including the circumstances which caused the delay, the extent of the delay and the extent the Department has been inconvenienced or has suffered loss of revenue due to the delay, and the efforts made by the contractor to overcome the delay.
These factors cannot be accurately evaluated until the contract has been completed. In the meantime, close liaison between the Department and the contractor is being maintained with the object of having the contract completed at the earliest possible date.
(Question No. 1353)
Is the Postmaster-General aware that the Line Depot on Flinders Island has been closed down?
Is it the policy of the Postal Department to put all cable on Flinders Island under gas pressure?
Does it appear to be false economy for the Postal Department to require employees to travel from Launceston to Flinders Island by aircraft before all cable on Flinders Island has been placed under gas pressure?
Is the Minister aware that young married men arc being employed on this type of work and that this system penalises those employees as they are absent from home for lengthy periods.
Will the Minister give consideration to employing full time linemen on Flinders Island?
The Postmaster-General has now furnished me with the following information in reply:
The Whitemark Line Depot on Flinders Island was closed on 27th June, 1969 and was one of several depots that have been closed recently in Tasmania because the retention of these facilities could no longer be justified economically. This action has been brought about by the replacement of earlier forms of telecommunications construction by plant which has a higher standard of performance and substantially reduced maintenance requirements.
All cables on Flinders Island that are technically suitable for this treatment will be placed under gas pressure to improve their service reliability.
No, none of the linemen formerly stationed at Whitemark were capable of installing gas pressure equipment, making the transfer of staff to Whitemark the only alternative arrangement. Only one man is required to install the gas pressure equipment on the cables.
All the suitably qualified Linemen, Grade 2 in the Launceston district, from which transferees are drawn, are married men. To prevent linemen employed on this work suffering undue inconvenience, the period of temporary transfer is limited to three months.
When work associated with the installation of gas pressure equipment is completed in about six months, the present intention is to retain one lineman at Whitemark to handle faults if there is sufficient work available to justify this level of staffing.
Debate resumed from 28 August (vide page 490), on motion by Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin:
That the Bill be now read a second lime.
– Let me say at the outset that the Opposition does not oppose this Bill. 1 sincerely hope, however, that the Minister in charge of the Bill (Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin) will not take the same view as the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Scott) did yesterday. When Senator Cant had charge of a Bill on behalf of the Opposition and indicated that the Opposition was not opposed to the measure, Senator Scott took it that the Opposition was supporting the Bill. Whilst we do not oppose this measure, we propose to criticise it as there are several features of the measure which are open to criticism. One of the points relating to this Bill which I wish to criticise is a feature that has been most noticeable during the introduction of many Bills brought before this place over the past few weeks and indeed over past years. I refer to the way in which, when introducing Bills, Ministers eulogise their own departments. That has been a notable feature of the introduction of this measure. Here again, when introducing the Bill, the Minister eulogised the Government for having brought it forward. That is fair enough. Perhaps it is quite all right to give some word of commendation of the Government, but it does become rather monotonous to us on this side of the chamber and I suggest that it also becomes rather monotonous to those people throughout the length and breadth of Australia who are listening to the broadcast of our proceedings.
Incidentally, T just happened to notice that our proceedings are being broadcast at this point of time. Up to now I was not aware of this. When I prepared my notes on this Bill I did not expect for one moment that 1 would be speaking over the air.
– That would not have made any difference, would it?
– lt would not make any difference because what I have to say I would have said irrespective of whether I am on the air.
– The honourable senator will have to leave out the fourletter words.
– I think Senator Cavanagh is trying to get a little bit provocative there. I do not think I will take him up on that one.
– Seeing he is the only one present on the Opposition side of the chamber, he might be permitted one interjection.
– Apparently the attitude taken by Senator Cavanagh a few moments ago towards Senator Wright is not being appreciated by the Minister. Probably if the Minister were a little more co-operative towards members on this side of the chamber he would in return receive a little more co-operation from honourable senators on this side. I suggest to him in this election year that if he and his Government co-operate a little more with us we might extend the same courtesy to them.
Let me revert to what I was saying about the propaganda which is engaged in by Ministers when introducing Bills. By way of example, I refer to page 488 of Hansard where the Minister for Housing is reported as having said:
As honourable senators will be aware, the Government has for the past 15 years enjoyed a highly successful partnership with the churches and other voluntary organisations in establishing homes for aged persons throughout Australia.
She went on to say:
While the Government is proud of this record we do not intend to rest on our laurels. . . .
One wonders what laurels are coming to the Government as a result of this piece of legislation. The Constitution provides that the Government shall care for aged persons and that it shall care for those entitled to social service benefits, so 1 fail to see where the Government has won any laurels for doing something which it is required to do under the Constitution. I do not know why the Government thinks it should be given laurels. If one reads this passage one cannot find any reason for laurels to be given to the Government. Quite a considerable number of people who have reached 80 years of age would not need any assistance under this legislation. I do not know the number or percentage of people who would be entitled to assistance, but if one refers to page 135 of the Australian ‘Year Book’ for 1968, No. 54, one will find that a census was taken of the Australian population at 30th June 1961 and again at 30th June 1966.
The ‘Year Book’ shows that in 1961 there were 33,069 males and 52,627 females, a total of 85,696 persons, between the ages of 80 and 84 years. In the group aged 85 years and over we find, without breaking the figures down to male and female, that the total was 44,829. If we add the two totals, that is, those aged between 80 and 84 years and those aged 85 years and over, we find that the total number of persons aged 80 years and over was 130,525. If we look at the census which was taken in 1966 - I do this for a particular reason - we find that the total number of persons, male and female, aged 80 years and over at the end of June 1966 was 157,650. It can be seen from those two sets of figures that over the 5-year period there was an increase of 27,125 people aged 80 years and over. I think it is reasonable to state that quite a number of these people aged 80 years and over would have been victims of the depression. Many of them would not have had an opportunity to save for their old age and for the frail years of their lives. As I said earlier, it is the responsibility of any federal government to provide for these people in their old age. At page 489 of Hansard we see that the Minister said in her second reading speech:
Inquiries by my Department indicate that over 300 of the homes established since the introduction of the Aged Persons Homes Act in 1954 are providing the accommodation envisaged by the present legislation and that approximately 6,000 people, or 46% of the total number of residents, would be in the 80 and over age group.
One must accept those figures as being fairly accurate because they would have been compiled by the Department. I would not have any reason or desire to query those figures. However, I suggest that if there were 157,650 people over the age of 80 years at the end of 1966 and there are now, 3 years later, only 6,000 people receiving assistance under this legislation, the percentage is very low. If one takes the average increase in the number of people in this age group from 1961 to 1966 one finds that the yearly average has been 5,425, so the number of people who are receiving assistance under this legislation would be only slightly in excess of the increase which would occur in any one year. If the average increase in the number of persons over the age of 80 from 1961 to 1966 was 5,425, it would be reasonable to suppose that in the 3-year period from 1966 to 1969 another 16,275 people would have reached the age of SO years. This would be in addition to those whom I mentioned earlier. Consequently, I do not think the Government has earned many laurels in providing for 6,000 people only. If my figures are correct, and I believe that they are very close to being correct, we would find that the number of persons now over the age of 80 years would be 173,925.
– Not all would be in homes.
– I agree that not all would be in homes. Quite a considerable number of those people would be able to afford to care for themselves after they reached the frail age, whether that age is over 80 or under 80 years. Nevertheless, the percentage of people receiving assistance under the present legislation is very small. I fail to understand also why tho Government has not applied to this legislation the principle which it has accepted and applied to the Social Services Act. The Government has not made any provision whatsoever for a female under the age of 80 years. The Bill states that the qualifying age is 80 years. Under the Social Services Act there has always been a 5-year gap between the age at which a female qualifies for a pension and that at which a male qualifies for a pension. Why has the Government insisted, under this legislation, that all persons shall be over the age of 80 years? The Minister said in her second reading speech:
The qualifying age of 80 years has not been selected arbitrarily.
She went on to refer to a New Zealand Board of Health Committee on the Care of the Aged. Apparently the Government has copied this Bill from what exists in New Zealand. So the question that must pose itself is whether this Government has sufficient initiative to initiate legislation for the aged people within this Commonwealth or whether it has to wait until some other country introduces this type of legislation and then copy it. I cannot understand why the Government does this kind of thing.
We notice that on many occasions the Government, when introducing legislation not only in this field but in others, refers to something that is in existence in some other country. This indicates to me that the Government lacks initiative not only in this field but on a lot of other points of its policy. I fail to understand why the Government has arbitrarily accepted and laid down 80 years as the qualifying age for assistance under this legislation. It is quite conceivable that a number of invalid pensioners will be located in the same homes as these persons who are 80 years of age and over: yet this legislation does not permit those invalid pensioners to qualify. I suggest that this is something to which the Government should give consideration. [Quorum formed.]
The Minister, in her second reading speech, appealed to honourable senators to remind local governing bodies of their eligibility to participate in the Commonwealth subsidy scheme. My mind goes back to the time when amendments to the Aged Persons Homes Act were brought forward a few years ago. The Opposition endeavoured to amend the Act in order to give local governing bodies the authority lo set up homes under this legisation. The Government opposed that move. Later it brought forward an amendment to that effect. Naturally, we did not oppose it; we gave it our wholehearted support. Now we find the Government appealing not only to its own members but also to members of the Opposition to make it known that this assistance is available. There is a very good reason why the local governing authorities are not participating in this scheme in the way the Government desires. The reason simply is that the Federal Government is not. making sufficient money available to the State governments to enable them in turn to make money available to the local governing authorities. This is virtually starving the local governing authorities out of participation in this scheme.
Realising that I would be speaking on this Bill. I sought the assistance and advice of a person who happens lo be the President of the Metropolitan Central
Council of Tasmania for the Society of St Vincent de Paul. He put some thoughts on homes for the aged on paper for me and suggested that the Government might be able to introduce some of them into its present or future legislation and so give some help to these homes. I think we all agree that the Society of St Vincent de Paul does a lot of good throughout the length and breadth of the Commonwealth, lt is an organisation which, along with other organisations admittedly, does a lot for the aged people of the country. The document that has been submitted to me is not long; but at the risk of wearying some honourable senators 1 intend to read it to the Senate. It reads:
Homes for the Aged fall loosely into three categories: 1. Unit type; 2. Rest homes; 3. Nursing or terminal homes.
Each type can be conducted as a separate project or can be co-ordinated in any combination of two or all three types. lt appears from observations that the need for type 3 is the most in demand because it is most costly to construct and conduct, but the success of the whole scheme depends on this type of nursing home, built for the aged who reach the stage of being unable to care for themselves and chronic illness of the not so old who need constant nursing for the rest of their lives. This applies mostly to the lower income group who have little or no hospital benefits, so that the organisation conducting the home can expect only the $5 or $2 per day Commonwealth grant and some portion of the patient’s invalid or aged pension.
Type 2 - Rest Homes - are an intermediary type and admission to most of this type requires the person to be able to attend to his or her own needs such as bathing, feeding, etc.
Type 1 - Units - requires inmates to be able lo live as self-contained units or in some cases communal meals.
This type of home falls into several categories hut once again leaves the pensioner or superannuated persons in dire need.
This type also includes what are called in some areas founder donor homes which are not fully covered by the present Act and might even be called illegal. Cases are known where the donor has contributed something in the vicinity of $2,000 matched by $4,000 by the Commonwealth, the donor dies and then the home is re-sold, not. once but even two or three times, thus bringing this type of scheme into disrepute. But, with appropriate amendments to the Act with legal safeguards, this could be a most valuable means of housing people with limited assets, but the property must not be re-sold but made freely available to a pensioner on the death of the donor at an agreed small upkeep rental.
Finance - Finance of all three projects with the exception of the founder donor home scheme which has already been explained, is the most single important need for amendment. Simply put, the Commonwealth Grant of $2 to SI in many cases is most unsatisfactory and costly for the Government and is holding up the provision of first class accommodation for aged. If we take an imaginary case it will be the easiest way to explain.
An organisation provides $20,000 and the Commonwealth grant provides $40,000. This is for the building and does not take into account the necessary furnishings, bed linen, crockery, cutlery, etc.
The bed rate is immediately cut by one third, from $2 per day to 66c or from $3 to $1.66 per day for full nursing cases. This is most inadequate to pay for upkeep and so the organisation has to make up the balance necessary by taking almost all the pension, or the relatives of the aged person are required to make up the balance. This produces the situation where those in most need are unable to be cared for and we find them in pitiful conditions in slum dwellings.
We also know how organisers of these projects have to spend most valuable time organising fund-raising functions instead of being able to spend their time furthering the well being of their inmates.
My suggestion would be lo amend lbc Act to allow recognised charitable or church organisations lo borrow interest free or at low interest repayable in say ten years, such finance not interfering with the bed rate, and lo cover the whole project including furnishings, etc.
Apart from the saving of capital grants by the Government which are a direct Budget expenditure, the capital will be returned to the Government for further projects. Many more approved homes by approved organisations will result. At present when we realise that the capital cost is something between $5,000 and $8,000 per bed, to provide 20 beds an organisation has to find one third of $100,000 as a conservative estimate plus furnishing, we are deterred from starting more homes and nursing homes and so less people are taking an interest in their community and more important still, many more of our aged are left lo die from malnutrition and neglect in the slums of our cities.
As 1 said before, those are thoughts put forward by the President of the Metropolitan Central Council of Tasmania, Society of St Vincent de Paul. I think that I have offered sufficient criticism of this Bill to indicate to the Government that while the Opposition does not oppose it it is not in complete support of the Bill as it stands. We would like to see amendments of the legislation to bring in more people and to provide more money for the care of aged people in the community today.
Senator DAVIDSON (South Australia) f 1 2.6J - 1 have listened to what 1 regard as a curious form of support for this measure, the Aged Persons Homes Bill 1969. lt is true to say that this support is expressed in terms of voting results. I listened to Senator Poke state that the Government has introduced the measures set out in this Bill together with a great flood of what he termed propaganda and a claim to credit not only for the legislation but for the people who prepared it and for the people who drafted and implemented it. Senator Poke has criticised what he called this propaganda. He has criticised what may be described as a creditable performance. But in this criticism he has denied credit to that vast body of people comprising the membership of charitable organisations, church and community groups who have responded to the Government’s initiative - not lack of initiative, as senator Poke put it. They have come forward and worked in a spirit of interdependence with the Government and with the departments concerned in the establishment of a wide range of homes, hostel type accommodation, services, hospitals and infirmaries to lake care of the aged people.
In criticising this Bill Senator Poke has denied the credit due to these people, the hard-working volunteers. He did not lay on the line in his short contribution to this debate that there is an enormous number of people throughout Australia working with the Government and with the community in the interests and on behalf of aged people. The initiative provided by the Government over a period of years has brought forward such a response that today 33,000 senior citizens know a degree of comfort and security that they would not have known had not the initiative been taken over that period of years. At the outset 1 want to say quite firmly that in view of the criticism that has been made we should not forget that the process of caring for senior citizens in our community is, under this Government, a complementary process of government on the one hand and of community effort on the other. Senator Poke brought forward a particular document the contents of which I respect, but I venture to suggest that the Opposition in its contribution to this debate has lost track of what I call the principle of the Bill and the whole philosophy that is associated with its introduction.
The purpose of the Aged Persons Homes Bill, as stated by the Minister for Housing (Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin), is to legislate to assist organisations conducting homes for the aged to meet the cost of providing adequate accommodation and personal care services for residents who, while suffering from a degree of frailty, do not require full time nursing care. The Minister proposes in this legislation to introduce a %5 a week subsidy for eligible residents. However, this Bill could be regarded as being an extension of the programme which, as I have already indicated, has been in train for some 15 years during which time a very successful partnership has been worked out in dealing with people throughout Australia who have need of such care.
I suggest that these facilities are more than homes. They are now features of our community life, and more than that they are an integral part of the modern Australian social structure. They have introduced and fostered an interdependence in the community, and the programme of care for aged people through aged persons homes has aroused a greater awareness of the needs of our senior citizens. I submit that this would not have occurred if there had been what has been described as ‘lack of initiative’. There has been greater sharing of responsibility to include those individuals who, because of their circumstances, have not had personal involvement with an elderly relative.
The care of our senior citizens has very much become a total activity in the Australian community. The measure before us has been introduced against the background of the Minister’s reference to the fact that the Government is proud of its record. Any government that introduces measures of this kind over a period of years has very good reason to be proud of its record; but by the same token, the Minister has also said that whilst this pride is justified there is every reason for officers, scientists and people involved in researches at this level to maintain a constant and continual investigation into the modern needs of our senior citizens. By the expression ‘modern needs of our senior citizens’, I mean the needs in 1969, not forgetting what will be the needs of senior citizens in 1979, 1989 or 1999, when they will be vastly different from what they are today.
Before leaving the subject of the pattern of contributions [ want to touch upon the Minister’s reference to local government in her speech. She has drawn attention to the fact that when the Act was amended to allow for local government to become involved in this kind of programme there was not the same measure of response that came in earlier days of the legislation from charitable organisations, churches and voluntary organisations. I guess that this springs from the fact that local government is in itself of a different structure altogether from that of the associations to which we have referred, lt may well be that it arises from the point of view of the State Acts under which local government operates, together with the fact that local government may not be expected by its constituency to involve itself in this kind of activity. After all, local government has a great deal to do and has very many problems of a community nature on its plate. Therefore it is probable that it does not feel itself called upon in the same way as voluntary organisations do to enter into this field of the provision of accommodation for aged people. 1 think it should be placed on record wilh some emphasis that local government authorities throughout Australia have been more than co-operative in their assistance and implementation of the Government’s programme of care for the aged. I refer to the provision of all kinds of services, benefits, facilities, money, personal interest and general encouragement of community services. It has given general leadership to voluntary community organisations. Local government has been of the greatest assistance and its contribution in these terms is something that cannot be set down in so many figures or statistics. On the other hand, it must be said that this has greatly facilitated the programme of care for senior citizens.
I turn now to consider some of the provisions of the measure before the Senate. I draw the attention of honourable senators to the Minister’s speech which describes the measure as one directed towards the intermediate category of elderly people who, because of advancing years, while not requiring full time nursing care, are unable to live in a normal domestic environment without help. I understand that the number of people likely to benefit from the provisions of this Bill is about 6,000, or 46% of the total number of people who live in aged persons’ homes; that is, those people who arc in the vicinity of SO years or are older than 80 years. The qualifying age of 80 years has been accepted as that beyond which people are likely to be described as frail. I imagine that 80 years of age is an age at which some people are certainly not frail, while others of course enter the frail category at a much earlier age.
The object of the personal care subsidy is to assist in the provision of personal attention for elderly people. Assistance is to be provided at the rate of $5 a week, at 4-weekly intervals, on the basis of $20 for each person aged at least 80 years residing in prescribed accommodation. It goes without saying that certain qualifications must be laid down, one of which is ih-.it u home must be of sufficient standard to provide at least two meals a day for its residents. The problems of the aged and aging have been receiving attention in recent years in many parts of the world. Senator Poke referred to the New Zealand programme and claimed that the Government is following the example of certain other nations. Perhaps if Senator Poke studied some other journals he would say that certain other nations have been following the Australian pattern. In dealing with the section of society comprised of aged people we are not dealing with a section of people peculiar to Australia, but with a section of society te be found in all nations of the world. What applies in one nation is of use, value and interest in other places.
There is a particularly large body of evidence of public interest throughout the world on the subject of care for the aged. Many organisations and individuals are involved in trying to improve the lot of aged persons. Reference has already been made to the New Zealand programme. I wish to refer to a similar programme that has emerged as a result of a study made by a committee of the Canadian Senate, ft brought down its report a couple of years ago after a careful examination of problems of aged people as individuals, and on a national scale. Interestingly enough, the report makes a thoughtful comment on the use of the word ‘welfare’. The word welfare’ of course is very closely associated with a programme of this kind. The Canadian Senate committee stated in its report: “There appear to be two broad categories of meaning for the word “welfare”.’
There are those people for whom welfare is an essential activity of the community which should ensure that every citizen is able to call upon community services that he may need as a right of membership within the community. The word ‘welfare’ in this sense covers a wide range of services intended to provide a condition of well being for every citizen. Then there are those people who think of welfare services as those services provided for the poor and the socially inadequate. As the report states, it is a normal and natural phenomenon of human life which concerns us all and, says the report, ‘we have deliberately rejected the idea of defining services to aged people as “welfare services”.’ This is an important point which needs to bc looked at in our thinking regarding Australia’s activities in relation to the problems of aged people.
Aging is a normal process to which every human being is subject. I think it is obvious that it is not a disease or a handicap liable to be suffered by only a small section of the community. We are all involved in the process which the Bill recognises is a common experience for all mankind. In the seventeenth annual report of the Old People’s Welfare Council of Victoria it is clearly shown that this is one of the many organisations within the Australian community that are sharing concern not only for the present situation but also for the future. The report states, in part:
For some the duration of the aging process is comparatively short; for others it appears almost indefinite. For the great majority, the process is accompanied by changes in health and circumstance, in the tempo of activity, in the scope of interests and most importantly, in n reaction to the changes themselves.
For each of us the process gives rise to problems, our understanding and handling of them being conditioned greatly by health and environment, by the quantity and quality of our experience, by the sort of personal relationships we have established over the years and by the depth of our understanding and, perhaps, by our philosophy of life’.
It is in the establishment of a philosophy and a quality of life that this measure is one of a number which the Government has brought forward in recent times. This is the latest measure which responds to this need. I think it is important also to point out that the people for whom this benefit will be provided are those who broadly might be described as our parents, our mothers and fathers. They are the ones who have made contributions to society and to the development of Australia over the years. As Senator Poke has said, these are the people who were hit by the depression at a period of life when they might reasonably have expected to acquire some savings to take care of their needs when they were 80 and over.
Senator Poke also referred to the percentage of people in the senior age bracket. It is important to emphasise that aspect because any study of the census figures will show that the percentage of people within that area of years is increasing and likely to continue to increase. The Government always must be aware of the changing needs and demands of that section of our community. The 1966 census showed that 3% of the population was aged 75 years and over, reaching into the 80s. The 1961 census showed that persons in that age category represented 2.8% of the population, the 1954 census 2.59%, the 1947 census 2.63%, whilst further back it was under 2%. All of this means that there is a growing number and a growing percentage of people in terms of the population who will require this kind of attention.
Various projections have been made by reporters and investigators concerning population trends in Australia. All of them confirm the fact that more people will be requiring some form of attention and service in the near future and into the next decade. Some kind of help must, of necessity, be provided on a universal basis while we must hold always in balance the fact that service for aged people must keep within its scope areas for the provision of individual attention because it is the individual and the personality who must be respected and cared for.
This measure may not be able to provide a complete standard of service for everyone in the community who falls within a particular age group. I think it is proper also to say that it does not exonerate every citizen from his responsibility to care for the aged. It does not excuse families from their need to care for elderly relatives, but it does show that the Government has taken the initiative in its awareness of the changing problems of the aged and that it is doing what it can for aged people within the resources available and within the spirit of the community’s concern. At all times I think we should endeavour to reflect upon and remember that if a group in our society is isolated and is regarded as being patronised or if it becomes a routine process to regard that group as inferior, then very undesirable reactions will follow. In any programme of caring for senior citizens care must be taken continually to ensure that dignity, personality, equality and an involvement in the social activities of our society are preserved.
I want to turn for a moment to a theme which I have endeavoured to mention from time to time during my speech today and to direct attention to the changed and changing relations of aged people to our total society. This has found expression in an article in last September’s issue of the Medical Journal of Australia’. The article highlights certain changes taking place in our society which may be fairly obvious to honourable senators but which need to be taken into account in any research or investigation programme regarding care and accommodation for senior citizens. I should like to refer to two or three aspects that are mentioned in the article. Attention is directed to the fact that in recent years there has been what is called a change from home to factory production which has destroyed certain parts of the economic character of the family unit whose total income is now a sum of the separate incomes of the different members of the family. This is in contrast to the preindustrial rural model in which the family enterprise was the common economic unit.
Emphasis is given also to the physical conditions of urban life. Small houses and residential and social mobility set the conditions which are unfavourable to what the article calls the extended family. Then, interestingly enough, it brings in the rise of the large organisation in the responsibility for the aged - the growing, systematically developed social service assistance for the aged in pensions, home development, medical services and support for aged exservicemen. That reflects what I tried to say at the beginning of my remarks, namely, that society as a whole rather than the family has responsibility for the aged. Other matters referred to in the article relate to compulsory retirement at an earlier age than was (he case in other years, and also to the social status of a man’s work, his sense of achievement in his occupation and vocation. All of this will change again as society develops, as the population of Australia grows, as its nature changes and as our social system alters. Therefore 1 should like to underline heavily the Minister’s statement in his speech that there is a constant activity on the part of the Government in research into the needs of and care for aged citizens.
I support this Bill enthusiastically, at the same time recognising that in dealing with a matter of this kind we are dealing with a large and growing percentage of the Australian society which comprises individuals who have individual needs and individual problems, but this is set against new developments and growth in care for the aged at world level. 1 hope that the measure will receive a speedy passage and that as a result of its implementation not only a further measure of aid will be brought to those who are 80 years and over but also that a great deal of satisfaction will flow to those people who care for them.
– 1 indicate that we of the Australian Democratic Labor Party support this measure although we do not regard it as a tremendous step forward. Indeed we regard it somewhat as a step taken in an attempt to catch up. Unlike the Government, we are not proud of this legislation. In fact we are just a little ashamed that as members of Parliament and as members of the community wc have been so long in reaching this stage. I listened with interest to Senator Davidson who quoted philosophies as though they were new found philosophies that we had begun to think about only in the past few years. This is something that we should have been thinking about for the whole of our lifetime because it has been obvious in this industrial age that this problem was one of growing magnitude and one which would need more attention by individuals, by organisations and by parliaments for a long time to come.
We all could excuse ourselves by saying that we became involved in wars, depressions and a lot of other things which postponed a solution of this obvious and growing problem which affects more and still more people in an industrial agc who are enjoying a far higher life expectancy than has ever been possible in the history of mankind. We do not now wish to join with the Government in self-praise at having discovered at long last that as a community we are moving towards better thinking on this problem which has been obvious for so long. We are moving towards a better way of life for people whose lives have been extended by the medical knowledge that is available to mankind and by the social circumstances that are preventing, in only some countries of the world, the once great famines that accounted for the lives of very many people and prevented them from reaching the stage of maturity at which they would need the type of assistance that is provided here.
This has all been going on and has been obvious for so long now that we should bc looking at legislation such as this not with a feeling of pride but with some sense of shame that it has taken us so long to come to the logical conclusion that it is the responsibility of all of us to accept an obligation towards those people who have given us the opportunity to live and enjoy a type of life that is so superior to the type of life that was lived by the majority of people of the generations that have gone by. Lel us hope that we, too, can in our turn do for the generations that follow us what the people we are now discussing in relation to the Aged Persons Homes Bill have done for us. We should take away from this any element of charity, any feeling that we are doing something wonderful. That is why I am a little disappointed that in another place the Minister, in introducing this legislation, should have expressed the idea that Parliament itself should feel proud of what is contained in this legislation.
We feel that in the administration of assistance such as this great care should be taken to ensure proper inspection of homes that are established so that not only may the Commonwealth be shown in terms of statistics to be making the money available but the true benefit may reach the people for whom it is intended. We would accept that the great majority of people who busy themselves with and are interested in this type of social activity are very commendable people, but homes can fall under bad management. I remind honourable senators that earlier during the Industrial Revolution there were poor houses in England, the intentions of which in some cases were excellent but the administration of which fell far short of the intentions of the people who established them in the beginning. Wc believe that there should at all times be adequate inspection to ensure that none slip by the wayside and that the maximum attention is available to the people for whom it is intended as a result of the expenditure of this money. We should ensure that there is no wasteful administration and that none of the assistance being made available is badly managed or wrongly applied.
I cannot accept Senator Poke’s argument, in dealing with the age question and the limitation of those to be helped to persons of or over 80 years of age, that we should give some consideration to preconceived ideas in relation to social service benefits that led us to award pension rights to females at the age of 60 years and to males at the age of 65 years. I think that humanity is moving somewhat away from this concept and it is very proper that it should do so, particularly in this case. When social reforms of this sort were first mooted the womenfolk of the community lived a vastly different life from that which they live today. Today we, particularly those of us who are interested in the Labor and trade union movements, are seeking equality of pay and equality of the sexes in all things. I do not know that there is a good technical argument to suggest that females of the age of 75 years are less fit or more in need of care and attention than males of the same age. I would think that statistics would show exactly the opposite. There arc probably biological reasons for this that I would leave to those who are more skilled in biology to explain. But there is one thing that is obvious to a person who has had anything to do with industry or industrial relationships or who has even had experience of normal family life.
In the main, the type of work that a male performs in modern communities takes him away from home very often and he loses touch with his home. He gets a great deal of acquaintanceship and friendship outside the home and he has much more mental adjustment to make in the later years of his life when his physical capacities are gone than many of the ladies have to make. I think that that would be largely recognised. I think it is a statistical and physical fact that many of the womenfolk tend to have better health in later years of life than men do. 1 am not one of those who believe that the age of 80 years should be an arbitrary line on this question at all. I think that we must ultimately reach the conclusion that the general fitness or frailty of individuals should be the measuring stick as to whether or not they are eligible for the type of housing that we are considering. I refuse to call it assisted housing because I feel that these people merely by living in our community have well earned whatever late payments we are making towards their subsistence at an advanced age.
I believe that statistics would support me in the contention that the tendency should not be towards establishing, as in relation to age pensions, a difference between the ages at which males and females may qualify for assistance. We should be considering reducing the age at which males become eligible and bringing about equality rather than contemplating the perpetuation of differences in the ages at which men and women become eligible for benefits, which if we are honest we will admit to be a residue of attitudes of life that are in the process of changing quite dramatically. Indeed, I think that we can look forward to a future when the opportunities and rights of people throughout their lives will not be inhibited by the fact that one happens to be female as against another being a male.
I would not be one of those who would suggest that in a scheme such as this we should contemplate a reduction in the qualifying age for females. Rather should we advocate a system whereby the rights of each individual should be considered irrespective of age. Their requirements should bc considered in the light of the condition in which they have survived to the lowest qualifying age. This age should be persistently lowered so that we can bring more and still more people within the ambit of the assistance that we are prepared to give. The age of 80 years is prescribed in this Bill but every honourable senator would admit that he could find cases among people of 67 or 68 years of age which would be more deserving than those of many 80-year-old people, but the former are excluded purely and simply because they have not reached the period of life at which we are making the help available.
If there is lo be any alteration in the qualifying age I do not want to see it perpetuate a disability as between the sexes. Rather do I want to see qualification judged wholly and solely on the basis that we are all equal in the community, whether in relation to earning a wage, receiving accommodation as an aged person, or receiving assistance of a medical character as an aged person. We think that this measure is a step towards achieving the objectives for which we should aim. We do not by any means join the Government in feeling proud and in thinking that this legislation is the ultimate. We are only beginning to deal with this problem which, as has been suggested, is one of growing magnitude. 1 have no doubt that it will continue to grow. I do not subscribe to the view that our medical researchers have reached their zenith. Some of the problems that we are discussing now have been contributed to tremendously by one series of medical discoveries, sulfa drugs and other drugs with which pneumonia and other diseases can be overcome. These drugs have saved the lives of numerous people alive today who would otherwise have passed away as a result of catching some of these diseases.
I have no doubt that in the medical field there lie ahead still more amazing discoveries that are as yet undreamed of. If medicine is able to conquer cancer, no doubt the problem that we are discussing today will be accentuated further. If some day medicine is able to make people’s hearts last longer - quite apart from the technique of heart transplants - then the problem will become one of still greater magnitude. I prefer to look at this problem as one which has existed for a considerable time, as one to which we have been far too slow in giving the attention that ought to have been given and as one with which we are now beginning to catch up. I think this measure is a step in the right direction. The Government has taken this step as a result of its announced intention in the Budget speech. The Bill will achieve that intention. To that extent, we support the legislation.
– Naturally the Australian Labor Party supports any legislation which gives benefits, particularly to the aged or to the frail in our community. I join with what Senator Little said. We appreciate that assis tance is given. 1 noted the remarks of Senator Davidson that 33,000 people have benefited and are living in some security and comfort at present. He said that everyone with the interests and the welfare of the aged at heart should commend such a situation. From time to time I have opposed this scheme, not because of the benefits it gives but because its application is restricted to a few and because the operation of the scheme is left to private organisations rather than to Government departments. While 33,000 enjoy the benefits of the aged persons homes scheme today, the impoverished cannot enjoy such benefits. A person must have between $2,000 and $5,000 before he can enter one of these homes. This payment is merely key money. It is necessary to pay one-third of the cost of the home with the Government providing two-thirds of the cost. But the person concerned has no equity in the borne.
We in this Parliament have knowledge of aged people who have been considered undesirable tenants and have been evicted from their accommodation. We have knowledge of people who have died after a short period of residence. Such people lose the entire deposits which they have paid for entry into the homes. They have not had the benefit of any lengthy period of residence. The Minister for Housing (Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin), in her second reading speech, said that $94m has been paid by the Government since the introduction of the Aged Persons Homes Act. Accepting that the grant has been on a $2 for $1 basis, with the provision of an additional $45m the Government could have had complete ownership and control of these homes and made them available to the section of the community which most needs them, the people who do not have $2,000 or $3,000.
– Further legislation will be introduced concerning those people.
– -If further legislation is to be introduced, we on this side of the House would appreciate being notified. At present we are dealing with an Act that has been in operation since 1954. I am criticising the deficiencies of the Act which the Government now seeks to amend. Speakers today - and also Senator Greenwood last night - said that while there was some deficiency in (he Act, the desire was to improve the present position and that this was a commencement. I appreciate that further legislation will be introduced. I well remember an occasion when Senator Wright, as a back bencher of the Liberal Party, listened to criticism of the Act.
Sitting suspended from 12.46 to 2 p.m.
