28th Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Magnus Cormack) took the chair at 12 noon, and read prayers.
– I present the following petition from 33 citizens of the Commonwealth:
Tothe Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The Petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
1 ) Your petitioners believe in the principle that every Australian child, irrespective of the school he attends, is entitled to economic support for his basic educational needs from the funds placed at the disposal of the Australian government through taxation. Further, they believe that this economic support should be in the form of per capita grants which are directly related to the cost of educating an Australian child in a government school.
Your petitioners believe that in addition to this basic per capita grants additional assistance should be provided in cases of educational disadvantage, but they believe that the appropriate instruments for reducing economic inequalities are taxation and social welfare systems which deal with individuals and families and not with schools.
The reduction of the existing per capita grants will impose great hardships on many parents who have chosen, at considerable personal sacrifice to send their sons and daughters to independent schools. Indeed the curtailment of the said grants will create divisions in the community.
Some independent schools of high educational standards will be forced to close with the consequences that children attending those schools will have to attend government schools already over taxed and under staffed,
Some independent schools have been encouraged to lower standards in order that their parents may continue to receive per capita grants.
Parents should be encouraged to exercise freedom of choice of the type of schools they wish for their children. The proposed legislation will penalise parents who try to exercise this choice, and discourage them from making a vital financial contribution to Australian education over and above what they contribute through taxation.
Your Petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Senate in Parliament assembled should acknowledge the right of every Australian child to equal per capita grants of government money spent on education.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– May I inform the Senate that the Treasurer Mr Crean left Australia on Friday, 2 1 September, to lead the Australian delegation to the annual meetings in Nairobi of the International Monetary Fund and the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development and for discussions in Ethiopia. He is expected to return to Australia on 5 October. During his absence the Minister for Social Security, Mr Hayden, is Acting Treasurer.
– I seek leave to make a statement relating to future meetings of the Senate Estimates Committees.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
-Last Thursday Senator Willesee informed the Senate that because of the pressures of legislation it may be necessary to cancel the meetings of the Estimates Committees which were to be held on Thursday, 27 September. As honourable senators will be aware, legislative pressures have not decreased. There is need for consideration today and tomorrow of certain Bills, including the Constitution Alteration (Prices) Bill and Bills relating to certain post and telegraph charges. Under the circumstances I do not propose to move any motion for the sitting of the Estimates Committees tomorrow. I have a proposal for rescheduling the meetings of the Estimates Committees which again will be subject to the will of the Senate and the pressures of urgent legislation. This will be circulated to all honourable senators.
Senator MURPHY (New South WalesAttorneyGeneral) I give notice that on the next day of sitting I will move:
That leave be given to introduce a Bill for an Act relating to certain trade practices.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation concerns the disruption caused to airline traffic and the threat to maintenance of aircraft safety standards caused by the continued strike of radio technicians at Sydney Airport and elsewhere. What positive action- and I repeat, positive- is the Minister for Civil Aviation, together with the Minister for Labour, taking to resolve this dispute?
– I am advised by the Minister for Civil Aviation that Mr Cooley, Chairman of the Public Service Board, has notified the Department that the Board has arranged a meeting with the Professional Radio Employees Institute, which is the union involved in the dispute, at 2.30 p.m. today. The Department of Civil Aviation will be represented. The meeting is to explore possible courses of action in relation to the present dispute. It would be premature at this stage to predict the outcome of this afternoon’s meeting. This matter is under the continuous attention of the parties concerned.
– I ask the AttorneyGeneral: On whose authority are Commonwealth Police repaying the amount of fines imposed on persons who were convicted of offences against the laws of this country during political demonstrations held before this Government came to power? On what grounds are these repayments being made? Are only supporters of the Australian Labor Party or its sympathisers being repaid the fines which have been imposed, or may all persons, irrespective of the offences which they committed, expect to have their fines repaid by the Commonwealth Police? What is the justification for action of this character which can only undermine law and order?
– I have just been informed across the table that a newspaper report deals with this matter.
– I have photographs of the people.
– I have not read the newspaper account or seen the photographs. The Senate will be aware that the Government decided, and announced in the last election campaign, that steps would be taken to release persons who had been imprisoned under the National Service Act, that it would not proceed with the various prosecutions which were in hand and that fines which had been paid would be remitted. I am not sure what has happened in respect of the matter which has been raised by the honourable senator. I will have a look into it and see whether I can inform him precisely what the position is. But certainly remission of fines occurs not only in respect of national service matters which were adverted to. As the honourable senator would know, in certain circumstances fines for other offences are sometimes remitted by the Governor-General on the advice of the Attorney-General. I assume that if any fines have been remitted, that has been done properly and in accordance with the law. But I will have a look into this matter.
– Is the AttorneyGeneral aware that the captains of 2 Taiwanese fishing vessels have been held in the Perth lock-up since Monday night because of fishing offences? Is he aware that $8,000 has been imposed in fines and that this amount is required to be paid before their release? Is the Minister aware that public subscription is the only way of raising this money? Has the Minister’s Department been consulted in this matter? What action has been taken oris contemplated?
– I will endeavour to find an answer for the honourable senator. I cannot tell him exactly what is happening there, but this kind of difficulty arises very often in the north where there are infractions of Australia’s territorial laws because of fishing, say, within our fishing limits by unauthorised vessels. If the law is to be enforced this involves sometimes forfeiture of vessels and sometimes proceedings against the captains of the vessels which are in breach of the law. I will look into the facts of the matter and see whether I can get a prompt answer for the honourable senator.
– I ask a question of Senator Murphy in his capacity as Minister for Customs and Excise. Last week the Minister indicated that he would advise the Senate of the result of certain checks carried out by Customs officers in relation to pre-Budget clearances of high duty goods. I ask the Minister whether he has yet the results of these inquiries.
– Yes, the inquiries have been completed and the information which has been supplied to me on this matter is as follows: The inquiries were made to ensure that manufacturers, importers and merchants who paid duty on above average quantities of tobacco products and spirits before the duty increase announced in the Budget continued to sell those goods at the prices ruling before the duty increases. Customs officers have now reported that merchants- that is the major tobacco and liquor companies such as Rothmans- have abided by their assurances and have not increased prices on those goods on which duty was paid at the rates ruling before 2 1 August. Officers further reported that all merchants are now handling stock on which duty has been paid at the increased rates.
There are indications, however, that distributors and retailers did not all act with the same sense of public responsibility. My office and the
Department of Customs and Excise have received many complaints and reports of particular business houses which increased their prices on either liquor or tobacco products shortly after the Budget announcement. Many of these reported rises could not be justified even allowing for the accelerated turnover of stock created by speculative public buying. I am sure that honourable senators will join with me in deploring the action of those who have sought to profit at the expense of the public
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Is it a fact that this year’s direct contribution by the Federal Government for the continued construction of the Dartmouth Dam was Sl.lm and that the inflated cost of the Government’s purchase of the Jackson Pollock painting was nearly $1.3m? If these facts are correct, why did the Prime Minister request the deferment of the Dartmouth Dam when this Government is prepared to buy a painting for a greater amount of money? Does this not clearly show that this Government places a higher priority on a painting than it does on water for a community and also show the contemptuous disregard it has for the urgent needs and rights of South Australia? Is it not a fact that this Labor centralist Government has a greater preference for a bit of dried paint on canvas than it has for the needs and welfare of the people of South Australia?
-The answer to the honourable senator’s last 2 questions is no.
– Has the Minister for Primary Industry noticed Press reports stating that Dr Kissinger, the United States Secretary of State, has warned of dangerously low world food reserves and has made a proposal for a United Nations world food conference next year to ensure supplies? Would Australia be prepared to take part in such a conference?
-I have seen reports of the comments made by Dr Kissinger. Of course, they are nothing new. They have been made several times this year by many leading authorities on the world food situation. Nevertheless, they are quite correct. The Australian Government could be said to be one of the first governments to recognise this problem in very early this year taking the important step of creating the maximum incentive for the Australian wheat industry to plant the maximum wheat acreage this year. As a result of the initiatives that we took there has been a one-third increase in the acreage of wheat sown in Australia and. because of favourable weather conditions, we almost certainly will double our crop this year as compared with last year.
As to what steps may be taken internationally to meet this problem, in November I will be at a Food and Agriculture Organisation meeting in Rome where I understand this matter will be the subject of some discussion. However, I can say to the” honourable senator that the Australian Government has indicated already, by its actions earlier this year, that it will take every practicable step it can, in concert with other nations, to overcome what does appear to be an impending crisis in the world food supply.
– My “question is directed to the Minister representing, the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Has his attention been drawn to newspaper reports-last weekend that the Palestinian Liberation Movement has established a 20-storey headquarters in East Berlin? Will the Minister undertake to obtain from the Minister for Foreign Affairs details of the extent of the support by communist regimes for Arab terrorists and provide that information to the Senate in the form of a statement?
– My attention has not been drawn to that report, but I will see what I can find out and I will let the honourable senator know. ,
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral. Is it a fact that, the Government is considering closing about 300 Australian post offices? Is it a fact that this will represent a loss to the people of New South Wales of the services of more than 100 post offices in their State? Is it a fact that the contemplated action will lead to fewer jobs for postal workers and a breakdown in country services and will be a further blow to decentralisation?
– .1-. regret that I am not able to give any helpful information on this matter. As the honourable senator is aware, it comes within the province of the Minister for the Media as Minister representing the Postmaster-General in this chamber. I therefore ask that the question be placed on the notice, paper.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation. In the face of a rising sales drive by the manufacturers of the Concorde aircraft, can we have an assurance that, mindful of environmental hazards associated with this aircraft, Qantas Airways Ltd will exhibit the same caution in the procurement of this type of aircraft as has the Canadian Government?
– I saw a Press report that a representative was coming from England to Australia to discuss regular flights of the Concorde aircraft to commence in 1 975. 1 know that Qantas has had negotiations for the purchase of the aircraft. The question of the environmental impact or consequences of the Concorde is now occupying the attention of the Department of the Environment and Conservation. I think that before any final commitment is made we will have that report before us in order to see whether there are any environmental dangers in connection with these flights. I will keep the honourable senator informed.
– Is the Minister for Primary Industry aware of the economic hardship being experienced in the Riverland districts of South Australia due to the continuing inability of the fruit canning organisations to pay growers in full for fruit delivered in the 197 1-72 season? Is it a fact that a submission for additional assistance to offset the effects on canneries of currency realignments in 1971 and 1972 prior to revaluation has been presented to the Minister by the Australian Canned Fruits Board? Has a decision yet been made in respect of this submission? If not, will the Minister pursue the matter as one of extreme urgency? Further, will consideration be given to converting to a grant the amount of $383,000 provided as a loan by the Government to South Australian canneries in December of last year, to enable acceleration of payments to growers for 1 97 1 -72 fruit?
– It is true that both cooperatives in the Riverland area- that is the Riverland Fruit Products Co-operative Ltd and the Jon Preserving Co-operative Ltd- have unfortunately had a long history of financial difficulty and an inability to pay their growers. I think the current position is that payments have not been completed for the 1971-72 season. But in reply to a question that Senator Laucke asked me some 2 or 3 weeks ago, I think it should be stated that the performance of these Riverland co-operatives has not been as good in a similar market as the performance of Victorian cooperatives, and I think there is probably room for some reconsideration of the manner in which these Riverland co-operatives are operating.
In regard to the specific points which the honourable senator raises, yes, I have received the submission to which he refers and it is receiving urgent consideration. At this stage I would not make any commitment about converting the loan of $383,000 to a grant until such time as I have had an opportunity properly to study that submission. But I could and should say that the Government has agreed to defer the repayments on previous loans to those co-operatives- I think the first instalment of about $ 100,000 was due on 1 June this year- until, I think, 1 January of next year. So a 6 months extension has been provided there. So there is specific assistance in that area. But until such time as I have had an opportunity properly to study the submission I cannot give the specific commitment for which the honourable senator asks.
– I ask a question of the Minister representing the Treasurer. No doubt the Minister is aware that many people live on the West Coast of Tasmania in what might be called an unpleasant, cold and damp climate and that these Tasmanians -
– Order! That is giving information, Senator. We all know that it is cold and damp.
-The Minister might not have been there. Anyway, I will ask the question, Mr President. Thank you very much. Because of the extremes of climate, will the Government consider classing the West Coast of Tasmania as an area worthy of special taxation rates so as partially to compensate the residents for their hardship?
– On one occasion I became painfully aware of the conditions mentioned in the first part of the honourable senator’s question. I will pass the question on to the Treasurer to get some comments.
-We seem to have advanced to a new stage. First, there was secret government and nobody knew what had happened. Then under this Administration there was open government and everybody seemed to know everything that was happening. Now we have reached the third stage where things are published in the newspapers before they have happened. I simply say to the honourable senator that the reports which were published in the newspaper of an appointment having been made and of salary figures are not correct. In saying that, I am not suggesting to the honourable senator that -
– Where there is smoke there is fire.
– As the honourable senator said, there might be some smoke because there might be a fire ultimately. But there simply has not been an appointment. So it would not be appropriate to deal with the matters which the honourable senator has raised.
– My question, which is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate, concerns Mr Azzam, the Somali citizen who illegally entered Australia. Is he still in Australia? Has the Minister any information as to whether newspaper reports suggesting that while he was imprisoned here he was interrogated by Israeli security officers are correct?
- Mr Azzam is not in Australia. My information is that he left Australia yesterday afternoon. The answer to the second part of the honourable senator’s question is that there is no foundation whatever for the suggestions in some newspaper reports that while he was imprisoned here he was interrogated by Israeli security officers. He was not interrogated by any security officer, or other official or person having any connection whatever with Israel. He was not seen by any such person. There is no substance in the allegation that anyone from the Government of Israel, in any capacity, had any contact with him.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Tourism and Recreation. It will be remembered that quite a number of defalcations on the part of tourist agents occurred in the last 2 to 3 years and that early this year an announcement was made about legislation being prepared to regulate tourist agents. What is the present stage of that legislation?
– The regulation is in the course of preparation. Instructions have been given. I cannot speak with any certainty, but my understanding is that it is hoped that the legislation will be introduced some time during these sittings.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Primary Industry. No doubt he is aware of the anxiety existing among wheat purchasing nations. In view of the expert predictions of a world-wide grain shortage this year, can the Minister indicate whether any clear picture of the likely level of Australia’s wheat crop has emerged?
– This question is very similiar to one I answered just a short while ago. At present the specific estimate of the crop is that it will be in the vicinity of 450 million bushels delivered to the Australian Wheat Board. From that figure must be deducted the amount which will be required for the Australian market, which will probably be in the vicinity of 70 million bushels. At this stage, there could be available for export 300 million to 350 million bushels. I am hopeful that the figure will be higher than that.
– My question is directed to you, Mr President. In view of the strike by electricity workers in New South Wales and in view of the fact that the Australian Capital Territory is dependent upon New South Wales power stations for electicity, what provision is available to enable the business of Parliament to be carried on in the event of a blackout involving Parliament House? Does Parliament House have an auxiliary power plant? If not, is any other source of emergency lighting available or must we remain in the dark?
– I will make investigations in relation to the substance of the honourable senator’s question and let him know the results. 1 think that it is proper for the honourable senator to raise the matter. But I think that the electric power supply for the Australian Capital Territory comes under the responsibility of a Minister of the Government who should see that there is electric power for Parliament House.
– Will the Minister representing the Postmaster-General draw to his attention the fact that a great many public telephones in the Griffith, Narrabundah and Red Hill area are at present out of order because of acts of vandalism? As these acts of vandalism are causing great inconvenience to the general public, will he ask the Postmaster-General to take the necessary action to have these services restored at an early date?
– Yes, I will do that. I know that it is a cause of great distress, not only in the Australian Capital Territory but also elsewhere. I think I could suggest that the Australian Capital Territory police also be asked to assist the Postmaster-General in seeing whether the incidence of vandalism can be diminished.
-Can the AttorneyGeneral inform the Senate on the progress made with the divorce law reform matters which he intends to bring before the Senate?
-Yes, I can do that. A Bill has been drafted. I am seeking the views on the various principles and so forth embodied in it from various experts in the field. I would hope to be able to introduce that Bill during these sittings of the Parliament. Although I say that the bill has been drafted, it has not been before Cabinet. But it is in an appropriate form as far as one can take it through the drafting stages. It has been considered and the principles on which it is based have been discussed fairly widely. I have had discussions on it in South Australia and New South Wales at least. Meetings have been directed towards this question. There has been a good deal of public airing of the principles, which are fairly well known.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Customs and Excise. Press reports over the last few days have suggested that in some areas a shortage of foodstuffs has developed and it is necessary to obtain requirements from overseas. In view of these circumstances, does the Minister feel that these goods should be subjected to protective rates of duty?