– Prior to the suspension of the sitting I had expressed the Opposition’s support for any scheme which would benefit the aged and the infirm. I was seeking to show that from time to time the Opposition - myself in particular - has criticised the Aged Persons Homes Act insofar as it provides comfortable dwelling accommodation for only a selected section of the community and makes no provision for those who most deserve the homes. The Act makes no provision for those persons who do not have the key money that is required before one can enter these homes. Earlier L pointed out that the homes are constructed under a system whereby the occupants pay one-third of the cost of the home and the Government provides the other two-thirds. Although these homes are constructed at no cost to the organisations concerned, these organisations do not have to guarantee that the homes will be used at ail times to house aged persons. From time to time I have raised in the Senate the question of the establishment of private companies for the purpose of obtaining subsidies under this scheme. Whilst they are non-profit making companies, as private companies they are acquiring assets in the form of buildings. What would happen to these buildings if the companies concerned were to wind up?
Earlier this afternoon T said that 1 could well recall a remark made by the Minister for Works (Senator Wright), when he was a back bencher. After hearing Senator Dame Dorothy Tangney criticise what was happening in Perth with these homes, he said that in the next session of the Parliament he would be prepared to support any move by Senator Tangney to establish a Senate select committee to inquire into the circumstances surrounding privately owned homes for the aged to determine where the equity lay and what would happen if a private organisation were wound up. During the next session of the Parlia ment Senator Tangney placed a motion to this effect on the notice paper. Unfortunately, nothing came of it during the time that Senator Tangney remained a member of this chamber. In the meantime, Senator Wright has been promoted. I do not know whether his promise will still hold if Senator Tangney is returned to this chamber after the next Senate election. The promise that Senator Wright made is recorded in Hansard.
Not only is there to be an increase in the assets of these organisations but also, according to the monthly statements issued by the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth), some organisations are obtaining in excess of the cost of constructing homes. The Government’s subsidy is on the basis of S2 to $1 for the cost of the acquisition of land and the construction of the homes. I have not examined all the monthly statements, but I looked through the one issued on 31st January 1969 in particular. As a result, I placed question No. 1280 on notice. I have since received a reply. I asked:
During the month of January 1969, was a Commonwealth grant of $7,400 made under the Aged Persons Homes Act to the Church of England Homes for Elderly People for two self-contained cottages in the electorate of La Trobe, Victoria?
I also asked whether the cottages were limited to housing two aged persons each and whether $6,400 was donated by the residents for the construction of the cottages. The total capital cost of these two cottages was SI 1,000. The Commonwealth grant was $7,400 and the donation by the residents was $6,400. Therefore, a total amount of Si 3,800 was received by the organisation concerned for two cottages costing Si 1,000. In other words, $2,800 was paid in excess of the capital cost of the construction of these two cottages. Replying on behalf of the Minister for Social Services, the Minister for Housing (Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin) said that the figures sought were shown in the statement to which I have referred. The Minister said that the organisation concerned was not a profit making organisation; it was a charitable organisation. She went on to say that any amount received in excess of the capital cost of a building was usually used to help meet the cost of movable equipment and furniture, which is not eligible for the Commonwealth subsidy, to provide additional homes for non-donors, to build nursing accommodation or to meet the cost of other services for the aged residents.
The amount in excess of the capital cost has not been received on only one occasion. In the same publication that I referred to earlier it is stated that the Aged Cottage Homes Incorporated in the electorate of Sturt, South Australia, Vaseys House Auxiliary in the electorate of Isaacs, Victoria, Murray Lands Homes for the Aged Incorporated in the electorate of Angas, South Australia, and Dale Cottage Homes Incorporated in the electorate of Canning, Western Australia, also received moneys from Commonwealth grants and donations from the residents in excess of the capital cost of the homes provided. If a cottage is occupied for, say, 3 months and then vacated the resident’s donation is lost and another donation is demanded before a new resident can go into the cottage. Health schemes cost a lot of money to administer. The same situation could occur in this field. As 1 said earlier, for an extra $45m the Government could have gained complete control of these cottages and let them to the poor, elderly citizens who deserve them. By gaining complete control the Government would be able to retain the assets for the benefit of all Australians.
A deputation of tenants from a group of homes in Felixstow, South Australia, has waited on me. According to the agreement I have in front of me, the cottages are controlled by Aged Cottage Homes Incorporated, which has its registered office at 132 First Avenue, Joslin, South Australia. The organisation is referred to in the agreement as a society. I agree with Senator Davidson’s remarks that it is possible that the success of these homes can be attributed substantially to the voluntary efforts of a large number of people. Sir Keith Wilson is, I believe, Chairman of Directors of this group of homes for the aged. Anyone who knows Sir Keith Wilson would know that there could not be any suggestion of improper motives behind activities in which he is engaged.
– I think he has since resigned.
– I am informed by my colleague that he has since resigned. He was Chairman of Directors at one time.
The agreement which the tenants enter into with the society provides that the tenant shall pay to the society a rental of $6.50 - it has since been increased to $8.50 - per calendar month, payable on the first day of each and every month, plus 20 per cent of any increase in the age pension of a married couple. Therefore, the rental charged is not one related to the cost of maintenance and upkeep of the buildings. If the Government grants an increase in age pensions, then the tenants of this society are required to pay 20 per cent of that increase under the terms of the agreement into which they have entered, and they must pay this extra money irresective of whether the society requires it to meet increased costs of maintenance. The agreement provides that this rental shall commence on the date when the society notifies the tenant that the flat is ready for occupation and that the tenant shall pay all charges for gas and electricity. Under clause 5 of the agreement, it is provided that, should the rates, taxes or insurance on the flat occupied by the tenant be increased, the society may claim against the tenant and the tenant shall pay to the society such increases. I emphasise that these increases must be paid in addition to 20 per cent of any increase in age pension that may be granted by the Commonwealth. The agreement also provides that the tenant shall not make any alteration to the said flat or affix anything thereto without the prior consent in writing of the society. In the event of the society granting to the tenant, at the cost and expense of the tenant, permission to affix anything to the said flat, the article affixed shall become the property of the society and the tenant shall have no further interest in the same if the tenant should cease to occupy the Hat; nor shall the estate of the tenant have any interest in the same on the death of the tenant. For example, if a tenant wishes to put up a garage - some of these tenants do have cars - to house his car he must first obtain the approval of the society and, when erected, that garage becomes the property of the society. If he vacates the flat he cannot claim that as he met the whole cost of the garage it is his property and that he is therefore entitled to dismantle and shift it.
Under clause 8 of the agreement, if the tenant applies to the Board for permission to erect, at the expense of the tenant, a garage or carport on the society’s land, and if such permission is granted, the garage or carport shall become the property of the society and the society shall have the right from time to time, at its expense, to move the garage or carport to any other place on the land of the society. In the event of the tenant no longer occupying the said flat, and in the event of the death of the tenant, neither the tenant nor the estate of the tenant, in the case of death, shall have any interest in the said garage or carport. Not only does the garage or carport become the property of the society, but the society can move that garage or carport to wherever it likes on its own land. So you could have an assembly of thirtyone garages or carports that could be moved on to an adjoining property of the society if the society so desired.
These are all things that could happen under this scheme under which the Commonwealth contributes money without having any control over the administration of the way in which it is expended.
I think the Minister is somewhat concerned about it, if I interpret her second reading speech correctly. She says that she regrets that there is not more activity in this field by municipal bodies. She said: . . the direct response by councils has fallen short of what we had hoped for. I take this opportunity, therefore, to ask honourable senators to remind local governing bodies in their States that they are eligible to participate in the Commonwealth $2 for $1 subsidy scheme.
Later she said:
I am sure we all look forward to the time when the provision of homes for the aged will more and more become a feature of local government activity in Australia as it is overseas.
I think we all endorse those remarks. At least in that way we would have elected representatives of the people having some say in determining the conditions of occupancy of these homes. When the Act was last amended, T wrote to all suburban local governing bodies in South Australia explaining to them their right to participate in this scheme and asking them to take an active interest in participating in it. But it was found that under the Local Government Act of South Australia municipal bodies have no power to use money for such schemes as aged persons homes. My representations were well received by the local governing bodies. They were all anxious to participate in the scheme and referred the matter to the Local Government Revision Committee of South Australia which is charged with the responsibility of recommending to the State Government alterations that it thinks necessary to the Local Government Act. I attended before that Committee and gave evidence. The Committee had appointed a legal man to assist it in examining this question. He asked whether I thought local governing bodies throughout Australia, if given authority to provide homes for the aged should also have authority in isolated localities to provide shopping centres or amusement centres such as picture theatres for aged people in the establishments. I said that I thought that it was essential that the local authorities be given power to provide anything deemed necessary for the comfort of aged persons.
The Committee recommended to the Government that the Local Government Act be amended to permit local governing bodies to participate in this scheme of providing for the needs of aged persons. Unfortunately, there was a change of government in South Australia. The new Government - the present Government - in which vested interests have strong support feared that to grant the local governing bodies the power recommended would cause some interference with the activities of private enterprise. The result has been that the Act has never been amended in the desired direction. 1. repeat that one important reason why the municipal bodies of South Australia do not participate in the scheme is that they have no power to do so despite the fact that the Commonwealth Government is prepared to pay a subsidy of $2 for every Si expended by local governing bodies in this field. The State Government at present is not prepared to extend this power to them. If it did grant them the authority, then at least there would be some control by elected representatives of the people over the administration of the scheme.
The Minister says that this Bill proposes an advancement in the home nursing care service. I support those who question why the benefit is limited to persons of SO years of age and over. Let us consider the scheme as it has operated hitherto. I understand that there has been a payment of $4 a week for all such persons who require home nursing. Mr Daly, in leading for the Opposition in the debate on this Bill in the other place, said that only Queensland and South Australia have taken advantage of the Commonwealth subsidy of §2 for Si through providing aged persons with care in a home. Mr Daly then said:
Then we come to the legislation which provides for Commonwealth nursing home benefits. I understand that the States have only to get approval before money is made available to them to be used on projects to assist in this category. But the simple fact is that none of the States has yet made application for approval. That means that there are no benefits at all going to any of the States under the Commonwealth nursing home benefits legislation.
If this is so, T ask the Minister to tell me why it is so. Mr Daly seems to suggest that in order to attract the Commonwealth benefit the States must contribute but that the States may not be able to afford to contribute. In dealing with nursing home care the Minister said at page 488 of Mansard:
On top of the capital subsidy available under the Aged Persons Homes Act, organisations may also obtain assistance towards the expense of providing nursing care through the receipt of Commonwealth nursing home benefits under the National Health Act. As well as the normal nursing home benefit of $2 a day, which has been in existence since 1963-
This is the benefit that Mr Daly said has been enjoyed by Queensland and South Australia only. The Minister continued: the Government recently introduced a new higher rate of benefit for patients requiring intensive nursing care. The rate payable is $5 a day.
Mr Daly suggests that the $5 a day is not paid to any of the States and he suggests that the States will not participate. This is a scheme to cater for those who are in hostel type accommodation. Although the Minister sets out in her second reading speech details of the method of payment and the assistance to be given, these matters are not specified in the Bill. We have to rely solely on the Minister’s second reading speech to know what will be available in the way of approved care, the type of homes and when payment will be made. Earlier in her second reading speech the Minister said at page 488 of Hansard:
We now propose to introduce further assistance which will, in effect, take the form of a $5 a week subsidy for eligible residents.
But the Bill does not say this; the Bill says, in effect, that the Department will pay so much whenever it so desires. A little later the Minister said at page 489:
Accordingly this Bill introduces a new benefit to be known as a personal care subsidy which will be paid to organisations providing approved personal care services in what is generally known as hostel type accommodation.
According to the Minister hostel type accommodation is one of the requirements. She continued:
The assistance will be at the rate of $5 a week and will be paid at four-weekly intervals on the basis of $20 for each person aged 80 years or over residing, on a prescribed date, in such accommodation.
Those words would suggest that the assistance to be provided will depend on the number of people aged 80 years or over rather than the standard of care provided. The Minister continued:
Inquiries by my Department indicate that over 300 of the homes established since the introduction of the Aged Persons Homes Act in 1954 are providing the accommodation envisaged by the present legislation.
A little later she said: . . but it is intended that a home will be required to provide at least two meals a day for its aged residents and to employ sufficient staff to help the frail residents with bathing and dressing, the cleaning of their rooms, their personal laundry, the general oversight of their medication and, in case of emergency, for a staff member to be available on the premises at all times.
Having mentioned this requirement, the Minister continued:
Though the basis for payment will be the number of aged persons aged 80 and over, homes receiving approval will be expected to provide personal care service to any residents in need of it, whatever the age of these residents.
That seems to be a contradiction; it implies that whether or not care is being provided, the facilities for care must be provided, and whether or not persons 80 years or over arc receiving care the home will receive payment. The Bill does not say anything about this; we have to rely on the Minister’s second reading speech. The Bill states in clause 6: approved personal care services’ means personal care services approved by the DirectorGeneral by instrument in writing.
But that is not qualified in any way. Proposed section 10h provides that the Director-General may delegate powers to any officer of the Department of Social
Services, but the interpretation of approved personal care services provided by institutions could differ from one officer to another and yet will be determined by what has been described as a slip of paper passed over the table. In this way an institution will become approved to provide personal care services. What is required of an institution is mentioned by the Minister in her second reading speech, but why is nothing laid down in the Bill to establish the criteria upon which officers shall decide when administering the Act? Why do we give to officers of the Public Service the right to decide what shall be provided for aged persons and to decide whether the Commonwealth will pay a subsidy to an institution? Why are not we, as elected members of the Parliament, deciding what should be provided in order to attract the subsidy paid by the Commonwealth? Proposed section 10c fi.) states:
Subject to this Act, the Director-General may, in his discretion, on behalf of the Commonwealth, authorise the payment to an approved organisation of an amount of Twenty dollars in respect of each person who, on a prescribed date -
has attained the age of eighty years: and
is residing in accommodation provided by the organisation on premises to which the approval of the organisation under the las) preceding section relates.
The Director-General has the authority to pay S20 to an institution for each inmate who has attained the age of 80 years.
– To which Act is the honourable senator referring?
– I am referring to proposed section 10c of the Aged Persons Homes Act. Proposed sub-section (2.) states:
Payments lo an approved organisation under this section shall be made in such manner and at such times as the Director-General determines.
As people elected to the Parliament we are trying to decide a matter and are asked to rely solely on a second reading speech. We are asked to approve a Bill which gives a public official the right to pay whenever he likes to pay and the amount that he likes to pay for whatever he decides should be provided.
– That provision is in the Social Services Act in relation to other payments.
– Although the Government chose not to take advantage of my capabilities when passing the Social Services Act, there is no reason why that mistake should be repeated on the present Bill.
– The provision was inserted to help the recipient of social service benefits.
– It does not help the recipient of social service benefits but enables a public official to decide when payment shall be made. We should lay down the minimum requirements for payment and if someone meets those requirements he should be entitled to the benefit. Why should some official have the power, whether he uses it or not, to discriminate between organisations?
– It is to enable the Director-General to make quick decisions.
– The DirectorGeneral or anyone delegated by him can make a decision, and so it becomes a matter for decision by some official of the Department. We should not be approving the payment of public money for some benefit if we do not know what wc are paying for. We do not know what we are paying for. We are leaving it to someone else, without the responsibility of a member of the Parliament, to decide whether the payment shall be made and when it shall bc made. The Minister referred to a payment of $5 a week. It is not $5 of necessity. The Director-General decides what it is. What the Minister says in the second reading speech does not bind the succeeding Minister or the Director-General in administering the Act. In his discretion, he may pay the amount when he likes. If we permit government officials to decide what public moneys shall be paid out and the conditions under which they shall be paid out, we are abdicating our responsibility as members of the Senate. These arc questions that need further discussion at the Committee stage.
– I do not want to talk for too long on this Bill. I support what Senators Poke and Cavanagh have said about these amendments to the Aged Persons Homes Act. In particular, I support what Senator
Cavanagh has said about the original Act and the problems which we have had in South Australia and which Dame Dorothy Tangney had in Western Australia when she was a member of the Senate. The Minister for Housing (Senator Dam-; Annabelle Rankin), who represents the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth), no doubt will recall that on a number of occasions - at least two in this Parliament - we have raised the question of control. As Senator Cavanagh has pointed out, these amendments to the Act are in striking contrast to the refusal of the Government to act in that direction.
In this Bill we are conferring upon the Director-General of Social Services the right to do certain things if he is satisfied. We went before the previous Minister for Social Services by deputation in Adelaide, seeking to get him to exercise some control over the administration of the accommodation which has been built under the Act and which has received substantial subsidies. Senator Drury and I, as members of the deputation, brought before the Minister two cases in which the rights of the tenants seemed to us to be denied. For some time arguments had been developing about increases in charges which were a breach of the contract between the tenant and the organisation concerned. The tenant had undertaken to pay a certain weekly charge and that had been varied because it was claimed that the homes in fact had cost much more to run than had been thought at first. The Minister for Housing may remember that there was a firm agreement, but it was not operating. In addition there were some instances in which the tenants had paid a substantial amount of money into the home, the husband had died and the widow, who was younger, was forced to leave the premises. Only after representations were we able to obtain some return of money to people in those circumstances.
There is another problem in respect of some of the homes. This does not apply generally. It seemed to us then and it still seems to us that m respect of some of the organisations there is a need for a continuing interest by the Department of Social Services in the affairs of the homes. Under these amendments to the Act, the Department will take some sort of continuing interest in respect of these grants. But, as regards the operation of the homes under the original Act, the previous Minister refused to have any continuing control over them. This matter has also been raised with the present Minister. We have a situation in which charges can be altered and there is no recognition of representations from the aged persons within the home. No recreational facilities are provided. In fact, what happens is that the tenants are completely divorced from whatever intentions the Government had in providing this sort of accommodation.
The Minister said in her second reading speech that what was done under the original Act was good. I think she said that she took some pride in her association with the original legislation for the provision of accommodation for aged people. She said that we are now turning to a new area. What we on this side of the chamber have been saying both here and in deputations is that the Department should take a continuing interest in these homes in order to ensure that the finance that it provides for them is used to make them run efficiently, that the tenants are given some recreational facilities and that their rights within the home concerned, whether incorporated or not, are preserved and no great burdens are placed on them. This request has been put to the Minister and it has been refused. In my opinion, it is still necessary for the Government to consider it. Only recently Senator Drury and I went to a meeting of about seventy aged persons in a home. They had their usual grievances about increased charges and the imposition of a charge representing a share of the outside costs. The honourable member for Sturt (Mr Wilson) was with us on that occasion. This is a matter that has been raised previously by a number of members of the Parliament.
I rose only to request the Government to consider this very important request and to say that the Government should consider making some amendments to the Act to provide a control that will preserve the intention of the original legislation. If that is not done, whatever the Government might have done by providing subsidies to construct homes and whatever it might have done by extending the subsidies or giving fringe benefits in respect of the basic legislation, might all be lost by having a group of trustees or a management committee that does not honour the intention of the legislation. There should also be some provision for representation of the tenants. It would be easy for the Government or the Department to say to the organisations on behalf of the aged persons in the homes: ‘You should allow the aged persons to be represented on the management committees of your organisations’. These are matters that we have brought before the Government and the Minister before, but we find that nothing has been done even to recognise the disabilities that exist.
[2.37] - in reply - I rise to reply on behalf of the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth.) to some of the comments that have been made during the debate on this Bill. First of all, I thank those honourable senators who have spoken today on this matter of care for aged persons. Whether I have agreed or disagreed with the points they have made, they have all shown and expressed in their speeches their very real concern for those people who are now in the aged period of their lives and are, as we call them, our senior citizens.
I wish to speak now on some particular matters that have been raised. First of all, I should like to reply to Senator Poke. He criticised the Minister for Social Services and rae. as the Minister representing the Minister for Social Services, for our praise of the Department of Social Services and the work being done by it. Let me say that 1 pay my personal tribute to the Minister for Social Services and the officers of his Department for the excellent work they do and for their very real concern for the matters they are administering. I deplore anyone saying that such a tribute should not be paid to them.
I also pay tribute to the great voluntary organisations and church and charitable bodies throughout the length and breadth of the land which, together with the Government, since this legislation first came into operation have contributed such wonderful service to our aged people in caring for them and ministering to their needs. I believe that this is something for which we all can have a very real sense of appreciation. We all know of dedicated men and women in these organisations who, in season and out of season, have given untiring service in order to make this legislation a really live and worthwhile system of care for aged people in these homes, which we Australians recognise as a very important part of our community. Senator Poke criticised, or perhaps I. should say objected to. the attitude of the Government on this matter and the phrase that the Government would not rest upon its laurels. Senator Poke did not think that there were any laurels. I contradict that. I believe that in places as close as our nearest suburbs, as far away as the centre of Australia or wherever these homes are, people who are living in security and happiness and within the care of dedicated people appreciate this legislation as something which gives them happiness, security, friendship and care.
I want to reply to some of the points which were raised by honourable senators during the debate on this Bill. Senator Poke referred to the percentage of persons over 80 years of age. He said that a small percentage of the over 80s would benefit by this legislation. In reply to that I want to say that only a small percentage of such people are living in these homes for the aged. The assistance granted in this Bill is for people over that age living in such homes. Senator Poke also criticised the remarks of the Minister for Social Services when dealing with a report on health covering the recommendations of the New Zealand Board of Health committee on care for the aged and he implied that we were following the legislation which exists in New Zealand. I inform Senator Poke, and I am sure he will be pleased to know this, that in this legislation Australia is leading the way because, I am told, to date the recommendations have not been acted upon by New Zealand; so on this occasion we are showing the way.
Senator Poke said that this Government had opposed the suggestion of the Opposition that the Aged Persons Homes Act be extended to include local governing bodies and had delayed for some time before deciding to legislate in this direction. I am surprised that Senator Poke should have made this comment because honourable senators on this side will recall, as 1 do - perhaps because our memories are a little better than that of Senator Poke - that when the Government introduced legislation in 1967 to extend the Act to include local governing bodies the Opposition, of which Senator Poke is a member, delayed the passage of that legislation for over 6 months. I am sorry that Senator Poke does not recall that but I and other honourable senators well remember it. It was the Opposition which delayed that legislation.
– Because we wanted you to include more than you did.
– The Opposition delayed the legislation. It did not agree with us that included in the legislation were the exact requirements which were necessary. I want to thank Senator Davidson for his comments. For a long time he has worked untiringly with a number of voluntary organisations in this field. I think his speech today indicated the experience he has gained. We are indebted to him for his contribution to this debate, as indeed we are to Senator Bishop and Senator Cavanagh for the interest which they have shown over a long period of time.
– We want a good scheme.
– Yes, and I think we have one and we are making it even better. Senator Cavanagh has discussed this matter in this chamber before today. In his speech today he said that it was not possible for impoverished people to obtain accommodation in aged persons homes because they could not make the contribution required by the organisations. He has said the same thing before and I have replied to him before. I will reply to him today in practically the same words that I have used before. I inform him that a survey of subsidised homes indicates that only one-third of the residents have made a capital contribution and that 78 per cent of the residents are pensioners. I am speaking from memory now, but I have a feeling that since I last answered Senator Cavanagh on this question the percentage of pensioner residents has indeed increased. As I said, 78 per cent of those who are in these homes are pensioners.
asked, in my opinion, a very good question. He wanted to know what happened to the assets of an organisation if it were wound up. This is a question which I believe sometimes causes concern to people. I inform him that this matter is well cared for because before an organisation is approved it must have in its constitution a dissolution clause which provides, in the event of a dissolution, for its assets to be transferred to another organisation with similar objectives. Senator Cavanagh need not be concerned with that matter because, as I said, before an organisation is approved this dissolution clause must be contained in its constitution. Senator Cavanagh also referred to projects in which the total amount of money received from residents and from the Commonwealth exceeded the capital cost of the projects. The capital cost quoted is the figure determined for subsidy purposes and does not include items which are ineligible, the cost of which has to be borne entirely by the organisation itself. Furniture, furnishings and movable equipment are not eligible for subsidy payments and the organisation has to bear the cost of those items. I am sure that all honourable senators know, as happens in my own State of Queensland and I am sure in other States, that State governments very often grant a subsidy to assist with furnishings in such cases.
Senator Cavanagh spoke of nonparticipation by the States in the benefits provided by the Commonwealth under the States Grants (Home Care) Act and the States Grants (Nursing Homes) Act. The position here is that the Commonwealth has moved somewhat further in this matter than the States are prepared to do at this stage, but the States as I see it are tremendously interested in this field. Senator Cavanagh drew attention to the proposed new section 10c. Perhaps I should reply to this matter at the Committee stage of the Bill, but I would like to speak about it now. He expressed a fear that the delegation of power under the proposed new section 1 OH. may result in inconsistencies in personal care services. I reply to the honourable senator’s apprehension along this line. Approval of premises will be carried out only by the Director-General himself and consistency in this will of course be maintained. Only the approval of actual payments, which is a machinery act based on the number of residents over the age of 80 years, will be delegated to State directors.
Senator Cavanagh also referred to the power of the Director-General of Social
Services to determine the manner and the times at which payments shall be made. I think this is a very important point because the rate at which the personal care subsidy shall be paid is laid down in this Act which we are discussing today. The powers vested in the Director-General are purely administrative, to make the benefits available to organisations in an appropriate manner. This seems to be a perfectly clear and straightforward point. I think I have covered the majority of the points raised by Senator Cavanagh and Senator Poke.
Senator Bishop spoke of a lack of control exercised over homes by the Commonwealth. We have discussed that matter in this chamber before today. I appreciate the points that Senator Bishop has made with great sincerity over a period of time. I reply to him today asI thinkI have replied to him before, that it has always been the policy of the Government not to interfere in the internal affairs of an organisation, provided that the conditions upon which grants have been made continue to be carried out. The conditions are laid down in the formal agreements between the Department and organisations. Any breach of an agreement is taken up with the organisation concerned. I think that answers the queries raised by Senator Bishop.
This debate has shown not only an appreciation of what has been done by the Government, the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) and officers of the Department of Social Services, but also an appreciation, as I said earlier, of churches, charitable bodies and citizens who have worked and are working for this cause. The Government believes in the importance of this legislation. Reference has been made to its achievements and I assure honourable senators that the Government will continue to work towards the very best means of securing for our people a happy old age.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Senator CAVANAGH (South Australia) 1 2. 53] -I have some queries relating to the proposed new sections 10a. 10b, 10c and 10d. I think the points that I am about to raise are linked together. As to the proposed new section 10a I am concerned with the definition of ‘approved personal care services’. It is essential to provide such personal care services to attract any benefits under this legislation. The definition states: approved personal care services’ means personal cure services approved by the Director-General by instrument in writing;
We were informed in the Minister’s second reading speech that the requirement is for a hostel type of home with facilities to assist aged people in bathing, cooking and cleaning of rooms. Why was this requirement not written into the legislation? As it stands, it can be altered from time to time at the whim of a government official. Why do we not at least set down the minimum requirements before we authorise the payment of taxpayers’ money to provide something not specifically stated? The proposed new section I Ob states: (1.) Where the Director-General is satisfied that an eligible organisation provides adequate accommodation and approved personal care services for aged persons, the Director-General may, by instrument in writing, approve the organisation fort he purpose of this Part.
I think this provision is closely linked with the definition of approved personal care. It does not relate to the question of whether payment is made only for an individual who is receiving approved personal care services, or everyone over the age of 80 years. We know that persons not over the age of 80 years receiving approved personal care services are excluded. But is the subsidy still provided for persons over 80 years of age who are not receiving such care? The proposed new section 10c provides, in part: (1.) Subject to this Act, the Director-General may. in his discretion, on behalf of the Commonwealth, authorise the payment to an approved organisation . . .
The decision is made by the DirectorGeneral, and not by the Parliament. Of course, the Minister has given us an assurance that the Director-General will not delegate this power, and that it will be exercised uniformly by all DirectorsGeneral. This is an unusual feature in the operations of social service benefits. When I ring the Department to discuss a pensions matter I contact the officer who is handling the particular type of pension involved. If I can convince him that a case has been made out, approval will be given accordingly. But in this instance we have only an assurance. I am not so much concerned with the delegation of power, because I think this is the usual procedure. But why should the Director-General authorise the payment? We are the ones who should decide whether the money should be paid. The proposed new section 1 0c continues:
. payment to an approved organisation of an amount of Twenty dollars in respect of each person who. on a prescribed date -
Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin has told us that this is only an administrative provision and it is laid down in the Act where the payment shall be made. If that is so, my argument no longer exists. J have just obtained a copy of the principal Act and have not had an opportunity to study it. lt seems peculiar to me that we are nol amending an existing section but are writing in a new section to say that we shall pay such an amount at such a time as the Director-General determines.
Where is it stated in the legislation tha) there will be payment of $5 a week, made monthly as was stated in the Minister’s second reading speech? No-one disagrees with the second reading speech, but why do we as elected representatives of the people permit the payment of public moneys at the decision of a government official? While we are informed in the second reading speech thai there is to be payment of $5 a week, we are asked to approve in the legislation of unlimited payments. lt is possible for the Government to decide to pay $5 a day at any time in the future, without reference to the Parliament. We are asked today to endorse the provision which authorises payment at any such time as the Director-General determines, and by ministerial direction. The Director-General can determine to pay $5 a day if he so desires. The proposed new section 10d states: (1.) A payment to an approved organisation under this Part may be made upon such terms and conditions, including conditions as to the provision by the organisation of accommodation for aged persons or personal care services, nol inconsistent wilh this Act, as the Director-General thinks fit.
We are not laying down a set of conditions. The Director-General determines the conditions. We are authorising the payment which the Director-General desires to make. It can be altered from day to clay for a service on which he decides and we as a Parliament do not have the decision in our hands. An interjection has suggested that we have done it in other legislation. Why should we repeat the mistake today? What I am putting is consistent with the whole argument often heard in the Senate that wc must accept responsibility to decide how public money is spent and for what purpose.
Senator WEBSTER (Victoria) 3.0.- In this Bill we see the Government again taking a most advanced step in providing assistance to aged persons. I congratulate the Government very heartily on what it has done. Tn her second-reading speech the Minister for Housing (Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin) referred to the fact that over 33,000 people have been housed in aged persons homes and that various other advances have been made over the years. This demonstrates that both the Minister and the Government have been very active in their efforts to assist the aged persons in our community. Any person with country interests would be happy to note from the Minister’s speech a contribution to decentralisation in that there is now an opportunity which never before existed fur municipalities to obtain assistance from the Commonwealth Government to provide in a rural atmosphere the type of accommodation we would want our senior citizens to have.
Senator Cavanagh’s remarks in relation lo proposed section 10c appear to me to be quite reasonable and I should like the Minister to inform us, if she can, why this clause was drafted in this way. In her second-reading speech the Minister, when referring to the amount which would be made available, stated:
The assistance will be at the rate of S5 a week and will be paid at 4-weekIy intervals on the basis of $20 for each person aged 80 years or over residing, on a prescribed date, in such accommodation.
I stand to be corrected if I have selected the wrong portion of the Minister’s speech to describe this provision. In my view it refers to proposed section 10c which is in these terms: 10c- (1.) Subject to this Act, the DirectorGeneral may, in his discretion, on behalf of the Commonwealth, authorise the payment to an approved organisation of an amount of Twenty dollars in respect of each person who, on a prescribed date -
On my reading of that proposed section the Director-General may, at his discretion, on behalf of the Commonwealth, authorise the payment of $20 to any prescribed organisation for any person within that organisation who has attained the age of 80 years and is residing in accommodation provided by the organisation.
– Every day of the week.
– I believe that under this clause it is permissible for the DirectorGeneral to make that payment of $20 every day, every week or once a year. The Parliament will have no control over when the payment will be made. I believe the Minister’s second-reading speech sets out very clearly the wishes and desires of the Government, to which I subscribe, that $5 a week will be paid. The Minister said that it would be paid at 4-weekly intervals. I suppose for accounting purposes it is wise to provide for 4-weekly intervals, but if the Minister happened to say that the payment would be made at the rate of 5510 a year that would be quite acceptable. I imagine it has been worked out by the administration that the assistance of $5 a week would be paid every 4 weeks and that the payment would be on the basis of $20 for each person every 4 weeks. Surely the Minister must agree with me that proposed section 10c as drafted is so far away from that proposition that it will be hard to get the Senate to accept its wording. Perhaps the Minister can right my thinking. I believe that this is an excellent piece of legislation and the Government deserves the greatest credit for bringing it forward.
[3.5] - Senator Cavanagh and Senator Webster have raised a somewhat similar matter. I point out that proposed section 10c provides for the payment of $20 on each prescribed date - I want that point to be noted - and the prescribed date could be described as the initial date on which payment will be made, and thereafter every 28 days.
– Where does it say that?
– It appears as follows in the interpretation provisions in proposed Part III: 10a.- (I.) In this Part- prescribed date’ . . . and not later than twenty-eight days after the date on which the Director-General approves the organisation under the next succeeding section, and every twentyeighth day thereafter.
The Director-General has no discretion to vary that date of payment. 1 think that because of pressure of business the honourable senators perhaps have not had time to look at the definition.
– I can see the definition of ‘prescribed date’ but where is that referred to in proposed section 10c?
– It appears on the fourth line.
– I thought that related to the attainment of the age of 80 years.
– Proposed section 10c provides: 10c. - (1.) Subject to this Act, the DirectorGeneral may, in his discretion, on behalf of the Commonwealth, authorise the payment to an approved organisation of an amount of Twenty dollars in respect of each person who, on a prescribed date -
– Let us get this straight. We are trying to battle through here without legal assistance. Although Senator Byrne has said that he is working on something be is not making his advice available to the Committee. 1 hope that I can raise some problems on which he will be able to give an opinion. I cannot read the provision as the Minister has read it and come to the conclusion that ‘prescribed date’ relates to payment. Proposed section I 10c provides: 10c. - (1.) Subject to this Act. the DirectorGeneral may. in his discretion, on behalf of the Commonwealth, authorise the payment to an approved organisation of an amount of Twenty dollars in respect of each person who, on a prescribed date -
He is authorised there to pay $20 in respect of each person who, on a prescribed date, attained the age of 80 years. The prescribed date has no relation to proposed section 10c which relates to the payment to be made. The prescribed date referred to in proposed section 10a determines the number of $20 payments that the DirectorGeneral shall authorise to be made. Having determined the number, the DirectorGeneral authorises the payment and makes the payment at such times as he determines. Proposed section 10a is in these terms: 10a- (1.) In this Pari- prescribed date’, in relation to an approved organisation, means such date as the DirectorGeneral determines, by instrument in writing, in relation to the organisation, being a date that is not earlier than the date of commencement of the Aged Persons Homes Act 1969 and nol later than twenty-eight days after the date on which the Director-General approves the organisation under the next succeeding section, and every twenty-eighth day thereafter.