– The position is that where a user of Australian products is forced to go overseas for some of his requirements because the local industry is unable to supply, the protective duties are waived and the goods are admitted under by-law. This has been a long-standing practice and it has been especially the case following the Government’s decision to make the administration of by-laws more flexible. That applies not only to foodstuffs but also to other commodities. For example, there is a shortage of some types of steel and steel users have been advised that they can obtain requirements from overseas under by-law while this shortage continues. Similar arrangements have been made to waive duty on other products. To the extent that there is a short-fall in domestic requirements, importers and users should discuss the problem with the Department of Customs and Excise so that appropriate arrangements can be made.
– I direct a question to the Attorney-General. Is it a fact that some Commonwealth Government employees such as some parliamentary secretaries, but by no means all of them, and all the Commonwealth car drivers and bus drivers are debarred by law from the security of being permanent public servants? Does he agree that this is unfair discrimination and would he undertake to have this situation rectified?
-I would like to look into this matter because Ministers sitting behind me inform me that the basis on which the honourable senator puts the question is not correct. I understand that there is no inflexibility. It would be better if we knew exactly what the arrangement is.
– Is the AttorneyGeneral aware of the efforts of various penal reform organisations to change the revenge ethic in our penal institutions? Has he noted the strong views of a Liberal Member of the Legislative Council in Victoria who said that we retain the ancient barbarism and mental torture in our punitive system and that there is no greater wrong perpetrated in our society than that which goes under the name of justice? Recognising that the Attorney-General has an enlightened attitude on such social questions, will he give consideration to initiating discussions with State Ministers for Justice to examine better methods of dealing with offenders than incarceration in existing penal institutions?
– The honourable senator may recall that the platform of the Australian Labor Party contains a reference to this subject. That reference is along these lines: The criminal laws ought to be reformed so that the emphasis is on prevention of crime and rehabilitation of offenders rather than on punishment. Obviously the purpose of any system of justice ought to be the prevention of crime and the protection of the public rather than revenge. Unfortunately, because human beings are made up as they are, the revenge motive is still a very strong thread running through the law. In society the element of revenge is still strong. However I think that Federal and State laws are moving in the direction of putting more emphasis on rehabilitation and on protection of the public. I certainly will be glad to take up the honourable senator’s suggestion.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Transport and it refers to the announcement that a Canadian citizen, Mr Charles Halton, has been appointed as head of the Commonwealth Department of Transport. Is it the emphatic view of the Commonwealth Government that there is no Australian, in the Commonwealth or State Public Services, in commercial or industrial enterprise, or in the academic sphere in the whole of this nation who is sufficiently equipped to undertake this appointment? Secondly, how does the Minister reconcile this action with the trenchant criticism directed by the Prime Minister at the appointment of an American instead of an Australian as head of a great automotive industry in Australia?
-The Government is not of the emphatic view that there is no Australian with such capabilities. Something new to Australia is arising with the merging of the transport organisations into one transport authority. A suitable applicant was available. That applicant has had experience in such operations involving a department of transport covering all fields of transport. The Government was of the opinion that such an appointment was suitable and therefore it was made. I do not think this matter can be linked with some criticism made about the operations of a private company that deals with one operation only, that of car manufacturing. What is proposed is new in Australian departmental history. I recognise that State governments have done the same thing. The Government’s appointment is justified because the applicant has outstanding experience in this field. He was available. The Government appointed him because he was the best applicant known to it for the position concerned.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation able to say whether any representations have been made recently for improving the facilities at the Devonport Airport terminal? Is he aware that the facilities at this terminal are now quite inadequate to meet the reasonable needs of the travelling public and substantially below those to be expected in an airport serving a developing region such as this? Will he ask the Minister for Civil Aviation whether he will indicate the prospects of having improvements carried out at the Devonport terminal in order to correct the existing situation so that the reasonable needs of the travelling public are met?
– I am unacquainted with whether there has been a survey of the needs of the Devonport Airport or whether such a survey is in hand. I shall take up the matter with the responsible Minister in order to obtain an answer for the honourable senator. On the basis of Senator Townley ‘s description, in a question asked earlier today, of this area of Tasmania Senator Townley represents the area- I would question whether it is worth spending money on it. But Senator Wriedt assures me that Senator Townley ‘s description was not a good one. So I shall take up the matter with the Minister for Civil Aviation.
– Is the Minister for Primary Industry aware that the Australian managing director of the canned food company H. J. Heinz Co. Australia Ltd, Mr Kellow, said yesterday that Australians would have to learn to adjust to synthetic food because natural food threatened to become even dearer and in shorter supply? Is the Minister concerned about that prospect? Does he agree that greater production of natural food should be encouraged? If so, what does the Government intend to do about it?
– I have seen the statement attributed to Mr Kellow of the Heinz company. I am not greatly concerned about the fact that synthetic foods may become much more prominent in our diet than they have been in the past. I think it is inevitable that they will.
– The donkeys eat chaff.
-And the donkeys growl also. The important point is that the Government since it came to office has endeavoured to maintain a realistic balance between the production of primary products and the requirements of the market. It does not require a great deal of knowledge to realise that this is always a fluctuating situation because of the market demands. We will continue to try to maintain that balance. I am sure that this Government will not place any impediments in the way of the production of primary products where those products can be sold profitably on world markets.
– My question, which is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate, relates to the Department of the Media. Is it a fact that the Prime Minister announced at his Press conference yesterday that Cabinet had decided to hold a further inquiry into frequency modulation radio broadcasting? If so, is it a fact that the new inquiry arises as a direct result of the recommendation of the Senate Standing Committee on Education, Science and the Arts? Can the Minister indicate how long this further inquiry will take? Will the Government also take into account the Senate Committee’s recommendations concerning the appointment of qualified people who have not had previous association with the problem or who may be available from overseas to assist with the inquiry?
– It is true that the Prime Minister announced that Cabinet had decided to establish a new public inquiry into the implications of establishing frequency modulation radio in Australia. The Prime Minister said that Cabinet had taken note of the interim report of the Senate Standing Committee on Education, Science and the Arts which had recommended the setting up of a new inquiry. The inquiry will concern itself with the cost to the public of future services and will take account of” the Government’s policy of encouraging plurality of involvement in the media. It will investigate both the technical and the socio-economic implications of establishing FM radio in Australia. The Government is concerned to minimise the delay in reaching a final decision on FM radio. The information given to me is that because of this the members of the new committee of inquiry will be asked to report to the Government by January of next year.
The terms of reference are to be drawn up by the Minister for the Media, the Postmaster-General and the Treasurer. The Government accepts the need to ensure that the people chosen to conduct the inquiry should be qualified, independent and able to assist to clarify the matter which, as the honourable senator knows, has been surrounded with some controversy and difference of opinion.
– My question is directed to the Special- Minister of State and follows the question asked by Senator Drake-Brockman about the unfortunate Taiwanese fishermen who were arrested in Perth for fishing offences. I ask the Minister: Who looks after the interests of Taiwanese citizens in Australia who find themselves in these unfortunate circumstances?
-As I understand it, the situation is that they have been arrested on fishing charges. It would be the responsibility of their company to protect them in any court action that should be taken against them.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Science. Is it a fact that the United States-Australia Agreement for Scientific and Technical Co-operation expires next month? Is it to be renewed? If it is not to be renewed, why not? If it is to be renewed, are extra funds being made available by Australia for the purposes of the Agreement?
-I will endeavour to get an answer for the honourable senator over the lunch hour. I would ask the honourable senator to place his question on the notice paper if I cannot get an answer then.
– Order ! In accordance with the sessional order, I will lift the Senate in a moment. But I think it is proper that the matter raised by Senator Lawrie, which is of high importance to Parliament, should be answered now. The information that I have been immediately able to assemble is, firstly, that during the years of the Pacific war emergency lighting sets were installed in Parliament House. Secondly, our emergency lighting system relies on 2 torches in the attendants’ boxes in the Kings Hall. The normal process is that, by direction, for load shedding Parliament House is the last place blacked out. In my opinion the matter is now assuming a degree of seriousness and I shall take steps to see whether emergency lighting sets can be made available in order that Parliament shall continue and not be put out of action as a result of industrial action of one sort or another.
Sitting suspended from 12.48 to 2.15 p.m.
– The honourable senators will recollect that prior to the suspension of the sitting I informed honourable senators in answer to a question by Senator Lawrie that I would make some inquiries about emergency power that might be required. I now inform honourable senators that it requires 100 kVA to keep this Parliament House operating at a fairly high level of efficiency so far as lights, bells and so on are concerned. Also, I have located a plant of 100 kVA capacity which is portable and which could be brought to Parliament House if a decision is taken to do so. In the event of a blackout it will probably take 4 hours to have this plant operational, having regard to the arrangement of switching processes, changing circuits and so on. In conjunction with Mr Speaker I will further consider whether this plant should be brought into the vicinity of Parliament House. I will have inquiries made of the armed forces to see whether other sets of a portable nature can be brought to Parliament House. I want to make it perfectly clear that the procedures of government of this country will not be impeded by adventitious blackouts.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation whether the Government intends to refer the reported rise in air fares to the Prices Justification Tribunal? If not, does this indicate that the Government regards itself as being above the rules it lays down for private enterprise?
– This matter is somewhat complicated. An increase in the level of air fares will flow from an agreement between the Government and the airlines. Negotiations are now proceeding. When they are completed a decision will be made whether there will be some increase in air fares.
– So you will not subject it to the Tribunal?
-The Prices Justification Tribunal is restricted in its operation to the powers that the Commonwealth believes it has as a result of the decision taken in the concrete pipes case. I do not know whether the Tribunal has the power to deal with air fares. But as I said, negotiations are going on in regard to the agreement. Before the Government permits an increase in air fares it will convince itself that the rise is justified having regard to the current increase in wages.
Minister representing the Minister for Housing recall stating on 11 September in answer to a question by me that ex-servicewomen qualify the same way as ex-servicemen for defence service homes finance? I now ask: Do single exservicewomen qualify, and what are the factors governing their eligibility? Does the provision apply to single women who served in World War II?
– I had a complete reply to this question with me yesterday but I regret to say that I do not have it with me today. However, during the afternoon I will find out the details and give them to the honourable senator.
– I address my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration. To what country has the alleged A 1 Fatah terrorist, Mr Azzam, been deported? Has any agreement been reached with the country to which he has been deported that he will serve the balance of his sentence of imprisonment imposed in Australia? If not, does this mean that he will be a free man when he reaches the country to which he has been deported?
– I do not desire to answer the first question. As to the second question, no arrangements have been made for the serving in any other country of a sentence imposed here.
– I ask a supplementary question of the Attorney-General. For what reason does he decline to answer the first part of my question?
-I decline for the reason that advice was given to me- and I accept that advice- that such a disclosure ought not to be made. It may be possible that at this moment it would not matter, but I do not want to make that disclosure until I am satisfied that it is proper to do so. It is simply a matter of time. I do not want to answer that question right now.
– Has the attention of the Minister representing the Minister for Minerals and Energy been drawn to reports of the fact that the International Nickel Company of Canada Ltd, the world’s largest nickel producer, is closing down its Australian exploration and development programs as a result of concern over the Government’s minerals policy? Is it a fact that considerable unemployment will result from this action and that substantial mining developments in Queensland and Western Australia will not now proceed, with a consequent loss to those States and to Australian exports?
– No, my attention has not been drawn to this particular matter. I will have to refer the question to the Minister concerned and obtain an answer.
-I ask the Minister for Primary Industry whether he has noted today’s Press report relating to responses made by vegetable growers’ representatives to comments by canneries about shortages of supplies of vegetables for canning. Has the Minister noted that the reason given was the low price offered by the canneries? Has he also noted that the Heinz company proposes an application for by-law entry and that the cost will be substantially more than the prices presently paid in Australia? In view of the need for greater production and the threats of food shortages, will the Minister give any information which he has on the subject of canners’ prices? If not, will he make inquiries and let the Senate know?
– I saw the statement attributed to, I think, the managing director of the Heinz company. This is a matter over which the Commonwealth would have no power whatsoever. Apparently it is an agreement which is entered into between the processors and the growers. Since I took over this portfolio my attention has been drawn to the fact that the amounts being paid to the growers appear to be grossly inequitable. The wholesale prices which are being obtained by the processors have increased out of all proportion to the increase in the return to the grower. But constitutionally the Commonwealth cannot exercise any authority over the matter. I do not think that the States have authority either. I repeat that it is a pricing arrangement which is entered into between the growers and the processing firms. As much as I would like to see something done I think that it is not within my power to do anything about it.
– The Government could hand out a tariff on the imported commodities.
– If the honourable senator will give me an opportunity to answer I shall endeavour to answer the other part of the question. I think that that section of Senator Davidson’s question is really a matter for my colleague the Minister for Customs and Excise, if he is prepared to answer it. I think that the best thing is to do as the honourable senator invited me to do in the latter part of his question. I shall obtain a reply in relation to that part of the question and forward it to him.
– I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate whether it is a fact, as reported in today’s news media, that the Government intends to hold a referendum for the purpose of referring to it power over prices and incomes. I ask: If the power over incomes is referred to this Government, will it use that power?
– If the power over incomes is given to this Parliament, the Government will use whatever power this Parliament in its wisdom chooses to confer upon the Government. If the Senate agrees with the proposal, it is intended that the people should have an early opportunity to decide whether this Parliament should be clothed with the legislative power to make laws about prices and also whether it should be clothed with the power to make laws about incomes. It would wait upon whatever laws were made by the Parliament before any government would be entitled to implement those laws.
– I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate: Is the Federal Government’s reported decision to require all foreign embassies to pay rates on properties in Canberra designed to bolster that city’s municipal budget? If the answer is in the affirmative, will the Governments-give consideration to extending this important principle that rates should be paid on all properties by agreeing that the Australian Government should pay rates on all of its properties to the relevant local authorities, thus rectifying a serious grievance between the Australian Government and local government throughout Australia?
– That is a very important question, and I ask the honourable senator to be kind enough to place it on the notice paper.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister for Primary Industry, is supplementary to the one asked of him earlier about synthetic foods. Is the Minister aware that the major food need within the developing countries so as to overcome malnutrition is to increase the daily consumption of animal protein as distinct from vegetable protein which is obtained from the various grains or cereals? Does he realise that synthetic foods essentially are based on vegetable protein such as soya beans and therefore are not a solution to the vital dietary problems of the developing countries? Does he also realise that the essentials are animal proteins, minerals and vitamins and that cereals on their own merely maintain narrow subsistence?
– The question invites a long answer and a discussion of what is the essence of the world food problem. The points made by the honourable senator about protein requirements are quite valid. But the problem will not be solved by this Australian Government, any more than it was by the previous Australian Government; nor will it be solved by Australia acting in isolation from the rest of the food producing countries. The immediate problem we face is to ensure that sufficient grains are available in the coming 12 months to at least keep people alive, whether they are fed on cereals with protein or cereals without protein. As I said in my answer to an earlier question, it was the Australian Government which recognised that fact early this year and increased the first advance payment to the wheat growers of Australia, so giving them the incentive they required to increase plantings in order to produce the maximum crop this year. It was the first time that this had been done for 13 years, which was, of course, during the time of the previous Administration.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Primary Industry. Following the Treasurer’s statements in the Federal Budget Speech, can the Minister state whether subsidies on superphosphate will continue? Will he clarify the position in relation to the tax deductibility of the cost of the application of superphosphate?
Will the cost of the application of superphosphate on developmental land still be 100 per cent deductible in the year of application as in the case of other costs of production?
– The question appears to be in 2 parts. The continuation of the subsidy is provided for already in the 2 Acts which relate to subsidies. Those 2 Acts run until December next year. I would have to refer the second part of the question-that concerning taxation- to the Treasurer to obtain an accurate answer, and I shall do so.
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for Defence seen a Press statement reported to have been made by a former Army officer and member of the Australian Labor Party Federal Executive’s Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee in which he stated that the Minister for Defence had been defeated in the councils of government by the left wing with respect to defence policies? Has he also noted that this gentleman stated that morale in the Australian Army is at a very low ebb and that the Returned Services League has agreed with this latter statement? As the Government has contributed directly to this state of affairs, what is it doing to revive the interest of the personnel in the Army? Lastly, is it a fact that a large number of personnel from the Army have been transferred or moved into Puckapunyal and that the housing in this area is inadequate? Does the Government propose to take action to improve the housing at that installation in the interest of boosting morale?
– Answering, firstly, the last part of the question which referred to housing, we have inherited the housing that was built at Puckapunyal by the previous Liberal governments. They had 23 years in which to improve the housing of servicemen, but they did not do it. The bill for defence housing that the Labor Government will meet is approximately $60 m. In regard to what Senator Jessop says Major Young said, Major Young is not a spokesman for the Labor Party. He was a member of the Labor Party, but he does not speak on behalf of the Minister for Defence. May I make a point about morale? Major Young said that the morale in the Services is low. If it is low it is not the fault of the Labor Government. I will mention some of the things that we have already done since we have been in power.
For example, we have improved the benefits provided under the defence forces retirement benefits scheme. The previous Government rejected the Jess report. We accepted the report and improved upon it. We have increased pay scales. We have improved the classifications of pay within the defence forces. A huge amount of money has been set aside for making those sorts of improvements. We have provided a bounty of $1,000 for re-engagement in the Services. The previous Government had the chance to do that, but it did not do so. The previous Government said that we could not raise a volunteer Army. A volunteer Army is being raised. We passed legislation which gives serving sevicemen the option of receiving repatriation benefits or compensation benefits. Yesterday honourable senators opposite approved of that legislation and said that it was a great thing. We did this. The previous Government had a chance to do it, but it did not do so. So I cannot understand why the honourable senator should ask such a silly question.
- Mr President, I suggest that further questions should be placed on the notice paper.
Formal Motion for the Adjournment
– I inform the Senate that I have received a letter from Senator McManus which reads as follows:
Dear Mr President, 25 September 1973
In accordance with Standing Order 64,I intend to move on Wednesday, 26 September 1973:-
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn until tomorrow (Thursday) at 9.59 a.m.- for the purpose of debating a matter of urgency, namely, the reduction of Australia ‘s defences to a degree which destroys the morale of our armed forces, leaves Australia without credibility as an ally and gravely endangers our security.
Deputy Leader, D.L.P.
Is the motion supported? (More than the number of senators required by the Standing Orders having risen in their places.)
Motion (by Senator McManus)- by leaveagreed to:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the motion from being moved at 8 p.m. this day unless otherwise ordered.
-Mr President, may I give an answer to a question which Senator Rae asked? I indicated that I might be able to obtain the answer during the suspension of the sittings.
-The United StatesAustralia Agreement for Scientific and Technical Cooperation was signed in July this year. It takes effect from October and it covers the next 5 years. In this financial year, 1973-74, a program of activities has been developed, and it is expected that expenditure of the order of $50,000 will be incurred through the Department of Science in support of activities under the agreement.
– I have some further information in answer to a question which Senator Drake-Brockman asked me earlier. I seek leave to pass on that information to the Senate.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– After coming to office, the present Government reviewed the war service homes scheme and made several major amendments which were incorporated into the Defence Service Homes Act 1973. Eligibility was extended to include serving members of the regular forces serving on 7 December 1972 who, before or after that date, completed 3 years effective full time service. The eligibility provisions were also extended to include single and widowed members of the nursing service and the women’s service, without dependants, who would otherwise meet the eligibility requirements of the Act.
– I lay on the table of the Senate the report of my recent visit to the thirteenth South Pacific Conference.
– Pursuant to section 19 of the AngloAustralian Telescope Agreement Act 1 970- 1 97 1 , I present the reports on the Anglo-Australian Telescope Project for the years ended 30 June 1971 and 30 June 1972.
– For the information of honourable senators, I present the interim report of the Director of Defence Service Homes with statements and balance sheet for the year ended 30 June 1973. When the final report is available, I shall present it in accordance with statutory requirements.
– Pursuant to section 32b of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Power Act 1949-1966, I present the twenty-fourth annual report of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority for the year ended 30 June 1973 together with financial statements and the report of the Auditor-General on those statements.
– Pursuant to section 38 of the Industrial Research and Development Grants Act 1967-1972, 1 present the sixth annual report of the Australian Industrial Research and Development Grants Board for the year ended 30 June 1973.
– For the information of Honourable senators I present the report on restructuring the criminal justice system in the Northern Territory dated 20 July 1973.
Debate resumed from 19 September (vide page 702), on motion by Senator Douglas McClelland:
That Standing Order 242 be suspended to enable the third reading of the Constitution Alteration (Prices) Bill to be passed without a call of the Senate.
– Last Wednesday the Minister for the Media (Senator Douglas McClelland) moved this motion and spoke to it. After he concluded his speech I moved the adjournment of the debate. We take the attitude at this moment that if the Government has the numbers to get the Bill passed it will have the numbers to have the motion to suspend standing order 242 carried. I think we ought to put it quite clearly on the record that if the Federal Government can get the Bill passed by the Senate we are prepared to have the referendum held at the earliest possible date. We are not afraid to go to the people of Australia and put our case as to what a totally phoney operation these 2 referendum Bills are. I know that the Government has been backing and filling. It has been getting different directions and riding instructions from the President of the Australian Labor Party, the President of the Australian Council of Trade
Unions, a member of the Board of the Reserve Bank of Australia, Uncle Tom Cobbleigh and all. We know that there have been all sorts of backings and fillings going on in Caucus. Its members do not seem to know their minds from one day to another. As a result of a lot of haggling, dealing and organising in the last couple of days. Caucus has now had its tail twisted by another Party in the Senate. I congratulate that Party on its effort in being able to make the Government do as it wishes. I think that the Australian Democratic Labor Party ought to be congratulated. As a Party consisting of 4 members in the Senate it is able to tell the Government of Australia what it will do. Surely that must put a feather in its cap.
As I have said, we are not afraid of a referendum issue. We are quite convinced that when it is time to put the question to the people of Australia they will understand what it is all about. They will understand that the inflation which is at present raging in this country was caused solely by the present Government. It was not imported. It did not just arise out of the economic atmosphere. They will realise that ti e whole of the inflationary situation which is at present driving the Australian taxpayer to distraction has been caused by this Government’s total mismanagement of the Australian economy. This is a Government that has been devoted to dogma and not to sound economic judgment. We are not afraid to pull on the Government. We saw what happened at the Parramatta byelection last Saturday. There, in spite of al! the Government’s phoney promises about building hospitals here and there, how it will fix up the cities, how it wants a prices referendum and how it wants something else, the people of Parramatta said: ‘It is not on. We just do not like this Government. It is incompetent, it cannot manage the economy and it cannot manage the country*. The people of Parramatta tipped out the Labor Party. There was a 6, 7 or 8 per cent swing. That indicates what the people of Parramatta thought of this Government. We on this side of the Senate are quite confident that the same result or even better will be repeated when the referendum is put to the people. For those reasons we will not oppose the 2 1-day call. I know that those who drew up the Standing Orders had good and valid reasons for making this provision.
– The honourable senator is now like a duck going to water.
-If I went to water I would want to find something a little better than a funny looking duck. We are not afraid of taking on this matter. Why should we be afraid of going to the people to argue our case? We went to them in Parramatta’ and argued our case, and look what happened. All honourable senators opposite received a ducking.
– You will go in December.
-If the Leader of ..the Government in the Senate (Senator Murphy) thinks that the Government can repeat the December general election result, he should have his Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) go over to Yarralumla and ask the Governor-General for a double dissolution of the Parliament. Then we will have another general election with the referendum on 15 December, if the Government wants it. Let the Government pull on that proposition and see whether the. result of the Parramatta by-election will not be repeated. It is all very well for the Government to talk about December. We are talking* about 26 September and we are talking about what happened at Parramatta last Saturday. The Government’s mandate is looking pretty sick now. So we do hot mind; we are prepared to go to the people and as far as we are concerned, the sooner the better. The Parramatta by-election has shown that the people of Australia have had the Government up to the neck.
-The Australian Country Party- supports the proposition advanced by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Withers). We -are quite pleased that this motion has been moved. It is an important matter. It is not one for the type of debate that apparently flows from Government ‘supporters who are laughing as though this” is a joking matter. The most serious matter presently facing the Australian community is the inflation rate. The socialist Labor Government came to office some 9 months ago without any thought whatsoever at that time- at least, without announcing it- that it needed this power to control prices and wages and salaries. It has administered the affairs of this country for a period of 9 months. It struck me a few minutes ago when the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Bishop) was answering a question on th6 morale in the Army at the present time how confident he was that the Labor Party had done all tha tit possibly could. I acknowledge that this may be the attitude of the socialists. They may feel that they have done all they can. But in actual fact, the situation today is that the morale of the Services is completely degraded. The point is that the actions of the Labor Party have been completely incorrect for the Australian society. In that respect, and in respect of the economic management of this country, the Labor Party has shown that all it can do is bring the Australian community to disaster, particularly in relation to the depreciation of our money and the inflationary trend that we have. At no stage in our history has the inflationary rate been as excessive as it is at the present time.
I understand that the immediate proposals of the Government were absolutely abhorred by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) a week or 10 days ago. I understand that he said he did not want a bar of a prices referendum. His attitude was changed by Caucus which apparently thought that it did want a prices referendum. However at that stage Caucus did not want a bar of the idea that the Federal Government should have the ability to get rid of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. That in fact is what will happen. Any reference to this Government of power over incomes or salaries, whatever it may be, in fact will mean that the conciliation and arbitration system in this country will be bypassed. A week ago the Labor Party Caucus decided, in its wisdom, that that power should not be given to the Federal Government. In that regard I found myself in agreement with the Labor Party Caucus for the first time since I have been in the Senate.
I understand that today during question time in the House of Representatives a question was put to the Prime Minister asking whether the Government, if granted power over incomes, would use that power. The answer by the Prime Minister was: ‘No’. Have you ever heard of such a two faced attitude in your life? The Prime Minister said that the Government wanted a referendum so that the people could give it power over incomes but when asked whether he would use that power he said ‘No’. To have a referendum is a complete waste of the people’s money. I asked the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Murphy) the same question today and the answer that he gave can be read in the continuing serial of the irresponsibility of the Labor Party which will appear in Hansard tomorrow.
– Has he told his new ally, the DLP?
– I do not know whether he has told the Democratic Labor Party. I attempted yesterday to question Senator Byrne, to prompt him on one or two things and to suggest that he ought to be very cautious of his bedfellows in any agreement. He should be cautious of what the Prime Minister intends to do. I agree with the Democratic Labor Party suggestion that there should be a prices and incomes reference if there is to be any reference at all, but the Prime Minister has said that if the Government gets the ability to control incomes it will not control them. Surely that is the greatest sell-out of a minority party that has ever occurred in this Parliament. The Government believes that by having some power over prices and incomes it can do something to reduce the inflationary rate. Incidentally, the Government has never described, either in the House of Representatives or in the Senate, the method by which it will declare its control over prices. Not one member of the Government has ever volunteered a statement addressed to the people of Australia in which it has told them how it would do this.
The Opposition believes that if this matter is to go forward it should not be deferred. I am very happy for the question to be put to the people although I regret that it will be an inconvenience and that it will be a cost to the Australian public. This centralist, socialist Government really is seeking power which will deprive the States and other responsible bodies in Australia of their proper role. However I am happy for the people of Australia to judge this matter. I agree with the statements of the Leader of the Opposition.
– The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Withers) has indicated that the Opposition recognises the reality of the present situation and will not oppose this motion. The motion seeks to suspend the standing order which otherwise would require the lapse of 2 1 days between the passing of the second reading of the Constitution Alteration (Prices) Bill, which is about to be debated, and the putting of the motion for the third reading of the Bill. If there were a doubt as to whether the second reading of the Bill would be carried there would be some reason for maintaining what has been inserted in our Standing Orders, and inserted for very good reason. But, as the Leader of the Opposition has said, we recognise that the Australian Democratic Labor Party and the Government have combined on this matter.
I join with my Leader in acknowledging the persuasiveness of the Democratic Labor Party. It has been able to induce the party which for so long has been its most violent critic to accede to what it wants. In those circumstances we recognise that the motion will be carried. But if we have from Labor Party senators, including the garrulous Senator Poyser, any more comments about how weak, how indifferent to the public interest and how unwilling to stand up for itself the previous Liberal-Country Party Government was because it had the support of the Democratic Labor Party on many of its responsible measures, then the Labor Party should recognise that it wears the same cloak now.
– There can be no circus without a clown.
– I can understand why Senator Poyser is so noisy. It is galling to the Australian Labor Party that it can have certain legislation passed only with the support of the Democratic Labor Party. But that is the democratic process. We recognise that this measure will go through. Therefore we want to direct our arguments and our opposition to the vital factors of the referendum proposals in order to expose the fallacies in what is being offered by the Government. We want to indicate that what the Government is doing is putting the prospect of constitutional power before the people as an excuse or a substitute for a real policy. The sooner we can do that, the better.
I think this point should be made: The motion for the suspension of this standing order has been moved in order to get this measure to the referendum as quickly as possible. The Constitution provides that there must be a lapse of 2 months between the assent to the Bill by the Governor-General and the presentation of the referendum to the people. Therefore one would suppose that it cannot be presented until the first, second or third week in December. Of course, during the intervening period nothing can be done under the proposed head of power. We just hope that the Australian Government will be prepared to recognise that there is a need for action in that intervening period. But the motion for the suspension of this standing order has been moved in order to ensure that the Bill passes through the Senate as quickly as possible and that the referendum can be held this year. We acknowledge the Government’s intention. We do not wish to oppose, once the decision to have the referendum has been made, the submission of the question to the people as soon as possible. But this standing order has to be suspended in order to achieve that result. It has to be suspended because of the haste with which this measure has been introduced. It has to be suspended because the consideration which one would suppose a constitutional alteration requires has not been given to this proposal.
We all know that on Tuesday, 1 1 September, and on all days prior to that the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) had been proceeding throughout the nation saying: ‘We do not believe that there should be a price control policy’. Of course, his whole conduct indicated that he did not believe in such a policy. On Wednesday, 12 September, until a certain hour of the day, he was saying the same thing. But then he was rolled in Caucus. Caucus took a different view; so the Prime Minister had to take a different view, whatever his own judgment was. Then, on the Thursday he introduced into the Parliament a Bill which is designed to allow the Australian Government to request the people of Australia to provide it with the power to implement a prices policy. That particular proposal does not seem to be going very well. There is again a question in Caucus as to whether there should be power to control incomes as well as prices, and Caucus says ‘No’, and the Prime Minister is once more in great difficulties. It is only now, after he has been to Caucus, that there has been once again a turn about and we find that a separate referendum is to be held. All of this bears the earmark of haste and evidences the lack of proper consideration as to what should be the approach adopted; and above all else it indicates the typical sorry state of mismanagement to which the Government of this country under the Labor Government has been reduced. Nothing illustrates better this lack of consideration and haste than that the Senate is now asked to suspend a standing order, the sole purpose of which is to allow, that contemplation, that review, that time for consideration, which ought to be given to all constitutional measures. All right, let the Senate suspend the standing order- we will not oppose it- but let it be just a further indelible example of the haste with which this ill-conceived measure has been produced.
-The Democratic Labor Party took the action that it did about this matter for one reason: We believed that a government which wants to ask the people ‘s opinion on a measure which it believes vital to the fight against inflation should be at least permitted to ask the people’s opinion. As to the use made of the powers, that depends on Parliament. There should be no exaggeration to the effect that if this referendum is held power is given to the Cabinet or to the Government to do anything it likes. Whatever procedure the Government takes, whatever machinery it institutes, comes under the scrutiny of Parliament. It has to be approved or disapproved by Parliament. All we are saying is that the people should be asked: Do they want this to be done? And there is nothing revolutionary in asking the people what they want done.
-I would not have risen in this debate but for the information given to the chamber by Senator Webster. I have heard what Senator McManus has had to say and I sympathise with him. I think that this is the only occasion since I have been in this Parliament on which I have not listened to him with a great deal of respect. I sympathise with him that he has fallen for a trap on the part of a deceitful party which is simply using political manoeuvre to skate through, I would think, a most perilous period of its political career. The Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) launched a proposal for a prices referendum. He then suggested that if a prices and incomes referendum were wanted, he would accept it. His Caucus rejected it. He suggested also that a prices referendum could be effective because he had the assurance of the President of the Australian Labor Party and President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, one Robert Hawke, that if he exercised compulsory price control the ACTU would cooperate in a voluntary wage restraint. That of course was false. I do not say it was intentionally false. But it is a matter for serious concern and thoughtful comment that 2 gentlemen of the intellectual acumen of Mr Whitlam and Robert Hawke should be genuinely misunderstanding each other on such a subject. But whether that is a question of deliberate distortion or no more than a misunderstanding, the fact was that Parliament received an assurance that if given compulsory price control there was an undertaking on the part of the President of the ACTU for voluntary wage restraint. Of course, Mr Hawke apparently, whether goaded or spontaneously, is capable of a few explosive remarks. Last week he commented upon the Cabinet in relation to other matters with a good deal of effect. But on this matter he was quite abrupt and said: ‘The ACTU had not authorised me to give any promise of voluntary wage restraint, nor did I give it. ‘ What was the response to that? We have Caucus insisting that the Bill, for which an application now has been made to suspend Standing Orders so that it should be speedily completed through its passage of the Parliament, should be presented without the Prime Minister’s promise of voluntary restraint and unaccompanied by his proposal for a wage control. Notwithstanding this, the Bill is going through the Parliament by the good graces of the Australian Democratic Labor Party.