Therefore, on the prescribed date every 28 days a calculation has to be made of how many people over the age of 80 are residing in the accommodation to see how many amounts of $20 shall be paid. These amounts of $20 will then be paid at such times and in such manner as the DirectorGeneral determines. Having decided that 28 days from the first prescribed date there were ten people who qualified under section 10c, the Director-General can authorise a daily payment for those ten people under section 10c (2.).
– You mean a daily payment of $20?
– Yes. 1 am not suggesting that he would, but he can under that section. Section 10c is only for the purpose of calculating the number of amounts of $20 that may be paid.
Senator WEBSTER (Victoria) 3. 1 1] - I appreciate that, as the Minister points out, senators are at stages particularly busy and find it difficult to sort out some provisions of legislation. Undoubtedly that applies to Ministers, as it may apply to some of their assistants. As I read proposed section 10c, it appeared to me that it would be necessary on a prescribed date to decide the number of persons who had attained the age of 80 years and who were residing in accommodation provided by the organisation. On the wording, it appeared to me that the Director-General needed a prescribed date in order to decide the numbers within the institution who would attract the benefit. The interpretation of ‘prescribed date’ is fairly wide, if J may say so. Let me take it a little further. It appeared that the prescribed date on which people were residing in the institution had to be decided. The prescribed date is set down in this interpretation. It appeared to me, and it still does appear to me at the moment, that there is some looseness of description in proposed section 10c when this is considered in combination with the definition of ‘prescribed date’. This is an interesting sort of definition. I do not know whether we find it regularly in Bills. It reads:
Prescribed dale’, in relation to an approved organisation . . .
In short, it has nothing to do with individuals. lt is in relation to an approved organisation. The organisation has to have a prescribed date in relation to its capacity. The definition continues:
In relation to that part of the definition it would appear to me that the DirectorGeneral is not able to prescribe a date in respect of a particular institution prior to the commencement of the Bill with which we are dealing which will become the Aged Persons Homes Act 1969. The definition continues: . . and not later than twenty-eight days after the date on which the Director-General approves the organization under the next succeeding section, and every twenty-eighth day thereafter.
– He has a busy twenty-eighth day.
– That is as I see the matter. The date being prescribed, surely in the thinking behind this provision it was fairly necessary for somebody to assess these institutions. Indeed, the prescribed date is in relation to an approved organisation. It appeared to me that it was fairly necessary to assess these institutions, and the earliest date which can become a prescribed date is indicated. I put the point again that in relation to proposed section 10c the prescribed date relates to individuals and the interpretation as given in proposed section 10a is definitely intended to relate to the prescribing of the institutions.
– One comes into this matter perhaps illequipped by earlier examination, but I think that there is some confusion. First of all, in proposed section 10a, which is the definition section, there is a definition of an approved organisation. Approved organisations are dealt with in proposed section 10b. The Director-General may select an organisation to be an approved organisation. The date at which that is done is no doubt subsequent to the commencement of this Act but is not prescribed particularly. ‘Prescribed date’ is only a term that relates to an approved organisation. The word ‘date’ has no reference to the application of proposed section 10b. It has no reference to the date at which the Director-General shall prescribe the organisation, but the organisation having been approved then this other provision as to prescribed date operates. It is in that context that we move to proposed section 10c, which reads: (1.) Subject to this Act, the Director-General may, in his discretion, on behalf of the Commonwealth, authorise the payment to an approved organisation. . . .
Approved at any time, no doubt, after the passage of this Act:
We have an approved organisation. We then in relation to that organisation prescribe a date. That is the datum point. From then on the repetitive process of the payment of $20 is covered by the last words in the definition of ‘prescribed date’. . . and every twenty-eighth day thereafter.
The datum point thereafter is the initially prescribed date in relation to an approved organisation and this repetitive process operates from that datum point every subsequent 28 days and payment is at the rate of $20 every 28 days or, on an average, $5 every 7 days. I would understand that to be the way in which those rather, perhaps, unfortunately drafted provisions may be read together.
– I rise merely to support the interpretation placed on these provisions by Senator Byrne. It might be illustrated in a different way by taking some dates and looking at how the payments would work out. If on 15 th September an organisation was approved, a convenient date on which the first payment would be reckoned, that is, the first prescribed date, would bc 1st October. On that date the Director-General might look at an approved organisation and find in that establishment that there were sixty persons who qualified. There would be on that prescribed date payable to that approved organisation, in accordance with the policy, an amount of $1,200. He would then on 28th October, which is the next prescribed date which he must take into account under the definition, examine the situation and find that there are, perhaps, only forty-eight persons in the institution on that date. There would then be $960 payable. The prescribing of a date is merely a procedure whereby the amount which is payable is determined. It is quite open to the Director-General to say: ‘I shall pay to the approved organisation an amount which is quite clearly determined in accordance with the provisions of section 10c at 2- monthly or 3-monthly or 6-monthly intervals’. He has that power under section 10c (2.), but it is a matter, I would imagine, for negotiation as to how often it is paid. I would, with all respect, suggest to those who initially raised this point, when there was a suggestion that the amount could be paid monthly, weekly or yearly, that it is true that it can be paid in this way but the amount which is to be paid is not subject to any such variation. That is clearly fixed by the definition of ‘prescribed date’ and its application in section 10c. Broadly, 1 think, the interpretation that Senator Byrne put upon it is the only interpretation that is reasonably open.
– I bow to the legal opinion that is forthcoming from both sides of the chamber on this matter. I think that it will be difficult generally for people to understand the provision. It is not, of course, the first Bill the provisions of which have been the subject of argument. My reading of clause 10c confirms my view that it is quite loosely worded. To me, the phrase ‘prescribed date’ in the general context of the wording has a relationship to the subsequent phrases age of 80 years’ and ‘residing in accommodation’. The clause states that the payment to an approved organisation shall be made in such manner and at such times as the Director-General determines. In my view that certainly will give rise to questions from those in charge of institutions as to exactly what are the prescribed dates, how often the $20 can be paid and whether the Director-General has an unlimited power to make those payments at such times as he determines. However, the legal opinion from both sides of the House seems to think that the drafting of this Bill is quite clear. The Bill may be clear to legal people, but 1 do not think it is clear to the average person.
Senator Dame ANNABELLE RANKIN (Queensland - Minister for Housing) 3.2I] - Senator Cavanagh may have noticed that I did nol answer one of his queries. He drew attention to the definition of approved personal care services’, which is: personal care services approved by the Director-General by instrument in writing’. The approved personal care services described in the second reading speech will be laid down in the instrument in writing issued by the Director-General. This point was mentioned in the second reading speech.
– I raised this point initially. While I am not capable of arguing against the legal opinion that has been presented, I do not suppose this question will ever be raised in the courts so that a judicial interpretation can be obtained and the opinion given today by two of our legal senators verified. Not being in a position to contradict what they said, I accept it. If what they said is later found to be a true interpretation of the meaning of the section, I will have no complaints. I would have thought that the prescribed date determines the number of persons who qualify for the $20 and that the Director-General determines the payments.
– I think I agree with the honourable senator, but I do not think that gives rise to the initial point which he raised that the amount could be varied.
– I did not say that the amount could be varied. I say that it could be paid-
– At any old time.
– Any old lime, which would mean that it could be paid more frequently than at four-weekly intervals. 1 think the definition of ‘prescribed date’ is very clear. I think the purpose of wording clause 10c in the manner in which it has been worded - by using the term prescribed date’ - is to ascertain the number of amounts of $20 to be paid. Having decided how many amounts of $20 are to be paid for the number of 80-year-olds that the approved organisations had in the month prior to the prescribed date, the Director-General can approve payment. This is not limited to one payment per month. He can pay the $20 on each occasion that he so desires. I do nol condemn any official or employee of the Department of Social Services. From my association with the Department - mostly in Adelaide - I have found its officials and employees very co-operative and very courteous.
– Order! Is the honourable senator referring to the definitions?
– Yes, the definition of “approved personal care services’. 1 am not critical of the Bill. In fact, I commend the Bill which seeks to give payment for approved personal care services. 1 think the services described as approved personal cure services in the Minister’s second reading speech justify the introduction of a scheme of payment. I think this should be welcomed by everyone who is interested in the care of aged persons. I think that Parliament, if it gives authority for the payment of $20 per person for approved personal care services, should decide whether the Director-General or one of his officials should determine what the services shall be. If the Minister can set out in the second reading speech the approved personal care services, I do not know why they cannot be incorporated in the Bill for the purpose of establishing criteria for organisations to know with what they must comply and to try to meet those requirements. We are the ones who should determine for what approved personal care services payment shall be made, not the Director-General. I do not like the provision whereby he can, simply by instrument in writing determine something which can be altered at his will. The criteria mentioned in the Minister’s second reading speech may not be the criteria demanded on some future occasion. I think in all legislation of this type we should seek to set out details for the purpose of enabling decisions to be made. We and not some Government official should determine how the taxpayers’ money will be spent.
– I want to refer to clause 10c again. I am still not happy about it. I accept the legal definition of what is intended, but it does not seem to me that the way in which it is written conveys what is intended. If we deleted the word ‘who’ and moved the comma I think we would be getting somewhere near what is intended. The clause would read:
. authorise the payment to an approved organisation of an amount of $20 each 28 days in respect of each person, on a prescribed date if he-
– I rise again only because I sense that there is a difficulty abroad which ought not to be a difficulty if the clause is looked at and examined closely.
– Or reworded.
– I do not agree that it is necessary to reword the clause because I think its intention is quite clear if one bears in mind that there is a difference between paying a sum of money to an organisation and the basis of calculating the sum which is to be paid. Clause 10c. - (1.) is directed towards determining what amount is to be paid to each organisation. It should be recognised that the scheme under which the Government’s proposals will operate is a scheme whereby an approved organisation will receive a sum of money. The next point is: How is this sum of money to be calculated? Where there is an organisation of persons of a particular character or meeting a particular description, an amount of $20 will be paid for each person. The next point is: How does one determine the number of persons in respect of whom $20 will be paid? One takes a date, the very first date, and counts the number of people. If, as I said in an earlier illustration, sixty persons qualify, one arithmetically calculates that $1,200 is payable. The legislation states that one should look at the position 4 weeks thereafter and successively every 4 weeks thereafter. That is what is involved in the definition of the term ‘prescribed date’. It is defined in a way which is perfectly clear to me, having read it in the light of the Government’s proposals.
Although that might not be the customary way of defining the term ‘prescribed date’ when it appears in legislation, it is quite clear to me that the prescribed date is the first date and every 28 days thereafter. Accordingly, one has a ready means of determing after each 28 days how many persons qualify. By applying the sum of $20 to that number of persons one arrives at the total sum that is payable to that particular organisation. The calculation of the total sum is made by application of the words ‘on a prescribed date’ in the relevant sub-clause from time to time in order to determine what people qualify on each date. When one looks at sub-clause (2.) of clause 10c it becomes quite apparent that payments which are calculated in this way may be made at such times and in such a manner as the DirectorGeneral determines. The Director-General can pay the appropriate sum once a month, once every 2 months or once every year. I accept the fact that such a discretion is open to the Director-General. But the Director-General does not have any discretion to vary the sum of $20; he must pay the calculated sum but he may pay it once a month, once every 2 months, once every 6 months or yearly. I should imagine that he would do it in conjunction with the reasonable requirements of the organisation to which the money is to be paid. I make that statement only because I think that if the clause is looked at closely one will not have any difficulty in interpreting it.
– Does the honourable senator mean that proposed new section 10c (1.) should be interpreted as authorising the payment to an approved organisation of an amount of $20 on a prescribed date in respect of each person set out in (a) and (b)?
– No. It means the payment to an approved organisation, at such time as the Director-General approves, of the sum of $20 in respect of those persons who on a prescribed date meet the qualifications and that calculation has to be made every 28 days.
– That is not much protection.
– It is.
– I refer to proposed new section 10h. Under it the delegation of authority in respect to the making of payments and even the prescribing of organisations is quite wide. The proposed new section 10h(1.) reads:
The Director-General may, either generally or otherwise as provided by the instrument of delegation, by writing under his hand, delegate to the Deputy Director-General of Social Services, a First Assistant Director-General of Social Services, an Assistant Director-General of Social Services, a Director of Social Services or any other officer of the Department of Social Services, all or any of his powers and functions under this Part except this power of delegation.
I interpret this proposed new section to mean that everything but the ability to delegate can be done under this legislation by any officer of the Department of Social Services. I ask the Minister to confirm my interpretation.
Senator Dame ANNABELLE RANKIN (Queensland - Minister for Housing) [3.36] - I understand that the power has to be delegated to him by way of an instrument in writing.
– Can it be delegated to any person within the Department?
– Yes, but it must be by way of an instrument in writing.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 9 September (vide page 586), on motion by Senator Anderson:
That the Senate take note of the following papers:
Civil Works Programme 1969-70.
Commonwealth Payments to or for the States, 1969-70.
Estimates of Receipts and Summary of Estimated Expenditure for the year ending 30th June 1970.
Particulars of Proposed Expenditure for the Service of the year ending 30th June 1970.
Particulars of Proposed Provision for Certain Expenditure in respect of the year ending 30th June 1970.
Government Securities on Issue at 30th June 1969.
Commonwealth Income Tax Statistics for Income Year 1966-67.
National Income and Expenditure 1968-69. upon which Senator Murphy had moved by way of amendment:
At end of motion add: and that the Senate is of opinion that the Budget is inadequate in that -
it increases taxation and health and housing costs for families;
it makes no considered and comprehensive approach to the needs of all schools:
it ignores the problems of capital cities and regional centres;
it defers further development projects and urgent rural measures; and
it neglects industries based on Australian natural resources and defence requirements’.
– The Budget proposals have been thoroughly debated by the Senate. I think the Budget can be aptly described as an election Budget. It has been devised more as a vote catcher than to meet the high sounding aspirations that we have heard concerning the less privileged in our society. If the Government’s concern for the less privileged in our society is real these people should have received greater benefits than they have received in the Budgets of nonelection years. I repeat that the Budget has been devised for an election year. It has for its purpose the attraction of votes at the forthcoming election. But I do not think we can unduly criticise the Government for its actions. Governments do act this way in ejection years. It is very advantageous to them. Possibly all that can be said has already been said in this debate about the benefits that are being granted and those that are not being granted. There has been much grandstanding to gain the maximum propaganda. I do not intend to go through the whole lot again. However, I. wish to state some of the beliefs I hold. I believe that there is some danger to our democracy. I shall refer to certain instances where I think injustices have occurred.
It is generally accepted today - on the eve of an election on 25th October - that the Australian Labor Party will make great gains at the forthcoming election. I think this would be conceded by all honourable senators on the Government side who considered the matter honestly, despite what is contained in the Budget. Let us examine why this has been generally accepted. For many years certain people have expressed themselves as being sick of this Government, but no-one can fail to recognise that today Press reports are coloured in favour of the Labor Party. The Labor Party is now getting possibly the best Press publicity it has had for a number of years. About 12 months ago the Press described us as being disunited, as being disgruntled, as having weak leadership. But not so today. Today the Press describes us its a somewhat united party, as a party with acceptable leadership and indeed the Press today seems to be selling our policy to the Australian public for us. This must be a major factor in our expectancy of gaining seats at the next Federal election.
When the Press sets out to promote acceptance of an ideal or belief held by a political party, the prestige of that party is increased by a certain percentage. Whether the medium of publicity that sets out to promote that support can stop the pendulum from gaining momentum when the desired amount of increased support is achieved, has yet to be decided. It could well be that the big swing necessary for Labor to become the government could develop through the inability of those who are selling our policy to the electors to prevent it developing to that extent.
The Press is also giving great publicity to the disagreement between the Prime Minister and the Australian Democratic Labor Party, and although I think this disagreement is real, 1 do not think anyone believes that it will be a major factor in deciding which way the elections will go despite the threat of the Democratic Labor Party to transfer its preferences. It is well known that the DLP dare not give its preferences to the Australian Labor Party for to do so would destroy the whole basis on which the DLP was formed. Therefore, there will be no question of our receiving any preferences from the DLP. It could well be that, in order to make its threat seem real, the DLP will give its preferences to an independent in some particular electorate, but its second preferences will go to the Government and the Labor Party will be last on the list. If the DLP cannot continue to prove complete hostility to the Party that it left, then it can no longer justify its continued existence. For that reason, the Democratic Labor Party cannot afford to give its preferences to the Australian Labor Party.
Nevertheless, it is part of newspaper psychology to play up the fact that the group which kept the Government in office is now disagreeing with the Government. Even though there may be a difference between the DLP and the Government on such issues as defence and external affairs, I agree with the Minister for External Affairs (Mr Freeth) that the difference between Labor’s policy and the Government’s policy on these matters is so great as to make Labor’s policy less acceptable to the Democratic Labor Party. Therefore, I submit that it is safe to assume that the DLP preferences will go to the Government.
The Labor Party is a peace party. If Labor were in power, the Australian troops would return from Vietnam. Again, if we were in office, the National Service Act would be repealed. We could mobilise all the troops we required with volunteers. We would be prepared to negotiate with anyone with whom it was possible to make reasonable pacts for the defence of this area. There is no question at all of our being more acceptable to the DLP than the Government parties are.
As I have said, it is generally accepted that the Labor Party will increase the number of its members in the House of Representatives at the forthcoming election and it could well be that this representation will increase to the extent that we shall become the government. The main thing that concerns me is the reason for this change of attitude on the part of the organs of publicity which apparently can make or break governments. Why has the Labor Party become respectable in the last 2 years? It has the same leadership, virtually the same policies and the same personnel as it had 2 years ago. One can arrive at only one answer to that question: The leadership of the Government parties which has been supported by the Press over the years is no longer acceptable to those forces which the Press represents today. It would seem that the Press is not prepared to accept the present government leadership. By its present attitude, the Press could bring about an increase in the Labor Party’s representation and threaten the very existence of the present leadership by promoting the defeat of the Government parties at the elections on 25th October next.
The Prime Minister has been subjected to attack almost ever since he assumed that high office. The attack by Mr St. John was not an individual attack. Mr St. John believed he had the support of others within his party. Obviously someone was supporting him. Apart from his attack upon the Prime Minister’s morals, Mr St. John said that he would oppose other of the Prime Minister’s policies. He mentioned the Prime Minister’s policy with regard to insurance and his policy with relation to oil exploration. If wc examine his policy with relation to insurance we note that it led to his refusal to introduce legislation to permit overseas investors to take over the two insurance companies which are registered in the Australian Capital Territory. As to the exploration for oil, the Prime Minister refuses to continue payment of the oil search subsidy to those companies which have above a certain percentage of overseas control. It is clear, therefore, that Mr St. John’s attack upon the Prime Minister was related to the fact that certain overseas interests are opposed to the Prime Minister of Australia.
At the time of making his attack, Mr St. John was supplied not only with information as to what time the Prime Minister arrived at and left the American Embassy - information which he would not have obtained by waiting at the gate with a watch to check on the Prime Minister - but also with certain other information. At the time when
Mr St John made his attack, it was stated in the Sydney ‘Mirror’ and the Adelaide “News’ that the American Government was considering who from the American Embassy had released to the Prime Minister’s political opponents a dossier which the Embassy had on the Prime Minister. I believe that this was subsequently denied by the Government which nevertheless decided to investigate the matter, lt was surprising to learn that the American Embassy had a dossier on the Prime Minister and that it was concerned about his activities.
One cannot help feeling that the United States Central Intelligence Agency has some influence in determining who shall govern Australia and who shall be its political leaders. It has been decided that the Australian Government’s present leader will have to go and if it is within the power of the Press to create a sufficient swing of opinion Gorton will be gone. The Deputy Prime Minister, the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr McEwen), who is now at the stage of retirement, will put the electors to inconvenience by staying on for a further 12 months to ensure that some political enemy does not succeed in the reshuffle for the Prime Ministership. Surely it must be of grave concern to everyone to know that influences outside Australia can decide elections inside Australia. If the influence of the Press is so strong, as was suggested in this place today, that it can bring about a swing away from the Government, surely that points to a need for control by some organisation which will ensure that we have an impartial medium of propaganda which will enable us to have a real democracy instead of our present class loaded system in which the organs of propaganda are able to change governments at their will.
The Press has an important part to play in Australia. In Adelaide recently a conscientious objector was gaoled because he refused to submit to a medical examination required under the National Service Act. On this occasion there was held on the campus of the Adelaide University one of the most successful meetings for years. About 500 members of the campus attended that meeting. On the following day the students held a large and successful march to the Adelaide Gaol to protest at the imprisonment of the conscientious objector.
The report of this incident which appeared in the Adelaide ‘Advertiser’ occupied H inches in the fifth column of page 28. Although the crime and the penalty were the same as in the case of John Zarb the incident did not receive the same publicity. Neither the people of Adelaide nor the people of Australia generally knew of the sacrifice being made by this conscientious objector in Adelaide.
To attract the same publicity that the organisation behind John Zarb was able to achieve one lass chained herself for 3 days to the railings outside Parliament House in Adelaide. She claimed that this action was necessary to attract publicity. The students had held an orderly march to the Adelaide Gaol which had been a success. In the course of this march there was no shouting of ‘Ho Chi Minh’, no waving of Vietcong flags and no conflict with the police. The march was too orderly and did not attract publicity, which was its purpose. This group of young people realised the need for publicity, but despite the public support for the march which had been demonstrated by the successful attendance at the meeting they found it necessary to do something spectacular in order to get recognition for the cause for which they were fighting.
Some weeks ago a demonstration in opposition to the National Service Act and the conflict in Vietnam was held at Elder Park in Adelaide. Again there was one of the biggest demonstrations for this purpose that had ever been held in Adelaide, after which about 1,500 people marched from Elder Park to Victoria Square. This march had been organised by the Campaign for Peace in Vietnam organisation which had requested an orderly demonstration. The marchers had the full co-operation of the police who had asked them to keep in lanes and had marched with them. However, at the head of the marchers were about 20 young bearded lads who were determined to create an unruly scene. The Campaign for Peace in Vietnam leaders were trying to co-operate with the police and abide by every order that was given, but whenever the police sergeant issued a request to turn left the group in front would immediately turn right. Obviously they wanted an arrest to be made. Eventually a man was arrested, after which they marched peacefully for the remainder of the demonstration. This was another indication of the recognition by them of a need for unlawful action in order to get publicity.
In a discussion as to the leadership of this group it was revealed that one of the leaders was Albert Langer from Monash University who had come to Adelaide for the demonstration. Another leader was a man who is well known in Adelaide. He is a man who had approached me on several occasions to see whether I could assist him. He was finished at the university and was interested in freelance journalism. He wanted to be the first with information so that he could copyright it and receive the reward for it. To my knowledge he has not had anything published so far, nor am I aware of any work that he has done, but he is now always available and has plenty of money. It is accepted in university circles that he is an agent for the CIA. Yet he was one of the leaders in an unruly demonstration.
– What was his name?
– I will not make it available so that he can be persecuted by the honourable senator. He was one of the leaders of the unruly demonstration. We are getting to the stage where otherwise honest young people believe that it is necessary to do something unlawful in order to get recognition. It must be remembered that hatred breeds hate and that control of Australia by outside forces breeds hate. An example of this was the spectacle at the party at the home of Dr Jim Cairns recently. Where is this going to lead? We have reason now to take a stand on this question and to ensure that those who have a grievance or want to protest against legislation have available to them lawful means which will be given proper recognition.
Time will not permit me to go into the question of Vietnam which is possibly one of the most important issues today. It is now generally recognised that something is happening in Vietnam. There is a general recognition that the attendance of the representative of the United States at the funeral of the leader of the North Vietnamese has significance. It has been suggested that the United States will withdraw her forces from Vietnam as soon as she can find a reason to do so. If our reason for being committed in Vietnam is that it is better to stop them there than here, the fact that we have not stopped them there and have no intentions of remaining in Vietnam until we have stopped them there is justification for withdrawing our troops from Vietnam. While members of the Australian forces remain in Vietnam there will be a waste of Australian lives for no good purpose and for no good cause.
I am concerned about the confirmation that I consider I have received of my belief as to the number of Vietcong or North Vietnamese we are destroying in Vietnam. If it were correct that we destroyed about 1,000 in every battle, very few fighting men would be left to continue the war. The latest issue of the ‘Australian Army Monthly Summary’, contains the following information with reference to actions in Vietnam:
The actions started on 6th June when an Australian Centurion tank of ‘B’ Squadron, 1st Armoured Regiment, was hit by a rocket propelled grenade, just south of Binh Ba, about 4 miles north of Nui Dat.
The action developed into a grenade battle to clear houses and bunkers after an initial deploy- - ment of tanks . . .
At noon, heavy fighting broke out and ‘B’ Company of 5th Battalion and Centurion tanks were sent to assist the Vietnamese troops to clear about thirty enemy from the area.
The document also states:
Heavy fighting in Binh Ba and Hoa Long on 6th and 7th June caused considerable property destruction and hardship to the civilian population.
It would appear from that report that in order to clear about thirty enemy from the area we engaged in a grenade battle to clear houses and bunkers and in heavy fighting which caused considerable property destruction and hardship to the civilian population. I put question No. 1350 on the notice paper and received a reply on Thursday 28th August. The question and answer read as follows:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Army, upon notice:
– The Minister for the Army has provided the following answer to the honourable senators question:
So, 110 people were killed and 29 people were wounded in a battle, the purpose of which was to clear about 30 Vietcong opponents. The position is that every person who is killed as a result of our activities is identified as a Vietcong. Where will this end? Among the people who are quoted as giving authentic reports on Vietnam are the Quakers. I believe that we should accept them as a group capable of giving a fair report of what they witness. My time has almost expired; so, with the concurrence of honourable senators,I incorporate in Hansard one of their documents, namely, a report dated 5th May 1969 and described as ‘An American Friends Service Committee White Paper on Ending the War’.
VIETNAM An 1969 American Friends Service Committee White Paper on Ending the War May 5, 1969
The last year. It has been more than a year since the rhetoric of peace began in Vietnam. During this time scores of thousands of men and women and children have died in the fighting. They continue to die today, and every evidence in Vietnam is that they will continue to die tomorrow unless there is an unparalleled demand from the American people that the slaughter be halted. The American Friends Service Committee calls for a bait - now.
Like millions of others the world over, we felt a sense of relief a year ago that our country was at last moving toward a Vietnam settlement. We welcomed the initiation of the Paris talks, the halting of the bombing of North Vietnam, and, more recently, the reports of an Administration decision to undertake some form of U.S. military disengagement. We have hoped these steps would lead to a ceasefire and our country would begin to right its distorted priorities that require spending billions on destruction while our cities decay and and our poor despair. But hope has not been enough. Little has really changed in the year that has passed.
Present illusions. We believe U.S. military and government leaders are fostering illusions in regard to Vietnam. Our own experience in Vietnam is so at variance with official interpretations that we cannot reconcile what we have seen with what is officially reported. Americans are under the impression that the war is all but over; it is not. They are being told that the U.S. military policy is one of restraint in the interest of progress in Paris; it is not. They are encouraged to think that the Thieu-Ky government is becoming more acceptable to the Vietnamese, that it is politically more secure, more resolute in carrying on the war, more ready to institute reforms, more competent to carry on with diminishing U.S. help. We find no evidence that these things are so.
In our judgment, the human situation in Vietnam today is worse than it has ever been; the cumulative result of U.S. involvement (on top of 25 years of warfare) borders not on Vietnam’s salvation, but on its death. An entire nation is being physically, morally, and spiritually destroyed - and the tempo of destruction has increased, not decreased, since the beginning of the Paris talks and the bombing halt.
AFSC qualifications to comment. Our judgment on these matters is based on 1 5 years of relationship with Vietnam, the last four with full-time staff stationed variously in Saigon, Vung Tau, My Tho, Danang. An Khe, Pleiku. Hue, and, for the last two years. Quang Ngai. As far back as June 1954, we urged the U.S. not to follow the French example of trying to deal with Indo-China’s problems in military terms, insisting that ‘nothing but disaster lies down that road.’1 Since the U.S. military involvement escalated in 1965, our field staff, speaking Vietnamese and living as closely as possible among the people, have regularly reported to us on the conditions around them. These reports make hard reading, chronicling as they do a tide of destruction that has gradually engulfed a people and torn apart the fabric of their lives. Here is what these reports have recorded:
Refugees, Four million people - onethird of the rural population of this rural nation - have ‘fled their homes and become refugees in a country where land and village roots have an importance unknown in western culture.2 Most have fled to the cities, which are quite unprepared to cope with the influx. Saigon’s population has swelled to 2,800,000, making it the world’s most crowded city, with more than twice the population concentration of Tokyo.8
Destruction. Physical destruction is enormous. Hundreds of thousands of acres have been defoliated, countless villages have been razed, and bomb craters pockmark the countryside. B-52 raids alone have torn 2i million holes 45 feet in diameter and 30 feet deep4 - holes that are now filled with water and serve as breeding grounds for malarial mosquitoes and other insects. More tons of explosives have been dropped on this tiny country than were dropped on all the Axis powers
Economic impact of war. The basic economy of the country has been destroyed, and only heavy imports of consumer goods from the U.S. and Japan keep inflation from assuming explosive dimensions. Corruption is epidemic. Vietnam’s ancient Buddhist culture, with its village roots, its veneration of ancestors, its reliance on the extended family, has been torn apart by the impact of having quartered in its midst a half million foreign troops who know nothing of its ways or sensibilities. Prostitution and black marketing are rampant.
Suffering. In all of this the suffering of the Vietnamese has reached levels that would appall the American people if they could see it. Many thousands have been forced from their homes on short notice, incarcerated in tent cities and then after weeks or months been permitted to return to their villages - their homes destroyed, their animals dead, and their fields mined.7 More thousands are caught under
Several of us went to the roof about 3 a.m. The Americans unleashed the terrifying Puff the Magic Dragon,’ a DC3 that spews forth 3,000 machine gun bullets per minute. As I watched it circle overhead last night, silhouetted against the low clouds in the light of the flares, flinging indiscriminate bolts of death earthward, 1 could vividly visualize the scene below. Men, women, children and animals, caught like rats in a flood. No place to hide, no way to plead their case of innocence to the machine in the sky, no time to prepare for death. The beating the civilians are taking in this war is beyond adequate description.
Sitting behind the others on the roof I felt tears welling up and was shocked as 1 became aware of feelings foreign to my conscious self, which surfaced under the indescribable strain of watching man daughter man en masse. The cold, mechanical, compassionless way that monster circled around and around and around, ruthlessly pursuing an unseen ‘enemy,’ stabbing viciously earthward again and again, probing, searching, killing and maiming all in its path … We have survived, but a lot of Quang Ngai people didn’t make it. And a lot more who are now clinging to life over at the hospital will not make it until morning. If only we could bring this horrifying scene of human devastation in its true dimensions home to the people who must know what it’s like. The ones who are pulling the strings on this deadly puppet show. Man’s inhumanity to man has reached its climax in Vietnam.
U.S. escalation since Nov. 1, 1968. The
United States, while it is publicly committed to a search for peace, has in fact stepped up its military activity since the bombing of the North was halted on November 1, 1968. Consider the following:
If. Consider the following, taken from one of many recent reports from Quaker workers in Quang Ngai.
How can I tell you what it was like! These people coming in filthy, with glazed looks, numb. Nobody talking, nobody crying and the sounds of furious battle not yet ended pursuing them in the door. The emergency room floor still covered with blood from yesterday’s casualties, smelled in the heat of the day and was oppressive . . . One little fella of ten or so, shot in the face. Three bullet or fragment holes in the back and buttocks, one of which had exited through his abdomen, the others lodged somewhere. He, like most of the others, came in lying in a pool of blood. Feces and ground up bits of bone were flowing out of the buttocks wound. Vomitus ran from his mouth and mixed with the blood pouring from the face wound. We worked with him for a long time but his chances are slim. He was in shock (most of them were) and struggling to gel up from time to time, at times opening his eyes wide to beg for water or complain of the pain in his belly and then lapsing into unconsciousness. His father stood by silently, grief written all over his face. A girl, maybe seven years old, with a head wound and skull fracture. Also major portions of one foot missing. Mother and grandmother crying quietly while trying to help us dress the wounds. A mother lying on a stretcher on the floor smeared with blood and with ner infant lying silently on her chest. The baby also was covered with blood and I never saw it move. I’ve seen all this before! Why can’t I get used to it? I Bach lifeless form, every scream of anguish, each blank stare of those who have Buffered loo much strikes pain in the pit of my stomach. Are there really those who can look at a scene like this and not suffer with the people?
Despite the cessation of missions over the North on November 1, the total tonnage of bombs dropped on
Vietnam has increased every month since then, except for a slight decrease in the shorter month of February. In November 115,000 tons were dropped; in December, 127,700; in January 129,700; in February, 115,800; in March, 130,141.” The March figure is the highest monthly tonnage dropped since the war began.18
Where is there evidence in these statistics of a scaling down of allied operations?
U.S. Aims in Vietnam. Americans are assured that U.S. goals in Vietnam are limited ones. Earlier talk of victory has ceased as the death toll has risen and as the decimation of Vietnam has become
The government in Saigon is a military dictatorship propped up by U.S. power, despised by most Vietnamese and notoriously corrupt. Freedom of speech is suppressed. No one knows exactly how many Vietnamese political prisoners languish in Vietnam’s prisons, but the figure is certainly in the thousands, and includes many of the country’s leading intellectuals: university professors, religious leaders, lawyers, students, newspaper editors, politicians - anyone who has dared to advocate political initiatives lo end the war. Many of the leading figures in the present Saigon government fought for the French against their own countrymen. They represent an old and vanished order. Whatever the outcome in Vietnam, they will be swept away the moment the Vietnamese regain control of their own affairs. They are too weak a reed on which to pin any U.S. hope for future political stability.24
Why the U.S. should withdraw. If, therefore, as the American Friends Service Committee believes, a continuing U.S. military presence in Vietnam will not result in any genuine pacification of a war-weary and embittered countryside, and will not make palatable a government that is not palatable, nor an army fight that has no will to fight, it becomes useless to pursue further a course that is leading nowhere, lt is useless to stay on even for the purpose of a bargaining position in Paris, because we find no reason to think that time will serve to strengthen the U.S. position. This is why we believe that the only viable option left for the U.S. in Vietnam is to withdraw from the whole tragically misconceived adventure.