We have seen these people who are divided amongst themselves strutting in corridor manoeuvres. They produced a vote yesterday on the second reading of this Bill on the understanding that wage control would be exercised by the Commonwealth power. They sit undismayed, although I do notice that Senator McManus, after his few brief remarks on this subject, has gone outside the chamber, I assume to cry because his Party has been misled and deceived as no intelligent person would admit. The Prime Minister said that he will go through the processes of getting power to control prices and wages, which is the bargain that the DLP has made. But today he said: ‘When I get it I am going to put it on the shelf. It is going among the old china while he visits the new China. Dear, oh dear, oh dear! The DLP has brought off this master stroke and we are in the process -
– I rise on a point of order. We are debating a motion to suspend Standing Orders. The honourable senator has traversed a great deal of ground, some of which could, I think, be said to have a bearing on the question of whether the Standing Orders should be suspended only by stretching the matter a great deal. But when the honourable senator comes to deal with what is proposed to be done, assuming that the referendum is passed and the constitutional power is granted, I submit, with respect to you, Sir, that he is no longer speaking relevantly to the motion to suspend the Standing Orders for the passage of the Bill.
– I only have the statements of Senator Withers, Senator Greenwood and Senator McManus that the proposition will not be opposed. Senator Wright seems to be indicating that he is not very happy about the motion. He is entitled to express his point of view and to support it. I do not know what is in his mind.
-By chance, Mr President, before the sitting was suspended for lunch I was looking for a few passages in ‘The Tempest’ appropriate to other matters emanating from the Whitlam Government. You will remember, Mr President, the lines in that play:
All I am doing, inoffensively I hope and as innocently as I can, is exposing the charade and insubstantial pageant that represents the cobweb of this compact which has been made between the ALP and the DLP. Why? Is it not relevant to the question of whether we should suspend Standing Orders?
The standing order that we are addressing ourselves to is a very special one. It has been thoughtfully put into the Standing Orders because of the unique role that the Senate plays in all constitutional amendments. It provides that before the third reading of any Bill by which an alteration of the Constitution is proposed there shall be a call of the Senate, which requires 2 1 days notice. This was put in for the purpose of requiring thoughtful processes to go into the preparation of constitutional amendments, just as the founding fathers in section 128 of the Constitution required that a Bill for the amendment of the Constitution, once passed its third reading stage, should not be impulsively and promptly pumped out to the public for debate tomorrow. As we know section 128 of the Constitution requires that there shall be a delay of at least 2 months so that a proper campaign and proper debate can take place in the country on the matter. The proposition before us is to suspend this standing order, which is put in for the very purpose of ensuring that before the debate begins in the country there should be proper debate in the parliament.
We have got used to Senator Murphy coming in here with a bundle of dunnage, putting it down on the table and saying: ‘My ipse dixit is so and so’, then the Senate resolves accordingly and the matter is finished. The DLP, having consummated its compact with the Government last night, now has an opportunity to debate the Bill further in the Committee stage. My Leader, Senator Withers, and Senator Greenwood, have indicated that it is proper that we should think on this matter. Having given it consideration I say now that I will not vote against it. But I want to exhibit the complete charade that is going on. Having had the service of my messenger to get me my Shakespeare I remind honourable senators of these lines from the ‘The Tempest’.
Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff
As dreams are made on, and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.
This is the sleep which divided the great DLP compact and today’s proposition to suspend this standing order.
– Could I move the suspension of Standing Orders to allow Senator Wright to do an encore. That was a wonderful act.
– Order. There is no point of order involved.
– I rise to speak on this question for only one reason, and that is to say something about the despicable attack which was made by Senator Wright on Senator McManus, who is the Acting Leader of the Australian Democratic Labor Party. Senator Wright implied that Senator McManus left this chamber after he had made certain remarks. Apparently Senator Wright flatters himself to the extent that he thinks that Senator McManus would leave because he feared anything Senator Wright might say. I point out that in this debate
Senator McManus is Acting Leader of the DLP and has assumed all the responsibilities of leadership. Surely Senator Wright should know that it would be as fair for me to imply that his leader left this chamber whilst he was speaking because his own leader felt contemptuous towards the remarks that he made. I do not make that allegation at all. I merely point to the fact that leaders have to leave the chamber because of other obligations. It is of no significance to me that Senator Withers left the chamber and that he has just returned when Senator Wright has seen fit to conclude his remarks. Senator McManus had a broadcasting commitment which he was holding up in order to make the remarks which he made in the Senate. He had to leave immediately. When it comes to the other things which Senator Wright saw fit to say about this Party -
– Order! The debate is on whether standing order 242 will be suspended.
– I am speaking to the suspension in the same vein as Senator Wright did. He also said that he would vote for the proposition. It is true that the Democratic Labor Party has adopted a particular stand on the propositions which are before the Parliament or which are to come before the Parliament. I believe that we can point to the history of this Party. None should know better than Senator Wright and the Liberal Party that we do not allow legislation to be placed on the shelf. On many occasions Senator Wright’s Party saw fit to do that with legislation and again and again it was the Democratic Labor Party which had to pull the legislation off the shelf and assist that Government to govern this country more wisely. Time and again the Press was full of reports about it. If Senator Wright did not appreciate that action then, why should he worry about it now that the Democratic Labor Party is assisting this country to be governed better than it would be without the representation which we hold in this Parliament. The proposition before us is that we should allow rapid passage of the Constitution Alteration (Prices) Bill so that the referendum can be placed before the people in the proper manner. It is a proposition which, if adopted, could strengthen the fight against inflation. We have never disguised the fact that we do not think that it is all embracing and that it will cure inflation. I will accept what Senator Webster said about a question which was asked in another place today being factual.
– It is not right.
– Whether it is or it is not it poses a situation which could happen. If the people vote for this proposition they will not be granting power to a government. They will be granting power to this Parliament. Senator Wright might want to abdicate his responsibility as a member of the Senate but the members of the Australian Democratic Labor Party will never abdicate theirs. I say here and now that we will still discharge the responsibility given to us by the people. If legislation is brought along here which is consistent with the powers which are conferred upon the Government by a vote of the people and if we consider that that legislation is inefficient, incompetent and not sufficiently embracing to cover the whole field, then that legislation has poor chance of passing our Party. But if Senator Wright suggests that his Party will merely pass everything without examination and allow bad or incomplete legislation to pass the Parliament, then he speaks for himself and his Party.
The Democratic Labor Party says here and now, as it has always said, that whatever legislation is brought to this Parliament as a result of this referendum which is to be put to the people, we will examine such legislation on its merits and if we consider that it is incomplete, that it does not encompass what the people desire, and in our judgment it is not in the best interests of the people, we will unhesitatingly vote against it. I do not think that anyone in this Parliament would take that right away from us. Apparently there are some at the moment who would try to win a cheap argument on trickery and who would suggest that that is not the true situation. The true situation is that this referendum will merely confer on the Parliament of the Commonwealth the power to do certain things. It is for this Parliament to decide whether those things shall or shall not become the law of the land. I trust that we will waste no more time on this matter by having a vindictive squabble and by trying to attribute blame, or deals, or pacts to the various parties. I hope that we will get on with the job in the interests of the Australian people and that we will do it rapidly.
Senator MILLINER (Queensland) (3.15J-I rise to support the motion but I want to go a little further than that. I say to Senator Webster that he has brought into this chamber today stories which are not worthy of a senator. I say to Senator Wright that he supported Senator Webster in his allegations that the Prime Minister of Australia had said something in the House of Representatives today. Senator Wright, the great democrat, tried to say that the Prime Minister had ratted on undertakings. I went to the House of Representatives to find out precisely the question which had been asked and the answer which had been given. Mr President, you will recall that Senator Webster said that the Prime Minister had said that no, he would not, if given the power, do anything about incomes. That is a complete and utter fabrication; it is unworthy of any honourable senator. If Senator Webster and Senator Wright had any principle and any regard for the Parliament or democracy they would withdraw their allegations. I propose now to read the question and answer which came from the other place this morning. I hope that Senator Wright has them in front of him because if he has they will show him just how despicable his actions were this afternoon.
-Order! I am just thinking this out. It is an offence to refer to current debates in another place, the operative word being ‘debates’. Obviously this occurred during question time. I am in a bit of a faze about this. Senator Milliner, tell the Senate the substance of what occurred.
– Thank you, Mr President. I shall do so with a great amount of pleasure. Mr Snedden, the Leader of the Liberal Party in the House of Representatives, asked this question:
In the expected application of the incomes power which the Australian Government hopes to obtain does the Prime Minister agree that it will involve imposing a maximum income which can be charged and paid and that it will create an offence, which will be a criminal offence, for exceeding it?
The Prime Minister answered no. That is an entirely different proposition to what Senator Webster put. If Senator Marriott, who is trying to interject, wants to come into this matter he may do so too.
– Was there not another part of the question?
- Senator Greenwood, the great democrat who has refused the Leader of our Party leave to do something in the Senate on more than one occasion, will keep. I shall read the second part of the question by honourable senator’s great and glorious Leader. I ask honourable senators to listen to this insulting question.
-Order! Senator Milliner, you must not reflect on an honourable member in another place. I said that you should confine yourself to the substance of the question asked but you must not comment.
– Very well. The second question asked by the Leader of the Liberal Party in another place was this:
Will the same criminality apply to paying more wages than are fixed by his Government as would apply to charging a bigger price than is fixed by his Government?
The Prime Minister quite rightly said no. That is an entirely different proposition to what was put to the Senate today by Senator Webster and backed up by Senator Wright. Another question was asked of the Prime Minister by the honourable member for Deakin (Mr Jarman). Mr Jarman said this:
I address my question to the Prime Minister. If the 2 proposed amendments to the Constitution to give the Government control over prices and incomes are passed at the referendum to be held later this year, will he assure the House that his Government will use both powers and not just the power over prices?
The Prime Minister did not answer ‘No’, as was said by Senator Webster and Senator Wright. He said: ‘I would expect so’. What a different proposition that is from what has been put to the Senate today. We have had Senator Webster and Senator Wright trying, with all the vehemence at their disposal, to apply character assassination not to Mr Whitlam but to the Prime Minister of Australia. These are the tactics that they would use to try, unsuccessfully I would say, to defeat what is regarded by the majority of honourable senators as the correct procedure to be adopted in this case. I am sorry that I must be the one to say to honourable senators on the other side: We will accept your criticisms as an Opposition; we will not accept your untruthful statements.
Motion (by Senator Greenwood) agreed to:
That Senator Milliner table the documents from which he quoted.
– I support this motion because, the decision having been made to go to the people, the quicker a decision is made by the people the better it will be for the nation. I do not agree with the proposition that we should not vote against a Bill on the basis that it is the people who should decide. I have had some experience with referendums since I entered this chamber. I remember the Bill relating to the dissolution of the Communist Party which everybody thought would fly through. It did not. I remember the Bill relating to the breaking of the nexus between the Houses, which is the silliest thing that a Parliament has ever approved of. It would have built up one House to 2,600 members when we reached a population the size of the American population and kept the number of Senators at 60. As 1 said at the time, can honourable senators imagine how many members of the other House would have been killed trying to get through the door during the 2 minutes the bells would ring for a division? That was a Bill for a referendum that was supported by every member of every party in both Houses of this Parliament, with the exception of 10 of us. There were several Liberal members- two of my Liberal colleagues here were in that 10- several Country Party members and the Democratic Labor Party senators. There were 10 of us altogether, if I remember rightly.
I want to make it clear that I am one who has a very high regard for Senator McManus as a parliamentarian and on his general attitude to public questions; but I think he is a little astray when he says that we should not vote against a Bill but should let the people decide. If my memory serves me correctly, on the previous occasion he voted against the legislation in the chamber. So there is an inconsistency in that respect. Now, of course, the decision has been made that a referendum be taken to the people. Having had the experience of seeing how these referendums go, I know that there is probably a feeling that these proposals will fly through. It is rather interesting to recall that last Saturday an election took place in the middle of all the debate and publicity that has been going on in connection with the prices referendum; but apparently it did not win any votes for the Government. That is quite apparent. Very often, questions which look like vote winners are not. I would say that the prospect of this question going through is not as rosy now as it was 2 or 3 weeks ago. Sometimes people in Parliament think that the public wants this and that, but when the test is made it does not always prove to be so.
I remember on the occasion of the nexus referendum members of the media, the people who very often think they are the mind moulders of the nation, came to me and said: ‘This is one time when you will not win’. I said: ‘No?’ They said: ‘All the parties are together, except the small DLP and eight or so members of the Government parties. The Labor Party supports it too. Whenever all the major parties get together and when the Press of Australia is behind a proposal, it is bound to go through’. I said: ‘I am sorry to disappoint you, but this time it will not go through. We will win in 5 States out of 6; we will lose in New South Wales, but not by much’. It turned out to be by 30,000 votes. The simple issue which the matter hung on was the use of a phrase which people understood- ‘ We do not want any more parliamentarians- vote “No”.’ Already a phrase that might very well be used on this occasion has come into my mind. Whilst Parliament might think that these referendums will have an easy run, that is not always to say that they will. Very often we cannot tell whether a referendum will go through because there is a caution in the minds of the Australian people when it comes to fiddling around with the Constitution which was given such a great deal of thought when it was first created. For that reason I believe that, the decision having been made that this question is to be put to the people, the quicker it goes before the people the better it will be- just to get it out of the way.
– What is the phrase this time, Senator?
– It is one I will keep in my mind for the moment and one I hope might be used.
- ‘Mr Whitlam and Mr Crean ‘.
-No, it is not ‘Mr Whitlam and Mr Crean’ this time. Issues can be brought home to the people very clearly, and I feel that if the people have this issue brought home to them they will decide that they do not want parliamentarians fiddling in their business any more than they probably do at present, because the full extent of this referendum may be more farreaching within their own personal activities than possibly they realise now. Even the Attorney-General (Senator Murphy) sent a shiver down the spines of some people when he said that the word ‘prices’ possibly could include incomes. The word ‘prices’ has never been clearly defined. The people will want it clearly defined before they give their opinion.
– I did not say that.
– It was published. Anyhow, it has been stated by many people. Mr President, you can get an idea of how difficult it is for people to make up their minds on this matter by looking, as Senator Greenwood and, I have an idea, Senator Wright mentioned, at the way in which the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) has shilly-shallied on the whole question of the referendum. It was only because the referendum was forced upon him that he agreed to it. He immediately clutched it to his breast as though it was something wonderful that he wanted. He was going to bring incomes into it, but Mr Hawke said no. He shilly-shallied again. Now the DLP has put a threat over him. It said that this Bill in relation to prices would not go through if the Government did not introduce one in relation to incomes. What happened? The Prime Minister shilly-shallied again. There is no doubt about it. In view of the way he shillyshallied on this question, he might well be known as the shilly-shallying Prime Minister. His shillyshallying might well put a doubt in the minds of people so that when this referendum is put they might prefer things to go on the way they are and might realise that inflation cannot be cured by prices and incomes control; it requires other action. In this respect the Government has the opportunity at hand. Two basic things are required. One is to stop throwing government money around everywhere, creating intense pressure and demand on supplies, and the other is to set about increasing production in this country in order to make goods cheaper. Those are things with which the Government can deal. I believe that this referendum might well show to the people that the Government has failed to tackle inflation which is causing the disappearance of people’s money before they can pull it out of their pockets.
-Some 40 minutes ago, I think it was, the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Murphy) without any great lasting effect reminded the Senate that we were discussing his motion to suspend standing order 242 in order to obviate the necessity to have a call of the Senate and a delay of some 2 1 days in this legislation on the prices referendum. At the risk of being called a traditionalist, which I am and of which I am proud, and at the risk of being told by the wise people, the smart people on either side of the chamber that I am telling them something that they all know, I want to refer to the importance of this desire to suspend Standing Orders so that if any listeners are left and are paying attention to this debate- in any case I say if for those who will read the record- they will know why we are debating this motion and why, in my opinion, we should not pass it.
We have heard the word ‘democratic’ used in respect of one section of the Australian Labor Party, and the word ‘democracy’ has been thrown across the chamber in recent weeks. I had 20 years in this Senate when the Labor Party was in Opposition and the members of that Party were great exponents- and I supported them- of the rights of members of Parliament, of upholding the tradition and the Standing Orders, and of freedom of speech.
– When did you support them?
- Senator Cavanagh was one of the most outspoken members of the Labor Party on this subject and when he was in opposition he lived up to his belief, and I have never criticised him for it. But the hard cold fact is that when the Constitution was written the writers of the Constitution provided- and it was agreed to by this Parliament- that it would be very difficult to alter the Constitution in the future. Because of that, and also because of the efficiency of those who drew up the Constitution, there have been very few alterations to the Constitution since 1 90 1 .
The Constitution laid down that there would be 2 Houses of Parliament- a bicameral system of government- and if the bicameral system of government means anything, in my view it means 2 principal things. Firstly, it provides, for a house of review. Secondly, the very existence of that house of review ensures that any legislation that may be introduced by a majority government in the House of Representatives must have time to mature and to become known to the Australian people before it is debated in the second chamber, which is the Senate. In other words, the Constitution, by providing for 2 Houses of Parliament, ensured that the voice of public opinion could be heard by the parliamentarians, the Government and principally the senators sitting in the Upper House, and this has happened so far. A very quick decision to hold a referendum on prices has been made. The debate on the legislation providing for the referendum was cut short in another place, but in the Senate as much time as was required was allowed in order to debate the legislation.