This is something the U.S. can do. Our military can cease all offensive action, all search-and-destroy missions, all air and sea attacks, and withdraw U.S. troops to port areas for repatriation. This action would have the paramount advantage of returning the future of Vietnam to the Vietnamese, where it belongs. Questions of reunification and political settlement are questions for the Vietnamese to answer, because the Vietnamese, whether they live in Hanoi or in Saigon, are still a single people. They were divided by foreign fiat at Geneva; they have been kept divided by U.S. preoccupation with anti-communism: but fiat and power do not undo the history of a thousand years. The Vietnamese remain one people and not two. They are presently torn by strife between North and South, and between contending forces within South Vietnam, but these struggles can only be resolved by the Vietnamese themselves.
As the only foreigners in South Vietnam, the U.S. and its allies have nothing to negotiate but the rate and manner of their withdrawal. If our leaders were to acknowledge this and move to act on it, it would at once open up a whole new range of possibilities for the good offices of other nations to be used in mediation and in arranging for sanctuary or amnesty for those open to reprisal. This in itself would be a hopeful development.
There will be suffering and turmoil if the U.S. leaves. There may be a government in Saigon led by Ho Chi Minh; there may not be. Withdrawal does not mean that justice will be done. It does not insure fair elections or well-protected freedoms, lt does not even insure that urgently needed resources will at least be released for use in America’s cities, since the Pentagon has plans to use any savings for its own new weapons projects. But whatever happens, or fails to happen, will, in our judgment, be preferable to going on with the present agony of death and destruction that is literally destroying Vietnam, undermining our own domestic social fabric, and damaging our country’s name in the world community.
The real problem for the United States in unilateral withdrawal is not in the military consequences in Vietnam, but the political consequences at home. We do not underestimate their magnitude, or the courage that would be required to face them. The President is under great pressure, and it may seem safer and wiser for him to pursue a less drastic course. But we believe that both the American people and the world at large would respond to forthright leadership to withdraw our country from this war, especially if it were made clear simultaneously that the U.S. stood ready to assist generously in the task of economic reconstruction. Wc are not calling for the United States to abandon Vietnam, but only to replace a destructive American presence with a constructive one that will act in concert wilh an international effort to provide such economic help as may be requested by the Vietnamese.
This approach would give us a whole new position in Southeast Asia. At the very least, it would change the present tragic image of the United States. Every day sees the armed forces of the world’s most powerful nation raining bombs and chemicals and napalm on the rice fields and bamboo huts of one of the poorest and most defenseless countries. As long as this continues, millions must wonder whether the Americans have indeed become the New Barbarians.
Let us therefore order a cease-fire and withdrawal from Vietnam, unilaterally and immediately. Let us get on with what is really important: the rebuilding of their country - and ours - and the lifting of the burden of poverty from the backs of Vietnamese and Americans alike. These are tasks in which Americans can join with enthusiasm.
Gilbert F. White Chairman
BRONSON P. Clark Executive Secretary
I have given my thoughts on this question. 1 do not expect them to be accepted at this stage. But, as the Press campaign grows, as the swing to Labor increases in momentum and as the results of the election are known, I hope that someone will reflect on what I have said today and show some awareness of the forces outside Australia which are determining the destiny of this country.
– I wish to say a few words on the Budget, although most of the matters contained in it have been covered by various honourable senators in their contributions to this debate. The Budget contains a number of items which I believe are commendable. In my view, the outlook in regard to social services is to be commended. The desire of anyone who has any humanitarian feeling at all in him is to do the very best for the people who are not so well placed in life. Therefore, any improvement that can be made in the treatment of age pensioners and so on is very worthy. I am sure that in the circumstances the Government has done the best that is possible with the finance at its disposal. People are never completely satisfied. But the point is that the Government has the warmth in its heart and mind to try to do something for the pensioners.
In thinking of the older people, one aspect of the Budget that pleases me very much is the extension of the aged persons homes scheme. Over the years this has been one of the finest pieces of work done by this Government for older people. When people are in the fullness of life they often do not think of the necessity for the care of old people. One of the things we forget is that if we live long enough we all will become old and probably will need care, too. Anyone who has seen older people being well cared for, and has seen the appreciation that is extended by those people because they are so grateful for any small thing that they receive in their old age, will know that people who give service to older people experience joy in their hearts and minds and pleasure as a result of rendering that service. I believe that caring well for old people is one of the finest humanitarian actions that we can think of. For old people who cannot care for themselves completely, the scheme that the Government introduced some years ago represents a very warm and sympathetic undertaking.
In my own city recently I was very pleased to see the introduction of a meals on wheels scheme. This is an example of the little things that appeal to people in their old age. Such a scheme is a wonderful blessing to them. I remember travelling home from Canberra one Friday and reading one of two or three articles on page 2 of the ‘Sydney Morning Herald’, dealing with the care of the aged. I remember seeing there a picture of a very fine old lady with a lot of character in her face. She mentioned that there were two things that she lived for in her old age. Unfortunately she had been neglected by her own daughter, who was married, and by the other members of her family, who did not go to see her. The first bright beacon in her life was that each day a nurse who lived down the road called in to see her and to have a yarn. The other one was that the Meals on Wheels people each day brought a meal to her and passed a few words with her. Those may appear to us to be only little things because we have the opportunity to meet lots of people each day.
Therefore they may not seem so important to us, but to a person who has no friends or who has no people coming to visit, perhaps once a day or occasionally, they are very important. That meal each day is also very important to this very line old lady. Those were the two beacon lights of her life, the things that really made her want to live.
These homes for aged persons are being built as the result of an idea which came from this Government years ago. The scheme has been improved before and it is now being improved again with a proposal to introduce a new allowance of $5 a week for persons of 80 years of age or over who receive approved personal care while living in hostel type accommodation provided by organisations eligible under the Aged Persons Homes Act, and also a proposal to amend that Act so that land acquired prior to 1957 will be eligible for a subsidy. This makes it easier for the organisations developing such homes. 1 mentioned that two little incidents in the life of an old lady were very important to her. Think how much more important and valuable it is to aged people to have a very nice home provided for them and to be cared for and looked after and made feel that they are important members of the community. This is very important. It is only a small thing but sometimes when we think of big things we may not appreciate the smaller things. The care of the aged is a wonderful thing and I warmly commend the Government on what it has done in this respect.
There are many other aspects of the Budget to which I would like to refer but time is getting on and I know that the desire is to get through the business before the Senate because of a certain event to take place a few weeks from now. However, there is one thing on which I would like to tackle the Government. 1 refer to the consistent policy of the Government to narrow the gap between airport and airway costs and revenues. The Government proposes to increase by 10% the navigation charges payable by the air transport industry for the use of airport and airway facilities provided by the Commonwealth. I know that in this case the Government is looking for a return of the funds it is expending, but I. suggest to the Government that possibly this could be looked at in the light of many of the other things to which we have to subscribe but for which we cannot get a full return in direct payments. However, there are other benefits which emanate from some of these things. There are many industries to which the Government has subscribed over the years but from which it has never had a full direct return in terms of repayments or interest and redemption charges. Therefore I think the Government might look at this matter in the future because the continual increase of charges for the use of airports and various facilities used for the navigation in the air is becoming intolerable.
Australia is different from many other countries. Ours is a very big country, ft is a continent, but it does not have a very big population. The development of air transportation in this country has been a wonderful thing and a very great boon to many people. Because of the size of Australia and the smallness of our population the increase in air transportation has been wonderful in that it has brought us together within the 12,000-odd miles of our coastline. lt has contracted us in a sense because we are able to move about by air. It would be impossible for many areas that are supplied by air services to return their contribution direct to the Government in interest and redemption charges in respect of the facilities that have been provided in those areas. Therefore the Government should change its thinking on this annual increase of airport charges. 1 feel we are reaching the stage where it will be hitting back at the people in other ways. It is obvious that this charge, when it is increased, will result in an increase in travelling costs, and to a very great extent that hits the people in the outback regions. The Government should encourage air transportation because it is vital and valuable to the people of this continent. The less the Government does to make airways unattractive the better it will be for the country generally. The fact is that we do not get a full return from the airways and the various instrumentalities associated with them, but I think that the Government is getting a return in many other ways. The fact that we have a very good air service in Australia helps us in many ways. It assists in making the outlying areas more attractive in which to live. People can travel from their homes to other parts of the Commonwealth and they can do this quickly and easily and whenever they want to do so. Airway services make it possible for business people to commute from one State to another.
These services are also an attraction from the point of view of the tourist industry. Australia has an internal tourist industry and also an overseas tourist industry. The biggest airway service is our own internal service because the various tourist centres in this country are more readily accessible to us than to people from overseas. Therefore anything that we can do to keep air costs down is of direct benefit to the development of the tourist Industry within our own States. This annual increase will hit the people in Australia who are going on holidays as well as those taking business trips. If the air fares go up another 24% and they keep on going up, this form of transport will be out of the price range of many people.
Today one sees travelling around Australia parties of both primary and secondary school students. Touring the countryside is one source of education of the young people at school. They get to know something of this wonderful country of which we should be truly proud. But of course to the older people who go on holidays I think it is more important to keep these charges down because that will assist in building up the tourist industry in Australia. Air services make for easier access to the tourist places situated in Australia and these services should be available at reasonable cost. Once we price them out of the reach of a lot of people it will affect us in various ways. Although the Government does not get everything back directly from the airports it does receive income from other avenues. For instance people running tourist resorts, motels, hotels, transport services and so on are catering for the tourist industry. Those people have to pay tax on their profits and in this way are helping to put into the pool of the Commonwealth revenues some repayment for what is done in the building of airports and airport facilities.
Thus it is important from the point of overseas tourism to have better air services so that more Australian people will use these facilities. If companies operating internal air services use bigger, larger and faster planes this will in turn appeal to the overseas tourists and influence them to come to Australia. We have to recognise that at the moment we have only one or two international airports. This means that people coming to Australia from overseas have to disembark at one of these airports and from there they have to travel by domestic airline to the various tourist centres to which they might want to go.
– How do our air fares compare with those in other countries?
– I do not know, but I will tell the honourable senator shortly about the charges which this Government makes. That is the point that I want to emphasise. The more patronage that we can get locally the better our aircraft will be. Overseas tourists coming to Australia will be able to disembark and to join a domestic airline at the point of disembarkation. Better planes mean better services. If the time can be reduced for the journey by plane from Sydney to the Great Barrier Reef, central Australia, or wherever it might be, it becomes more attractive. Time is the important factor in getting people from place to place. Air travel has shrunk the world considerably over the years. The faster the planes we provide the more attractive will be air travel not only to our own people but also to overseas tourists.
Each year for many years charges for the use of airport facilities have increased by about 10%. I think the time has come for the Government to rethink this matter. The Government has done a remarkably good job in the provision of aerodromes and facilities for air transport in various places. People in some places still think that they have not received all they should receive, but these things take time and money. I do not think anybody would deny that the Government has done a very good job in the development of aerodromes and facilities for aircraft in this country. This has helped very much in the provision of very good air services, but I am looking at the matter from the point of view of the cost to people of air travel. Our air services must be built up and kept attractive in order to appeal ever more strongly to overseas tourists. The tourist industry can be increasingly important. By establishing the Australian Tourist Commission and appointing a Minister to take charge of the administration of tourist activities the Government has probably shown that it is more aware of the importance of tourism than have been previous governments. 1 appeal to the Government to review its policy of increasing airport charges each year. Senator Scott asked me to compare the cost of air travel within Australia with the charges made outside Australia. Sometimes such comparisons can be misleading. A lot depends on operating costs, wages and so on in comparing charges in Australia with charges in other countries. However, the information I have is that the charges made in Australia for the use of airport facilities are the highest in the world. Of course, that probably stems from the fact that Australia is a big country with a small population. The Government should realise that there is a limit to the charges that can be imposed for airport services and it should take the view that it should spend some of this money, regarding such expenditure as a subsidy for the development of the tourist industry and associated industries. The annual increases in airport charges should be halted for some time so that in the breathing space the whole field of civil aviation might be examined.
I commend the Government on the general provisions of the Budget. It displays warmth and humanity in respect of social services, particularly for old people. I hope that from an economic point of view when the year has run its course, the forecasts in the minds of the people who drew up the Budget will have been realised well within the safety margin and that the prosperity of this country will continue as it has in previous years. I hope that at the end of this financial year Australia will be all the greater for the Budget that has been introduced this year.
– Senator Wood has just referred to the danger to the transport and tourist industries in Australia because of increased operating costs and charges made by the Government. This highlights one of the difficulties that this country faces under the policies of the Government, lt has been reported that in the next 2 or 3 years Australia is to buy about $1,000m worth of aircraft for civil and military purposes. The Government is not to get one penny of commission on the deal. In fact, the transaction will imperil this nation’s capacity to manufacture many items brought into Australia from overseas. This is a vital question. The problems of the Government and the nation are not solved by asking the Government not to increase air navigation charges. We accept that air navigation charges within the context of costs applying under the Liberal Administration are necessary to provide aerodrome facilities and navigational aids. This money must be recovered from the air traffic. But the basic fault is that about which the Labor Party has spoken frequently and which is illustrated by the Budget itself.
We of the Opposition do not think that the Government has ever done enough to develop the nation’s economy. There has been too much application of the Liberal philosophy to this effect: ‘We do not believe in socialisation. We do not believe in government controls. We are a free enterprise Government’. Consequently nothing is done to provide a planned economy. This morning in directing a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Anderson) 1 pointed out that even the well organised and very influential engineering manufacturers are calling for a plan for Australian industry. I understand that in Japan the Government, has combined with employers, including manufacturers to produce the most efficient industrial capacity of the nation so that it may influence the export trade. Japan is one example of a combination of government and employers to make an effective industrial machine. In Australia the reverse has happened. In the aircraft industry during World War II a very good potential for aircraft production was established, backed up by a very wide industrial organisation. This organisation has been allowed to run down despite the fact that we have a very efficient Department of Supply and a very efficient aircraft manufacturing division and engine works belonging to the Government and private enterprise. In this area the Labor Party differs strongly in its views from the Government.
Controversy has arisen about some provisions of the Budget. They will become the subject of greater controversy between now and the election. A lack of confidence in the Government is now deeply embedded in the public mind. Government supporters, on their own admission, are divided amongst themselves. There is a very definite division between the Liberal Party and the Australian Country Party, particularly over the question of wheat. Troubles have arisen following the appointment of Mr Gorton as Prime Minister. He has not emerged in the shape that some Government supporters had hoped for. In addition, in the last few days the people who have propped up the Government over the years by the distribution of their preference votes have stated that they intend to drop that support because of an interpretation of the Government’s defence or foreign policy. The people are recognising these signs of weakness of the Government. I have referred to what is happening in domestic matters and I shall speak later at greater length about them. These are matters which will shake the Government.
Great electoral changes will take place after the election and 1 think this is realised by the Government. People remember the promises made when Mr Gorton became Prime Minister. It was expected that he would become a new national figure. He expressed some very fine sentiments about nationalism and the need to stop foreign ownership in Australia, but since he became Prime Minister divisions have occurred and nothing has been done. There have been attempts to divert attention from the difficulties of the Government to the proposals of the Labor Party. Support has turned towards the Labor Party. There is no question that Labor can govern the country. This Government has been in power too long.
– Which wing of the Labor Party will govern the country?
– I am saying that it is clear from the recent gallup polls that the Government has been in power too long. It has no firm policy for Australia’s development and there is a sharp division in the ranks of Government supporters. These factors are tending to wreck the Government. I particularly have in mind the rural question. Senator Cormack knows that in his own area these troubles are simmering enough to disturb his position and the position of his colleagues. We expected to see great changes but all we have seen is a Budget designed to offset the swing away from the Government. The accent in relation to social services surely must mean that the Government was concerned about Labor’s welfare programme. Everyone knows that Labor derives its great strength from its reform and welfare policies. We place great emphasis also on the belief that the greatest incentive should be given to Australian enterprise and to Australian ownership. For that reason we believe that some definite controls should be imposed to offset the influences which now have become so strong and are taking control of Australia.
I believe that the people generally are aware of these things and nothing that the Government does now can change that. The Government surely cannot change its foreign policy to make it acceptable to the Australian Democratic Labor Party to permit it to make another deal with the DLP, and surely the DLP cannot support the Government after the continual attacks it has made upon the policies enunciated by the Prime Minister and by Mr Freeth, the Minister for External Affairs, because it does not agree with the orientations which the Minister for External Affairs has made in relation to foreign policy.
Let me deal with the Government’s policy on social services. Senator Milliner pointed out not very long ago that the Government does not intend to abolish the means test. Instead it has adopted some kind of tapered means test in the hope that it will be able to influence some people not to vote for Labor’s policy which is to abolish the means test over 6 years. All that the Government has done in tapering the means test has been to take something from the basic concept of welfare which it established over the years. By that I mean that every person who comes within the ambit of the new tapered means test loses something because he is not entitled to the fringe benefits which followed the old basis of pension payments. He loses the advantages of the pensioner medical benefits scheme and the free transportation and other benefits which State governments and local authorities granted to pensioners. So what has really happened on the Australian scene is that the pensioners instead of gaining something have lost something.
Last night Senator Greenwood spent quite a considerable time attacking Labor’s health programme because he claimed that it involved compulsion or conscription. A strange thing about free enterprise is that members of the Liberal Party are concerned constantly about conscription or compulsion except when it comes to conscripting or compelling workers in industry, or conscripting or compelling young people to go overseas to serve in the armed forces. That is an outstanding feature of free enterprise. The Government believes in compulsion and conscription when it wants to get people into the Army. It believes in compulsion and conscription when it wants to get workers back into industry after they have protested against some unfair working conditions but it does not believe in compulsion in relation to a national health scheme.
No speaker on the Government side has done anything to repair the faults which have appeared in the Government’s health scheme and which have been pointed out by the Nimmo Committee set up by the Government. Although the report of the Committee has been available now for many months the Government still says: The recommendations are under study. We agree that there are defects in the scheme and we will do something about it’. The only thing the Government has done is what is proposed in the Budget. In his Budget Speech the Treasurer (Mr Mc Mahon) made no mention of the Nimmo Committee’s report being under review as had been claimed by the Minister for Health (Dr Forbes), instead on page 1 1 of the booklet containing the Budget Speech the following appears under the heading Health Benefits’:
Consideration has been given to the recent recommendations of the Nimmo Committee. It is now proposed to provide free health insurance benefits equal to standard fund and Commonwealth benefits for - family groups of at least two units, exepting those of pensionable age, where the family cash income does not exceed $39 a week.
Last night Senator Milliner asked for leave to incorporate in Hansard a document which set out in detail some 100 classifications of workers. Leave was refused by Senator Wright. The document showed that of the numerous grades of workers in Queensland, which has the lowest federal wage rate, only three classifications received less than $39 a week. The income of the others debarred them from consideration so the percentage of people who would win some reward from the proposal is minimal. The supposed benefit is of no consequence. However, it is significant that this is the only area in which the Government has decided to implement a recommendation of the Nimmo Committee.
Without going into the report in detail, let me say that most people know that the Committee’s scope was circumscribed. It was told to look into the present scheme and to produce a review of a voluntary scheme of health insurance. Of course the Labor Party believes in an overall scheme which everyone would be required to join. Such a scheme will work. The Good Neighbour Council of Victoria and similar organisations recently have conducted surveys and have published reports which support the adoption of a compulsory health scheme on the basis now proposed by the Labor Party. Senator Greenwood, in a fairly studied speech, accepted that the present scheme has very grave defects, despite the excuses which the Government is making.
Even the Opposition accepts that its proposals cannot be costed accurately at this stage, but what has the Government done or what does it propose to do with the present unsatisfactory scheme in which a huge number of organisations are operating inefficiently? Latest figures indicate that there are 184 hospital and medical benefit organisations. The Nimmo Committee said that many of them are operating inefficiently and that people cannot get the kind of cover that they should get at reasonable rates. Many of us here know that by reason of our contact with people who interview us. We do not want to know what is wrong with the Labor Party’s policy. The Government attacks our policy only because it knows the defects that exist in the present scheme.
If there is one thing which highlights the sound sense of the amendment moved by Senator Murphy it is to be found in paragraph (e) which states:
The Senate is of opinion that the Budget is inadequate in that -
it neglects industries based on Australian natural resources and defence requirements.
We have been saying for a long time - most people now recognise the soundness of Labor’s contention - that there must be an end to the ownership of Australian resources by foreign operators. Despite all that has been said by Prime Minister Menzies, Prime Minister Holt and by the new Prime Minister Mr Gorton, nothing has been done. Policies have been enunciated in relation to intervention but bil by bit the country is being owned and operated by foreigners.
– Oh no.
– Of course it is, and you should know that. The value of what is being taken from this country is not coming back to us and, as was mentioned a few years ago, all that we will have left is a lot of holes in the ground. All the profits will have been expropriated by people outside Australia. No guide lines have been set out. I have mentioned already that in the next three years $ 1,000m will be spent on the purchase of aircraft from overseas sources. If you want to buy a spare part for a machine you have to bring it in from overseas in a foreign ship. You cannot even use the Australian National Line. This Government signed contracts to bring into Australia spare parts for our military machines and aircraft in ships exclusively operated by America. We trust now that the Government will give the national line the backing it deserves. 1 turn to the aircraft industry. As 1 have said already, members of the Labor Party are not the only ones who have been complaining about lack of support for our aircraft industry. Recently Sir Laurence Hartnett pointed out the need to revive the Australian aircraft industry. What we have in Australia, of course, is run down. In recent years we have had redundancy in the aircraft industry. The establishments are competent. They have the necessary complement of skilled workers and management and they are dedicated. On occasions going back to 1965, 1966 and 1967, when we have urged Ministers to give some attention to producing a light aircraft in Australia, we have been told that the manufacturers ought to go to the Tariff Board and that the Ministers can do nothing about it.
– The shop stewards would not have any industry in Australia at all.
– I can produce figures to show the honourable senator that Ministers have admitted that there has been a great redundancy of workers in the aircraft industry over the years. An aircraft airframe depot in South Australia has been shut down. People have been put off at Fishermen’s Bend and Avalon. We have tried to get the Government to start a campaign for the building of aircraft in Australia. We are sure that management can do the job. We are not the only people who are urging that, these things be done.
The same argument applies to defence supplies. For many years we have been urging that the requirements for our defence Services be produced in Australia. We say that we are competent to produce them. We have the factories. We have the people who are used to manufacturing in the metal industry. We have the motor car production enterprises. We have established truck manufacturers and manufacturers of earth moving equipment. We have skilled workers and we have our own government workshops. We have the Department of Supply with its special technicians. But the story, as we know from the answers in the Senate, is that the establishments are running down. We are not sure whether we can keep the staffs now involved.
This applies not only to the aircraft industry. It applies also to shipbuilding. Two weeks ago a deputation came to meet the Minister for the Navy (Mr Kelly) to find what was to take place at Williamstown and Cockatoo Dock. It asked for programmes which would satisfy the skilled workers that there would be continued employment in the industry. It is a shame that the establishments set up by the war time Labor Government, which equipped factories in the form of annexes and even used railway workshops to produce vital equipment, have been allowed to go by the board. If we are not careful we will lose the whole capacity to produce. This will happen unless the Government does something positive. The Government has said that it is studying the position. It said it was making studies with the British of possible aircraft to be produced in the aircraft factories. We are making studies of other things but nothing positive has yet been announced and we are afraid that by the time when the studies are finished there will be further redundancies. These factories have proved that they can produce tha most sophisticated aircraft.
– That is rubbish.
– I am not talking about the Fill. The honourable senator can speak on that. He can tell us why, after spending S200m up till this month, we have not the aircraft. We do not know whether it will fly. We do not know what the faults are and we do not know whether we will keep it. We would like to know now. We think that there has been a brainwashing of the Australian community and that all of these months have gone by without the aircraft arriving in this country because the Government knows that it has bought a pig in a poke. The aircraft is no good and the Government has spent S200m on it. It has spent $1Om or $20m on the ancillary equipment. It has spent a great amount of money on the training of crews for the aircraft, which has not yet got into the air properly and which nobody recognises as being stable.
– That is nonsense.-
– It is true. Otherwise the Government would have the aircraft in Australia. The matter has been going on for so long that out of sheer inertia the people may accept the position as inevitable, and the Government may cancel the contract and not get out of it too well. That is the positron at the present time. Yet down at the government factories we have been making the important Mirage and Macchi aircraft and we have propositions from private manufacturers. The managements of the government factories say that we could do more than we are doing. What is to take place? I never discredit the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Anderson) because he always gives an honest answer and he has a very efficient Department. But when we ask him a question about the Department of Defence he can only say that the Minister for Defence (Mr Fairhall) says that we are doing this, that we are making studies, or that it is possible that we might do it, while all of the time there are no guarantees that we can keep the staff that we have.
We say that it is wrong. Since 1966 we have said that there ought to be developed in Australia a competence to produce not only these aircraft but also the weapon carriers and other vehicles which are needed in the Army and the necessary electronic equipment that we can now produce. When we were buying the early missiles in 1967 and when we were buying other electronic equipment, we pointed out to the Government that we were subject to the will of the private American manufacturers. It was not even a government to government deal. Senator Henty, who was then Minister for Supply, said that nothing could be done about it because the only know-how that we got when we purchased these items was the knowhow to service them. We have gone into the area of production to a greater extent than we were in it then but there is no guarantee, as the Minister knows, that in the future we will be able to keep the people that we have and to guarantee that the sort of work that Australian factories and workmen can do will be done. The fundamental concept of defence must surely be not the number of warships that we have, not the number of troops that we can move quickly to other areas such as South East Asia. It must surely be based on the economy within the community. Australian Labor Party policy has always been that defence must start within the factories.
I should like to mention some figures which have been given to me by the Library in relation to imports of munitions and war stores. Despite repeated statements by the Minister for Defence that more and more orders are being sought within Australia, together with the right to manufacture parts of war materials, the cost of importing these things is rising year by year. In 1964-65 imports of munitions and war stores were valued at nearly S54m. In 1965-66 the value had grown to $85,907,000; in 1966-67 to §118,629,000; in 1967-68 to $125m; and in 1968-69, the current year, to $173m.
– What is the nature of these stores?
– They are all war supplies. If, when the Labor Party argued with the Government about this years ago, we had started to manufacture these things, these debts would not have been incurred.
Let me tell the Semite some of the things that we have sought from outside sources. If the honourable senator will look at the Auditor-General’s report he will see that it refers at page 298 to orders for amplifiers. We ordered from United States manufacturers 370 amplifiers which were designed to boost the present Army radio man packs and were for use also on Army vehicles. We paid $US405:602 for these things but did not get them because they were not satisfactory. The bill was paid but when we inspected them they were not suitable. We have now decided to manufacture within Australia suitable equipment for our own use. This shows the waste that has occurred within this country. The fact is that our factories are running down. Australian manufacturers want to produce things. That kind of waste is evident in other sectors of the economy.
I shall deal very quickly with two matters which concern all South Australians. The first is the delay by the Commonwealth Government in relation to the standardisation of gauges of the South Australian railways. The second, with which Senator Drury has already dealt fully, is the Chowilla Dam. I shall not deal with the closing down of the Snowy Mountains Authority, a great national organisation, which could have continued to operate in the way in which it has been operating, but I shall refer first to the Government’s obligation to standardise the South Australian railways according to an agreement made in 1 949. So far there is no offer from the Government to do anything other than to rely on the promised report of consultants who have been sent to South Australia to survey the line. We are still waiting for the Government to initiate work to extend the interstate standard gauge line to Adelaide so that Adelaide may get a share of the traffic which will eventuate when the whole of the line is standardised.
Recently the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr Sinclair), in answer to questions asked by me and by Mr Whitlam in another place, indicated that the matters are still under review. The proposal to build a new Tarcoola to Alice Springs railway has been referred to an interdepartmental committee, which will make certain studies. If we ask about the Port AugustaWhyalla rail connection, we get a new approach. In 1964 the Commonwealth Government received a request from the South Australian Government to build this line. The Commonwealth Government said it could not build the line because it would not be economic. In recent years the Commonwealth Government has accepted evidence that the line will pay. The Commonwealth Railways Commissioner has approved the construction of the line and has said that the Commonwealth could commence the project straight away. He has said that it will pay. As recently as a few days ago the Government said that these matters were still under consideration. The Government has too many matters under consideration. What the nation wants is a national plan involving not only some of the things I have mentioned but also all other things that are important to the development of Australia.
All I want to say about Chowilla, because time is short and because Senator Drury has spoken very fully on this matter, is that the Government should recognise that Chowilla will influence the voting in this election and that Chowilla is a very hot political question in South Australia.
– I cannot sec that, myself.
– The strange thing, Senator Sim, is that when we debated this in March only one Liberal Senator supported the motion moved by the Australian Labor Party. Since that time many of the South Australian senators have decided to criticise the Chowilla project despite the fact that it was approved originally by the Commonwealth Government. There is evidence that in South Australia the present Liberal-Country League State Government will shortly be tested by the Labor Opposition and by the Speaker of the House. I hope that when the legislation comes before the South Australian Parliament the South Australian Premier will accept the issue as a vital one. I hope that the Speaker of the South Australian House will do what he has promised to do and support the Labor Party in rejecting any legislation unless it involves the building of Chowilla as well as Dartmouth.
Question put -
That the words proposed (Senator Murphy’s amendment) to be added be added.
The Senate divided. (The Deputy President - Senator T. C. Drake-Brockman)
Majority . . . . 6
Question so resolved in the negative.
– In his contribution to the Budget debate, Senator Gair foreshadowed that an amendment would be moved on behalf of the Australian Democratic Labor Party. Accordingly,I move:
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT - Is the amendment seconded?
– I second the amendment and reserve my right to speak.
– Senator Gair stated very fully and very effectively the reasons which actuated the Democratic Labor Party in determining to propose this amendment. There is no need for me to recapitulate them. However, 1 want to express my disappointment on one issue in particular. I refer to the failure of the Government to adopt in the Budget the proposal which has been repeatedly put forward by my Party for social service payments to be determined in the future by a social services committee comprising experts in the field, who would make the necessary recommendations to the Government. There has been a great deal of talk about taking social services out of politics. This would be the way of doing it. There has been much objection to election bribes. This would be the way of preventing them. I regret that both the Government and the Australian Labor Party have consistently refused to accept this proposal, which would take pensions out of politics and would prevent social service payments from being used as election bribes.
I want to express particular disappointment at the fact that the Budget contains nothing in regard to the maternity allowance. A maternity allowance of £5 was introduced in 1912. By 1943 it had been increased to £15, which was at a time when the cost of a bed in a maternity hospital was £10 a week. In spite of the fact that today the cost of a bed is $70 a week there has not been any increase in the maternity allowance. I want to express my regret at the failure of the Government to take any action to improve this allowance, which is so helpful to families. I again express disappointment at the fact that child endowment seems to be the forgotten child of the
Government. A deputation of women from the Democratic Labor Party met the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) a couple of months ago and placed before him constructive proposals in regard to maternity allowance and child endowment increases. I regret that the deputation’s view has been ignored. 1 want to say a few words on the subject of education. I will not deal wilh education over-fully because I propose to deal with it when the appropriate item comes up in the Estimates debate. Whilst we have been at odds with the Government on a number of issues. I feel that we can congratulate it on the measures which have been taken in the Budget to give what some people call aid but what T think should be called justice to independent schools. I congratulate the Minister for Education and Science (Mr Malcolm Fraser), who has stood up to a considerable amount of pressure on this matter and has implemented the proposals which he believes to be just. There is some resemblance between the amounts which have been allocated by the Government and the amounts proposed in the Bill that the Democratic Labor Party put forward, but I do not take any objection to the Government endeavouring to take unto itself at least some of the credit for this very desirable action.
I am glad that honourable senators on both sides of the House are supporting the proposals, although i have an idea that on both sides of the Senate there are some uneasy conscripts on this issue. I was pleased to note that a Gallup poll indicates that nearly 65 per cent of the people of Australia think that there should be more aid for independent schools. Even allowing for that, I regret that there are some people who have been endeavouring to deal with this issue as though it were a question of rivalry between the State and independent schools. The attitude of my Party is that there should be adequate Commonwealth assistance for both State and independent schools. T believe that that is the attitude of fair-minded Australians in general.
The Democratic Labor Party does not support the proposal of the Australian Labor Party that a means test should apply to education. That is a rather strange proposal when one takes into consideration that at the same time the Party advocates no means test in regard to social services. My Party does not adopt the attitude that everybody whose son goes to a top independent school is a wealthy person. We know that there art’ many very wealthy persons who are sending their sons and daughters to State high schools, such as Melbourne Boys High School, the University High School and the MacRobertson High School. Not in all instances are extremely wealthy people sending their children to these schools but in a number of instances they are because they know that these schools are as good as any in the State. The Democratic Labor Party cannot see any reason at all for applying a means test to education.
I turn now to an issue which, despite predictions that the forthcoming election will be fought upon domestic policies, I feel will be the main issue. I remind the Senate that on 8th July 1969 the Minister for Defence (Mr Fairhall) said:
In Europe, the Soviet Union has in recent years captured both Hungary and Czechoslovakia without effective protests from the Western world.
Indeed, Russia adds constant provocation over many issues.
Russia’s growing interest in the Indian Ocean and South East Asia - to say nothing of the Middle East - adds to the dangers of that particular .situation.
During the same week a statement was made by Mr Denis Warner, who is regarded as Australia’s top authority on South East Asia. Referring to the move of the Soviet Union into the Indian Ocean and the South East Asia region, Mr Warner said: . . neither indifference in countries like Australia, which cannot do anything about it, or resignation in the United States, which is also in the process of contracting its presence in East and South Asia, should blind anyone to what is going on.