The Constitution also provides that Parliament should draw up its Standing Orders, and the Standing Orders of the Parliament provides the further safeguard that the rights of the people shall be upheld and that the people, if they so desire, shall be able to make their voices heard before the Parliament takes any action in respect of which the people want to express their opinion to the parliamentarians. So in drawing up the Standing Orders the Parliament has made it more difficult to alter the Constitution by including standing order 242 which this debate is all about.
I would not vote for the suspension of this standing order for anything other than a prices referendum because if I agree with anything that has been said on this subject by the Government in either House it is with those who have said: ‘If the power is to be given, it should be given quickly, because the longer you give those who will be raising prices, the more they will raise them before the Government, if it is to get power to control prices, gets that power’. Of course, the Government has been hoist with its own petard. Its argument in this respect does not really hold much strength because it set up the Prices Justification Tribunal- a toothless terror that is proving to be useless. It has been proved to be useless by the very action of the Government in bringing forward a Bill to have a referendum in order to get full control over prices. So those who wish to make a profit out of the public in this time of inflation and affluence have had all the notification that they need. A very late decision was made a week ago to hold this referendum, and the normal rules and regulations that have to be followed in order to conduct this referendum mean that at least 2 to 3 months- if not 4 months- will elapse before the Government, if it gets the power, introduces into the Parliament legislation to give effect to its policy on price control.
So the Constitution, our Standing Orders and our system of government have provided for a delay so that the people can make their opinions heard. There will be time for the people to be fully informed of the dangers of price control. Although I am glad that standing order 242 is available to us, I will not oppose the motion for 2 reasons. Firstly, enough time now has been provided to enable the public to be informed, and the people will make their opinions known at the ballot box. Secondly, I am confident that the Australian Labor Party will never be given power over prices in the Federal sphere while the Australian people have the right to deny the Labor Party that power.
-Very briefly -
– Take your time.
– I will do that because I know perfectly well that for some strange reason nothing irritates honourable senators opposite more than for somebody to rise and speak about this proposed referendum. I rise to provide an encore with a great deal of pleasure to what was said by Senator Webster, Senator Wright, Senator Wood and Senator Marriott. But an encore was lacking on the other side of the chamber. Senator’ Murphy was left like a shag on a rock until Senator Milliner at long last decided to get up and say something about the matter. I support the motion to suspend Standing Orders, but the strange thing about the whole proposition is that the discussion on this most important matter was scouted by honourable senators opposite; they would not get up and speak to the Bill. Standing Orders will be suspended again to allow this Parliament to put over the people the greatest 2-time trick that I have seen in 30 years in Parliament. I will tell the Senate what I mean. We know perfectly well before the referendum on prices control is put to the people that the Government has said that it will not operate the twin brother of control over prices, that is, the control over incomes.
– When was that said?
– I quote from the minutes of the Amalgamated Metal Workers Union, which quoted Mr Whitlam.
– What did Mr Whitlam have to say?
– If those galahs who are interjecting would only listen they would learn. Mr Whitlam was speaking about the prosecution of trade unions. He said that without the AttorneyGeneral no prosecutions could take place and stated that there would be no prosecutions. That statement is in the minutes of the Amalgamated Metal Workers Union.
– Did Mr Whitlam say that?
-Mr Whitlam said it. To put this matter before the people knowing full well that it will not be operated is only making complete, absolute, damn fools of the people. I hope that goes over the air. For once in my life I hope that a lot of people hear me. I am one who, over the years, has had a mighty lot of respect for the Democratic Labor Party. I believe that its members are people who stand hard and fast to principles which they consider worth while. This time, because they support the proposal, they have been made complete and absolute fools. What is the use of putting something before the people when those charged with its administration have said previously: ‘We will not operate if?
– If they do not, we will proceed with our Bill. The Opposition will vote for it, and it will be carried.
– You will not be there to operate it. You have been sold a pup. There is no doubt about it. I take great pleasure in telling you that.
-This matter is essentially and fundamentally quite a simple one. The Government introduced the Constitution Alteration (Prices) Bill for a referendum to be put to the people exclusively on the question of prices. The attitude of the Democratic Labor Party was that for a proper control of the economy, if a discipline of that kind was to be exercised, a prices-incomes discipline and control was necessary. We introduced into this place the Constitution Alteration (Prices and
Incomes) Bill for a referendum to be put to the people on the question of prices and incomes. That Bill is still on the Senate notice paper. The Liberal-Country Party, of whom so many representatives have spoken today, has presented an implacable opposition to a discipline of either of those characters. They are against prices control and incomes control in the hands of the Federal Government.
The impression has been created here that if a stand had been taken against the Government’s Bill, the Constitution Alteration (Prices) Bill, the referendum would not have taken place and that any conferring of powers on the Commonwealth Government could not have taken place because no referendum Bill would have been carried. That is just not the position. No matter what happened in this chamber, if the Opposition succeeded in defeating in this place the Government’s Bill for prices control only, it would have been re-introduced in 3 months time. The same pressures would have operated. It would have again been defeated here. The Government would then have been in a position to go to the Governor-General and ask for a referendum on prices alone. So all these protestations that by some process of opposition no referendum on anything would have been put to the people are totally incorrect. I am surprised that the impression has been given, particularly by those who are legally equipped, that such would have been the position because, under section 128 of the Constitution, the contrary is the position. The Liberal-Country Party is implacably opposed to any transfer of powers.
– They are against the centralisation of powers, in a democracy, in Canberra.
– Very well, against the centralisation of powers, but inevitably it would have had to face the position that the people were to be asked to give one power alone, and that is the power over prices.
The attitude of the Democratic Labor Party is that if we are to have a proper, balanced and rational control of the economy by using these weapons it has to be a prices-incomes policy. I am staggered that, faced with the inevitability of one power only being given, the Liberal-Country Party did not say that if adequate powers are to be transferred let it be a balanced power over prices and incomes. I would have expected that, accepting the inevitability of one power only, they would have said: ‘Let us at least have a balanced control ‘. I know that the philosophy of the Liberal Party has been that no power should be transferred and that, therefore, to transfer a second power would be worse than to transfer only one power. I presume that that is the policy of the Liberal-Country Party in relation to the Bill.
Throughout the world- in America, in the United Kingdom and in other places where these powers have been given- almost without exception the dual power has been the one which has been exercised. I do not want to discuss the merits of the Bill, but world economists say that in the long term a prices-incomes control may not be successful but in the short term it could have a deflationary and holding effect. That may be the position. We make this point: If these powers are conferred it is within the political disposition of the Government of the day, subject to the Parliament, whether it exercises the power. With one voice the Opposition is against the conferring of the incomes power on the Commonwealth and then it says: ‘If you give it, it will not be exercised’. If the Opposition thinks that the power will not be exercised it should have no objection to the power being conferred. That would appear to be the logic of the matter. I would say that that is the logic as it appears to me and the illogicality of the stand taken by the Liberal-Country Party. At this stage we do not want to discuss the merits and demerits of controls on prices and incomes. I agree with Senator Marriott that if the people are to be asked to make a decision on this matter- in view of what could happen, the speculation in the community and the untoward, indefensible and rapid increases in prices in anticipation of the vote on the referendum which might ultimately result in the control of prices- it. is important that the matter be dealt with by the Parliament and presented to the people of Australia quickly.
The only question which then remains is the question of time. If the prices Bill had been rejected in this place 3 months would have had to elapse before it could be re-presented. From then on the referendum could take place immediately. The passage of the Bill will result in a deferment of 2 months. The only difference is one month.
– It is still 2 months.
– It is 2 months after the passage of the Bill before it can be presented to the people. That is all. It is an effective difference of one month. That being so, the bargain is that, for an effective difference of one month, we are getting a dual, rational and logical control of the instruments which may affect inflation as against a partial control which could be completely ineffective. The Democratic Labor Party hasput prices and incomes as a package deal. That is what we wanted. We think that that would have been the best- the people either take the lot or discard the lot. The Government was notprepared to go that distance. We consideredthatit was so important that both arms be availableto the Government, even at the risk, thatonemay be accepted and the other rejected,that if that was the best that the Government could do we were prepared to support a propositionthatit put prices and incomes as separate headsof power. That is the situation which is presentedto the Parliament now and which ultimately willbe presented to the people.
I make no claims about this business thatwe put pressure on the Government or anything like that. We have tried to approach thismatter in the most rational and logical way, inthis national interest. I think that the solution which hasbeen offered now, althouth it may not be theone which was totally acceptable to us, is atleast reasonably acceptable to us and is acceptable to the Government, and it rests within thedisposition of the Australian people as to whetherthey confer on the national Parliament both powers, neither power or one power or the other. That will be the people’s decision if the Bill is passed. We leave it to the good sense of the Australian people. We hope that the integrity ofthe Government is such that if it is -vested with these; powers it will elect to use them in the.interestsof the nation, as the circumstances demand.
– I have listened carefully -
– The Attorney-General did not move the motion.
– It was in my name, in any event. I ask that the Senate agree to this motion right away. I merely say that I have listened with much interest to the statements that have been made on all sides that the measures ought to be dealt with speedily and put to the people without delay. Therefore, I will be asking at the appropriate time for the Senateto pass both these measures this day.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Consideration resumed from 25 September (vide page 859).
– I will not detain the Committee long on clause 1.I was speaking on it when the consideration of the Committee was interrupted last night. I was making a point which I think can be further and probably more appropriately elaborated during discussion on clause 2. It is that.the name which will be given to the referendum which is to be proposed is a misleading name. The reference is simply to the word prices’. It is a Constitutional Alteration (Prices) Bill.Ihave indicated that ‘prices’ is a word which hasnot been defined. Quite curiously, we have not been given the advice of any of the Crown Law authorities. I do not think it is unfair to say that theAttorney-General (Senator Murphy) has rather delicately side-stepped questions which have been asked of him as to what the word ‘prices ‘may really comprehend.
-I think that he has been verv awkward.
– I must say that the Attorney-General, whichever way he side-steps, beaw kwardly or delicately, has not been forthcomingin giving us his opinion or the opinion of theSolicitor-General as to what may be comprehended by this expression. It is a matter ofinterpretation. There may be a narrow interpretation and thereby the meaning of the word ‘prices’ may be limited to the prices of goods. On the other hand, there may be a broad interpretationwhereby ‘prices’ might comprehend not only goods and services but also other areasas well. But this is essentially a matter for thecourts to determine. I simply draw the attentionofthe Committee to the fact that in 1948 a referendum was proposed in which the Parliament- the Labor Government of Mr Chifley was in power at the time- sought a powerfor the Commonwealth to make laws with respect to rents and prices including charges. It was quite obvious in 1948 that it was felt necessary to include the word ‘charges’ in order to give some added meaning to the word ‘prices’. The word ‘rent’ was used obviously because therewas some doubt at that stage as to whether thecharge or price on property which was hired was adequately covered. I simply make that point.Idonot know whether there is likely to be any, reaction from the Attorney-General on this occasion to give some explanation as to what he andthe Government consider is comprehended by theword ‘prices’ and why it has been limited inthe way it has. Certainly, there is an area of doubt which must arise.
– In response to what has been put by Senator Greenwood I say that it seems reasonable for the short title of a- Bill which seeks to insert in section 5 1 of the Constitution the word ‘prices’ to be ‘.Constitutional Alteration (Prices) 1973’. To suggest that in some way we are distorting the meaning or misleading someone seems to go quite contrary to logic. Over the years, whenever an endeavour has been made to put something into the- ‘Constitution which is of such a short nature, it has, as I recall it, been described in this way. After all, it is only the short title of what, if it is accepted by the people, would become a Constitution alteration. I do not know what significance will be attached to it. Whatever significance does attach; this is a perfect and complete description. It is no. more and no less than would be comprehended in the Constitutional alteration. Whether it has a’ wide meaning or whether it is a narrow meaning, we are still dealing with prices. That is the word,contained in the short title. I really cannot see how any argument could be advanced against’ the clause on the basis of the short title there provided. Perhaps when dealing with clause>2- some questions might arise in relation to the scope of the word ‘prices’. That is reasonable enough. But frankly, I cannot see any point in discussing the short title that is provided. It is an accurate -title. It is precise. It does no more and no less’ than it should.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 2. .- -
– Under this clause it is proposed that the one word ‘prices’ be inserted in the Constitution among the other matters which are particularly described there as heads of Commonwealth power. The clause that the Committee is considering simply contains a statement that the word ‘prices’ shall be inserted to denote a new head of power for the Commonwealth. Parliament. I will be obliged to the Attorney-General (Senator Murphy) if he will elucidate the meaning of this word. I want to know whether it is the view of the Government that the word ‘prices’ includes the price of money for which we usually use the term ‘interest’. Would hie tell me that? Let that be answered first.
-The point that has been made by Senator Wright’ in relation to clause 2 of the Bill is important. It seems to me that the Government has an obligation not only in the House of Representatives but also, certainly, in this chamber. I hope that members of the Opposition will question the -Attorney-General, Senator Murphy, on what is embraced -by the word ‘prices’ in the request to the people that the Federal Government be given power over prices. The general basis of debate on this matter has been most interesting. Honourable senators will recall that, apart from th’e second reading speech on the Bill by the Minister for the Media, Senator Douglas McClelland, in actual fact not one member of the Government has spoken on it. Not even the Leader of the Government in this place has attempted to envisage for the people of Australia the ‘.way in which a Labor government would handle such power if it were given to it. The ordi nary”’ citizens in the community are entitled to know, if a proposal for a referendum is advanced, .exactly ‘ what is envisaged by the Government I’ believe that that requires Senator Murphy^ describe what he believes the word paces’ means. ^ ‘A previous speaker in this debate raised the Question of whether the word ‘prices’ means control df the price of money. I am most anxious to know whether it will mean control over the prices of all goods and services. For instance, the full cost of some services may be wages. Does it mean control over the price of land? A whole series of questions could be put to the Government. I ask the Government to advise the people interested in this matter what is embraced by the Word ‘prices’ and what is envisaged by the Government by proposing to put to them that prices throughout the whole Australian community ‘should be controlled by the Federal Government. I hope that the Attorney-General will’ take this opportunity of demonstrating that this Labor Government is willing to be an open government and that it is willing to describe to th[e people what is meant by this proposal. i “Obviously it is the problem of inflation which has brought this Bill to light at the present time. The intensity of inflation has generated over the last eight: ‘or nine months. When this Labor Government took office last December inflation was running at a rate of about 4.6 per cent. Since then it has increased greatly. I remember the predictions that I and others made during the first session of Parliament under this Labor Government. I put on record in Hansard what I believed would happen as a result of the great rate at which the Government was pushing money into the community. I referred to the fact that it was not objecting to inordinate wage rises in certain sectors of the community and to the granting of extreme benefits in the Public Service, such as an extra week;’s annual leave which would have to flow on to the private sector by the end of this year. All these things eventually would have to be met by private enterprise. These things meant that the major employer in the community- the private sector- would have to prepare in order to have some reserve in hand to meet the loadings at the end of this year. I know of industries in which there is a requirement to meet a 1 7.5 per cent loading on the wages of the average employee to cover the extra annual leave. All these things are going to create an enormous increase in the loss of value of the Australian dollar or in what is known as the inflationary tendency. I predicted at that stage- I think it was in early March- that inflation would be about 12 per cent. Well, I was wrong. The fact is that it is running at something over 13.5 per cent at present although people in the private sector predicted that it would be running at 20 per cent. It will be running at that rate by the end of this year. But 10 days or a fortnight ago this socialist Labor Government suddenly pounced on the idea that it was necessary for it to control prices. Prior to that Caucus was totally opposed to any control over wages and salaries.
– You have told us that 3 times during this debate.
– I know but often repeated explanation is necessary to get things through thick heads. I am anxious, Senator Cavanagh, that you point this out to me through the benefit of your trade experience. The honourable senator was very competent in the past, when he was a young man, in the art of plastering. The effect of inflation on the building industry has really impressed me.
– I rise to take a point of order. Simply because the Senate proceedings are being broadcast we are having a long dissertation on Labor’s policy and what the Government has done and not done. The Committee is discussing one short clause. We are discussing clause 2 which relates to whether there should be a referendum on prices. Should the honourable senator be permitted to canvass everything while the proceeedings are being broadcast simply for the purpose of trying to win the Senate election in Victoria? Last night we heard reference to our philosophy on 3 occasions. Can we not cut this short and get down to the Bill that is before us? The honourable senator is wandering around and referring to irrelevant matters.
– I think the argument relating to inflation and its consequences concerns this legislation. This Bill was introduced as a result of rising prices and inflation. I think it is in order for Senator Webster to speak along the lines that he has been following but I ask him not to over-run the boundary.
-You realise, Mr Temporary Chairman, that the honourable senator interrupted me. It was necessary to mention that point two or three times in order to get it into his head. The honourable senator would know that I am prepared to resume my seat immediately if his leader will describe to the Senate what is envisaged by control over prices.
– He may be no better as a tradesman than I was.
-That is the point. Senator Cavanagh, the Minister for Works, is in control of contracts worth hundreds of millions of dollars a year.