That is what this authority thinks about the matter. Again referring to the move by the Soviet Union he said:
This is the most dramatic move by a single Power since the end of World War II to extend ils influence into regions hitherto beyond its sphere. ti involves not only naval forces, which are just the tip of the iceberg, but a remarkable expansion in aid and trade and the provision of military equipment to friendly nations on a gigantic scale.
This is backed at home by a no less remarkable effort on the part of the Soviet Union to become a leading world maritime power and to create a navy which now has twice as’ many submarines as the United Slates Navy and more submarines than all of the NATO forces put together.
Having heard from the Minister for Defence this warning about the implications of the move of the Soviet Union into our region, members of the Parliament as well as other Australians were staggered when, in his survey of the international scene, the Minister for External Affairs (Mr Freeth) expressed the opinion that at present there is no reason to be concerned over what is happening. Furthermore, he made the statement that the Australian Government had been engaged in consultations with the Soviet Union and intended to continue consultations with the Soviet Union, and he envisaged - without definitely saying so - as a subject of discussion, mutual action with regard to collective security in South East Asia. As we all know, collective security implies military co-operation.
The Minister has complained since that his statement was misunderstood and misinterpreted. My answer to that is: Why did not the Minister then make a considered statement clearly telling us what was going on? In an endeavour to assist the Minister to make clear to the Australian Parliament and the Australian people what was going on, I asked last week: Who are the persons conducting discussions between Australia and the Soviet Union, and what are the subjects under discussion?
The first part of the question was answered. I was informed that our Ambassador was talking to top personalities in the Soviet Union and I was informed that their ambassador was talking to top personalities in our country. But to my second question as to what are the subjects being discussed, the Minister replied: ‘I have nothing further to add’.
In other words, discussions and consultations are going on between the Australian Government and the Soviet Union which could vitally affect our future and vitally affect our whole security, and the Parliament is informed by the Minister in question that he refuses to give us any information as to the matters that are under discussion. I ask bluntly. What is there to hide? If we look at the Minister’s statement made on 14th August, we find it has some unusual features. One such feature is the remarkable amount of space given to a discussion of our relationships with the Soviet Union. There are some remarkable features in the statement.
The Government is facing an election within 2 months. Everybody would know that this would be a question which would be bound to arouse controversy, yet, 2 months before the election, the Government announces bluntly that it is engaged in these discussions. I would remind the Government of an election before which there was a great deal of controversy over a letter which Dr Evatt wrote to Mr Molotov, but one can at least say about Dr Evatt’s letter that he let the Australian people know what he was negotiating or talking about.
In the course of his statement, the Minister said that Mr Brezhnev had told the World Conference of Communist Parties that the Soviet Union was of the opinion that events are putting on the agenda the task of creating a system of collective security in Asia. Our Minister said:
The Australian and Union of Soviet Socialist Republic Governments have also been in contact . . on matters of bilateral interest and also in discussing wider issues.
That is all the Australian people are told - that these discussions are going on. After a statement by Mr Brezhnev that the Soviet Union is about the task of creating a system of collective security in Asia our Minister tells us they are discussing matters of bilateral interest and also wider issues. The Minister went on to say:
Mr Gromyko, the Foreign Minister of the Soviet Union, said in a speech in Moscow to the Supreme Soviet on 10th July that ‘the prerequisite and potential for an improvement of our relations with Australia exist’.
It was also said by our Minister that it is natural that a world power such as the Soviet should seek to promote a presence and a national influence in an important region of the world such as the Indian Ocean. It may be natural in an imperialist power, but it is not natural in a country such as the Soviet Union which has no border upon the Indian Ocean.
The Minister said that there had been some exaggeration in regard to the talks. He said that they have been only exploratory to date. If they are only exploratory, why does the Minister refuse to tell us what they are about? If these talks are, as Mr Brezhnev suggests, dealing with the question of collective security, if they deal with proposals, possibly for nonaggression pacts, then they involve military action, and if they involve the prospect of military action the Australian people are entitled to be told.
In these circumstances, there was grave concern throughout the whole of this country. That concern was increased when it was realised that this action had been taken without the approval of the Australian Cabinet. It has been said in newspaper after newspaper - and not contradicted - that the Deputy Prime Minister of the country (Mr McEwen) knew nothing of it and that the Deputy Prime Minister asked at a Cabinet meeting - 1 will welcome a denial if anyone will give it - what was going on and why he had not been consulted about it. The statement has been made in one paper that when Mr Fairhall, who is Minister for Defence, was asked what was going on, he replied: ‘I’m damned if I know’. I think the average Australian could have said the same thing.
The Australian Democratic Labor Party immediately expressed grave concern as to what was going on. In sections of the Press, there was a legitimate effort to appreciate the reason for the DLP’s action. In other sections, we were overwhelmed with abuse. It was suggested that this was merely a Liberal kind of thing to do, that it indicated the new Liberalism as against the old Liberalism. For example, Mr Chamberlain who broadcasts, I think, on the programme Canberra on the Line’ said in regard to people who might be for or against it, that it was a choice between the new Liberalism and Fascism. In other words, he made the remarkable suggestion that if you disapproved of this proposal you must be a Fascist. When we look at the statements which have been made in the other House by Mr Uren, by Dr Cairns, by Mr Jess of the Liberal Party, by Mr Beazley of the Australian Labor Party and by quite a number of other people. I think even Mr Chamberlain would admit that it is somewhat extreme to equate Fascism with opposition to this proposal.
I want now to say something that I think ought to be understood. There is in all sections of the community at the present time grave concern over these proposals. I suggest that those who have the time should read the speeches which have been made in the other House by a number of members. I also suggest that honourable senators should look at the reactions of some of the Australian newspapers in regard to the matter. At first there was a tendency with many of them, who did not realise what this proposal meant, to say, as has been said by others, that this is only a Liberal move to get together with the Soviet Union on things that we can. But when they realised from the amount of discussion going on abroad that this was a very serious matter, the attitude of a number of newspapers became very much qualified. I would quote this statement from the Melbourne ‘Herald’ of 20th August 1969:
Perhaps some of these authorities will now take the new vogue a step further. They insist that our troops slay indefinitely in Vietnam, some to be killed by Russian arms loaded in Haiphong from ships welcome to pick up cargoes in Australian ports on the return voyage.
Even the ‘Australian’ which was not prepared to condemn the action of the Minister in undertaking these talks had this to say:
There is still not a single specific in discussion of Russia’s idea of an Asian collective security system. The chances of discussion leading to any worthwhile agreement are extremely remote. . . .
Here is the point that I want to stress:
But there is no gainsaying the value of the initiative to Russian interests. Even Australia has accorded Moscow a new respectability and a role in regional affairs.
When the Government says, as it does, that we have not crossed the Rubicon, that we have made no definite arrangements, my answer is that the Australian Government has placed it on record that in its view the Soviet Union is not an undesirable neighbour or, at any rate, that it might be even a desirable neighbour. The Australian Government has suggested that the Soviet Union could be a body with which we might be able to join in collective security arrangements in South East Asia.
– It has not said that.
– If it has not said that, why has it not denied it? The answer is that it is engaging in discussions. But as was said in the quotation that I read a moment ago, the moment you say that you are prepared to talk on these issues you accept the situation that it is a matter of possible discussion, that it is a matter on which you can talk, a matter where you possibly can reach agreement. I want to make it clear that whatever the view of other parties, my Party does not consider that the Soviet Union is a desirable neighbour. My Party does not consider that Australia should join with the Soviet Union in discussions with a view to the Soviet Union entering with us into South East Asia for the purpose of collective security arrangements. We believe that this proposal has been foisted upon us by the Soviet Union for propaganda purposes and for purposes designed lo aid its own infiltration. What is behind it ail?
The Soviet Union today has two grave problems to contend with. The first problem is that of the slave nations - Czechoslovakia, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia - and the other problem is that of China where there is a possibility of war. In 1934 in a similar situation, when it was threatened by Hitler, the Soviet Union announced that it intended to adopt what was called the united front plan. All over the world the Soviet Union made overtures for assistance and it did so on the basis of the united front against Fascism. The object of the Soviet Union was to get assistance from other countries, to get credence from other countries so that it would have at least some assistance in the event of war breaking out with Germany. The Senate knows what happened. The Western nations joined in the front against Fascism. The Soviet Union, at a convenient moment, withdrew and left the Western nations to confront Germany. I believe that in the present case the Soviet Union leaders have said to themselves: ‘We will follow the same plan as we followed in 1934; we will approach nations all over the world with offers of friendship.’ This is happening.
The Soviet Union has made offers of friendship to Yugoslavia, it has made offers of friendship to West Germany, it has now made offers of friendship to the Government of Chiang Kai-shek in Formosa and offers of friendship to Australia. The Soviet Union will be friends with any country which will join or appear to join with it in what it hopes will be constructed as an encirclement of its main enemy, China. But the Russians believe that it has another advantage, that if all these other great countries are seen as being on the side of the Soviet Union this will discourage the slave nations from revolt by making them feel that they have been deserted. Mr Freeth made his contribution to making the slave nations feel that they were deserted when, in a television programme in which I took part, he said that nobody believes that anybody will fight now for these nations. In that he was quite right - I suppose they know that themselves - but they would not have expected him to have said what he went on to say, that is: That pass was sold a long time ago’. I regret that the term ‘sold’ was used because even if the people of eastern Europe are now to be left to seek their own liberty and their own salvation, it is not a good thing that we should emphasise that we intend to do nothing for them, unless perhaps we weep crocodile tears as we did on the occasion when Czechoslovakia was invaded.
– Would the honourable senator deceive them by pretending that we would go to war for them?
– Does anybody think that the people of Hungary or Czechoslovakia have been deceived as to what are the intentions of the other Western nations? They know. But at least they do not deserve to be told, in a spirit of what some people would think is realism, by countries which claim to be democratic, that they have no time for them and, on the contrary, propose to take the hand of the country which is responsible for the disappearance of their liberty. If we can do nothing for the people of eastern Europe, at least let us not join their enemies. It is not only in that sphere that the approaches are taking place for the united front. The World Assembly for Peace has been revived and proposals have been put to the churches to get on side with the Soviet churches. There is one united front plan all around the world and I regret that the Australian Government has been a sucker for that plan.
What was the attitude of the South East Asian nations? Mrs Ghandi was quite definite. She said that she opposed the formation of any military alliance in the Indian Ocean and believed that security was better served by good economic relations. 1 heard a diplomat from a South East Asian country comment on the proposal when he heard of Mr Freeth’s speech. He said: Haven’t we had enough trouble with the major nations in our area without someone inviting another one in?’ I conclude my remarks by saying that I regret that the Australian Government has entered on these proposals. If the Australian Government says it has been misunderstood, if it says that I am misinterpreting what has happened, I ask why the Minister, when requested to give an answer as to what was going on, said that he had nothing to add. If the Government has been misinterpreted ils wounds are self-inflicted. 1 say. therefore, that it is all very well for the Minister to laugh on this occasion. In the old days I think his altitude would have been different. 1 say to the Minister that there are principles in the world today, although some people deny that they exist or that we should take any notice of them, and one of the principles that 1 would have hoped that Australia would honour would have been this, that she would never have extended her hand in this area in discussions for a system of peace, or whatever else one chooses to call it, to a country like the Soviet Union when that country, within the past year, has shown in the case of Czechoslovakia that it denies the right of liberty and that it denies democracy. While it is doing that, what does the Australian Government do? It passes a pious resolution of sympathy with Czechoslovakia and then hastens to embrace Czechoslovakia’s oppressor.
– I second the amendment.
– In speaking to the amendment moved by Senator McManus 1 propose to confine myself narrowly to the amendment and the comments made by the honourable senator in relation to the amendment. We have already had a debate on the Budget and I have spoken in that debate. I have spoken to the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy). There are some problems in speaking to the amendment moved by Senator McManus because, significantly, he has referred to some matters in his five point amendment which I think have already been very fairly and fully canvassed in substance by Government supporters, by the Leader of the Opposition when speaking to his amendment and by those who have spoken in support of his amendment.
The Government will not support the amendment proposed by Senator McManus and that: is the prime purpose of my rising to speak to it. His speech, in large measure, was built round his first point which related to defence, More particularly, it was built around the statement made by the Minister for External Affairs (Mr Freeth) on 14th August last, lt is significant that I attempted to put that statement down in the Senate so that the Senate could have a debate on it, if it so chose. It is also significant that, as a result of the use of the forms of the Senate, f was not given leave to put that statement down in the Senate and to have it incorporated in the record of the Senate. Wc all know where the refusal of leave came from, lt is rather unfortunate, therefore, that Senator McManus should make that statement the main burden of his speech this afternoon.
He takes out of context, to a degree, part of what the Minister for External Affairs said in his statement of 1 4th August and imports into it judgments of his own, which he is not entitled to do on the basis of this statement. Then he argues from that point. Quite obviously, one cannot sustain an argument for any length of lime on that basis. He drew conclusions thai he was not entitled to draw. He went on to say: Because 1 make these accusations and the Minister for External Affairs does not then choose to debate them on the basis of validity, ipso facto they are true’. That is an extraordinary argument to put.
Let me quote a few passages from the Minister’s statement of 14th August. He said that we had to avoid ‘both facile gullibility and automatic rejection of opportunities for co-operation’. In the world in which we live, could anything be stated more fairly than that? We must not be gullible. In fact - I will quote another passage from his statement in a moment - we must recognise the background to what has happened in connection with the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. But, recognising all those things, we must, in the nature of things, wherever possible, take opportunities for talk and co-operation. 1 think it was Winston Churchill who said a long time ago: ‘More jaw and less war’. If we can talk - I remind Senator Georges, who is interjecting, that in fact talks are going on - there is at least an opportunity to come to grips, to terms and to an understanding with people although we may, as we do, have fundamental differences of view in relation to political philosophies.
In fairness to the Minister for External Affairs, although he does not need any defence from me, I quote another passage from his statement of 14th August. He said:
Those are the things around which Senator McManus built his debating points. But they were mentioned by the Minister for External Affairs in his statement of 14th August. I regret that we were not given an opportunity to debate that statement so that the full meaning of what he was saying in it could be understood.
We have had diplomatic relations with the USSR since 1943 although admittedly we had a hiatus from 1954 to 1959. We negotiated a trade agreement with Russia in 1965. At present we have diplomatic relations with Russia. We have an ambassador in Moscow. The USSR has an ambassador here. We as parliamentarians meet its diplomatic representatives. We speak to them. This is part of political life. It is proper that there should be discussions in the normal way between diplomatic representatives from various countries, lt is quite wrong for Senator McManus, his leader or those who sit with them to read into these discussions the fears that they do read into them. Far from the Minister for External Affairs keeping the discussions under cover in fact this was all started by a statement made by the Minister for External Affairs himself.
– lt should never have been made.
- Senator Wood says that it should never have been made. That cuts across Senator McManus’s argument that the proper thing to do is to bring these matters out into the open and have a full discussion on them.
Reference is made in the amendment to the significance of the fact that this financial year there has been a reduction in defence expenditure. The Minister for Defence (Mr Fairhall), speaking in the
Budget debate in another place, pointed out - I thought very properly - that, in a programme of defence spread over a period of years, to deduce that because in one year the amount of the actual Budget allocation is less than that in the previous year there is a falling away in defence objectives or defence activities is a form of reasoning which cannot stand up against the background of what Australia is actually doing in the defence field. Inevitably, in any department expenditure must be spread over a number of years and if there is a readjustment in relation to various items of expenditure in a huge capital outlay there must be variations in the amounts for which provision is made in the Budgets.
I am not attempting to debate this matter in depth. All I can say is thai the Minister for Defence pointed out in his speech that last year defence expenditure reached $1, 164.7m and this year it will go down to Si, 104m. He said:
Equipment programmes must have their peaks and troughs. Last year was a peak in defence expenditure, which rose from $748m in l965-6fi through $950m and SI. 109m in successive years to reach St. 165m last year.
J am referring to this matter only briefly because I debated it when I spoke on Senator Murphy’s amendment. I merely say that it is not a valid argument to suggest that simply because there is an adjustment of the amount of defence expenditure the Government is making a reduction in defence objectives or defence activities.
The amendment also refers to social services matters. Again, all these matters have been debated before. I have pointed out at question time and in my speech, as other speakers have pointed out in their contributions to the Budget debate, that, far from weakening the social services structure, this Budget, as never before in the history of Budgets, bristles with consideration and special concessions for those people in the community who need them most. Under the tapered means test it makes provision for additional pensions and taxation concessions for no fewer than about a quarter of a million people who previously did not receive those benefits and concessions. To suggest that this motion implies that this is only playing with the problem is not a fair expression in relation to the proposals. 1 could go through the benefits such as age and repatriation pensions, homes for the aged - a Bill that we passed earlier today dealt with that subject - rebates to people with an income under §39 a week in relation to the payment of hospital benefits, and a whole host of taxation benefits for people who paid tax before but now will not have to pay tax. We have already debated these things and I do not think I could do what needs to be done at this time in a Budget debate.
The reference by Senator McManus to national development is contradictory to what has taken place in this nation. There has been tremendous development.
– Yes, and to suggest that there has not been corresponding development by the building up of the communities is to disregard what has occurred at places such as Gove and Gladstone in Queensland which have become vital to the economy of Australia as a result of the bauxite and other developments there. That suggestion disregards the development that has taken place at Mount Tom Price and Mount Newman, lt disregards the areas built up at Hamersley, Dampier, and at Mount Tom Price completely. I hope that all honourable senators will have the opportunity to go to these areas and see the massive development that is taking place there.
– What has the Government had to do with it?
– The Government has had a lot to do with it by way of assistance to the States under section 96 of the Constitution. The States in turn have been able to negotiate with the various companies to develop the areas. Honourable senators should go and have a look at the Ord River scheme at Kununurra. Who provided the money for that? Speaking in terms of governments - and we are speaking only in terms of governments - who made that possible? I want to come back to where I was interrupted because I think honourable senators may have become a little confused. The point I am making is that the amendment moved by Senator McManus, suggesting that the Government is remiss because it has not caused any development to take place in Australia, of course completely beggars what everyone knows to be true, that the development that has taken place in Australia in the last decade is unparallelled in our history.
Australia is a vast country, and Senator Georges who is interjecting should perhaps look at it on a wider horizon, lt does not matter whether you go to Queensland, to Western Australia or to the Northern Territory. The population growth in Darwin is greater now than at any previous time. This has been brought about because of the backdrop of the things that have been happening with regard to the mineral industries in the Territory. To suggest, as this amendment does, that there is not any development of a decentralised nature in Australia is an incorrect suggestion. For the reasons I have stated I oppose the amendment moved by Senator McManus.
– The Opposition opposes the amendment moved by Senator McManus. We do so because the domestic matters in it were dealt with adequately in the amendment proposed by me on behalf of the Opposition. We suggested that the Budget is inadequate because on the matter of the needs of families it increases taxation and health and housing costs for families. On this the Opposition received no support from the Australian Democratic Labor Party. We said that the Budget was inadequate in this respect because it makes no considered and comprehensive approach to the needs of all schools. We did not receive any support from the DLP on that. Education is not mentioned in their amendment, lt is not possible to conceive of this Senate asking for a Budget to be withdrawn and redrafted on a basis that does not even make reference to education.
There are other matters referred to in the amendment. There is reference to defence. There is a decrease in defence expenditure and the complaint about this matter is that the Government had some discussions with the Soviet Union apparently of an exploratory nature trying to find out what the Soviet Union had in mind, and the DLP says that we must not have anything to do with any possible consideration of an arrangement dealing with security with the Soviet Union. This afternoon in this chamber we had the classic red herring. It is a herring and it is red. They dragged it in because they had not anything else about which to talk. Why is it a red herring? It is a red herring because the DLP has said that it will not under any circumstances even envisage the possibility of having anything to do with the Soviet Union on arrangements for security in this area. Yet this nation is pledged to the Charter of the United Nations., which I think even the DLP, in some of the rambling statements of its members, supports.
We are pledged to observe the decisions taken by the United Nations Security Council, which includes the United States of America, the Soviet Union and other countries, in dealing with matters of international peace and security all over the world, including this very area. If we do not want to have any regional arrangement with the Russians let us say so but do not let the people of this country be deluded by this nonsensical approach by the DLP. Together with most of the other nations of the world Australia entered into the United Nations Organisation in order to make some attempt to prevent another world war, and whether we like it or not we had to enter into those arrangements with all sorts of countries, including countries of whose systems we might disapprove. As we disapprove of the actions of other countries from time to time no doubt they disapprove of our actions from time to time and those of some of our friends, but it still has to be done. Let us not have this nonsense from the DLP. They are looking around for an issue and they are trying to build this up and up. The people of Australia have realised where the DLP has got itself. Although we do not like using such terms, we must agree that the DLP is on the extreme right of Australian politics in ali matters of defence, foreign policy, questions of civil liberty - the whole lot-
The DLP is not a centre party. It cannot pretend any longer to be between the Liberal-Country Parties and the Australian Labor Party. There is no doubt that the DLP has placed itself over a period of time on the extreme right of politics. Defence is an extremely important matter and the DLP has addressed itself to that matter in this amendment. I want to deal with the last part of the amendment in order to examine the basis of the DLP approach to Australia’s defence. Honourable senators will see something very interesting here. The DLP complains in clause (5) of the amend ment about the provisions of the Budget in that it -
Fails to stimulate national development by increasing and developing substantial communities at (he points of recent discoveries of natural resources which would assist to eliminate the undesirable increase of urban population, particularly in the capital cities.
If we are certain of anything in this modern world it is that for several generations the countries which have been the strongest and the most secure have been those countries with great industrial strength. World War I and World War II were won and future world wars will be won by the country or combination of countries with the greatest industrial strength, irrespective of whether the wars are fought with planes, rifles or missiles. There is no doubt that the basis of industrial strength is great secondary industry. lt is necessary tq have shipbuilding, great electronics and steel industries, and all of these are absolutely dependent upon great cities. Yet it is the same Democratic Labor Party which purports to say that we must have a great defence which has its origins in the rural movement of Mr Santamaria, the figure who dominates the DLP. He still has his influence in pursuing the policy of 5-acre landholders and cottage industries. According to the DLP that is what we must have. Its members say that we do not want people congregated in the cities, working in the great industries. It is said that that is morally bad, that they should all be out in the clean air of the country living on 5 acres, farmed by the family and keeping a cow. This doctrine of a peasant economy is the thread that runs right through the Democratic Labor Party.
– You are misrepresenting what the DLP has said.
– You will see it again and again. No-one objects to substantial rural communities, but the proposed amendment of the DLP goes on to refer to the undesirable increase of urban population. That is what I am dealing with now.
– It is undesirable now in Melbourne and Sydney.
– If Australia is to be able to defend itself the population must increase and the cities must grow. We want more than the cities of their present size.
We must have greater cities. We will not have the industrial strength which our security will demand unless we have greater cities based on the great defence industries and on the infrastructure of our needs. Yet the same people of the DLP have persistently pursued this line of opposition to the growth of secondary industry and the growth of urban population.
– That is a most ridiculous statement.
– I invite the honourable senator to read through the documents. He will see the references to the 5- acre philosophy. They are the peasant economists.
– What is wrong with a peasant?
– I ask Senator McManus and those who have talked about frankness to stand up and honestly state their policies.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Drake-Brockman) - Senator Murphy, I ask you to address your remarks to the chair.
– As I understand that it is desired to introduce a document and an arrangement has been made, I ask for leave to continue my remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– I present the report of the Senate. Select Committee on Air Pollution, together with minutes of evidence, and move:
That the report and minutes of evidence be printed.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I ask for leave to propose a motion relating to the report.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- There being no objection, leave is granted.
– I move:
That the Senate take note of the Report.
Honourable senators will recall that the Senate Select Committee on Air Pollution was constituted on 3rd April 1968. By 1st
May the members had been appointed to the Committee and the inaugural meeting was held on 9th May. Since that date, the Committee has held 52 meetings, heard evidence from 167 witnesses and received 51 written submission. The Committee decided at the beginning of the inquiry that in view of the abundance of technical literature which is already available on air pollution generally and on methods of prevention and control, it should not attempt a technical report but should attempt to describe in layman’s terms what air pollution is, what can be done about it, and what the current position is in Australia. The report has not been prepared for those intimately connected with air pollution control but is written as an information document for members of the Parliament and the general public. It is the earnest wish of the Committee, however, that its suggestions will be considered by those technically involved in air pollution matters as a practical contribution to the solving of some of the problems, particularly in the administrative field.
At the beginning of the inquiry the Committee found it necessary to define its terms of reference and, after consultation with the Attorney-General’s Department, resolved to limit its inquiry into pollution of the general atmosphere as against pollution inside buildings and works, which was considered more a problem of industrial conditions rather than air pollution proper. As a working definition of air pollution the Committee adopted the definition put forward by Morris B. Jacobs, Associate Professor of Occupational Medicine in the Colombia University, United States of America. This definition reads:
Air pollution can be defined as the act of causing air to contain concentrations of foreign matter in excess of normal values and which concentrations adversely affect the health of human beings, their property and comfort and the comfort or health of animals, or the health of plants.
The evidence received by the Committee clearly indicates that within this definition an air pollution problem already exists in some parts of Australia, although the levels of pollution in Australia are not as high as in well known centres of pollution such as London or Los Angeles. However, levels recorded are sufficiently high to warrant urgent planning and action. Throughout the inquiry the Committee was frustrated by the lack of information and research data on the various aspects of air pollution in Australia. Consequently the Committee had to rely heavily on facts and figures from overseas sources, particularly the United States of America and the United Kingdom. For instance, there are no figures available in Australia for the breakup of air pollution from the various general sources and the Committee had to use as a basis figures prepared for the United Slates of America by the Department of Health, Education and Welfare. These figures show that motor vehicles are responsible for 60.6 per cent of total air pollution; industry, 16.2 per cent; power plants. 14.1 per cent; space heating, 5.6 per cent; and refuse disposal, 3.5 per cent. While these figures cannot be transposed entirely to the Australian scene, the Committee considers that it is reasonable to assume that a similar pattern of air pollution exists in Australia.
In the United States of America it is estimated that air pollution is costing the nation $65 per head of population per annum. Even if the cost to Australia were only a fraction of the American figure, it still represents a waste of this country’s resources which should not be tolerated. The evidence received makes it patently obvious that the longer Australia delays in taking concerted action to resolve the problem the higher will be the cost of effecting a cure for air pollution. Australia now has a wonderful opportunity of taking advantage of overseas experiences and of preventing the situation from deteriorating to the state which exists in London, New York or Los Angeles, and at the lowest cost.
The Committee firmly believes that the atmosphere forms a common natural resource and as such should remain as free as possible from contaminants which degrade its quality, and hopes that eventually a clean environment will be considered the precious and inviolate right of the peoples of the world. In brief, the Committee has recommended that the Commonwealth Government should interest itself in air pollution, as a national problem, by:
The Committee also recommends:
That the functions of the proposed Bureau of Air Pollution should include -
That in view of the special importance of emissions from motor vehicles in the overall air pollution problem, urgent consideration be given by the appropriate Commonwealth and State authorities to ways and means of bringing about the abatement and eventual control of those motor vehicle emissions which contribute to pollution of the air.
I should like to pay tribute to Sir Denham Henly who, before he retired from the Senate, was responsible for the setting up of the Senate Select Committee on Air Pollution and also the Senate Select Committee on Water Pollution. Without his farsightedness I doubt very much whether either Committee would have come into being, at least not at the time it did. I should like also to pay tribute to the members of my Committee, and also to Senator Gair and Senator Ormonde who were members for a short time, for the untiring manner in which they applied themselves to the inquiry which was over and above their normal electoral and Senate duties. I should like, in addition, to pay tribute to the officers of the Committee and to all those persons whose conscientious efforts contributed to the compilation of the report. It is my hope, and the hope of members of my Committee and everyone connected with this report, that our efforts will not have been in vain and that Australia will be a better place to live in as a result of our efforts. 1 seek leave to continue my remarks at a later date.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Sitting suspended from 6.2 to 8 p.m.
Debate resumed (vide page 654).
– Before the debate was adjourned I was dealing with the amendment which had been proposed by Senator McManus, showing how in it there is revealed the fundamental con.tradication in the policies which the Democratic Labor Party and its member Senator McManus, have been putting out-
– You told us about the peasants. Keep it up.
– Yes. The fundamental philosophy of that Party is founded on the rural movement with which Mr Santamaria has long been associated.
– Who is he?
– Do I hear Senator Little denying Mr Santamaria?
– I do not know him as well as you do apparently.
– Does he deny the man who has been the guiding star of the DLP ail these years, the man who gives its members their riding instructions, the man who is largely responsible for the policy which the DLP has espoused and still continues to espouse? A basic part of it is the diverting of Government spending, industry, and the interest of the community away from the cities to the countryside; the dispersal of ownership through the family farm and working proprietorship in small business enterprises, lt is carried further to the 5-acre, sometimes even the 3-acre farm, with the cow or the goat and the little cottage industries. We in this country want strong primary industries. The Australian Labor Party has always stood for marketing schemes for primary industry. We want prosperous rural industries. We want to build these up but we also want and need and must have in these times great cities. Everybody knows that to support a great population we must have strong secondary industries and in modern times these are in the great urban complexes, the great cities, the great metropolises. lt is impossible to avoid this. Yet here we see this Democratic Labor Party, which is supposed to believe in defence, putting nonsense like this: ‘to eliminate the undesirable increase of urban population, particularly in the capital cities’.
– Hear, hear.
– Senator Little says: Hear, hear.’ If we are lo have a strong Australia, if we are to defend Australia, there is no escape from the fact that we must have these great industries, the great shipbuilding industry, the great electronics industries, the great computer industries, and we must have great cities, and more cities and greater cities. This is how we are going to be strong. We will get the industrial strength and we will be able to protect Australia. We will never do it with the little peasant economy that is favoured by the DLP and its advisers. This Australian Labor Party wants to protect not only the primary industries by marketing schemes and assistance. It is dedicated to the protection of secondary industry. We are going to see that it flourishes when the Country Party gives away secondary industry, as it must. Everyone in secondary industry knows that the Country Party will be forced to the point where it will give away its flirting with the protection of secondary industry. Tt will exercise its influence on the Government. The Liberal Party will not be able to resist it. It is the Australian Labor Party which will stand for the protection and development of secondary industry in this country. That is fundamental to the defence with which we are all concerned.
It is time that there was a real polarisation in Australia and it is becoming quite clear that the Australian Labor Party has for years stood for policies which have been and are being rapidly vindicated not only by the passage of events but also by the support of the Australian people. The Australian people have shown, even by the surveys released today, that they have come round to accepting our views on defence, our views on Vietnam, and our views on. so many other matters. On the other side we have this collection of parties. We have the Country Party with its specific sectional interests. We have the Liberal Party in opposition to the Country Party on so many matters. We have the DLP like Barney’s bull, far from home and not knowing where it can go, looking around and desperately trying to get some kind of red herring - anything to justify its existence. It does not know where it is going. The Australian people have this choice. Here is the Australian Labor Party which has stood strong and firm for policies some of which are mouthed by the DLP. The DLP speaks of the family man, necessary aid for family life through better child endowment payments and all sorts of other things.
What happens when it comes lo the point in this chamber? During the course of this Parliament we have before us measures to increase sales tax on items used by the family man. They could have been defeated in this chamber. We had a chance to do it. The Australian Labor Party voted against them. What happened with the DLP? It sided with those other Government parties which were increasing the burden on the family man. What is the use of this talk? When it comes to deeds the DLP deserts the family man. The Australian Labor Party has consistently fought for the matters which we have set out - for defence, for proper defence procurement, for relieving the burden of taxation and all of these other items. Tonight we have seen the DLP desert us when we criticised the Government for not attending to these matters and then it comes forward with this amendment. Some of it is gobbledygook. Some of it ought to have been dealt with by deeds before, and there is this nonsense about opposing the increase of urban population, without which we could not properly attend to the defence of Australia.
We have no hesitation in saying that this amendment should be opposed. The Australian people will have their chance to say what they think about the Budget of the Government now that we have been refused support in the proper criticisms that we made here of the Government. Let the people be the judges of the Government. Day by day support is coming for my Party in order to defeat the Government. The amendments which have been put forward cannot be discussed or considered except in the context of the election which is coming on 25th October. Day by day the people of Australia are beginning to realise that this Government ought to be rejected, its financial measures ought to be thrown out, and no support ought to be given to those who have consistently enabled it by their support in this chamber to do injustice to the family man and to get away with all of these injustices. Time and time again we could have stopped the Government from doing the things that the DLP complains about. Time and time again the DLP deserted us when the opportunity was there to defeat the Government. Mr Deputy President, we will not support the amendment of the DLP.
Senator BYRNE (Queensland) LS. 1 0] - In a serious debate such as this, on the motion for the tabling of the Budget papers, even though it is late in the debate, one would like to direct one’s remarks to a serious consideration of the economic implications of the Budget. To some extent, 1 still propose to do that. Therefore, I would be disposed not to make any comment upon the extraordinary speech and diatribe to which the Senate lias been subjected by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy) both before and after the suspension of the sitting. However, because the honourable senator delivered this totally unprovoked attack, quite unrelated in specific terms to the propositions of the Budget - just an unattracted attack on the Democratic Labor Party - I think [ am called upon to at least make some comment. In my objective opinion, his speech was marked by an almost obsessive bitterness and it was almost indecipherable in the mass of words to which the Senate was subjected, lt was marked by a parallel of distortion of fact and fallacy in the interpretation of the policy of the Democratic Labor Party. At one stage it descended to the very depths of stupidity.
I have looked at the amendments moved by the Australian Labor Party not only to this Budget but to previous Budgets and I see that the Leader of the Opposition has the effrontery to attack this Party because of the rational presentation of a programme to limit the undue size of the great cities and to decentralise population in an attempt to create great regional cities which will be self-generating in employment and economics, when his own Party, through Senator Murphy put forward an amendment in the Parliament last year to the previous Budget, in these terms:
At end of motion add - but the Senate is of opinion that the Budget is inadequate in that it docs not make provision - to meet the problems of Australia’s capital and provincial cities.
That very problem attracted the particular attention of the Opposition. The obvious implication is that the capital cities were becoming too large and that something had to be done to make them liveable. When we put forward that same proposition we are the victims of this bitter, unprovoked, illogical and irrational attack by Senator Murphy.
– ‘It is not the same proposition at all.
– It is exactly the same proposition. Jf the amendment put forward by Senator Murphy was not dictated by that proposition, for what special purpose did the cities require particular attention? Was it merely because they had become so big and so populous that the facilities would no longer support the population in any degree of comfort and convenience? That will be a growing problem and cause a growing drain on the economy unless some limitation can be imposed on this growth. The policy of the Democratic Labor Party is to impose such limitation. Senator Murphy, so obsessed with this attempt to hinder and attack our Party, has trespassed beyond even the stated policy of his own Party.
As I said, it is not my intention to devote the time at my disposal to deal with what Senator Murphy said. He did not make a serious contribution to the debate. I propose, even at this late stage, to attempt to give some serious consideration to the implications of the Budget - and not the implications in economic terms because, unlike last year’s Budget, I do not think the economic implications of this Budget need discussion at this stage. In my opinion, the Budget lacked economic integrity when it was presented. It has moved quickly out of the camp of the Senate, of the Parliament and of the people. Only later on will the full implications of the terms of this Budget be discovered. There are other more serious implications which, I think, must receive serious consideration at this stage. Obviously the Budget was the product of an internal conflict between the technical officers of the Treasury and the advisers of the Government and the Government itself, the top echelon of Cabinet who wanted to conceive a Budget in electorally attractive terms.
– Why does the honourable senator say ‘obviously’?
– It is obvious because the analysts who have studied this Budget have not been able to discover a sound economic basis for many of its propositions. They have attempted to discover its real implication. As one reads the Budget, one finds statements by the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) which are obviously the statements of an unhappy financial technician who was required, in the presentation of the Government document, to go along with those who were able to exert pressure to achieve a result contrary to what he wished to write into the financial document. Newspaper after newspaper in Australia, through their economic analysts, have found occasion to criticise this document. The Government has been criticised because, it was said, the real implications of the inflationary or deflationary effects’ of the Budget were not altogether appreciated. Obviously, when compared with the Budget for the previous year, which was presented in a tough economic document, this was conceived in totally different circumstances.
We know that a great measure of social justice will be distributed by this Budget. Equally we know that many other considerations were put aside in the process of the framing of the Budget. We know that the economic implications of the Budget were severely limited and that the fiscal implications of the Budget were severely limited. It was left with some measure of hope and expectation to the application of monetary policy at a later stage to rectify the shortcomings of the economic consequences spelt out in the
Budget. Therefore there is a real and serious risk that later on, as the economy flows on and as the consequences of this Budget develop, harsher economic measures will have to be introduced and applied. Unfortunately many of the measures which will be introduced by the Budget have been eroded in their purpose and effect by the inflation which will, in consequence, flow from the manner in which the document was compiled.
In effect, there have been serious omissions which are evident again from reading the document. One is that obviously the Treasurer was unable to write out in specific economic terms in the Budget the possibility of the investment of overseas capital because he was unable to obtain a definite guideline policy for overseas capital investment in this country. If one reads the words of the document one finds expressions such as these: ‘It is expected that overseas capital investment will diminish in some degree next year’ - or words to that effect. Obviously the Treasurer was desperately attempting to spell out an economic policy in the absence of precise guidelines which even now have not been laid down. Therefore this Budget, whatever it reflects in economic terms, reflects a serious situation within the confines of Government administration itself. For example, we find that really there are two propositions implicit in the Budget. The first is that it was to be electorally attractive. The second is that defence would not receive any more consideration than was given last year. On the contrary, it will receive even less.
The speech contains expressions such as these: ‘Defence expenditure has been reduced by 5 per cent.’ When one examines that figure one finds that the salaries and wages bills for the three armed services have risen considerably and the net effective result in the Defence vote is possibly a 10 per cent reduction. When we look at the brave propositions that were presented in the Budget last year as to the defence programme that would take us into the 1970s and as to the provisions that would be made, and when we look at what this Budget recites in terms of defence, we see that obviously this is a brave attempt to spell out in terms, which just will not carry the message, the totally inadequate provision that has been made for the defence of Australia. To think that in a national Budget it should be necessary for the Treasurer to condescend to refer to matters of miniscule proportions such as: The ship construction programme will include a fast combat support ship, a hydrographic ship and an oceanographic ship for the Navy and a heavy landing craft for the Army’! That is almost a ridiculous recitation of minutiae. When the Treasurer in the national Budget, is forced to spell that out to provide some facade of adequate defence in Australia, is it any wonder that the Minister for Defence (Mr Fairhall) who had, with expectation and hope, made provision for movement into the 1970s, apparently discovered his position to be an extremely difficult one? However he presented his own position in reality, I think the story can be spelt out.
The most serious implication of all this - more serious than the economic implications of the Budget - is the malaise that obviously operates somewhere at the top level of Government. During the last fortnight we have seen the consequences. We have seen the intrusion into Budget thinking of unskilled hands and minds which have prevailed over the skilled hands and minds of the technicians. We have seen a situation develop where hands have intruded into other fields and policies have been inserted that have not received the consideration of those whose duty it is to consider matters of such consequence.
I wish to deal now with the implication that is spelt out in the Budget and which is becoming more evident in other areas of government administration. It may well be that the Budget in its final consequences will be quite illusionary. It could lose consequence as the months go by. But what I am concerned about is the apparent erosion of Cabinet involvement in the determination of major policy.
It is obvious that whoever devised the Budget was thinking in terms that technically equipped people would shun. The erosion of Cabinet involvement has become most evident in the major reorientation of policy that occurred in the past fortnight. Let us look at its implications because this matter has displaced the Budget from the forefront of the minds and thoughts of the people of Australia. A totally new consideration has now intruded upon the people of Australia. The Budget continues to be shaded with doubts and notes of interrogation but it has been put aside. The Australian people are now concerned with an issue that they regard as much more important and much more significant than the Budget, f refer to the recent foreign policy declaration. The amendment moved on behalf of the Democratic Labor Party carries a reference to this major reorientation and it is with that aspect that ] wish to deal. Who made the announcement? It comes back to a question of whether we are enjoying in this country totality of Cabinet responsibility, involvement and declaration.
The statement on the reorientation of Australia’s foreign policy in relation to the presence of Russia in the South East Asian region was made by the Minister for External Affairs (Mr Freeth) last month. Apparently it was approved by the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton). It is current talk in the Parliament and it is possibly known nationally that this matter was not referred to the individual members of the Cabinet, apart from the two gentlemen concerned. The Prime Minister acknowledged that the statement was not presented to the Cabinet for approval. In his time in office statements on foreign policy have never been presented to the Cabinet. It is inconceivable that in a country such as Australia a declaration of policy - not merely a reiteration of current policy but a declaration of a new line of policy which represents a transposition of Australia’s attitude after almost 25 years - should be promulgated without the proper consideration of every member of the Cabinet and certainly the close scrutiny of the Deputy Prime Minister. But it is indisputable that this change of policy did not receive the attention of the Cabinet or the scrutiny of the Deputy Prime Minister.
If there is an erosion of Cabinet responsibility and if the complete functions of the Cabinet are transposed into other hands, a few serious consequencies will result, especially in a nation such as ours. The Cabinet did not see this document; the Deputy Prime Minister did not scrutinise it. It was not presented to the Government parties, although I would not expect it to be presented to them in advance. Apparently the matter was never presented to anyone as a suggestion nor was advice sought in relation to it. Yet, as I have pointed out, it is a matter of grave importance, involving as it does a reorientation of our foreign policy. No mandate for this change in policy is held by the Government Parties. The matter was not put to the electors at the last general election or at the Senate election last year. The Government does not have a specific mandate to change the present policy, but we find the new policy emerging as it did.
Were our treaty partners consulted in relation to this change of policy? We are a party to the SEATO and ANZUS treaties. Those treaties impose certain obligations on us and endow certain benefits upon us. Were any of our treaty partners consulted? We do not know; but it is fairly obvious that they were not consulted. It is apparent from the statement of the Secretary-General of SEATO that the countries which are partners in SEATO were not consulted. If they were consulted this should have been exposed to the world. Their opinions should have been sought and considered before any substantial alteration in policy was devised or determined.
– Has the United Stales or any other member of SEATO sought the approval of SEATO for a policy change?
– I am not saying that we should have received the approval of SEATO. I am merely asking the question, and it is not a rhetorical question: ‘Were our treaty partners consulted?’ If the Deputy Prime Minister was not consulted, if the Cabinet was not consulted, if the Government parties were not consulted, if the Parliament was not consulted, I presume that no person outside Australia was consulted other than the other party to this reorientation, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. I believe that this is a total erosion of the concept and the. principle of Cabinet responsibility in ordinary representative parliamentary democracy.
Some honourable senators may ask why anybody should be consulted. They may ask whether this was really a substantial change in policy. That is possibly the critical question. Let us examine that aspect. Senator McManus, in an extraordinary though not unusually able speech today, dealt with Australia’s reorientation policy, the intrusion of Russia into the Mediterranean Sea and the Indian Ocean, and the consequences of these things for this part of the world. The question is whether this is a change of policy. The left wing members of the Australian Labor Party certainly think that it is a change of policy. I am not one who likes to put left and right wing tags on members of parties, but Dr Cairns and Mr Uren have, if anything, both put themselves on the left of the spectrum of the Australian Labor Party. Yet they both condemn the new policy. They do not condemn it because it is not a change: they condemn it because it is a change.
I will go right through the whole gamut of those who have expressed opinions. The Communist newspaper ‘Tribune’ accepts the new policy with open arms. It welcomes the policy as a very substantial change. Is it wrong? Is its interpretation incorrect? Mr J. T. Lang, a former member of the Parliament and former Premier of New South Wales, publishes the ‘Century’ newspaper in that State. Copies of that publication appear in the files of the Parliamentary Library. The front page of the most recent issue has the caption ‘Australia goes Waltzing Matilda with Russia’ or something like that. Mr Lang thinks there has been a substantial change in the Government’s policy. Is he wrong? I come now to the supporters of the Democratic Labor Party. We think that there has been a substantial change in policy. Are we wrong also? Is this galaxy of expressed opinions wrong?
– Very well. Many supporters of the Australian Country Party - perhaps all of them - think that there has been a change in policy. They sit alongside their Liberal Party colleagues on the Government benches. Are they wrong? If the reports that Mr McEwen is very incensed are correct, is he wrong? Must we invalidate the judgment of all of these people and say they are all wrong? Finally we come to the great mass of New Australians who think there has been a tragic change in policy. Are they wrong, too? They have had personal experience of the Soviet Union. They have experienced the oppression of Soviet arms and ideology. Are they all wrong? The Secretary-General of SEATO has expressed an opinion as to the presence of Russia in the Indian Ocean and in the South East Asian region. If his state ment had been made today instead of a week ago would he see Australia’s move as a change of policy? Of course he would see it as a change of policy. Do the electors of Australia see it as a change in policy? The major metropolitan daily newspapers are saying in their leading articles that the change is a tragic reorientation of policy for which the Government is responsible. One after the other is condemning it. Are they wrong? Is the conservative Press of Australia, which is traditionally a supporter of the Government and which is taking this attitude in the penumbra - the very shadow of an election which could be critical for the Government - wrong in putting it on the line and saying that this is a substantial change of policy which is to be condemned? Are they all wrong?
Finally I turn to the Soviet Union itself. I turn to the Russian Embassy. What was the response of the Soviet Embassy in Canberra? When this policy was announced, an unusual course was taken. Almost immediately a Press conference was called and the Soviet Embassy made statements in response to interrogation by the Press. I have a copy of what was written by one of the reporters who was there. It was made available to me by the Library. This is what was said by the Soviet Embassy at the Press conference:
At the same time we have found some positive moments in the statement of the Minister which we think reflect growing realism and independence of the Australian foreign policies.
The most interesting for us is, of course, the expression of the Australian Government’s desire to develop the Australian-Soviet bilateral arrangements as well as co-operation of the two countries in the international arena for the search of solutions of international problems, including problems of Asia.
Is the position in Czechoslovakia an international problem in which the Soviet Union is seeking our co-operation in evolving a solution? Or is that conveniently to be excluded? What interpretation is to be put upon the words ‘international situation’? It is confined to the Asian region. It has application to no other part of the world where Communist and Soviet oppression has imposed its will upon the servile countries around the perimeter of the land mass of that country. This is the response of the Embassy in Canberra. Was it wrong? This was a most unusual course.
I think the implications of it are even more serious. We know just how careful the Soviet can be in matters of this sensitivity. Yet this response was so automatic that it was almost reflex, lt was almost as though the statement was expected and the Embassy officials were almost ready for what they were going to say when the announcement was made. Of course they expected this to be a change of policy and there was only one thing they had to do as soon as this statement was made. That was to grasp it with both hands lest there might be any qualifications or retractions. In other words, at that stage, in the eyes of the world, they had to fix the position.
Has there been any change of policy? The whole of Australia is now coming to the conclusion that there has been a major reorientation of policy and this reorientation of policy has taken place without the scrutiny of the Cabinet and without the scrutiny of the elected government, lt has taken place almost casually at the instance of two members of the Cabinet. This is one of the implications that are spilling over from the situations that are implicit in the Budget and that are implicit in other matters that have taken place in this country for some time. If that is the case, then, of course, the people have been denied their opportunity.
But what, is going to be the result in South East Asia? I am not so much concerned with whether we have or have not an aircraft carrier; I am concerned with the psychological consequences of this reorientation of policy in South East Asia. What must inevitably be the psychological response of those nations who live under the Communist threat, whose independence is always vulnerable, whose economies are subject always lo the ebb and flow of world trade and to the depredations of near neighbours? What will be their response when the great white nation in this part of the world is a party to inviting into this part of the world a great white nation that is an imperialist aggressor, as it has proved time and again?
– We have not invited them.
– I. know this is a matter of semantics, but if the honourable senator will read the terms of the amendment which we have submitted he will note these words: . . because of the Government’s incredible policy of welcome acceptance of the presence of the Soviet in South-East Asia.
– Where is that to be found in the Minister’s speech?
– I do not know that the Minister has framed his thoughts as well as I have, but I am sure that if he could then he would express them in precisely the same terms as I have expressed them. Mine is only a more precise expression of what is not only implicit but explicit in the presentation of the Minister. We can understand the shock waves that must have gone through the whole of South East Asia when this reorientation of policy, welcomed with open arms by the left wing of Australia and by Communists all over the world, became known in Asia. If the members of the Australian Labor Party on this side of the chamber for the first time in many years extended their hands across the chamber to honourable senators on the Government side of the chamber on this policy, I am sure there would be many hands on the Government side that would not be extended to meet them. I really think there would possibly be hands on this side of the chamber that would not be extended because of the now chaotic position of public opinion in the Commonwealth of Australia.
One can understand just what must be the attitude of South East Asia today. They are wailing for some definitive statement from this country of what policy is precisely being spelt out. We are still wailing. I am still waiting for a definitive statement of attitude by the Australian Labor Parly. We have had a statement by Dr Cairns and we have a statement by Mr Uren. We have also had a statement by Senator Cavanagh, and we have had a minor statement by Senator Murphy. But we have had no considered, firm statement by the whole of the Australian Labor Party, and we have not had a definitive statement yet by the Government. Presuming that there is dissension in the Government, presuming that this was a policy statement by the Prime Minister and Mr. Freeth, unknown to Mr McEwen, then Australia is waiting for a definitive statement which is representative of all elements of government policy. Not only are we waiting, but Australia is waiting, South Bast Asia is waiting, and the world is waiting for that declaration of policy.
I will finish on this note: If the Liberal Party was denied the opportunity to veto this reorientation of policy, if the Government was denied the opportunity to veto this reorientation of policy because its members were not aware of it, then there is only one jury to whom an appeal can be made to exercise a veto on this policy. That is the Australian electors, and, so far as the Democratic Labor Party is concerned, the Australian electors will be asked to express their opinion on this policy in clear and unmistakable terms on 25th October because this has now emerged as the major element of policy in challenge at these elections. We will go to the poll asking the Australian people to exercise this veto which the Government itself has denied to its Cabinet and denied to its Party, and we know that the people of Australia will exercise that right of veto by voting for the DLP.
– lt is only because of the criticism and concern that was so obviously felt by the speakers for the Democratic Labor Party on this aspect of foreign policy that they have discussed in the Budget debate that I rise to participate in the debate at this stage. I do so not in any ignorance of the fact that today the atmosphere in political circles is one of election fever. But I also remind the Senate that the issue we are debating tonight is one that pertains to this country’s national security. Therefore, in my view, it is imperative that the Australian Government’s exposition of its policy in that respect should be removed from the area of misinterpretation and misunderstanding and should be presented as clearly as is possible.
The whole of this debate stems from the statement by the Minister for External Affairs (Mr Freeth) in another place on 14th August. It is concentrated upon that aspect of his speech which dealt with the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. I think the least that we oan do when debating this subject is to advert at some stages to the text of what Mr Freeth said because the whole of Senator Byrne’s argument falls completely flat unless he can establish his point that Mr Freeth’s speech represents a grave change in the Government’s external affairs policy.
– Would the Minister deny that-
– Therefore, if Senator Gair, who has just come into the chamber, will give me the audience that I gave his colleague, I shall be understood in the sense in which I endeavour to expound the policy. I ask only that an item of such importance as a national defence policy and external affairs policy be soberly and quietly considered and not made the subject of emotion and interjection. Having pointed to the fact that we are dealing with policy in specific relation to the Soviet Union, I want to remind the House and the country of much of the text of what Mr Freeth said in balance and as a complete statement.
Mr Freeth said that during the past year or so there has been increasing interest and activity by the Soviet Union in the Asian region and he instanced the incursion into the Indian Ocean of the Russian Navy. He instanced also the fact that as recently as 7th June this year Mr Brezhnev in a statement to the Communist Parties in Moscow said that the Soviet Union was of the opinion that events are putting on the agenda the task of creating a system of collective security in Asia. Honourable senators will notice the words that were quoted from Moscow, that their leader said that they were compelled to consider the task of creating a system of collective security in Asia. It would be a dumb participant in world politics who did not realise that what was chiefly concerning Moscow at that time was the growth of nuclear power in Communist China, instanced and evidenced by the repeated and increasingly important clashes on the Russian-Chinese border.
After noting those facts, Mr Freeth noted also that in a subsequent speech on 10th July Mr Gromyko had said in Moscow that ‘the prerequisite and potential for an improvement of our relations with Australia exist’. Those were the first words of international note that had emanated from Moscow to indicate that it had any interest
In creating a collective security system for Asia. That was the first indication that had been noted that there was some prospect for an improvement in their relations with Australia. Mr Freeth’s comment on that was that the Australian Government has naturally kept these and related developments under observation. He added that Australia has to be watchful. The first thing that Mr Freeth said was that we do not close our eyes to the significance of these statements, but the second thing he said was that we had to be watchful, reminding the country that he was conscious of the need for caution.
He continued by saying that we need not panic whenever a Russian appears, that the Australian Government has to avoid both facile gullibility and automatic rejection of opportunities for co-operation. He went on to say that the Australian Government at all times welcomes, not the advent of Russia into the Indian Ocean - he was not offering to shake hands with them because they were making that incursion - but the opportunity of practical and constructive dealings with the Soviet Union as well as with any other nation.
– I rise to order. In order to save the Minister’s time I move that he be given leave to incorporate this document in Hansard.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Dame Ivy Wedgwood) - The point of order is not upheld.
– The relevance of this to the debate is Senator Byrne’s claim that the declaration by the Government to which I am referring in more elaborate detail than usual represents a substantial change in government policy and it is necessary to remove this interpretation and misunderstanding for those who would wish to interpret the policy as expressed by Mr Freeth. When the interjection occurred I was reminding the Senate that Mr Freeth said that the Australian Government welcomes the opportunity of practical and constructive dealings with the Soviet Union as with any other country, and that this has been the basis of our approach on this issue. It was then that Mr Freeth went on to say that it was natural that the Soviet Union, as a world power, should seek to extend its influence into every region where world power could be exercised and, indeed, into the Indian Ocean. He said that it was natural. Then he said that reason for concern arises - language that shows that he was not unversed in language appropriate to diplomacy. There are those, of course, who would jettison diplomacy and immediately build armaments and go to war. But that is not the modern idiom in which this Government moves. This Government will at all times exert the utmost efforts by diplomacy to avert war and avoid the clash of arms. Then Mr Freeth said that reason for concern comes from the incursion into our areas when we consider the scale or the methods or objectives that can be discerned in Russian actions. But then, with the sagacity which I think should be made crystal clear throughout the country, Mr Freeth said:
In judging this - -
He implied that the Australian Government, with sober concern, took an objective judgment on the matter - we cannot cast out of our minds the Russian inter vention in Czechoslovakia and the pernicious doctrine of ‘limited sovereignty” which the USSR attaches to other Communist States.
I have no doubt that the significance of that last phrase has escaped those whose reading in international affairs is very scanty because everybody who has been concerned with Russian attitudes to the world over the last 5 years would know that her pernicious doctrine of limited sovereignty is the one that claims that she can control the whole of south eastern Europe and the Baltic countries by virtue of their being within her region. Everybody in the international world regards that as a pernicious new doctrine. The point is that Mr Freeth said, in effect: ‘We do not put out of our minds the horror that we feel at the incursion into Czechoslovakia; nor do we put out of our minds this pernicious doctrine of “limited sovereignty”.’ That is a diplomatic way of referring to the subjugation of south-eastern Europe and the Baltic states that is maintained by Moscow. Mr Freeth went on to say:
Undoubtedly, these USSR acts and doctrines have constituted an impediment to international co-operation. . . .
Then he expressed the hope that the Soviet Union would have regard to his judgment on that matter in making any overtures.
– Make a written application.
– Who is this speaking?
– All I ask is that consideration be given to these matters and that the attempts to bark me down be not persisted in. I ask the Senate to note that Mr Freeth then said:
The proposals of Mr Brezhnev for collective security in Asia have not been set out in any detail. It appears that at this stage the Soviet Union itself is exploring reactions of other countries before trying to convert the idea into any firm or detailed proposal.
The objective which Australia has been working for over a period of time has been … the development of regional co-operation to promote and sustain the security and economic advancement of all the countries of the region.
He went on to emphasise that our whole effort in defence and foreign policy and international aid in South East Asia had been designed to galvanise the strength of the countries of South East Asia so that in combination they would have the strength to withstand a possible onslaught from that country in Asia which he went on to explain was the one from which most probably a world attack would emanate - Communist China. So, it is important for the Senate and the country to understand
– The domino theory.
– Now we are getting the barking from the other corner of the chamber. When we have had developing in the last 5 years a difference between two giant Communist arbitrary governments and we have the possibility of a major difference developing, are there any so simple that they will not understand that our prime purpose should be to develop any overtures for collective security and to keep the two divided; in other words, to maintain, by reason of collective security, the division between Communist China and Communist Russia? Mr Freeth went on to explain that was not for the purpose of engaging the two countries in mutual war because world wars of those dimensions have a habit of spreading and involving unknown participants. He went on to say that our objective in strengthening the countries in the South East Asian area was that they should be a source of strength instead of a source of weakness. Having stated that objective, he said - these are the words that every Australian should regard as the kernel of the speech-
– Freeth, the authority on international affairs.
– There is an attempt on the part of the democrats to prevent my being heard. I want a clear audience for the most significant sentence in Mr Freeth’s speech, namely:
If the Russian proposals prove to be in line with these general objectives, and would assist to facilitate their achievement, we would naturally consider them with close interest.
That final phrase is the one which our critics are representing as a statement that we would welcome the Russians and shake hands with them, or shake the hands of blood, as Senator Gair said this afternoon. Our critics are making it appear as though, regardless of the national interest, we are expressing an overture of welcome to the Russians’ coming to us as allies. The speech simply says that we recognise that a world power has a natural desire to extend into a regional area such as the Indian Ocean. We remind ourselves of the abhorrent acts of which Russia has been guilty in Czechoslovakia and of its pernicious doctrine of limited sovereignty in subjugating European countries. Mr Freeth went on to say that our objective in South East Asia was to strengthen all the countries of the region.
– Where is the confusion now?
– You are like the man on the flying trapeze.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT -Order!
- Mr Freeth said that our objective was to strengthen all the countries of South East Asia and that, if the Russian proposals, which had not been spelt out in detail, as they were developed proved to be in line with our objectives, we would naturally consider them with close interest. That is the sum total of the speech.
There have been historians in the country and some historians in the Senate who have abhorred the idea that one should treat with a Russian ambassador, simply because a Russian ambassador in Moscow in August 1939 made a pact with Hitler. Is there anybody in this country, who had responsibility then or who has responsibility now, who is so forgetful that he forgets that at that time Communist Russia was the country that both sides were wooing. Actually, during August there was a military delegation from France and Great Britain in Moscow trying to woo Russia to an alliance of collective security with France and Great Britain.
It was because of the overpowering diplomacy of Hitler, engendered by a lack of confidence on the part of Russia in the determination of France and Great Britain to oppose the Nazi empire, that Moscow deserted Czechoslovakia. It was the supremacy of the diplomacy of Hitler that persuaded Moscow to join Berlin in an alliance of collective security between the two dictators - Hitler and Stalin. It was the existence of that umbrella of collective security as between Moscow and Berlin that gave Hitler the opportunity to march into Poland on 1 st September. It was only when a year or 18 months Inter he made the mad decision to attack Russia, that Great Britain, France and the United States of America did not disdain to accept an alliance with the Russian dictatorship as a common front in the war upon which they had entered.
– A bloke named Chamberlain, who was like you.
– Senator Gair has interjected and his interjection will appear on the record to be rather regrettable. I have risen in this place tonight in response to a national duty. When I hear people, under a misunderstanding and a misinterpretation of Government policy, trying to persuade that misunderstood interpretation on the country I feel it is my duty to see that the clearly expounded policy as put forward by Mr Freeth is properly understood. On that basis it is simply an expression that this Government would naturally consider a proposal for collective security on the part of one Communist giant as a means of dividing the collectively secured countries of Asia against the other Communist giant, Communist China. Once the issue is understood in that way, with all the caution and all the deprecation of Russian activity in the past, the Australian people are entitled to make their judgment upon the policy of the Government. If the policy were to deviate in one syllable from that which was expressed by Mr Freeth the Government would be open lo the charge of neglecting an opportunity to create by diplomacy collective security arrangements with one dictator as against the onset of another dictator, and so by diplomacy as an alternative to war prevent the possibility of universal war in the Pacific. 1 have ignored many of the interjections during my speech because there is some degree of understanding that should bc given to the energy with which the views of the interjectors are held, but it is not too late for them even if they would not listen to my speech, to read in the record what f: have said. Then it is up to each individual senator to make a judgment on whether Australia should take every opportunity to make collective security arrangements that are properly calculated for its national security or whether it should bait the two great powers which might challenge us and precipitate a joint advance by both of them against which, without allies, we would be impotent.
– Tonight we have heard one of the more extraordinary performances by Senator Wright. It appears that this evening not only did he have the usual difficulties with which he has to cope in presenting Government position but he has also been inflicted with schizophrenia. For the major part of his speech when he was merely reading the speech of the Minister of External Affairs (Mr Freeth) he was largely comprehensible but in those passages where he digressed and began to give us the benefit of his own views he became, to me at any rate, completely incomprehensible. He concluded his speech by sounding the most sombre warning that has ever been sounded inside the Parliament, and that is that unless we are careful not only will we have to deal with the Communist powers but we will have an alliance of the Soviet Union and the United States against Australia. Senator Wright was warning us against this terrible combination.
In view of the fact that the matter which is before us is a discussion as to the new relations which are being proposed between Australia and the Soviet Union one could only assume from what Senator Wright has said that he is calling upon Australia to enter into an alliance with the Soviet Union against the aggression of the United States. That is the only conceivable construction that I can put upon his peroration. He does seem to have said some rather odd things tonight. Many people on what could be regarded as the extreme left were very disturbed at the time of the Nazi-Soviet pact of 1939. Many people who felt that there was some justification for the Nazi-Soviet pact nonetheless felt it was a rather difficult and controversial matter and they have not been very anxious to debate the merits of it. But this evening we have heard probably for the first time in the history of the Australian Parliament a defence given by Senator Wright of the Nazi-Soviet pact of 1939. I think there are a great many people who stayed in the Communist Party after 1939 and are still members of the Communist Party who would not have been prepared to be so spirited in their defence of the Nazi-Soviet pact of 1939 with all the attendant disasters which it brought a great many people as Senator Wright has been this evening. This shows quite a change, not in the manner, not in the attitude, but in the order of heroes and villains in the mind of Senator Wright.
For many years Senator Wright was one of those who had been warning the Australian people that somebody was going to attack them and that we needed to look around for a big brother to save us. Senator Wright is one of those who has been very persistent in the past in accusing the Australian Labor Party of disloyalty, first of all because it was not loyal enough to the British Empire, then after that when he hauled down his Union Jack and pulled up his Stars and Stripes he was attacking us not because we were not loyal enough to the British Empire but because we were not loyal enough to the United States. Now, apparently, he had pulled down the Stars and Stripes and as has been pointed out by one of my colleagues, the Order of Lenin sits rather awkwardly on his vest. No doubt before very long we will see him growing his Stalin moustache and he will be coming into this chamber accusing the Australian Labor Party of disloyalty because it has been critical of the actions of the Soviet Union. This is the mentality of the traditional colonial tory like Senator Wright who has never been prepared-
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Drake-Brockman) - Order! The honourable senator must not tend to disparage another honourable senator.
– Very well. Sir. This has been a typical attitude of those who have felt that Australia should not have its own independent foreign policy but that it should be dependent upon the foreign policy of some other country. Once it was Britain; then it was the United States, and then with Senator Wright this evening becoming completely carried away, it appeared to be the Soviet Union. 1 must confess that at moments he tended to forget the new line and went back to the old days to remind us of the evils of Communism and what the Communists were going to do to us; but he would then read a little more of the speech made by Mr Freeth and correct himself, but only to lapse. But of course the enemy now is no longer the Soviet Union; it is Communist China. Senator Wright is looking forward to the day when the Soviet Union is going to save us from Communist China, so that there will be at least one enemy to whom we can point in order to accuse the Australian Labor Party of being unpatriotic.
I do not want to spend any more time in discussing Senator Wright’s reading of the speech made by the Minister for External Affairs but I would like to turn to a particular part of the amendment which has been moved by the Deputy Leader of the Democratic Labor Party (Senator McManus). Senator McManus has moved that the Budget should be withdrawn and redrafted:
At the outset I want to say thatI for one certainly do not welcome the arrival of the naval forces of the Soviet Union in the South East Asian area.
I believe that the Soviet Union will not be entering South East Asia for the benefit of any nation but the Soviet Union. So far there is no doubt that the reason the Soviet Union is sending whatever it is sending into South East Asia is in order to engage in the sort of imperialism for which unfortunately the Soviet Union has. become notorious ever since its attack on Hungary in 1956, an action which was repeated last year in its brutal attack upon the people of Czechoslovakia. This tactic is being constantly employed at present in its relations with China in what I believe, if it were any other white country having the same type of dealings with China in regard to territories occupied in the times of the Tsars and which were formerly part of China, would cause the Soviet Union to say were acts of imperialism.
I do not welcome the presence of the Soviet Union in this area, but the fact remains that the Soviet Union has sent naval forces into this area. I believe it has done so with the conscious knowledge of the United States of America. Senator Byrne said earlier that seme criticism had been made of this action by the SecretaryGeneral of the South East Asia Treaty Organisation. With all due respect to the Secretary-General of SEATO, the fact remains that no responsible person in the United States, no member of the United States Administration and no member of the British Administration has so far made any statement critical of the presence of Soviet forces inside South East Asia.
It should be apparent to anybody who studies the present international situation that there is at least a tacit agreement between the United States and the Soviet Union in regard to spheres of influence. It is obvious that the Soviet Union has agreed to allow the United States to have a free run in Western Europe and that the United States has agreed to allow the Soviet Union to have free run in Eastern Europe. Despite the protestations of the United States on many occasions about events in Czechoslovakia and Hungary, nothing could have been further from the intention of the United States than to do anything to interfere in Czechoslovakia or Hungary, because there has been agreement, tacit or otherwise, between those two powers to allocate spheres of influence.
I do not believe there is any question that the United States is aware of the presence of . Soviet forces inside South East Asia. There is no doubt that the United States would welcome the presence of Soviet forces inside South East Asia, at least in limited strength, because the United
States knows of the present hysterical antiChinese attitude of the Soviet Union: the United States knows that the country which is most belligerent towards China is none other than the Soviet Union; the United States knows that Brezhnev himself was the man who threatened preventative nuclear war against China, a statement which went much further in its attack on the Peoples Republic of China than Dulles would ever have gone in the days of his most extreme views. This position has been understood quite clearly by the United States and I think that nation would be quite happy to see the Soviet Union and China fight it out in Asia without becoming a party to the conflict. I. believe that this is why the United States has made no comment on the situation.
Having said that I do not welcome the presence of the Soviet Union in South East Asia, I turn to the amendment proposed by Senator McManus on behalf of the Democratic Labor Party which refers to the Government’s incredible policy of welcome acceptance of the presence of the Soviet in South East Asia and the Government’s willingness to treat with that nation. However critical one may be of the presence of Soviet forces in South East Asia I would be delighted to learn from a member of the DLP or from anybody else what the Government was supposed to do to stop Soviet forces from entering into South East Asia. For example, a Soviet naval force visited Ceylon at the invitation of the Government of Ceylon. No Australian Government could have stopped that Soviet naval force from docking in Colombo Harbour at the invitation of the Government of Ceylon. The Australian Government could have done nothing about it.
The fact is that arrangements are being made between the Soviet Union and certain governments inside South East Asia. As a result of those arrangements certain countries - I think Malaysia could be included amongst them, and probably also Singapore, Indonesia, Ceylon and India - have been happy to treat with the Soviet Union. Irrespective of which political party was in office in Australia and whether it liked the situation or not, it would be unable to tell the Government of Ceylon or any other government whether it could have Soviet ships docking in its harbours.