– I suppose that is relevant.
-This is relevant. The honourable senator is in charge of that very important field. He will see one-fifth of the value of his contracts lost through inflation. I promise to resume my seat immediately if his leader describes to the Senate what is envisaged by the socialist Labor Government when it refers to control over prices. I have mentioned this point two or three times in order to get my meaning into the mind of the honourable senator. It may be through some deficiency of mine that I am not getting it into his head.
– No. Government senators understand you perfectly. They just do not want to answer. That is the point.
– I am not willing to believe that Senator Cavanagh is as foolish as that.
– I think the reference is to timber prices. They will be controlled.
-Well, the escalation in timber prices in the last 6 months has been over 20 per cent.
– And you made a fortune.
-By bad luck I have not because we cannot get any material. A shortage has been brought about by the stupid activities of this Government in putting pressure on the building industry, thinking that it would do wonders. That is one of the things this Government did in its first 6 months of office. Senator
Cavanagh knows that because he was a craftsman in the building industry. He knows that there is pressure on the resources of the building industry. The greatest catalyst of inflation in the community is the demand for housing. In the first 6 months that this socialist Labor Government was in power people saw their money depreciated. They realised that their savings, amounting to $8,000m, which were in Australian banks, were going to be depreciated by one-fifth every year. Therefore they decided to invest their money in fixed assets. The best fixed asset for any investment is land and buildings. The problem that the honourable senator’s Government has generated is affecting the industry he once represented. The Minister has pinpointed what the Labor Party did to bring about this situation, and I believe he knows that that is correct. I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate whether he can assure me that he will respond by giving a description of what is meant by the word prices’. What will the Labor Party seek to control if it is given power over ‘prices’? I ask the Leader of the Government whether he will indicate these things to me if I resume my seat. The Leader of the Government does not answer, so we are left with a typical void.
I am bewildered as to what the Labor Government proposes to do. It has said that this inflationary tendency was created by somebody else; that is was created not by the Labor Government but by the former Government. The former Government has a record over the past 10 years of keeping inflation at an average annual rate of 3.5 per cent. Of course, the figure has varied from year to year but that is the average. In December 1972 the rate of inflation stood at 4.6 per cent. Could any reasonable or sensible person ever accept the proposition that the previous Administration was unable to handle the economy? The answer is no. The Labor Party must take it on its own shoulders that it has created this situation in the last months. Added to that is the fact that in the last couple of weeks the Labor Government has said for the first time: ‘We must submit to the people a referendum to gain control of prices so that we can control inflation; we cannot do it otherwise’. The Labor Government admits to the people of Australia its complete inability to manage the economy of this country.
In what areas can the people gain confidence from what Labor proposes to do? Are there any areas over which in the last 9 months the Labor Government has had control of those things in relation to which it seeks power? The answer is yes; that it has had that control in the Australian’ Capital Territory. One of the greatest problems in the community at the moment is said to be the high cost of land. Incidentally, if one compares the cost of real estate in Australia with that applying in other countries one finds that real estate values here are quite reasonable. In fact, the high cost of real estate today has come about because originally the cost of the development of the land- the provision of roads, curbing, channelling, footpaths and the other services that go on to a block of land- was contained and absorbed by the Government, whether it be State, municipal or Federal. In those days one would pay one thousand pounds for a block of land, but that original cost was worked out on the basis that over the next 20 years one would pay some few thousand dollars towards the cost of the roads and other services that had been provided by the local government authority.
– Order! The honourable senator’s time has expired.
– The meaning of the word prices’, if it comes into the Constitution by reason of the decision of the people following the vote of the Senate today, will be a matter in the ultimate for determination by the High Court of Australia. It is no use anyone suggesting that we in this chamber can lay down with precision the limits to the meaning of the word ‘prices’, the word ‘banking’, the word ‘insurance’, or the other words which are set out in the legislative powers conferred on this Parliament by section 5 1 of the Constitution. Section 5 1 reads:
The Parliament shall, subject to this Constitution, have power to make laws for the peace, order and good government of the Commonwealth with respect to:
It then sets out a considerable number of matters, all of which are expressed in very short and very general terms. The first matter mentioned in this section is: ‘Trade and commerce with other countries, and among the States’. If anyone were to ask me or anyone else what is the precise meaning of ‘trade and commerce’ he would not be able to receive an answer with the precision which some honourable senators would wish to have. Perhaps everyone would wish that we could have precision in relation to these matters. It is not in the nature of a constitutional document to give that precision. The same situation applies in relation to the word ‘taxation’. There will be arguments about how far the meaning of the word ‘taxation’ goes. There will be arguments about whether a particular measure is a measure of taxation or not a measure of taxation. Following the word ‘taxation’ in placitum (ii) of section 5 1 appear the following words: ‘but so as not to discriminate between States or parts of States’. Of course, that expression which is a rider to the taxation legislative power gives rise to more controversy. ‘Bounties ‘, which is the next matter mentioned in section 5 1 , again would give rise to controversy if it was in someone’s interest to argue about them. Placitum (v) of section 51 reads:
Postal, telegraphic, telephonic, and other like services:
The Senate is aware of the great discussion which took place following which the High Court extended the meaning of those words ‘and other like services’ to include radio broadcasting. Even then Sir Owen Dixon disagreed with that decision. Later the High Court extended the meaning of those words to cover television. It was the view of the Joint Committee on Constitutional Review, which was set up by this Parliament, that an amendment to the Constitution ought to be made to cover television. The High Court’s extension of its interpretation made it unnecessary for that to be done. A similar situation occurred in relation to a number of other provisions contained in section 5 1 of the Constitution. One could not safely be precise about the meaning of these provisions if one wanted to. So do not let us suggest that there is anything extraordinary about the fact that there may be imprecision as to the limits of the meaning of a word such as prices’ when set in section 51 of the Constitution. That ought to be self-evident, and certainly it ought to be evident to all lawyers.
I was asked what laws the Government would propose to introduce and with what matters would the Government be wanting to deal. Is it not clear that the problem facing the country concerns, for a start, the increasing price of goods? There is no doubt that central to such a legislative power over prices would be the capacity to legislate with respect to the prices of goods. This would mean that the regulation of the prices of goods of various descriptions would come within the legislative competence of this Parliament. It would be a matter for the Parliament to decide upon the appropriate way in which to go about this. The Parliament would have to decide what mechanism should be set up, whether one course or the other was desirable and whether it should deal with basic commodities only. The Parliament would deal with all of these matters in the same way as it deals with the other subject matters of legislative power such as the taxation laws, the trade and commerce laws and the arbitration laws. Certainly the matter of prices would be covered to that extent.
The point was raised, with some reason, as to whether the word ‘prices’ would extend to cover the prices of various services with which it might be important to deal. One might refer to services such as the provision of transport and the carrying on of various other activities which amount to the provision of services. In common parlance one normally speaks of the price one pays for a service, and one speaks of prices in connection with the sale of goods. The view has been held- I think it has been long held- that the expression prices’ would not extend to services rendered under a contract of service. In other words, in the ordinary meaning of it, it would not extend to cover wages. Certainly one could safely say, I think, that the word ‘prices’ would not extend to cover and comprehend the word ‘incomes’. But the central core of this is surely that goods would be covered- and by ‘covered ‘ I mean in the legislative sense- and that the Parliament would have power to deal with them, and probably power to deal with services of various kinds. It may be that if this were here alone the view would be taken that not enough legislative power was being given to the Australian Parliament; but it must never be forgotten that that is all we are dealing with- power in the Parliament to be able to legislate on this subject matter, to do what the United Kingdom Parliament does as of course. Many members here speak with reverence of the United Kingdom Parliament and in many ways often seem to prefer its practices to our own. Let them remember that that Parliament has no limitations as we have. It has legislative capacity over every subject be it prices, incomes, wages, taxation- anything you like. There are not the constrictions on that Parliament which exist here. It is simply a matter of giving this Parliament the power which would exist in the United Kingdom Parliament and which exists in the State parliaments. But, of course, because there is a number of these State Parliaments, because we are in the one continent and we have an interchange of goods and services between the various States, it is not feasible for the State parliaments to be able to deal comprehensively with the control of prices and thereby to endeavour to curb inflation.
The simple proposition-it was put earlier quite cogently and succinctly by Senator McManus- is that all we are seeking to do is to give some legislative competence to this Parliament. The content of the legislation which would be passed would be entirely a matter for the Australian Parliament itself and one should not dwell on these questions of the limits, of whether interest is covered or not. I would think the view would be taken that it would not be covered. I would think also that it would be a very reasonable proposition that if there is not power elsewhere in the Constitution to enable this Parliament to deal with the subject matter of interest there ought to be such power. Plainly there ought to be such power, and it may well be that the question of interest could be dealt with elsewhere. There are powers such as the corporations power- power over financial corporations formed within the limits of the Commonwealth; there is the banking power. An indication of such legislative powers and the administrative arrangements which might be made under the law could well enable a government, given the appropriate laws, to control interest. But we should not be concerned about the limits of it. Indeed, we ought to be seeking to give this Australian Parliament every legislative power which would enable it to exercise the proper management of the economy and there should be no hairsplitting over how far this goes. This is not making any particular law on prices; it is to enable the Australian Parliament to be able to make some law, a law which is agreed to by both Houses of Parliament and assented to by the GovernorGeneral. That is all it is.
I would think that the arguments to the people ought to be addressed to the necessity of enabling this Parliament to have the plain power to cover at least the price of goods, almost certainly the price of land, and perhaps, if the High Court agrees, the price of services- I would think of some services- and probably not any power over the other matters referred to. No view has been expressed- despite statements to the contrary that appeared in newspapers on what was believed by the Attorney-General’s Departmentthat the power would cover wages or incomes. Indeed, the only view that has been expressed has been to the contrary. I hope that that helps to elucidate the matter a little for honourable senators. The important thing to remember all the way through is that what we are dealing with is a broad power, necessarily vague because it is a constitutional legislative power. It is not a question of dealing with a particular law the limits of which one can define with precision. We are not drawing up some tenancy agreement. What is being given is what has been given before- and in the wisdom of those who drew up the Constitution and of those who drew up other constitutions, these legislative powers were always given in the broad and general way which is proposed by this measure.
-The Attorney-General (Senator Murphy) despite a somewhat discursive and indefinite speech has at least answered part of the question which the Committee is posing to him. I am concerned to comply with the Government’s program for timing, for reasons which Senator Withers gave previously. But I am firm in discharging a duty here in this Parliament and in exercising my right to speak. I do it for a specific purpose, that there shall be explained by the Government to the country the whole of the content, as the Government sees it, of the power that it seeks for this Parliament in the term ‘prices’. We are not in the days of Federation when 6 States.had to make an agreement and enumerate a number of heads. Precise definition was more difficult then, but here we are now with one specific word proposed by the Government to be inserted into the Constitution, and it is the obligation of the Government, which will have the responsibility if this referendum is passed, to initiate legislation under this power to explain. The Attorney-General, having told us that he would think that the term prices’ does include the price of money interest and that it does include the price of goods- that is the obvious case- then almost as an aside in the latter part of his statement, said ‘and of land’.
- Senator, I did not say - -
– I want to be precise. I hope the response will be equally precise.
– I want to correct something you said. I do not recall saying that I thought the word ‘prices’ included interest on money. I said the opposite, as I recall it.
-I thank the AttorneyGeneral for making it clear because it was in the course of a number of disjunctive phrases. I had asked the Attorney-General whether it was the view of the Government that the word ‘prices’ included the price of money, which we usually describe as interest. The Attorney-General now says that it is his opinion that the term ‘prices’ does not include interest. I now ask him to clarify this, he having said that it does, of course, include the price of goods on sale and the price of land on sale and he would hope that it would include the price of services other than under a contract strictly of service. That is to say, if a plumber comes along and does a drainage job in my garden, predominantly the contract is for work. But integrally it is to supply goods. Is the price of that $ 100 for drainage included in this? I understood the Attorney-General to say that he hoped, without expressing an opinion, that his interpretation would be that the price of that contract was within this constitutional proposal. I pause for a reply, but not for too long because I do not wish to waste time.
– I do not propose to respond to the questions that the honourable senator might put to me during the course of his speech.
– It is the AttorneyGeneral’s responsibility. He may or may not respond as he likes. But the people and I will want to know.
It is the modern commercial practice in many instances for goods to be leased. Many items of machinery and vehicles today are disposed of by lease- and here I am not referring to hire purchase arrangements. I ask the Attorney-General to give the Committee an opinion on behalf of the Government whether the Government takes the view that a contract of that sort can be controlled by the power described as prices? I would also like to draw the Attorney-General’s attention to hire purchase arrangements where a person leases goods with an option to purchase. Is the money instalment payable under hire purchase a price within the terms of this proposed constitutional power? Having put those 2 questions in regard to goods, I would now like to turn to the subject of rents. Can the Attorney-General tell the Committee whether rents are included in the term ‘prices’. I do not ask this question for any other purpose than to get an explanation from the responsible Government that is proposing the proposition for the information of people who will have to vote on this matter.
– The Attorney-General (Senator Murphy) stated earlier today that the definition of prices would be a matter for determination by the High Court of Australia. I would like to ask Senator Murphy the following question: When will these determinations be made? Could they be made before the Government goes to the people with a referendum on prices? How would this determination be made because my understanding is that there must always be provision for a challenge to the High Court?
-I think everyone on this side of the chamber realises, in view of what Senator Byrne said earlier, that a referendum is inevitable. Looking at section 128 of the Constitution it appears that if the Senate rejects or amends a Bill and returns it to the House of Representatives and this action proves to be unsatisfactory to that House then in 3 months time the House of Representatives can resubmit the Bill. If then the Senate chooses to reject or amend the Bill in a manner that the
Government considers to be unsatisfactory the Government can go to the Governor-General and seek appropriate action. We do not argue about the fact that a referendum should be held-
But we are concerned about the terms of the Bill itself. We are vitally concerned about the definition of prices. I have not been satisfied with the explanation given by the Attorney-General (Senator Murphy) and I feel quite certain that Senator Webster holds a similar opinion. It seems to me to be a very cumbersome procedure to have to rely upon the High Court of Australia to give the Government a definition of the word prices’.
Senator Wright introduced a very significant point when he mentioned the question of hire purchase which is a real price attached to farm machinery and so on. I find it quite incredible that the Government is so confused that it cannot make up its mind about these matters, particularly as it would have us believe that this is a question of urgency. Having recognised the failure of its fiscal measures and the failure of its Prices Justification Tribunal to be effective at all, the Government is now asking the Senate to agree that it should persuade the people of Australia to put the control of prices into the hands of a socialist Government in Canberra. So I certainly am not satisfied with the definition of the word ‘prices’ in this clause. I would have expected more from the Government in this regard and I look forward to a little more elucidation if the Attorney-General can give it.
– I thank Senator Murphy for the explanation that he gave so far as it was within his capacity to envisage what the word ‘prices ‘ may mean in this Bill. Senator Murphy said that the Government envisaged the word ‘prices’ would relate to consumable goods generally- it would not be interest; it would be land. They were the 3 areas to which the Minister referred. When 1 spoke previously I expressed my concern that the Government was so hurriedly asking for the power which it did not envisage previously to halt inflation in the interests of the public. One would be encouraged to support this measure if that were a fair proposition and the Labor Government could demonstrate that it was capable of carrying out this objective and that some benefit could be derived. However, I stress the point that this Government has had control of prices in the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory for 9 months. Also it has had control of land in the Australian Capital Territory. It is a fair thing to ask what has been the result of the Government’s action in the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory because it is very likely that this will be what will happen in the whole of the Australian community if the Government is given this power.
I abhor the idea that a socialist Government may ever attempt to exercise this control over land prices. How could it ever do that? How could it ever assess the value of land. One can only imagine that it should be a responsibility of the Leader of a government- at least of a government in this place- to say: ‘This is what we envisage if we had control of land. Here is how we would do it for the people’. Of course, the Government is unable to front up to this impossible task. The Minister for the Capital Territory (Mr Enderby) has had control over land in the Australian Capital Territory for the past 9 months. A department directly under the control of the Labor Government has had the opportunity to develop land, place it on the market and sell it. But the price of residential land in Canberra has been as high as the price anywhere in Australia. It is so high that the Minister for the Capital Territory is becoming embarrassed by questions that are being asked of him in this place following sales of land in the Australian Capital Territory. The Minister has taken action to cancel all sales and there has been no land available in the Australian Capital Territory since that time for people who wish to buy land. What a brilliant move this was- a building up of a service and a socialist Government saying: ‘We have blocks available’. I do not know how many hundreds of blocks it has available that have been developed. But, of course, none is available to the public.