The amendment proposed by the DLP goes on to condemn the Government’s willingness to treat with the Soviet Union. 1 want to say that I applaud the Government’s willingness to treat with that nation. I believe that the Government of this country should treat with every nation and I think the Australian Labor Party is of that opinion. One of the most absurd policies which this Government has followed has been that of refusing to treat on a diplomatic level with the Government of China. It has been prepared to treat on a trade level with the Peoples Republic of China when it has been a question of making money for certain Country Party supporters, but when it has been a question of dealing with the Government of the Peoples Republic of China in order to ensure sensible arrangements, if possible, for the preservation of world peace, and peace in particular in South East Asia, the Government has been completely unwilling to do so. ] believe that in the same way as this Government should have dealt and should be dealing now on a diplomatic level with Communist China, it ought to have dealt and to be dealing on a diplomatic level as apparently it is doing with the Government of the Soviet Union. But it is of no use for the Government to say that this is not a new policy; because if it is not a new policy it is at least, as Senator Byrne said, a re-orientation of policy. If there is nothing new in the policy, whether the Government is negotiating or not negotiating with the Soviet Union about its forces in Asia, it is very significant that there is a reorientation of policy. I say that because this Government has existed for the past 20 years by kicking the Communist can and by making accusations against members of the Australian Labor Party alleging that members of this Party were sympathetic to the Soviet Union and were carrying out its policies inside this country.
Senator Anderson said tonight: ‘Of course we should talk as a nation and deal with the Soviet Union just in the same way as we talk to and deal as members of this Parliament with the diplomatic representatives of the Soviet Union.’ That is a very fine statement, and I think it is a sensible statement; but it is a very new statement. In fact, only about 2 or 3 weeks ago the
Leader of the House of Representatives (Mr Erwin) was slandering the honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren), alleging that he had talked to a member of the staff of the Soviet Embassy. Senator Anderson did not say then that it was reasonable to talk to the Russians. Tonight we have seen a typical performance by the Liberal Party and the Australian Country Party. It is like the family in bed. When father turns over, everybody turns over. For years they have been saying that our great father was Britain. Then our great ally was the United States of America. Now, of course, the Soviet Union is only a little ally but it is a growing one.
Once the greatest and most serious’ accusations that, could be made against anybody was to say that he had been seen talking to somebody from the Soviet Embassy. A man who used to be employed at the front door of Parliament House gave to Mr Wentworth the name of a member of the Australian Labor Party who had been seen talking to a man from the Soviet Embassy. In that way the Government would wage election campaigns. But tonight Senator Anderson has said: ‘Of course we talk and treat with the Soviet Union, lt is quite reasonable to do that. Who but a fool would object?’ This is a complete reversal of policy. 1 do not doubt that as the election campaign proceeds members of the Liberal Party will forget all they have said in the past about the shocking behaviour of individuals, specified or unspecified, who belong to the Parliamentary Labor Party and had been seen talking to Soviet Embassy officials.
In the past Government supporters have accused us of in some way disrupting the security of Australia because criticisms were levelled at the Government’s policy towards the Soviet Union. In the same way that the Government dropped the British Empire like a hot potato and took up the United States, now it is about to drop the United States and look around for somebody else. I think that the amendment proposed by the DLP requires some attention because I find it very difficult to understand precisely what the DLP suggests. Does the DLP suggest that we should become involved in a holy war wilh the Soviet Union because the Soviet Union now has some ships - apparently rather limited armed forces - in the South East Asian area? What kind of policy does the DLP suggest we should adopt?
Both Senator Gair and Senator Byrne have referred to the buying of aircraft carriers. I admit that my naval experience is no greater than that of members of the DLP so therefore I know extremely little about the subject. The only knowledge 1 have of the matter tends to lie in the direction that if we want to buy aircraft carriers there should be plenty of them for us to buy because, as far as I can understand, all of the major powers are at present in the process of abandoning the use of aircraft carriers as a means of defence. Certainly the Royal Navy has indicated that it will abandon its policy of building major aircraft carriers. Although it would be spectacular, I have no doubt, to have an aircraft carrier at the Hobart or Sydney yacht club regatta it is doubtful whether China, the Soviet Union or the United States, if we are to take seriously Senator Wright’s dire warnings that the United States intends to invade Australia, would be deterred by the presence of an aircraft carrier.
The DLP, like the Government on occasions, although the Government now does not say quite so much about Czechoslovakia because I think it tends to let that drift by on the tide, has said a great deal about what the Soviet Union did in Czechoslovakia. I would support the DLP or anyone else who deplored the brutal, inhuman repressive actions taken by the Soviet Union inside Czechoslovakia, but my objection to that is only the same as my objection to the similar brutal, inhuman intervention of the United States against the people of Vietnam. I believe that they are two of a kind. I think the only major distinction is that at least the Soviets did not use in Czechoslovakia the napalm which the Americans have been using in Vietnam. That is the only major distinction which occurs to my mind.
Although we deplore what the Soviet Union did in Czechoslovakia - I note that Senator Wright now justifies the NaziSoviet pact of 1939 although I think some members of the Communist Party would be prepared to debate that with him, as I indicated earlier - and I certainly do object to what it did in Hungary and the type of pressure it has applied to certain other countries, the same criticism can be levelled at practically every other major power, and it certainly can be levelled at the United States with its intervention in Dominica, with its intervention in Cuba and with its present brutal, bloodthirsty war in Vietnam. But because of that I do not say that we should not talk with the United States, I do not say that we should not negotiate with the United States, and I do not say that someone is a potential traitor because he has been seen talking to members of the staff of the United States Embassy. Exactly the same thing applies to the Soviet Union.
It is the duty of the Opposition and the task of the Government to point to the dangers which face this country in the very difficult times in which we live, in the very dangerous area of the world in which we live, in the very dangerous world itself in which we live. It is the duty of the Opposition and the task of the Government to point to the record of the major powers with which we have to deal and to exercise caution in every approach that we make to any of them. But our first duty is to see that this country itself is an independent country with its own independent foreign policy, depending not upon Britain, not upon the United States and not upon the Soviet Union. I believe that if this is done and that if a lead can be given to the Australian people, however belatedly, by the Government by indicating that it is prepared to talk to people of differing ideologies, people whose records may be very black but people nonetheless with whom wc have to live in the world, a great step forward will have been taken by this Parliament and by the Australian people.
Senator Byrne said that the Australian people will rally around the DLP policy of not talking to anyone. I gravely doubt that. But if they did, I do not know where it would get the DLP because it still has not decided what it will Jo with its preferences and, after all, that is all that counts with the DLP. If the DLP still gives its preferences to the Government - I do not think it will give them to me - its attacks on the Government are only so much sound and fury signifying nothing. If the DLP does not give its preference to the Government it will have to give them to some other party, and 1 do not mean the Australia Party. If gallup polls are any guide to anything, certainly the gallup poll which 1 assume was taken after the DLP commenced its violent opposition to any hint of talks with the Soviet Union or any negotiations for peace which include the Soviet Union does not show any great rallying of the Australian people to the banner of the DLP. In fact the gallup poll in question indicated a lower percentage of Australians supporting the DLP than any previous gallup poll has shown since the creation of that Party.
What I believe is the fundamental point to be made in this debate is that the Government has acted belatedly and hypocritically on this matter, lt now will abandon its previous policy, no doubt without any apology for all of the accusations which it has made against members of the Opposition for advocating the very things which it now is doing. The Government will be hypocritical in that it will claim that there has not been any change in policy. Of course there has been a change in policy. Senator Byrne is quite correct in saying that there has been a change in policy, and that change in policy has been recognised by everyone from the Soviet Embassy to the DLP. Everyone knows that there has been a change in policy. But at least, so far as it goes, 1 think that that part of the change in policy which will lead to negotiations rather than the making of belligerent noises or the taking of warlike actions is an advance. For that reason and for the others which have been mentioned by the Leader of the Opposition, the Australian Labor Party is opposed to the amendment moved by Senator McManus.
– I support the amendment, which has been moved by my deputy leader, Senator McManus, and I wish to review some of the arguments which have been offered by those opposed to it. T think there was a consistency of argument on the part of Senator Anderson and Senator Wright which enables me to answer them together. As for the opposition of the Labor Party to the amendment, there is no consistency at all. Senator Murphy felt that there was something wrong with the amendment because we suddenly had become the champions of the peasants in this country. Well, I have always been on the side of the peasants. I am a peasant myself so that is not extraordinary.
I have been a Labor man all my life and my sympathies and interests have always tended to be directed towards those people who are described loosely as the peasants of this country. I was a little amazed to find that a man who is allegedly the leader of a Labor movement seemed to have no time for the peasants of the community and felt that it was terrible that people should be interested in them. Of course he completely misrepresented our case on decentralisation for the purposes of his argument which in actual fact was opposed to the proposition we are advancing. It was no argument at all.
Turning to the Government’s case on this one vital question of defence to which 1 wish to refer, I note that the affinity of argument between Senator Anderson and Senator Wright is the obvious argument which has been repeated since Mr Freeth made his statement. They produced the statement and read it as an academic document that contains, first of all, a welcome to the Soviet Union. Senator Wright said that the Australian Government welcomes the Soviet Union just as it does any other country, as though it was in the same category as the United States, Britain or any other country which has clean hands.
– I did not.
– You were quoting from Mr Freeth’s statement when you said that. My notes are very brief, but if you read your own statement you will find that you said that Mr Freeth stated at one stage that the Australian Government welcomes the talks with the Soviet Union.
– Why do you not quote him correctly?
– He said that the Australian Government welcomes the talks with the Soviet Union the same as wilh any other country.
Let us keep it in its proper perspective. Why should the Government welcome talks with a country that has proved on every occasion on which it has entered into an international alliance or talked with any other country that it has been a liar and a cheat and that it has ultimately gone back, on the pacts that it has made? We do not agree that we should welcome talks with the Soviet Union because they will have no beneficial effect for the security of this Australian nation. It will merely do what the Soviet Union intends it to do. Surely Senator Wright and Senator Anderson who read us academic statements have not been asleep for all of these years when the most effective weapon of warfare has been clearly demonstrated to be the cold war and the propaganda war. Do they think that Hungary and Czechoslovakia are in slavery today? The few tanks that went in a year ago are not what subjugated Czechoslovakia to Communism. It was the pressure of the cold war, the friendly talks, the peaceful co-existence, which ultimately finished with Czechoslovakia and Hungary existing under the iron heel of Communism.
Does the Government not realise that this has been going on in the world for the last quarter century? Does it not realise that in relation to Vietnam its case is being completely misrepresented by those who say that it is an unwinnable war - a Communist slogan? But, of course, there was never any intention to win it as a war in Vietnam. There was no intention to invade the north by the people who went to protect the integrity of the citizens of South Vietnam. How can one win a war unless one invades the country that is responsible for the war? How could we ever have beaten Fascism or Germany if we had not marched over the Rhine and gone straight for the heart of Berlin? We could have driven the Germans out of France and they would have still won the war, and honourable senators opposite know it. Do they not realise that in Vietnam today we have lost the propaganda war? Now, of course, the ambit of it shifts to the South East Asian area. What the Government does is produce an academic statement with a lot of words It welcomes talks with the Soviet Union. The Minister’s academic interpretation of this statement will not mean a thing to the other countries of South East Asia. They will consider the word ‘welcome’. If the word is taken out of ils context they, too, will take it out of its context. Of what advantage will these talks be to this Australian nation? Does the Government think that everything that it does and says at the behest of this allegedly now friendly power in the South East Asian area will be construed in the manner in which the Government wants it to be construed?
– Where does the statement say that it is now a friendly power?
– I shall read the statement with which Senator Wright finished. I can put no other interpretation on this. He suggested that this was being done for the collective security of Australia, that without allies we would be impotent. He referred to the fact that we have been having talks with the Soviet Union and he concluded his remarks by saying that without allies we would be impotent. Am I wrong in reading into that that we are presuming that at some future date the Soviet Union will be our ally? If I am wrong, I ask him to tell me so, because the Minister’s speech left me completely confused. That is what I thought and what the audience listening to the proceedings of this Parliament would have thought the Minister was alluding to when he said that without allies we would be impotent.
– The allies there referred to were the United States and Great Britain.
– All right. If that is so, why did the Minister not be specific? The whole of his speech was a justification of the fact that we were welcoming talks with the Soviet Union. Now he says that the allies that we must preserve by talking to the Soviet Union are the United States of America and Great Britain. I cannot follow the Minister’s reasoning, if he will forgive me. But I do not want to be diverted from dissecting the case that he was putting up. He referred back to that occasion in history when we saw two dictatorships that did not have a common philosophy but were drawn together in the partition of Poland. He gave academic and logical reasons as to why the Soviet Union was forced into this position by the fact that she was receiving advances from both sides. Of course, Hitler was able to be a better arguer than we were. He looked like winning, if the Minister wants my opinion as opposed to his. That is why the two dictatorships came together. But is it not remarkable that the arguments that the Minister used tonight as to the alliance between Russia and Fascist Germany for the partition of Poland are the identical arguments which Russia is using today to justify the fact that she is in Hungary with her armies and in Czechoslovakia? She has to protect herself from the evil aggressors of the West. That is us. That is Great Britain and the United States of America who. the Minister suggests in the concluding passages of his speech, are the allies without whom we would be impotent.
If that is the Minister’s reasoning, if that is’ his justification, let us carry it a step further. The Minister suggests that the other reason, the great reason for this, is the containment of Communist China and at the very outset he analysed the philosophy that the whole thing had been brought about and Moscow was interested in collective security in Asia because of the growing atomic power of Red China. That was the Minister’s statement at the beginning of his speech. That is what has brought Russia into the South East Asian area. That is why we must talk with the Russians. This is the overriding reason why we must find areas of agreement, even if it takes us into the area that has been hinted at, if not definitely stated by Government representatives, of military alliances allegedly in the cause of peace. The Government will never make a military alliance with the Soviet Union in the cause of peace that will not be turned against Australia and used in the interests of the Soviet Union. As Senator Wheeldon has said, the Russians have never yet used alliances in any other way.
Who are we to think that we will be the first to be able to perform the miracle of changing the minds and behaviour of this dictatorship that has a commin objective with the nations that the Government suggests are now out to contain Communist China? Here we have two philosophies that are identical, two ambitions of world domination through a Communist machine that are identical. The Minister himself pointed out how two dictatorships in Fascism and Communism could come together for the partition of Poland. Because it suits him to justify an argument and statement that has been produced by the Minister for External Affairs the Minister apparently sees no possibility in either the near or the distant future of two powerful dictatorships with the same philosophy coming together again.
What is the situation when the pacts have been negotiated, when the Government is endeavouring to contain this nation, when it has insulted the friendliness of the South East Asian nations that have no affinity for Communism and do not want it but see themselves faced with an unenviable choice? Will Australia be a part of the contained Communist empire of China or will it be a part of the empire of Russia that is containing it? Virtually, that is the only choice that the Government is offering to these people when it says that we as a Western democratic nation welcome the opportunity to talk with the Soviet Union, when we know full well that whatever the talks result in, whatever the pacts, whatever the signatures on pieces of paper, they will not ultimately mean a thing in terms of security for this country. If we do not know it, the nations of South East Asia know it. They know that they cannot hold out on their own. They have been looking to us because we are the one nation in Asia that is definitely linked with the Western free world.
Today it is suggested that our change in policy will not mean any real change in the position in South East Asia. Various Ministers have tried to analyse, in an academic way, the Government’s defence statement. Such an analysis reveals certain factors that lead to one conclusion and certain factors that justify the opposite conclusion. We all know the warnings that have been given about the terrible things that Russia will do. After we have welcomed the opportunity to talk to the Russians, we turn around and say: ‘Oh, but we must remember all the terrible things that they have done in Czechoslovakia’. At a later date, when challenged, the Minister for External Affairs said that we must not worry too much now about Czechoslovakia, and that it was sold out 12 months ago. I am sure that statement would encourage the spirit of resistance in the free people who are still in Czechoslovakia today and who are trying to keep aglow the embers of their own freedom! That kind of statement is the breeze that will stir the embers and help them a little - 1 do not think! We must remember that we are dealing with a feature of international affairs that is 25 years old but perhaps is still a little new. The cold war is still going on. When the
Government gets into the frame of mind that it is allowing itself to drift into now, it is being sucked into the cold war and is being used as a pawn in the game of the enemies of freedom and democracy. They do not care whether they fulfil those objectives by military means or by the more convenient means of subverting the mental attitude of the peoples of the free nations.
I have demonstrated what the Government’s present attitude towards Russia has done to our relationships with the nations of South East Asia that might well have been our allies. Does the Government realise what its attitude is likely to do to the people within this country? If it does not know, the Soviet Union knows. The Soviet Union has subverted countries like Czechoslovakia and Hungary by the same means. The people of those countries began to think that the Russians could be trusted. Their leaders did not pay due regard to the attitude of the Soviet Union and they refused to recognise the danger - perhaps for their own convenience or otherwise. I will not attribute such an attitude to this Government. I will attribute to it perhaps carelessness rather than anything else. I do not want to hurt anybody. The Russians are deceiving this Government, just as they deceived the people of Czechoslovakia and Hungary. In turn, the Government is deceiving the young people of this nation if it thinks it can get away with cuts in the defence vote, and much greater cuts than would appear on the surface.
The Government knows that it cannot deceive the people. Increased costs alone would justify an increased expenditure for defence each year as long as the Government failed to control the purchasing power of our money. The Government knows that what Senator McManus or Senator Byrne said is true. The tremendous increase in the wages and salaries of members of the defence forces, to keep their standard of living in a high cost era on a par with the standard of the rest of the community, will absorb another portion of the defence vote which was not absorbed in previous years. At the same time as cutting the defence vote the Government is prepared to accept and welcome with open arms the proposition of talks, pacts and mutual security measures and it even goes to the extent of hinting at a defence alliance with the Soviet Union. The Government is rocking the cradle of this country and rocking the young people to sleep. They should not be rocked to sleep. As Senator Wheeldon said, today we live in a most dangerous world.
The Government is losing the propaganda war in this country. It should look at the last gallup poll figures on national service training. In the last 5 to 10 years young people have lost completely their enthusiasm for national service training because the Government has failed in its obligation to explain to them their responsibilities to their day and to their age. I hope that the young people will see that they are responsible for rearing their families in some form of security in this country. I visited universities when they had teach-ins in the early days of national service training. Senator Wright and I stood shoulder to shoulder on a platform at a university in Hobart. After 3 years there had been a deterioration in the feelings of the young people. Today it is even worse. When I first went there a gallup poll showed that 60 per cent of the people recognised the need for national service training.
– The latest poll figure is 62 per cent, is it not?
– A drift in thinking by the young people has taken place.
– In the latest gallup poll is not the figure 62 per cent?
– ‘If it is 62 per cent, that shows a reduction of 4 per cent that should not have taken place even among adults, but among the young people at universities that figure is reduced even further. There the majority was on the side of the Government in the early days of national service training. Today the Government is hopelessly outnumbered because it is rocking the young people to sleep and is telling them: ‘This is the way to peace and security’.
We have been challenged as to what we would do. The amendment does not suggest that we would stop the Soviet naval forces from coming into the South East Asian area. This Party has never suggested anything of that character. We know and recognise this country’s limitations. But we do not believe that because we cannot throw the Soviet naval forces out of the Indian Ocean we are impotent to defend ourselves.
We will have to be led courageously and told that maybe it will cost money. Certainly it will cost convenience, even to sit around a conference table knowing that, by our own strength, we will demand the respect of any who may seek to challenge our freedom and our security. I agree with Senator Wheeldon that on that alone will the security of this country depend ultimately - not upon alliances we may make with any nation that seems today to be friendly, for any reason whatsoever. As I have outlined already, we are entitled to suspect the motives and the hand of friendship offered to us by the Soviet Union. Our objection is that the Government should welcome the opportunity afforded by the intrusion of the Soviet naval forces into the South East Asian area. We know what we are fighting in this propaganda war, a cold war - but we are prepared to fight it. We will go on fighting it. We will fight it on the hustings. We believe that sufficient people with memories Jong enough to know how we nearly made the mistake once before of drifting into a pattern of belief that it cannot happen here will give us the support we need for the case that we are prepared to put on this matter.
I believe that many members of the Government Parties, both in Parliaments, State and Federal, and outside Parliaments, agree with us on this issue. Instead of resorting to an academic examination of a lot of words, the Government should recognise the true facts and adopt our attitudes. Any argument that Russia may put up at the moment for the containment of her alleged enemy, Communist China, could dissolve in the mists of a year or two. What will happen then? What worth will our pacts have? We should not allow the situation in South East Asia to deteriorate to the stage that the United Slates of America realises that for her there is no potential security outside the shores of her own country. In the enthusiasm to contain Communist China ultimately Japan will be faced with the alternatives of being a lone country in South East Asia or of becoming a part of the contained Communist world or the Communist world that is doing the containing. In my opinion it would make little difference to the future security of Australia into which side of the Communist orbit the industrially mighty power of Japan were ultimately drawn. Any possibility of steering the destiny of this area of the world in a different direction will be defeated at the very beginning if these first steps are taken. The Democratic Labor Party says to the Government and to the people of this country: ‘For heaven’s sake, learn from what has happened to the others and do not take these first steps’. It is not necessary for the Government to take them. No matter how friendly talks with the Russians may seem they will never result in military or other pacts that will be in the interests of democracy and freedom in South East Asia. Everything the Soviet Union says and does indicates that. The Government should listen to us and not to the people whom it says it welcomes the opportunity to talk to. I agree that we cannot throw the Russians out of the Indian Ocean, but I believe that this attitude of welcome is stupid, foolish and dangerous.
If the Government’s academic interpretation of the statement made by the Minister for External Affairs is accurate, why have steps not been taken to correct the obvious mistake of the Soviet Union itself, whose embassy in this country welcomed with open arms the changed attitude of the Australian Government? Has the Government hastened to assure the Soviet Union, as it has tried to assure us, that its attitude has not changed at all? When this statement was first made I placed on the notice paper a question concerning this very matter. It has been studiously avoided. The Government is not prepared to tell the diplomatic representatives of the Soviet Union in Canberra what it has said in the Parliament, namely that it has not made any change in its foreign policy and that they were mistaken in calling a Press conference in the manner in which they did. By not correcting this mistaken impression is the Government not suggesting to the diplomatic representatives of the Soviet Union: ‘Although we have told the people of Australia that there is no change in attitude, you know different. We are not disillusioning you’? If what the Government says is true and there has not been any change in its foreign policy it should be fair dinkum and tell the Soviet Union as well as the people of Australia the true position.
I wish to comment on some of the remarks that Senator Wheeldon made. I think he tried to reduce the standard of the debate on a matter that is probably the most important issue in Australia today. I believe he had some very interesting thoughts.I gathered that running through his thoughts was this conflict that is going on within the trade union movement of Australia - the struggle between those who support democracy and those who support Communism. I agree with the Minister for Works (Senator Wright) that among those in the trade union movement who support Communism there is a division between those on the side of Communist China and those on the side of Communist Russia. Although this controversy waxes strong within the Communist Party and within the trade union movement in Australia, I assure the Minister that those who have an allegiance to Communist China and those who have an allegiance to Communist Russia stand shoulder to shoulder against those in the trade union movement who stand up for the old Australian Labor Party principles and the democratic approach. If any other proof is required by the supporters of the Government I suggest that they analyse carefully the attitudes of members of the Opposition to what the Government is proposing as a logical path to follow for the future peace and security of the country. They will find that within the Opposition there is support for the two elements which they think are so far apart that sacrificing of our opportunity for friendly relations with many of the smaller as well as the stronger nations of South East Asia is justified in the interests of containing Communist China. It is a myth that the Communist world will fight itself to a standstill and thus save democracy. The DLP believes that the Government should take seriously its objection to what has happened. Those supporters of the Government who have any doubts should express them because this is a far more important issue than Party politics. Tonight we could be discussing the very genesis of the decay of democracy in this great continent. I hope that we can stem the tide. I think that the amendment moved on behalf of the DLP is an excellent one and I commend it to the Senate.
– I think it is a great pity that this debate should take place in such an atmosphere. It would have been far better if the Australian
Democratic Labor Party had allowed the Government to make a foreign affairs statement and then to debate it in, I would have hoped, a calmer and more dispassionate manner. I do not wonder that Senator Wheeldon left the chamber as soon as he had finished his speech. He always reminds me of what Oscar Wilde, I think it was, said about a friend of his - he drowned in his own shallows. Senator Wheeldon engaged in his usual performance. It is a great pity that he always drags the debates in this chamber down to the level of a fourth rate vaudeville show. He made one profound statement. He said that the Russians were entering into the Indian Ocean only in the interests of Russia. I thought every nation’s foreign policy was based upon the interest of the nation. Apparently 1 am wrong. Senator Wheeldon also said that he hoped that supporters of the Government would abandon their attacks on the Australian Labor Party in regard to foreign policy matters. I would like to assure the honourable senator that, after hearing his comments upon Vietnam, we will not abandon our attacks on the Labor Party if his views are representative of the views of that Party.
I shall deal briefly with the main matter which is being debated tonight - the amendment moved on behalf of the Democratic Labor Party. I wish to deal in particular with that part of the amendment which refers to the presence of Russia in the Indian Ocean. I know that anything I say will be misrepresented and distorted, but-
– By whom?
– If the cap fits, wear it.
– By the capitalist Press.
– The honourable senator supports the capitalist Press. We have heard a lot of quotations from the capitalist Press by the Labor Party in support of its arguments. Honourable senators opposite should show some consistency in their attitude towards the so called capitalist Press. At the risk of my views being misrepresented and distorted, as they have been in the past, I refer to the section of the amendment which states that the Budget should be withdrawn and redrafted because of the Government’s incredible policy of welcoming the presence of the Soviet Union in South East Asia. As the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Anderson) has pointed out, the DLP seems to have placed its own interpretation on the statement by the Minister for External Affairs (Mr Freeth) and, having placed that interpretation upon the statement, has condemned it.
Tonight I shall briefly refer to the Minister’s statement. The Minister has never said that he welcomed the presence of the Soviet fleet in the Indian Ocean. He accepts the fact, as does Senator Little, that it is in the Indian Ocean and we cannot do much about the matter. Our foreign policy must at all times be flexible. It must never be rigid. It must be prepared to move with changes in emphasis or in policies of other countries. But this does not mean that we accept the changed policies of those countries; nor does it mean that we do not mistrust a country. Let me say that I distrust the Soviet Union. The past policies of the Soviet Union give no reasons for trust, and the Minister has made this quite clear.
The Minister reacted to two statements, one by Mr Brezhnev and one by Mr Gromyko. He reacted to them as a responsible Minister must. He said:
Australia has to be watchful.
Is this complete acceptance of Soviet policies? He went on to say:
It has to avoid both facile gullibility-
This was a warning that you do not take any proposals from the Russians at their face value. He also said this, and it surely is wisdom:
In other words, all he is saying is that you do not accept them at their face value, but if, on examination there appears to be room for co-operation then we are prepared to consider them. The Minister went on to say:
The Australian Government at all times welcomes the opportunity of practical and constructive dealings wilh the Soviet Union as with any other country.
Is there anything wrong with that approach? To me it is a sensible approach. He then went on to say - and this is where I find myself in agreement with the Democratic
Labor Party because the Minister recognises that there is reason for concern at Soviet policy:
Reason for concern arises when the scale or methods or objective of the promotion are calculated to jeopardise our direct national interests, or lo endanger the general security and stability in the region.
There is a clear recognition that the Soviet move into the Indian Ocean may jeopardise our national interests. The Minister then went on to say:
In judging this, we cannot cast out of our minds the Russian intervention in Czechoslovakia and the pernicious doctrine of ‘limited sovereignty” which the USSR attaches to other communist slates.
Here we have a recognition of the recent evils of Russian policy, for the Minister continues:
Undoubtedly, these USSR acts and doctrines have constituted an impediment to international co-operation. and I hope that the Soviet Union will lake these repercussions into account when weighing ils future actions.
There is no gullibility in that statement. I cannot understand how the statement can be misrepresented. It seems to me to be clear. The Soviet Union has made certain suggestions and the Australian Government has said: ‘We know your past policies, we regard them with complete distaste, we know your past record, but if you show a change in emphasis or a change in policy then we are prepared to listen to you’. The Minister then went on to outline Australia’s objectives in South East Asia. He laid them down one by one. No one would quarrel with our objectives in South East Asia. I do not intend to go through them. The Minister then said - and 1 think this is the key to his statement:
If the Russian proposals prove to be in line with the general objectives-
That is, our objectives - and would assist to facilitate their achievement, we would naturally consider them with close interest.
How could this be construed as a change in policy? We had had no dealings with the Soviet Union in the Indian Ocean because it had not been there until recently. The Soviet Union has made no proposals to us. We have merely reacted cautiously and with a full acknowledgement of the past evils of Russian policy to these proposals. No one can argue that this is not a cautious approach.
I wish now to refer to what the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) had to say only the other day - on 25th August - in a speech which he delivered at a Liberal Party dinner. Referring to Mr Freeth, he said:
Ku pointed out in his speech that the Soviet Union stands condemned for its invasion of Czechoslovakia, the anniversary of which is now with us.
He said that Mr Freeth had also referred to the pernicious doctrine of limited sovereignly and went on to say:
He pointed out the need to be on guard against the Soviet Union, not to be lulled, to be careful all the time in all dealings with that country.
The Prime Minister pointed out that Mr Freeth then went on to outline Australia’s objectives in South East Asia and what we are seeking to obtain for the countries of South East Asia. The Prime Minister said:
We wished to see them retain their independence.
No-one would quarrel with that. I am sorry. There are some in this Parliament who would quarrel with it, but nobody on this side will quarrel with it, and the DLP will not quarrel with it. The Prime Minister went on:
We wished to see them grow economically. We wished to see the benefits of that economic growth passed down to the peasants and the workers from the higher strata. We wished to see the avenues of trade opened to them so that they could help themselves. We wished to see them left in peace against, extraneous attack.
He meant attack such as has occurred in Vietnam from the north by Communist subversion and Communist aggression.
– Who is supplying North Vietnam with arms at the moment?
– You know the answer, but I will tell you. The Soviet Union and China, your friends, are supplying them with arms as they have supplied them with arms from the very start. The Prime Minister then said:
We had so far not heard what the Soviet Union proposed about these countries, but they had spoken of some ideal of collective security that they hadn’t spelt out. If their idea of collective security should turn out to be on all fours with what we in Australia want, if the Soviet Union should cancel some of the debts which are owing to it from these countries, should help them economically, should help them technologically, should help them to retain their independence, then we would - because these are the same objectives as we have - be prepared to examine such proposals with interest. That cannot surely in any man of commonsense be said to be a change in policy but rather an expression of hope, hedged with careful doubt.
How this can be said to be a change in policy, how this can be said to be a welcome to the Soviet Union is quite beyond me. It seems to me the objectives have been carefully spelt out. They have been described by the Press as being a soft line, but this is sheer nonsense because the Minister couched all his statements in qualifications and in doubts. The other day, the Minister went on to say that the Russian proposals for regional security in Europe were quite unacceptable and that they would have to be better if they were to be acceptable to Australia in the region of South East Asia. This is not gullibility. This is facing the sheer facts of life when dealing with the Soviet Union.
I do not intend to speak at any great length on this but I believe the record should be put straight. There should be less misinterpretation and less distortion and what the Minister said should be examined fairly. If Senator Georges’ school master was not. able to teach him to read and understand English, I am not going to try to teach him now. But, to anybody who understands basic English, the Minister’s words were carefully prepared, were carefully stated and were hedged with doubt.
Any government with a sense of responsibility has to face the situation that if a country makes proposals it would be the height of folly to condemn them without close examination. If these proposals were completely in line with our objectives, if they would assist in attaining those objectives, then we should consider them. Let me make it clear that I do not believe they will help Australia to obtain her objectives. I do not- believe that the leopard changes its spots. But there may be a change in Russian policy. If there is, then it would be the height of folly not to examine this policy. Finally, there is nothing new in western countries talking and negotiating with Communist countries. In 1964, immediately after Khrushchev’s demise, the then Minister for External Affairs, Mr Hasluck, was the first Western foreign minister to visit the Soviet Union and to have discussions with the new Soviet leaders. At that time there- was no attack on Mr Hasluck and no suggestion of a change of foreign policy by the Government. For years the United States has been carrying on negotiations with the Soviet Union on numerous matters. On some matters there has been agreement; on other matters there has been disagreement; on other matters negotiations are continuing. The United States has sought from time to time to hold negotiations with Communist China at ambassadorial level and in Warsaw at this very moment it is endeavouring to proceed with these discussions.
– President Kennedy met Khrushchev.
– Yes, and President Eisenhower met him also. No-one condemned the United States for that and noone suggested that President Kennedy or President Johnson was guilty of-
– Why does the Minister not talk in straight language.
– 1 suggest with great respect that if the language used by the Minister was not straight the honourable senator’s understanding of basic English is entirely different from mine. There is nothing new in this situation. I suggest that it is time that this nonsense was finished and the Minister’s statement treated as it should be treated, with a little less emotionalism, a little less dramatising and a little more cold analysis. Before I sit down may I quote from an article by Mr Denis Warner who has been cited by Senator McManus as a noted authority on South East Asia. Only 10 days ago in an article headed ‘Asia’s winds of change freshen to a gale’ he wrote:
Obviously, if the Russians are not to be denied, they must be lived with. Since not a single SouthEast Asian Communist party bothered to turn up at the Moscow conference in June, the curious situation arises in which many of the Communist revolutionaries in South-East Asia, though encouraged by Peking, find themselves opposed to governments which the Soviet Union is befriending.
To that extent the Soviet Union is another policeman on the beat, wilh a vested interest in preventing the area from coming under Communist, and therefore Chinese, influence. National interests have proved more powerful than ideology.
These great changes, although obviously exploitable, nevertheless pose a dilemma for all governments in the region, including Canberra.
I would not go so far as Denis Warner and say that we are another policeman on the beat - I do not believe we are - but this is the expression used by Denis Warner on whom Senator McManus relied for at least part of his case. Consequently, I oppose on all grounds the amendment moved by the Democratic Labor Party, but 1 oppose it particularly in relation to that part which deals with Australia’s foreign policy because I believe that the amendment is clearly based on a misinterpretation of what our foreign policy is.