Labor is thinking out a scheme whereby it can make blocks available. Without damaging the Labor Party’s image, I say that it should be very cautious about those to whom it makes those blocks available. I know that it has made contracts and other services available to friends of the Labor Party in the Australian Capital Territory. I warn the people of Australia to see that this type of power is never given to the Labor Party. I asked a question on notice about the price of the development of a residential block of land in one of the new suburbs in Darwin. The answer given by the Minister for Works (Senator Cavanagh) quoted a figure of $3,600 for the development, that is, for purely applying the services. The Minister forgot to tell me whether any administrative expenses were associated with that amount. There would not be. It would be purely the cost of the contracts to put in the roads and drainage. There would be no base land price associated with that figure. Under a socialist government what would be the price of a block of land if all the true factors were inbuilt?
-Astronomical. That word is quite right. Mr Enderby has control over rent. That is something which the term ‘prices’ envisages. What has been the action of the Labor Government in the Australian Capital Territory? It has been to say that private enterprise must freeze the price of rent in the Austalian Capital Territory. They have frozen the price of rent. Those who had the nod before the price was frozen were able to increase their price. Today if in Canberra one wants to get a valuation on one ‘s property for a fair and reasonable return at the going interest rate one has to wait for at least 3 months before one can get a hearing. Can one imagine in the whole of the Australian community if rents were brought under control by this Government- which they would be under a prices requirement- what type of administration would be set up for appeals when the Government at a flash raised interest rates to 9.5 per cent? What would be the requirement of an ordinary working man who has been diligent in his time and has attempted to obtain some investment only to find that a return was frozen by this Government? But it is frozen only for the private sector. There is some pleasure in that!
The Government will increase the price of anything under its administration. The very example which it has shown in relation to the Post Office demonstrates that this Labor socialist Government has no interest in controlling prices under its control. An increase of up to 500 per cent has been envisaged within 6 months in some of the postal proposals. The Government has forced on Canberra businessmen an increase of 6c a gallon in the price of petrol. This is a direct impost by the Government on each gallon of petrol. What has the Government done? Mr Enderby said: ‘We will freeze the price. Private enterprise will have to stand that 6c itself. We may be encouraged to think that this is a cost which will be borne by big wealthy petrol companies, if there are such things.
As I see it, the general basis upon which trading is done in this community- I sincerely hope that private enterprise will remain in existenceis under threat by this Government. I saw a note in a newspaper recently in relation to a threat to private enterprise. If ever there has been a threat to the private investment sector of the community, it is coming from this Labor socialist Government at the present time. This is emphasised by the fact that when the Government decides to increase prices it does not matter how big those increases are. At the present time the Government proposes to increase certain prices by 500 per cent but it will stop private enterprise and the private individual from raising their prices even when there is a direct impost by an increase in Government taxation.
What have we seen in relation to meat and the rural community? Here is a situation which should be put on the record. The consumer price index shows that in the past 6 years there has been a 75 per cent increase in the average weekly earnings. There has been a 60 per cent increase in local government rates and charges, a 59 per cent increase in fares, a 41 per cent increase in postal and telephone charges, and a 30 per cent increase in the price of meat. What is this Government doing? It is saying that it will see that the price of meat is depressed and held so that meat will be made available more cheaply to the Australian community. This will not be done by subsidisation by the Government but by seeing that the meat producer does not get his fair and adequate return. I have just emphasised that while the Government is seeking price control to be given to it experience, and the way in which the Government is performing, demonstrates that that price reference should not be given. This power in the Government’s hands is not deserved. The Government will not use it fairly in the interests of the community.
– It seems that the debate is not being used to deal with the clause but for other purposes. In answer to what was put to me my advice is that the price to be paid for the goods under a hire purchase contract would be covered by the word prices’. Also, the service which was involved- as I understood Senator Wright to put it- in this supply of goods and work done in connection with it, would also be covered by the word prices’. The Senate expressed the view that this debate ought to be brought to a conclusion and that the people ought to be able to express their view on it. I indicated that I accept that view. Another measure is to come from the House of Representatives today. I understand that it has passed through that House. There are a lot of questions on the periphery of the word ‘prices ‘ as there would be in relation to the word ‘incomes’. No doubt a great deal will be said in the coming couple of months about this. Certainly statements will be made and arguments will be presented as to the full extent of those words. We do not consider it profitable to enter into the various questions now. Certainly statements will be issued on the part of the Government dealing with the view which we have on the extent of the power. But as I indicated before and as has been said over the years, the extent of that power will be what the High Court says.
– Are not the people entitled to have some idea?
– Of course the people are entitled to have the Government’s view. I have stated that view. It will be stated also in the case which is put to the people. Each side will have an opportunity to put its view in a formal case to be sent to every elector in the Commonwealth. These things will be spelt out and dealt with in a way which is much better than this interchange across the chamber. I move:
The Committee divided. (The Acting Chairman- Senator Wood )
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question put:
The Committee divided. (The Acting Chairman- Senator Wood)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
The ACTING CHAIRMAN- ‘A Bill for an Act to alter the Constitution so as to enable the Australian Parliament to control prices’. The question -
Motion (by Senator Murphy) proposed:
That the question be now put.
The ACTING CHAIRMAN- Order! The question is that the title be agreed to.
The ACTING CHAIRMAN -We will start again. It is a Bill for an Act to alter the Constitution so as to enable the Australian Parliament to control prices. The question is: That the title stand as printed.
Senator Wright- Mr Acting Chairman -
The ACTING CHAIRMAN- Senator Murphy being the Minister, according to the usual practice I call him.
– Thank you, Mr Acting Chairman -
– On a point of order, I watched closely and I say without any hesitation that Senator Wright was on his feet before Senator Murphy.
- Mr Acting Chairman, surely the position is that you took a course of action. Whether honourable senators opposite were right or not, you made a certain ruling and you said: ‘I will commence again’. If honourable senators had wanted to do so, they could have dissented from your ruling. They could have had a vote, if it was necessary, but they did not do so. You, started again. You having put the question in a way which is unexceptionable, I was given the call and surely by all rules of procedure I am in order now in speaking to the matter. I move:
– I raise a point of order on the way in which you, Mr Acting Chairman, declared that Senator Murphy had the call. It being so apparent that Senator Wright had risen and that Senator Murphy had risen- I leave aside the question as to who rose first- you stated that Senator Murphy, being the Minister, had the call, and it appeared from what you said that it was because of Senator Murphy’s position as Minister you gave him the call. I ask you, Sir: Do not the Standing Orders of the Senate apply to the Committee? Is it not a fact that when two or more senators rise together to speak in the Senate, the President calls upon the senator who in his opinion first rises in his place? If, Sir, that is a standing order of the Senate, a rule which has been insisted upon in the Senate from time immemorial and more recently too frequently to mention, is it not a rule which should apply in the Committee? Irrespective of whether or not a person is a Minister, the appropriate course should be to give the call to the senator who rose first. If you, Sir, rule on the basis that Senator Murphy, as Minister, should have the call, ought not the position be reversed if, in your judgment, Senator Wright was the first to rise?
- Mr Acting Chairman, I do not want to take up time, but there is something to be corrected.
The ACTING CHAIRMAN -Are you speaking to the point of order?
– Yes. In the 12 years that I have been a member of this chamber precedence of call has been given to the Minister and no one can deny that. It has always been the case. As that principle has been established, it has been applied on this occasion. This happens even during question time. Ministers or leaders of parties are given precedence of call. On this occasion you, Mr Acting Chairman, gave the call to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. You stated the question and Senator Murphy immediately rose. If Senator Wright beat Senator Murphy to his feet, it is obvious that Senator Wright rose before you, Sir, put the question. On the precedent established in the Senate, your ruling, Mr Acting Chairman, was quite in order.
The ACTING CHAIRMAN- On the point of order, I want to say that it is not a case of what one personally might desire; it is what one thinks is right when one is in the Chair. So far as I am concerned, I have always thought it was the recognised practice that the Minister in charge of the House had the right to the call. In those circumstances I gave the call to Senator Murphy, who is the Attorney-General. Therefore the point of order is not upheld. The question now is: That the question be now put.
The Committee divided. (The Acting Chairman- Senator Wood)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
That the title be agreed to.
The Committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman- Senator Wood)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill reported without amendment.
Adoption of Report
– I move:
That the question be now put.
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator Sir Magnus Cormack)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
– The question now is:
That the Bill be now read a third time.
- Mr President, you have put the question that the Bill be now read a third time.
– That is a mistake. I withdraw that.
- Mr President, you will notice that I rose in response to that, and I will be looking for the call when you put that question again.
– I made a mistake. The question now is:
That the report of the Committee be adopted.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move:
That the question be now put.
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator Sir Magnus Cormack)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Before any Bill (except a Bill which the Senate may not amend) shall be read a Third time, the Chairman of Committees shall certify in writing that the fair print is in accordance with the Bill as agreed to in Committee and Reported and the President shall announce that the Chairman has so certified.
I am not sure whether that is a procedure which is regularly observed. I am not sure whether I have on each occasion when a Bill has been read a third time heard the certification announcement by the President. But I submit that when there has been such a strict, technical, ruthless and unrepresentative reliance upon the forms of the Senate by a government which is seeking to deny to an opposition the opportunity to say a word on clauses of the Bill or on motions which are not properly debated, there is every reason -
Honourable senators interjecting ;
-Order! I am hearing a point of order. I do not wish to hear any interruptions whilst I am being instructed.
– I have been saying these things because they provide the backdrop to which there ought to be a strict insistence upon the rules by which the Senate is guided. If Government senators are prepared to rely upon incidents in practice and past rulings to move a motion and at the same time to move that questions be put without giving any opportunity for debate, then I think the only right which an opposition has, small as they may be compared to the brutality of numbers to which we have heard Senator Murphy refer so often, is to look to the Standing Orders which give some protection. This should be done even if the only protection they give is the opportunity to rise on a point of order to make points which would otherwise not be heard by people who ought to know the way in which a Labor Party government, when it gets the numbers, exercises power so ruthlessly in both Houses of Parliament that the opportunity for the Opposition to speak a word against what is being proposed is effectively shut out and denied. I feel that the protestations we heard from supporters of this Government when they were in Opposition were hollow. They are shown to be a sham because as soon as the opportunity is given to use the numbers themselves, they use the numbers. What has been said in the past is just a matter for record.
I rise to ask you, Mr President, whether, before this Bill is read a third time in the Senate- that is the question which is now before you- there has been a certification by the Chairman of Committees. If there is meaning or point to the Standing Orders, surely we should know that before the gag motion is applied and, as a result of that gag motion being applied, this Bill is read a third time. I ask whether the Chairman of Committees has reported in accordance with the standing order? Do you announce that the Chairman has so certified?
– Speaking to the point of order, there are 3 answers. Firstly, the point of order would not be appropriate at this stage in any event because this question would arise only after the motion had been dealt with and before the Bill was read a third time. That is clear if one reads the Standing Orders. The second answer is that the Senate has decided that this question should be now put, and in accordance with the Standing Orders the question should be put. The third and conclusive answer to the point of order is that if there was any substance in the point of order it was removed when the Senate at an earlier stage resolved that Standing Orders be suspended to enable the Bill to be passed through all its stages without delay. According to the long practice of this Senate that suspension includes suspension of the standing order to which the honourable senator referred.
– I listened to the ingenious argument of Senator Greenwood and I do not uphold his point of order. I now put the question:
That the Bill be now read a third time.
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator Sir Magnus Cormack)
Bill read a third time.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
– I declare that the Constitution Alteration (Incomes) Bill is an urgent Bill. I move:
That the Bill be considered an urgent Bill.
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator Sir Magnus Cormack)
– I am not entitled to make any assumption as to what is in the mind of the Attorney-General.
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Allotment of Time
– I move:
That the question be now put.
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator Sir Magnus Cormack)
Question so resolved in the affirmative. Question put:
That the motion (Senator Murphy’s) be agreed to.
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator Sir Magnus Cormack)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Suspension of Standing Orders
– I move:
That the question be now put
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator Sir Magnus Cormack)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
That the Standing Orders be suspended, and standing order 242 requiring a call of the Senate be suspended (Senator Murphy’s motion).
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator Sir Magnus Cormack)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill (on motion by Senator Murphy) read a first time.
– I move:
May I say that democracy is a two-way process, and if the Parliament is going to work, and especially if this Senate is going to work it requires some common sense and co-operation from the Opposition as well as from the Government? It was said earlier today that the Government wished both of these referendum measures to go through today. The Senate agreed that a motion of urgency put forward by Senator McManus would be dealt with at 8 o’clock and that the rest of the evening would be devoted to that. Honourable senators opposite knew that this Bill would be coming into the Senate. Every indication was given by the Government of the urgency of the matter; the urgency to do something about inflation which is agreed to be the most pressing problem of this country. They knew of the urgency to get this measure through which, after all, is simply an attempt to put a proposal to the people of this country and to ask them for their opinion. We wish to put this proposal at the earliest possible moment. Instead of co-operating in this course, because we require -
– On a point of order. As I understand it the Minister should be making a second reading speech to introduce the Bill; it is not an occasion for sermonising and lecturing the Opposition in this chamber. I put my point of order on the basis of relevance.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Brown)- This is not really a point of order.
– But I made the point, did I not?
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT- I beg your pardon? I am simply saying that having regard to the nature of the matter that is before the Chair at the moment and the way in which the debate has been conducted today I could not uphold that point of order. But I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate to give his attention to the subject matter that is before the Chair- that is the second reading of this Bill.
– Yes, I shall. But I wish to say by way of an introductory remark that we have here a special urgency and necessity to have this legislation passed today because an absolute majority of 3 1 members of this Senate is required for the Bill to be carried. The attitude taken by members of the Opposition has meant that the business of the Government and the nation has been held up. Ministers have not been able to leave the Parliament because they must be here in order to vote on this measure.
– I rise on a point of order. What Senator Murphy is saying may well be justifying motions which he moved earlier- motions in regard to the limitation of time, motions as to why a Bill should be declared an urgent Bill and motions for the suspension of Standing Orders. They are all relevant to that. But we submit that they are not relevant to a Bill which is designed to ask the people of Australia to give to the Commonwealth Government power to make laws with respect to incomes. We have not heard one word in this chamber as to why the Commonwealth is seeking this power. It is a matter of affront to the Senate that the Leader of the Government in the Senate should have done it. I submit that in the time which is available to us we ought to have matter which is relevant to the second reading of the Bill. Mr Acting Deputy President, I submit that Senator Murphy is not accepting the guidance which you gave earlier.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Brown)- Senator Murphy, following the first point of order I requested you to confine your remarks to the subject matter of the second reading of the Bill. I ask you to respect my wishes.
-I will. The Bill that I now present is a companion to the other Bill we have been considering that seeks the approval of the people for our national Parliament to have the power to legislate on prices. This new Bill seeks from the people a corresponding power to legislate with respect to incomes. The question whether an effective campaign against inflation can be mounted through the use of a prices power alone has been debated at great length in the Parliament. For our part, we have taken the view that if the national Government is armed with an explicit prices power its ability to restrain inflation would be strengthened and the upward pressure upon wages and all other incomes would be greatly relieved. But a complementary power over incomes is an additional power that it would be helpful to have should the need arise.
This is the line the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) took at the Constitutional Convention earlier this month. He then said that the Government would accept a reference on prices and incomes from the States. He has also made it clear in answers to questions in Parliament that the Government was ready to give immediate consideration to any proposal coming before the Parliament from any of the Government’s opponents to have a referendum on incomes.
In reply to a question in the House of Representatives from the honourable member for New England (Mr Sinclair) on 18 September, he said:
If, for instance, the honourable gentleman or any of his colleagues were today to seek leave to introduce a companion Bill on incomes to match the Bill which is to be debated today on prices, its introduction would be facilitated.
In answer to a question from the honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Turner) on 19 September, he said:
We are willing to consider immediately any proposition that comes before the Parliament from any of our opponents to have a referendum to control incomes.
Such a proposal has now been made. We have considered it, and it has our support. Therefore, consistent with our view that the people should be allowed to decide these issues, we are introducing this Bill which will enable the matter to be put before them.
It will be for the people to decide, if both the relevant Bills are passed by the Parliament- we know that one has- whether the Parliament is to have power over prices or incomes or both. There is no doubt that a power over incomes could be used if necessary to reinforce a power over prices. Given both these powers the Government will certainly be better equipped to deal with all aspects of the inflationary problem and to introduce broader measures should these prove necessary or desirable. In short, we regard the power over incomes as a helpful adjunct to the power over prices that we are seeking. Indeed, the phrase ‘prices and incomes policy ‘ is one of the commonest cliches in discussion of national economic planning in every developed country in the world.
I do not want to give the impression that the Government, if given these powers, will immediately seek to implement rigid policies of control in the whole area of prices and incomes. It will operate flexibly and selectively as the situation demands. It will act responsibly and in full appreciation of the needs and aspirations of wage and salary earners and the public at large. Above all, it will seek to maintain and improve the purchasing power of the people’s earnings. Nor do I want to give the impression that the Government, if this Bill is approved by the people, would exercise the new power in a purely negative fashion. The State parliaments have always had the power, and the New South Wales Parliament in particular has frequently exercised the power, to guarantee certain basic standards to wage and salary earners outside Commonwealth awards. Under this Bill the national Parliament could guarantee basic standards throughout the nation. It is unnecessary in speaking to this Bill to repeat the points that have already been made in the current context by the Government and, indeed, by the Opposition regarding the need to control inflation and the policies that are necessary for this purpose. These matters have already been fully canvassed and judging by statements by Mr Snedden, the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives and his supporters, I am entitled to presume that whatever their political stand on this Bill there is now a considerable measure of agreement on both sides of the Parliament on the basic question.