– The one point in Senator Wright’s speech with which I agree is that we are dealing, in the heated atmosphere of an election eve closing of Parliament, with a subject which has to endure far past the election. 1 would go much further and agree with him that at long last the Liberal Party appeared to be about to treat foreign policy as foreign policy and not use it as an electioneering slogan as it has been used over the years. The use of foreign policy in this way has created a prime problem for the Government and this is why it finds itself in this situation today. The whole question as it has devolved tonight is whether the speech made by the Minister for External Affairs (Mr Freeth) represents a change of policy. When I think back to what was said on more than one occasion by Mr Hasluck when he was Minister for External Affairs, that the prime problem for Australia was to learn to live with Communist China, I recall that he had a quiet attitude and did not say these things on the eve of an election. Consequently his remarks did not attract the publicity that has been given to this reference by Mr Freeth.
I propose to quote from Mr Freeth’s speech. It seems to me that the situation of border disputes between Russia and China is growing more serious every day and that Russia is obviously coming into this area because of this situation in its border. As I shall point out by reference to Mr Freeth’s own words, we now have a situation in which the Government is siding with Russia. That seems to me to be a definite change of policy from a situation in which it was said that we should be learning to live with Communist China in the Pacific area. In the Minister’s speech we are coming out nakedly and unashamedly on the Russian side. There is no doubt that this statement, coming as the bombshell it did, hedged around all those things that the Liberals have been quoting to us tonight. The Minister’s speech has created tremendous confusion among the public and tremendous consternation among the Liberals, their supporters and parliamentary backbenchers.
As I pointed out when I spoke in the Budget debate before this amendment was moved, Government supporters are running back into their crease from things that they have said already. If this means that in this election campaign, at long last they are not going to use the Com smear or suggest that we are in with the Communists and waiting to welcome Russia or any other Communist country into this nation, that would be a very great and decidedly a good change. If I may give one word of advice to supporters of the Liberal and Country Party Government, it is to stop quoting Mr Freeth’s speech. I read his speech again tonight when this debate came up. This was about the fourth or fifth time that I had read it. From the things he said in it [ became amazed that he had gone so far along the line of accepting a Russian presence in this area. In a speech which is padded out to about 15 pages one is inclined to overlook some of these things, but if one takes out the salient points and puts them together one finds a very definite trend which can only be construed as not a change but a complete about face in the Government’s policy towards Russia and the situation in this area. The Democratic Labor Party has pointed out forcibly to the Liberal Party the record of Russia but the Government, knowing this, has accepted the situation.
Although I do not intend to go back on the history of this I should like to ask what Australia will get from this in the future. Whatever has happened in the past, surely the Government is going into this situation with its eyes open. Although, as Senator Wheeldon pointed out, we cannot do anything other than condemn the Russian attitude in eastern Europe and what happened in Czechoslovakia, the Government still makes this statement on the eve of a very important election. So the nation and we as a Parliament have to look at this situation in the arena which has been created by the Government.
– Would the honourable senator accept that this is a major change of policy?
– Yes, absolutelyno doubt about it. There is no doubt that in Russia’s mind today there is one thing and one thing only, that is, the confrontation with the other Communist giant which is now blowing up and being manifested in a border dispute. But this is not unusual. I made a speech here many years ago in which I said that China and Russia signed their first agreement about 2,000 years ago - perhaps it was 200 years ago, but it was a tremendously long time ago. Certainly there has been about 2,000 years of history to show that these countries do not get on. Now their relationship has blown up into a border dispute. But this schism has been deepening and widening over a long period. The sole purpose in Russian policy today relates to ils clash with Communist China. We used to hear the old phrase about the downward thrust of Communist China and China coming down to gulp up Australia.
– The red arrow of Communism.
– Yes, the red arrow of Communism which used to be pointing down towards us. If Government supporters think that any sort of alliance or soft talk to Russia would help lis in this situation they are completely wrong. If the Russians could get the Chinese off their western border and have them driving south it would be precisely what they would want. That is rather obvious. So we will not get any help there. The thing that worries me is what the Government does in the field of foreign policy. I suggest that fair-minded Government supporters, however much they might like to claim that the Government has made progress in the last 20 years, would not want to point to the Government’s actions in relation to foreign policy over the years. It is interesting to bear the Government talking about Russia and the Indian Ocean.
I remind the Senate that a former Liberal Prime Minister, Sir Robert Menzies, had quite a lot to do with the Suez affair. Now that the heat has lessened and the dust has settled down we can ask what Australia achieved by putting its nose into a situation so far away and by attracting opprobrium over the terrible mess that finally came of the Suez situation. The fact is that before Sir Robert Menzies moved in, with the support of this Government, the Suez area was an English sphere of influence, but today it is a Russian sphere of influence. What sort of a policy for Australia is that? In those days we used to hear that our lifeline or umbilical cord was through the Suez Canal. What a lot of rot that has proved to be. It has been proved that it was no such thing. There should be a lesson in this, lt should indicate to middle powers and even to great powers that they cannot push other nations around; that they cannot order the whole universe around them to bc the way they want it to be; that they can only make an accommodation and do the best they can having regard to the aspirations and ambitions of other countries.
Had we let the Suez dispute go its own way, today we would have a Suez Canal which would have been bought at the ruling price of that day. That was the offer by the Egyptian Government. It would have bought the Suez Canal and paid the people who had a monetary interest in it the ruling price of that day. But today the situation is completely changed. That area is now a Russian sphere of influence. The Russians are in the Mediterranean. They are now coming into the Indian Ocean. This is because Australia, under the leadership of this Government, started to poke its nose into foreign affairs in an area in which we had no right ever to be. Where was Australia’s interest in Suez? The only basis for it was the umbilical cord story, which has been proved to be completely wrong.
Much has been said about Mr Freeth’s statement. Let me quote one or two passages from it. Since he made it there seems to have been a tremendous effort by the Government and its Liberal Party and Country Party supporters to say: ‘He did not mean that at all. He was very cautious. After all, he just wants to talk about it*. I noted that on a television show Mr Freeth said in answer to Senator McManus: Surely you do not object to our talking about prawns or fishing rights’. If a Minister makes a major foreign affairs statement in which he talks about a complete about-face in foreign policy, surely he is making that about-face for more than to be able to talk about prawns and fishing rights. Somebody made the suggestion today that it was some other innocuous little thing about which we wanted to talk to the Russians. The Russians are coming into this area. They are tied up with one problem today, and that is the problem of Communist China. When we read carefully what Mr Freeth said we see that he has been drawn much further along the line than debates on his statement have shown. He said in his statement:
If co-operation can be maintained* and strengthened among countries of the region-
That is, the South East Asian region -
Let us note carefully what he said immediately after that, namely:
Any realistic plan for regional security, however, must take into account the possibility of large-scale invasion, or aggression from outside - and the most likely would be from China, possibly using its nuclear capacity as blackmail to support its large conventional forces and using subversion.
Further on he said:
If such a threat eventuated, the countries of the region would naturally look for outside support and they would deserve it because of their own efforts for self-defence.
How he can tell what their own efforts for self-defence are before the threat eventuates, I do not quite know. In one paragraph he says that if the Russian proposals proved to be in line with our general objectives we would naturally consider them with close interest, and in the very next paragraph he refers to the possibility of an attack coming from China. It is no wonder that the Russian embassy was delighted with what was said.
I ask honourable senators to note carefully the following words, which he used when dealing with the question of China:
Part of an accommodation would be that China would allow its neighbours - the Soviet Union as well as countries like India and those of South East Asia - some assurance that the mainland of China is a country they can live alongside without threat of armed aggression or internal subversion directed from Peking.
Surely to goodness it is obvious that not only is he welcoming a Russian presence in the area but he is welcoming the reason for the Russian presence. One would have thought that anybody with any common sense at all, particularly in the position in which Australia is, would refrain from taking sides in the tremendous dispute that has been growing over about the last 8 years between the two Communist giants of the world.
When one reads what the new Minister for External Affairs says, which is completely opposite to what the former one said - he said that Australia had to learn to live in the area with Communist China - one sees that the new Minister is pointing the finger at China as the aggressor and the country that is causing all the trouble. Surely this is a matter in respect of which it would have been well to let well alone. The Government is starting off on a Suez policy again. It is starting to wander away from our shores. Thinking that Australia is a great power, the Government is sticking its nose into areas where we have no right to be, not realising that Australia is a middle power and that we cannot go directing the lives and ambitions of other nations forever.
If the Government learns only one lesson from Vietnam, I hope it is that, no matter what might a country can put into even small countries, in the final analysis it cannot arrange their destiny. In the final analysis, they will work out their own destiny. If the Government does not learn that in the extreme case of Vietnam, God help us if it cannot learn it in the case of the dispute between Russia and Communist China. Surely it should have learnt from the mess it made of the Suez situation, with the tremendous derogation of the name of Australia in that area and with nothing done to open the Suez Canal, which it tried to do. Yet it makes a statement like this one. I would advise any member of the Liberal Party not to start quoting this document in debates or at. election time because if anybody sits down and examines it closely he will be alarmed at what he reads in it.
Let me come back to the question of defence. Senator Anderson dropped back into what is becoming quite a cliche, namely, that although the Government is spending less money on defence this year than last year it is an accounting quirk and therefore it does not mean a thing. The Government is not quite so generous at election time or Budget time when it is comparing what it has done with what the Labor Government did. All too often it says: ‘The Labor Government spent £X on housing; we are spending $Y on it. On social services the Labor Government spent £X; we are spending $Y’. It never takes into consideration the matter of inflation, but the figures are good enough for it to say that this represents progress. I have never heard it said that if the expenditure on social services dropped one year that did not mean anything. The fact is that defence expenditure did drop and the Government made use of the money on the eve of an election. I do not want to go into that in detail; I dealt with it the other day. The Government says that $60m will be spent as down payments on materials next year.
Let me quote one other small paragraph from Mr Freeth’s statement. When dealing wilh Russia he said:
In principle, it is natural that a world power such as the Soviet Union should seek to promote a presence and a national influence in important regions of the world such as the Indian Ocean area.
What about Australia starting to take a bit of interest in the Indian Ocean area? If it is natural for Russia to come so far in order to take an interest in the Indian Ocean area, and as Australia is an island with about half of its coastline and the longest unprotected coastline in the world on the Indian Ocean, surely we should be having a look at this situation. Over the last few years we have seen a changing situation in nearly all the nations that border on the Indian Ocean. Prior to this period, Sir Robert Menzies said that the cessation of white rule in those countries would be the ecstasy of suicide. Of course, the position would have been quite the opposite. Had the white nations tried to stay in those countries there would have been far more bloodshed than we have seen up to this point of time.
When we look around this area we find that the naval base at Trincomalee has gone completely and is now denied to the British Navy; the naval base at Simonstown, although not yet completely gone, is no longer the powerful base that it used to be, because of the strains between South Africa and Great Britain; and Singapore is going through its traumas. I would not think that after 1942 any Australian would put all his eggs in one basket in Singapore, no matter what the experts might try to tell us. In other words, all we have is a change of circumstances in the areas and absolutely nothing is being done about Australia taking some interest in the Indian Ocean, and this is indeed amazing when one looks at the Indian Ocean in those terms. It is clear that there ought to be a naval facility on the long coast of Western Australia. Cockburn Sound suggests itself as a site for such a base. Surely this is completely obvious. If the Government is to maintain the defence expenditure even if it is not used in the purchase of hardware but for the development of a naval base in that area or proceeding more rapidly with the air base at Learmonth we could get some benefit from this. It is as plain as a pikestaff that the Government has reduced defence spending for the current year for one reason, and that is because of the election to be held in a few weeks’ time.
I noted that Senator Sim in his speech was quoting some remarks of Denis Warner, and well he might because Denis Warner is one of the few correspondents in the world who writes consistently with such clarity on South East Asia. But of all his writings since the statement by the Minister for External Affairs, the clearest and most pungent of them all was when he pointed out that the final peaceful solution in South East Asia will be between the South East Asian powers. After all, Australia had Britain here for many years and she led us into two world wars. The United States of America was here and because it was here and for no other reason it led us into the Vietnam war. As Senator Wheeldon correctly pointed out the third itinerant in question is now Russia. Russia could drag Australia into trouble and it too may leave the area as Britain has done in the past and as America is about to do. The most powerful comment made by Denis Warner is that the only answer to permanent peace in the Pacific is those pacts and those things that we do and the peace moves that we make in all South East Asian countries, including the Hasluck doctrine of learning to live with Communist China. I thought that this was obvious.
In this debate it has been said that what was said by Mr Freeth in his statement has been twisted. It has not been twisted. It is as plain as a pikestaff. The only reason that the Australian Liberal Party is accusing the Opposition of twisting it is that the Government got such a shock when it was dropped into its lap that it is trying to run back into its crease and make out to the people of Australia that this was not nearly as bad as it sounded. If one reads the whole of the statement one realises that it is a shocking document. It alarms me because this Government is being pulled along at the heels of Russian policy. All I want to see the Minister for External Affairs do or any government of this country do, is to put forward Australian policy.
The Government should realise that when dealing with international affairs it is dealing in a selfish and a pretty tough field. We have seen nations suffer invasion. We have seen nations invaded and nobody goes to their aid. We say: ‘It does not suit us to have to move troops, with long supply lines, and all the rest of it.’ It comes back to the point that international affairs is a selfish game and every nation goes into an area for what it can get out of it. The harsh realities are that this is the way the game has to be played.
The Government is not doing that on this occasion. It is clear from statements made by members of the Government that it is taking sides in the tremendous clash between the two Communist giants and this is the most stupid action that I could imagine. For 20 years the Government has had a pitiful and dismal record on foreign policy. Whatever airs and graces this Government has ever given itself in other fields it should never do so in the field of foreign policy. There is the Suez Canal situation and the Vietnam war situation. The Government ms ie a mess of the situation in Dutch New Guinea and in Indonesia. I also point to the Government’s late arrival on the confrontation scene. It fooled around with the position in Malaysia and Singapore. The Government has not taken one trick out of the whole lot. I suggest that the best thing it can do is to learn to be more careful in the future.
There is no doubt that this decision on foreign affairs policy is a reversal. It is a declaration by the Government that it is confused and that Russian diplomacy has outplayed Australian diplomacy by a long way. There is no doubt that it has the Australian people completely confused. It is the responsibility of this Government to stand up for its decisions and to make them clearer not only because there is an election pending but because the consequences have such serious implications for the future.
– I enter this debate on foreign affairs because I have been rather shattered by some of the remarks of honourable senators on the Government side to the effect that there is no change of opinion. To those who are listening to this debate and to the people who read the Hansard record it must be rather surprising for them to realise that there are in this House people with such little intellect that they do not realise that there is a change of opinion on foreign affairs by this Government. For 20 years we have been warned about Communism. For 20 years there has been no differentiation between Russian Communism and Chinese Communism; yet suddenly today we are told that we are to be friendly with the Communists provided that they are Russian. Do not tell me that that is not a change of opinion.
I want to raise two points that have not been raised tonight. One of them concerns the problem of how far we have been influenced by the opinion of the United Slates of America. As is well known by the people of Australia, it is extremely rare for our Government to do anything at all without first using the hot line to the White House in the US and finding out what the American views are. Especially when you are sort of mixed up in a waltz you really have to get into the right step. If the Americans suddenly decided that in their interests they would like a rapprochement with Russia, of course a word might be dropped into the ear of America’s partner while they were dancing to the tune of Waltzing Matilda’, that perhaps Australia should do the same thing. I do not know. We have had no evidence of this. It is extremely doubtful that Australia suddenly would change its foreign policy without first having been given the nod by the country that has controlled our foreign policy for so long.
The second point I want to make is that there would be no Russian influence in the Indian Ocean except for the interference of this Government. I referred to this a couple of years ago when the British first said they were going to get out of Singapore. Everyone knew the reason why they were getting out of Singapore; it was a financial one. They could not afford to keep their forces there any longer. Why did not Australia at that time offer to them a base in Australia? Why did not we say to them: We will provide a base at Cockburn Sound. We will provide the facilities and you can retain your presence here’. But we were so ungrateful to the British who helped us for so long that we were not even prepared to spend a few pennies to do this thing. Where have we got a naval base? Senator Gair received a reply from the Government on this question to the effect that we have one boat or naval officer or petty officer or rating between Brisbane and Thursday Island. I do not know what we have on the coast of Western Australia - possibly not even that - but surely if the Government really believes in the defence of Australia there has to be a naval centre established somewhere, and what better place than Cockburn Sound? If the Government will not agree to this suggestion in the interests of the defence of Australia I am really happy that the Russians are in the Indian Ocean because with this Government’s attitude towards Russia we may be able to get them to build a naval base at Cockburn Sound to help the Russians. But at least something will have been done, whatever the reasons of the Government. The worst feature of the whole thing is not so much the stupidity of the Government but the childish attitude that the Russians are coming into this area and nothing will change.
Anyone who has studied the history of what Russia has done to its satellite countries will ask: Once it is in this area and has wooed over by economic and military measures the whole of South East Asia, where will we be? Just isolated. There is a familiar expression about a bird on a rock and that is where we will be. The Russians will have us exactly where they want us. It will be far too late to do anything then. All the theories we have heard put forward seem to me to be wishful thinking, or even desperation thinking. Not one senator on the Government side would be prepared to speak honestly and say that it is not a change of opinion by the Government - that this is not a scarey thing that is happening.
The worst feature of all is the one about which I want to speak now, and that is the fact that this present situation is real proof that Australia has become a dictatorship. We have now an autocratic Government. No longer do we have democracy, which I understand to mean that everyone in the country has a vote. Another feature of democracy is that the country is ruled by Parliament. We do not have rule by Parliament. Parliament never even gets a chance to say anything. Officially there are two men - and I doubt that there are really two men - who say that we are changing our policy. We are told suddenly - and the Prime Minister himself admits that this is so - that the change in policy was not even taken to Cabinet. We are told that no-one ever takes such matters to Cabinet. Is that what is wrong with this Government? Such matters should be taken to the people. If not taken to the Cabinet, at least they should be put before Parliament before a decision is made.
Is not this all the more reason to have a standing committee so that we can analyse these things and get to the bottom of them before a decision is made and it is too late? Here in Australia we accept the fact that one man can make a decision, whether it is right or wrong, and the whole of Australia suffers or benefits as a result. In this case we will suffer because it does not matter what Government supporters say about the containment of China. They are so stupid and so blind that they cannot see that Communism, whether Chinese or Russian, is still Communism. But you want to differentiate and rationalise. It is the only way that they can put across their argument. It is the only way they can praise themselves and say that they arc doing the right thing. It is their stupidity that allows one man to dictate to them and rule on what is to be done for the rest of Australia in the future. What is the difference between the two types of Communism?
– Mr Acting Deputy President, I wonder whether you can enlighten me as to whether this is still a debate on the Budget.
– If Senator Cotton had been in the chamber when I began my speech he would have heard me say that I was speaking in a foreign affairs debate, because every speaker in this chamber in the last 3 or 4 hours has been speaking on foreign affairs. The subject is contained in the amendment proposed by the Democratic Labor Party. Part of that amendment refers to the Russian presence in south East Asia and I am talking about that.
– You were talking about one man leadership.
– Not one man leadership - one man dictatorship. There is a vast difference between a man who appoints himself as leader and a man who is appointed by others but then goes on to dictate. I hope that soon we shall not have a one man dictatorship. Communism exists, whether it is Russian or Chinese Communism. We have covered this ground before. I do not believe for one moment that Chinese Communism will hurt anyone any more than Russian Communism. One might be more virulent at the moment, but it is no more virulent than the other form has been, and the other form has shown by its recent aims that it can become virulent when it wants to be.
People who spoke up for peace used to be called Communists, but today they will be called Chinese Communists. That charge will be terribly difficult to prove because there is a lack of facial resemblance. The Government at present is ruling in autocratic fashion. It admits that it is an autocracy, but we do not do anything about it. The people of Australia, it seems, are prepared to accept this situation because this is the way it has always been in regard to foreign policy. Foreign policy has not been the only subject not to go before Cabinet. What is the use of Cabinet, especially when we see some of its menbers? But that is a sideline. If it is good enough for our future relations with the rest of the world to be decided by one man, why bother at all to have a Cabinet? Do Government supporters believe in Cabinet rule? Do they believe in parliamentary rule? We do not have either, yet they say that this is all right in respect of foreign affairs. The most dangerous thing that can happen to us depends on our foreign affairs policy. If this is the attitude of the Government, no wonder its stocks are going downhill as fast as possible.
I wish to make a brief explanation because 1 have heard that during the division when I was not here to vote a Government senator criticised me. It is obvious that he did not listen to me when I spoke previously because I said that 1 did not intend to vote for either amendment. For the last 7 years when the Australian Labor Party has moved an amendment seeking better social services, the Democratic Labor Party has opposed it; when the Democratic Labor Party has sought to improve social welfare, the ALP has opposed the move. So I said when I spoke previously in this debate that I did not intend to vote for either amendment because I have become tired of the procedure I have outlined.
– That is a negative attitude.
– Not at all. lt is a form of protest against the hypocrisy of the two Parties. Each wants to do something but is scared of the other getting the credit. That is all it amounts to. The situation today is a little different because on this occasion the DLP has moved into the area of foreign affairs. Anyone who looks back over the last 6 or 7 years will find that what I have said is correct. At one time I sat on one side with Senator Cole, just the two of us, because the ALP would not support any amendment that was put forward. So I ask Senator Keeffe not to talk to me in that style. I would rather be negative than be a hypocrite.
– But you are never here to vote, so it does not matter much.
– I seem to be here when it is important.
– At lunchtime?
– If the honourable senator regards lunchtime as important, 1 am here when it is important. But it seems to me that when my vote does count I am here to vote. When it is a case of voting in a hypocritical situation I do not intend to vote.
– The amendment which has been moved by the Australian Democratic Labor party seeks to have the Budget withdrawn and recast. Prime amongst the reasons given is that the expenditure on defence has been reduced. The record discloses that the DLP has always been concerned for defence and has placed it in the forefront of its programmes. But I totally disagree with the view taken by that Party on the defence provisions of the Budget and with the remarks of DLP senators about the statement of the Minister for External Affairs (Mr Freeth). I say in all charity to them that over-zealousness sometimes clouds judgment. Mr Freeth’s statement on foreign affairs is one of striking realism. It should not be forgotten that that is the statement which the Opposition refused to have brought into the Senate for debate. It reflects accurately the changing situation in this country and the changing circumstances in which Australia finds itself.
The last foreign affairs statement was delivered in the first part of 1968. It was apparent that there should be from the Government another foreign affairs statement indicating its reaction to events which had taken place since the original statement was made. That is what the statement purported to do and that is what it did. It took account of changes. If it had not taken account of changes then I imagine that the Government would have been criticised legitimately for failing to keep its eyes open and to be alert for changes which were occurring. The changes which had taken place were among the most significant that Australia has had to experience since the days of the Second World War. In the first place, we had the accelerated withdrawal of Britain from the area of Malaysia and Singapore. That created a vacuum or a situation in respect of which Australia had particular obligations. The way in which the Australian Government responded to that situation had been stated by the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) earlier this year, and as a visible token of our interest and our willingness to support we stationed troops in Singapore. That was the first change which had taken place.
The second change which had taken place was the attitude expressed by the United States which suggested that in the South East Asian area there was to be, on the part of countries in that area, a greater willingness to accept responsibility for their own defence. Although I have listened to members of the Opposition persisting in their claim, it has never been said that the United States is no longer interested in what occurs in South East Asia. The United States has not said that it is pulling its troops out of Vietnam. The United States has said that it is prepared to undertake a withdrawal according to a timetable if there is some response from North Vietnam, and notwithstanding the gestures and clear cut efforts which have been made by President Thieu and President Nixon, there has been no response whatever from the Government of North Vietnam. The fact that the United States is endeavouring to cope with this situation is one further fact which the Government had taken account of in making its statement on foreign affairs.
– Are you serious in saying that the Americans will stay in Vietnam?
– I am saying that President Nixon, on behalf of the United States Government, has not said that he will pull his troops out of Vietnam. He has said that he is prepared to do so according to a timetable if there is a response from North Vietnam. Honourable senators opposite are interjecting but I assert - this is not very palatable to them - that if they are prepared to read what the President of the United States has said and if they are prepared to go to source material instead of accepting newspaper comments or other material which seems to be favourable to them, they will recognise that what I am saying is correct. All 1 am saying on this point is that it is one of the facts which the Government had to take into account, and which the Government did take into account, in preparing its foreign affairs statement. Honourable senators of the Opposition continue to interject. It has been typical of Opposition senators all night that they do not want to hear an opposite view because they are conscious that their view is one essentially of misrepresentation.
The third point of change which the Government had to take into account was that a Russian interest in this part of Asia had been expressed. There has been a movement on three occasions of one flotilla of Russian destroyers into the Indian Ocean and there have been indications of a positive interest on the part of Russia in its relations with countries of this area. Surely if these events occurred - they are not events which were initiated by Australia and not one thing which has occurred could Australia prevent - then it is relevant that Australia should have some reaction. All that the foreign affairs statement said with regard to what has been happening in the Indian Ocean on the part of Russia is an expression of Australian reaction. There is no change in policy in the sense that any different alignment has been undertaken by Australia, there is no change in policy in the sense that different national objectives are being pursued, and there is no change in policy in the sense that there is a different method of approach.
Once again honourable senators opposite are challenging what I have said, but the truth sometimes hurts and they know that it is hurling them now because I have never heard such gross misrepresentation of a Minister’s statement than what has been said of Mr Freeth’s statement on external affairs. Persons in this chamber who, for a variety of reasons, want to build a case on misrepresentation have persisted in it.
– Are you saying that Senator McManus misrepresented the statement?
– I am saying that the statements made by Senator McManus, Senator Byrne and Senator Little for the Australian Democratic Labor Party and by Senator Wheeldon and Senator Willesee for the Opposition are all statements which depend upon the one assumption that there has been some radical change in Government policy, a policy of grave consequence. I am concerned only lo assert that there has been no such change. It is absolutely incredible to come into this Senate and to hear members of the DLP using the ‘Tribune’ and other newspapers as their authority to justify their claim that there has been a change of policy. 1 can only say that if the ‘Tribune’ or other newspapers attributed something to the DLP the members of that Party would not accept it as an authority for a change in Party policy. They would say: ‘You look at what has been done and you look at what has been said’. Of course if one does look at what has been said it is quite apparent that there has been no change in policy. There has been merely a statement in reaction to what are changing circumstances of which Australia should take note. That is the essence of what Mr Freeth had to say and it appears to me that it has been ignored by all people who have commented on it.
The only other aspect upon which I want to comment is that the DLP refers specifically in its proposed amendment to a reduction in defence expenditure. 1 would have thought that all honourable senators on this side of the chamber recognised - I think the record discloses that the belief is well founded - that the defence of this country had the paramount claim on the nation’s expenditure. The amount by which the defence vote has been reduced this year is approximately $60m which, out of a total expenditure of $l,100m, represents a reduction of only about 5%. But reasons have been given why this reduction is occurring. It has been pointed out that every year you do not have necessarily an increasing defence expenditure; you have an expenditure which is required to meet your defence needs from time to time, and in some years you will have high capital expenditure and in other years, simply because there has been high expenditure in preceding years, capital expenditure will be low.
In those circumstances it is not surprising that in this particular year there is some slackening in the defence vote which, for the past 5 years, has been increasing noticeably. As the Minister for Defence (Mr Fairhall) has said, Australia’s forces have never been better equipped in peacetime than they are at present. In this current year there is a considerable reduction in expenditure overseas and that is greater than the total reduction in the defence vote. That indicates that in Australia the defence vote in fact has increased. The statement pointed out that some S47.7m is being expended upon new works, and emphasis has been placed upon mobility as the future defence structure in Australia. Of course there has been a reorganisation of the Services and a study into their proper needs.
– We know all about studies.
– 1 know that you claim that they are not satisfactory but if, as a result of the studies, there is a reduction in expenditure and economies are effected, surely there is a point to them. One reason given by the Minister for
Defence for the reduction is the fact that certain recommendations have been made as a result of the reorganisation. The defence statement also indicates where items of expenditure occur. A fast combat support ship is to be provided, 8 landing craft are to be purchased or constructed in the ensuing year and 12 helicopters are to be purchased. A design study is to be undertaken for a Navy light destroyer and a hydrographic ship, an oceanographic ship and submarine command team trainer are to be provided, as well as 10 Macchi trainer aircraft for the Navy and 72 sixton tactical carriers.
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.
Question resolved in the negative.
– In addition to the items of equipment that I have mentioned there are 72 6-ton tactical carriers, 4,500 1-ton trucks, and 1,800 radio receiver sets. These are just some of the items mentioned and they indicate the type of equipment which is being purchased in the current year. They indicate furthermore that there is this emphasis on mobility which has been illustrated by the Minister. In those circumstances it seems to me to be unreasonable to castigate the Budget in the harsh terms in which it has been castigated as in some way not taking account of Australia’s best interests by permitting a drop in the defence vote of some S50m. The essential aspect of the Budget is that it is deflationary in its tendency because for the first time in a number of years the estimated deficit is of an order of only S30m, whereas it was several hundred million dollars in the preceding year. In those circumstances it is inevitable that there will be some reductions in expenditure and certainly to make up for certain increases in expenditure in other directions it is not unreasonable to suppose that the defence vote will be down somewhat on what it has been in previous years. For reasons which I have already given, the fundamental basis upon which the debate on the amendment of the Democratic Labor Party has been conducted has been - if one examines the statements which have been criticised - totally and fundamentally erroneous. The Minister for External Affairs has not changed direction. He has reacted to a new situation and it is a reaction in a way which to me is sane and intelligent and the type of policy which any responsible nation would adopt. For those reasons 1 oppose the amendment.
Amendment (Senator McManus’s) negatived.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
– I seek leave to make to the Senate a statement concerning the Bougainville Copper Project which was made earlier today in the House of Representatives by the Minister for External Territories (Mr Barnes).
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- There being no objection, leave is granted.
- Mr Deputy President, I now seek leave to incorporate the statement in Hansard.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- There being no objection, leave is granted.
– The statement is as follows:
Further to my statement of 21st August 1969 regarding land requirements for the Bougainville copper project, I now advise the Senate that negotiations between the Papua and New Guinea Administration, Bougainville Copper Pty Ltd and the Rorovana people of Bougainville have reached an advanced stage including agreement by the people to the use of the land concerned.
The main terms of the proposed agreement are as follows:
The area of Rorovana land required is now established by survey to be approximately 140 acres. This represents nearly 10% of the total Rorovana land and includes some of their best agricultural land. The Administration has reviewed the land requirements for the copper project and other possible Administration needs and has agreed not to acquire any further Rorovana land without the consent of the owners. Negotiations will be undertaken in due course with the Arawa people of Bougainville to buy land next to Arawa Plantation which, as I have already told the Senate, has been bought by the Administration. This land is required for the site of the coastal town associated with the mining project.
– I seek leave to make to the Senate a statement about the Gazelle Peninsula Local Government Council which was made earlier today in the House of Representatives by the Minister for External Territories (Mr Barnes).
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT - There being no objection, leave is granted.
– Mr Deputy President, I now seek leave to incorporate the statement in Hansard.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- There being no objection, leave is granted.
– The statement is as follows:
There have been reports during the past week of a substantial police build-up at Rabaul in New Guinea. This action has been taken to meet a threat to law and order of which the immediate cause has been an attempt to close down the existing Gazelle Peninsula Local Government Council, a Council duly constituted and operating according to law. Until last June the Gazelle Peninsula Local Government Council was restricted to Tolai and other native people living in the area. This Council had in the past made a number of requests for extension of its jurisdiction to cover areas belonging to the Tolai people outside the town of Rabaul and for inclusion of plantation and business leases. In February 1969 the Administrator’s Executive Council agreed to these requests. This meant that non-natives would be liable to pay council tax and would be able to stand for election.
The election for the new council was held in May and June but before this an association named the Mataungan Association was formed and advised its supporters to boycott the election. Elections were however held and resulted in a Council consisting of 34 native members, 3 Europeans and 1 Chinese. Despite this preponderance of native membership the Mataungan Association continued to oppose the Council and instigated a campaign against the payment of council taxes. Last month the Council offices were entered and the keys stolen. It was then said that the offices would remain closed until the Council had been reconstructed in accordance with the demands of the Mataungan Association. At the same time some Administration survey pegs were removed. There was no violence but there was much truculent talk. It was at this stage that police reinforcements were sent, In response to a motion of the House of Assembly calling on the Administration to take all necessary steps to ensure that the law was upheld further police went to Rabaul.
There are a number of causes of unrest in the Gazelle Peninsula. Some of these are rooted in the long and complicated history of the area. There are deep-seated problems of land and economic development in the face of a rapid increase in the number of Tolai people. These are problems arising from a challenge by certain younger mcn to the traditional Tolai leaders and from the need to find nonviolent means of change in a developing society. The complex nature of the problems is recognised and the Government is giving them the closest attention. Action has already been taken which will help Tolais in need of hind. Over 10.000 acres of land in the Gazelle Peninsula are being made available for settlement by Tolais. This includes 1,700 acres becoming available through the purchase of two plantations. These purchase and settlement arrangements will be made by the Administration or the Development Bunk on a commercial basis. In addition an Administration Bill is now before the House of Assembly which will make it possible to acquire alienated land which is inadequately developed - on payment of proper compensation.
On 5th September the House of Assembly passed a resolution requesting the Administration to establish a commission of inquiry. Yesterday the Administrator informed the Speaker of that House that such a commission would be established. This commission will in the main be directed to the present Local Government Council dispute and towards similar problems which may arise in connection with the establishment of local government in the urban areas of
Rabaul. Its composition and terms of reference will be announced later. The measures already taken should reduce tensions in the Gazelle Peninsula. The special problems of the area and of the Tolai people will be kept under review. Law and order must however be maintained if progress is to be made. The Government has a duty to safeguard the lives and property of both native people and Australians in the area.
Senate adjourned at 11.4 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 10 September 1969, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1969/19690910_senate_26_s42/>.