We are of course aware that there are differences of opinion whether this power over incomes, in addition to the power over prices, is really necessary to deal with inflation. We, for our part, take the reasonable view that the possession of both powers by the Australian Parliament would be consistent with the position in most other countries and that we should now advance the proposal that it be sought from the people. If this Bill- the Constitution Alteration (Prices) Bill having passed a little earlier- is passed by the Senate before the Parliament rises this week, and we hope that it will now be passed this evening, both proposals can be submitted together to the Australian people for their decision before Christmas. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
– The Opposition opposes this Bill for a variety of reasons. I assure the Senate that whenever a referendum on the proposal is held the Liberal Party will oppose it. We believe that it is our duty to do so and we would be acting in an irresponsible manner if we failed to act at every opportunity to defeat the proposal. The great rush is on again. Last week we were presented with legislation to alter the Constitution of Australia by the addition of the word ‘prices’ to section 51 of the Constitution. One would have hoped that the Australian Labor Party and its Caucus would have fully considered the implications of that measure both with and without restraint on wages and incomes before introducing this Bill to this House. One would have thought that the whole question would have been thrashed out at that time.
One would have hoped that the request for this Parliament to pass a Bill for an Act to alter the Constitution so as to enable the Australian Parliament to control prices, was the result of a full and thorough deliberation. After what we would have imagined to be this thorough deliberation this House was asked to deal with the Bill as a matter of great urgency. But no, it now appears that Caucus was more intent on proving to the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) that he could not skip without their rope than on careful consideration of the issues which are taxing the hopes, the purses and the patience of the people of Australia.
Mr Whitlam has made it quite clear that he did not want a referendum on price control. In fact on the very day on which he introduced the prices referendum legislation to Parliamentonly a few hours later in fact- he told the Australian Electrical Manufacturers Association:
I have always had reservations about the value of price control powers.
But despite the Prime Minister’s reservations on the value of price control powers, he was forced, by Caucus, to announce a referendum on the issue. The Prime Minister decided to notch one up on Caucus, so he announced the Bill would be introduced immediately. Both Houses were then asked to put aside consideration of other vital matters so this oneupmanship game between the Prime Minister and Caucus could be played out at the expense of the taxpayer. Now we find that apparently they had not fully considered the question of what controls should be vested in the Australian Parliament.
I now return to the Prime Minister’s speech to the Australian Electrical Manufacturers Association. He went on to say:
I hear some of them say that we ought to include incomes in the referendum. Well, of course, incomes are already fixed for the vast majority of Australians- either by negotiation or arbitration.
The Prime Minister further said:
I have no doubt that if the people of Australia give us power to control prices, we can count, if necessary, on the responsible co-operation of the trade union movement in restraining wages and incomes. I give that assurance.
We all know now just how much that assurance was worth. We know just what Mr Hawke of the Australian Council of Trade Unions thinks about assurances on responsible co-operation in restraining wages and incomes. It is not quite clear whether Mr Whitlam or Caucus decided this week that incomes in fact were not already fixed for the vast majority of Australians. But one or other of them has and so we are now being told that the answer they had to inflation last weekthe answer which was right and proper last week- is not quite so right or quite so proper as they thought. So this week the Senate is being asked to steamroll through Parliament another Bill to alter the Constitution of Australia. Now Mr Whitlam, the Caucus and some sections of the Labor Party are telling us that they have decided to include incomes in the proposed referendum to be held before Christmas. Their motives for the inclusion of incomes control as well as their intentions for the use of this power leave a great deal of scope for questioning. The inflation rate presently being experienced by Australia has been caused by this Government, and this Government alone. It cannot blame anyone else. It cannot blame overseas nations, because our present inflation rate outstrips that of almost every other nation in the world except those which are notorious for their economic instability.
The Government either deliberately or foolishly has created the economic chaos and confusion which exist in Australia today. The uncertainty that exists among consumers, among workers and among businesses has been created by this Government and this Government alone. It is deceitful in all its actions. It is discriminatory and favours only itself. It is arbitrary and takes account of no other interest than its own. Inflation, deliberately created and encouraged by the Government, is being used as a bogy for the Government to take unto itself enormous powers for the central government. The Government already has the power to control inflation. It has caused the present inflation rate and it has the power to stop it. The Australian people want the inflation rate stopped now- not in 6 months time. A referendum cannot be held until at least mid-December, which is 2 months away. It will be some further three or four months before the Government is able to implement any of its misguided plans to control inflation. What are we meant to do in the meantime? Are we meant to see our savings further eroded? Are we meant to see those people on fixed incomes put into a more disadvantaged position because of the failure of the Government to act?
The stupidity of Government policies has been pointed out for some time. The Government has followed policies that are inflationary. It has increased interest rates and made it more difficult for people to live in conditions that the Government itself has created. It is not only the Liberal Party that believes that; it is a great majority of the people. The Parramatta by-election proved that. The people agree that this Government is deceitful and inept. It cannot be trusted; nor can its Leader. I do not have to coin phrases or quote Opposition parliamentarians to sum up the actions of this Government. All I have to do is quote the Federal President of the Australian Labor Party. He says that the Government is guilty of negligence and that it is not keeping sufficiently in touch with what is happening. He says that its behaviour is ‘political imbecility’.
We often hear honourable senators on the other side of the chamber interject with the phrase ‘what about the results in December’, or some such fatuous remark. I would like now to remind those honourable senators that the results to which they refer were chalked up last December. They were chalked up before the Australian electors knew what tricks the Labor Party had up its sleeve as opposed to the tricks it pulled out of the hat on the election platform. The Australian electors are now disenchanted and disillusioned with the Labor Party and dismayed by the Government of this country. They showed this decisively last Saturday at Parramatta. We say that it’s time- time the Government brought itself up to date. It is now 26 September 1973, not 2 December 1972. If the Government thinks the attitude of the electors has not changed, let it go to the people. Let it take a double dissolution and call a general election at the same time as the referendum in December. We on this side of the chamber are not afraid to go to the people; we do not fear their judgment. We would be happy to face the electors again this December. So I say this to honourable senators opposite: Let us hear no more about last December, unless the Government is prepared to. put its money where its mouth is.
We are opposed to this Bill because it is a phoney Bill. We know the Prime Minister will never use the powers given to him under this legislation because Mr Hawke and the trade unions will not allow him to. We are opposed to the transference of more power to the central government. As more and more power is concentrated in Canberra, more and more is federalism endangered and possibly destroyed. The greatest protection of the liberties of the people lies in decentralised power. The argument used by the Liberal Party in 1948 on the then prices referendum is as valid today as it was then. In 1 948 we said: ‘ Keep the already exorbitant power of Canberra in check’. In 1948- the last period until now when the Australian electors suffered arbitrary centralist, socialist power being exercised by a Labor government in Canberra- the electorate rejected the Labor Government’s proposal. They will do it again.
Senator Murphy tended to lecture us at the commencement of his second reading speech today. As I understand it, this Bill came into the Senate from the other House slightly before 5 p.m. It now has to pass through this place by 6.30 tonight. I know that the Prime Minister is on record as saying that he considered the greatest blunder of his Government in the first period of sittings was Senator Murphy’s raid on the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation. This has now been overtaken by Senator Murphy’s greater blunder, his raid on the Standing Orders of this Senate, and for that he ought to be ashamed. It was Senator Murphy who for so long projected himself as the great parliamentarian, the great defender of the Senate and the great defender of the committee system. He was the man who was going to give a real role to the Senate in the bicameral system of the Federal Parliament. Yet he came in here and expected to get a Bill to alter the Constitution through this chamber in 90 minutes from the time it arrived, assuming that the other Bill had been completed -
- Mr President, I rise to order. When I spoke I was prevented by the then Acting Deputy President from alluding to these matters on the basis that they were irrelevant, and I confined myself to dealing with this Bill. Now the Leader of the Opposition is proceeding to deal with the very matters that I was prevented from dealing with.
– There is no substance in the point of order. The President is in the chair now, not the Acting Deputy President.
– One of the reasons why the people of Australia would never vote for either of these referendums is that they will not give any further power to be exercised by a centralist government in Canberra. This Government believes in the exercise of arbitrary power. Give it power and it will use it ruthlessly. It will use it in respect of its income powers; it will use it in respect of its prices powers. Give it a chance and it will rip up the Standing Orders and use its powers there. This afternoon we saw an exercise of naked power. The Government had the numbers and was prepared to use them without concern for the fact that this Senate ought to be entitled, on a matter to amend the Constitution, to have a reasonable debate. I think it would have been reasonable -
– You prevented the Senate from having it.
– It is no use the Leader of the Government saying that we did certain things. The simple fact is that it was fair enough for the Leader of the Government to gag the original Bill and we do not complain about it, because at that stage we had had a full and complete debate. He knows and we know that this Bill did not pass through the other House until shortly before 5 p.m. today, and that is about when it came over here. He knew at that stage that he would shove it through here by 6 p.m., if he could get away with it. At last he gave us until 6.30. Even the House of Representatives, where democracy departed at the commencement of this year with the incoming Whitlam Government, had more than an hour in which to consider this Bill. We in this place have had from 5.20 this afternoon until 6.30 tonight to debate this Bill. Is it any wonder that we resist it? I would have thought that, as a matter of courtesy, in respect of any Bill coming into this chamber I would have been able to move the adjournment of the debate so that the Bill could be considered the next day. That is a normal courtesy extended to the Opposition when a Bill has been in the other place and debated at length there and we know everything that is in it. But this Bill was brought into the House of Representatives this morning. It was trundled through that place by the use of numbers. It comes in here and there is no opportunity for any reasonable debate to take place.
– You wasted the time that was available.
– It is no use Senator Murphy saying that we wasted the time available. I am saying that he gave no time for it to be debated. Why did he not allow the normal courtesy which is extended to the Leader of the Opposition to move the adjournment of the debate on the Bill and return to it the next day? This Bill could have been put through the Parliament tomorrow. It could have been delayed -
– Order! The time allotted for consideration of the Bill has expired. I put the question:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator Sir Magnus Cormack)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator Sir Magnus Cormack)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Sitting suspended from 6.40 to 8 p.m.
– Before I call Senator McManus I would be grateful if he would allow me the opportunity to make a brief observation. Earlier today I made 2 statements relating to the need to provide in Parliament House emergency power facilities to enable the Parliament to continue to operate. As I indicated shortly after lunch, I have discussed this matter with Mr Speaker. He and I are in total accord that in no circumstances should the Parliament of Australia be put at prejudice as a result of power shortages, and steps have been taken to see that such an eventuality will be immediately overcome.
Formal Motion for the Adjournment
– In accordance with Standing Order 64I move:
I do so for the purpose of debating a matter of urgency, namely:
The reduction of Australia’s defences to a degree which destroys the morale of our armed forces, leaves Australia without credibility as an ally and gravely endangers our security.
I believe that it is appropriate for such a motion to be moved by the Democratic Labor Party in a period of crisis because the DLP, from its inception, has always been a defence minded party. In the early 1950s we were impressed by the change which occurred in Australia’s security as a result of the Second World War. Prior to that war, between Australia and Asia and the rest of the world we had the British in India and in Malaya, the Dutch in Indonesia, the French in IndoChina and the Americans in the Philippines. We also had the security and the protection of the forces of Britain, particularly the British fleet. After World War II all that cordon between Australia and the rest of the world was swept away, and we were on the threshold of Asia. A year or two after that war an event happened as a result of which nothing could ever again be the same for the security of our country- communism took over China.
In the period from 1955 to 1961, when the DLP was first operating, we always made it a principle of our election speeches to insist that the item of most importance to Australia was Australia’s defences and security. We formed that conclusion, and we made it the first item of our election policy because of the kind of world in which we were living. No other Party agreed with us. In the case of the 2 major parties, defence was relegated to the least important sections of the policy speeches. In my first term as a senator, from 1955 to 1961, there was hardly a change in the defence vote which, each year, was pegged at one hundred million pounds, although each year the value of money was decreasing. Therefore, the amount actually being spent on defence, while appearing to be the same, was steadily decreasing. During the 1961 election campaign about the only thing on which the Liberal Party and the Australian Labor Party agreed - they disagreed on practically everything- was that the defence vote could continue to be pegged and that there was no necessity for Australia to improve its defences.
However, after 1961 there was a different situation. The situation in Vietnam became more serious. The situation in the Asian area generally became more serious. We had the events which eventually led to the confrontation in Borneo. Indonesia had one of the largest communist parties in the world. That party, only by a hair’s breadth, failed to take over that country. We were the luckiest people in the world that the attempted communist coup was foiled and that
Indonesia came under the present regime. It is a regime which has been inducing stability steadily and a regime with which we are able to cooperate.
But because of the seriousness of what appeared to be the situation both the major political parties in Australia in the early 1960s became defence minded. Defence received more and more mention in the policies of the Australian Labor Party and the then Government parties. But as a result of later events in the later 1960s there was a turn of public opinion. The Vietnam war was not being won, mainly because there were 2 wars in Vietnam. There was the military war which was three-quarters fought and the propaganda war which was not fought at all. The result was that public opinion veered around in a direction antagonistic towards defence. Defence was smeared. In the late 1 960s and in the first year or so of this decade the word soldier’ was almost made a dirty word. The anti-defence spirit spread throughout certain members of the community who, as I said before, were influenced by propaganda which the Government of the day did not resist sufficiently.
We then came to the period when it was asserted under Mr Gorton that Australia was safe and that there was no possibility of anything happening to Australia for at least 10 years. That proposition is now being echoed by the present Government, with the exception that instead of saying that we have nothing to worry about defence-wise for 10 years, the present Government is extending the period and says that we have nothing to worry about defence-wise for about 15 years. Of course, that argument is supported by opinion which could be regarded as expert in certain fields and is attacked from certain directions by opinion which could be regarded at least as equally expert. The present Government has made great play of a statement by Sir Victor Smith of the Royal Australian Navy and of the General Staff to the effect that in the foreseeable future he can see no prospect of any attack upon Australia.
The Government has justified its decisions to reduce Australia’s defences to an alarming degree by saying that it relies upon such statements. But I point out that that statement is counteracted by a statement which has been widely circulated made by the Chief of the General Staff, Major-General Sir Mervyn Brogan which I propose to quote. He was asked whether he subscribed to the no threat theory that one hears in various places. He said:
I would have to say there is no foreseeable threat at the moment But this is not to say that a threat will not manifest itself almost overnight. We have been lulled into these senses of false security before.
We have only got to look back to the Chamberlain era to see the point brought out. The fact that there is no imminent threat to this country as of now is not to say that we should not be prepared for one that will loom tomorrow.
He was then asked:
Many people say it would not be possible for this country to be invaded. Do you subscribe to that view?
I think the very vastness of Australia leaves it open to invasion at many points. We have a coastline of some 12,000 linear miles. We have an area of 3 million square miles. This is a lot of geography to be defended by a population of 1 3 million people of which only 31,000 Regular Army men are to be under arms at any one time and I would not discount the theory that this country could be invaded with comparative ease.
I want to refer also to another statement which I heard made at a briefing given to members of this Parliament, within our own precincts, by Admiral Sir Richard Peek who had attended a conference of naval officers in Washington. At that time there was much questioning over the Russian presence in the Indian Ocean. There were those who said that it was nothing to be afraid of; there were others who said that it had serious implications. At that time all the Press of Australia quoted a question and answer from that briefing. Admiral Peek was asked whether the Russian presence in the Indian Ocean was serious at present and he answered ‘no’. Then he was asked this question:
Could it be serious within 1 2 months?
The whole of the Australian Press printed his first statement that there was no imminent threat in the Indian Ocean but I have not seen one newspaper which printed his further statement that that position could be completely altered within 12 months. Those of us who look back through history will recall that prior to Hitler’s war and the war in which we were involved with Japan, Mr Baldwin, the Prime Minister of Great Britain, held an election and at that time he hardly mentioned defence. He allowed the defences of Great Britain to be down-graded. When he was asked why he did not stand up for an adequately armed Britain he said it was because at the time there were no votes in it. Many of us can remember that in the period from 1935 to 1940 there were powerful disarmament organisations operating in this country and in the Labor Party. Many of us can remember the statement by Mr John Curtin not long before Hitler’s war when he said that war was not imminent and the Government should consider reducing Australia’s forces. Whenever I think of those times I also think of a father who used to visit my office in 1948, 1949 and 1950. His son had joined the forces and had been sent with a number of troops to Amboina. His son died there. Those troops went there without arms and without training. They were sent there in a last desperate effort. They had nothing with which to resist the Japs and the son of this man died there. This father kept coming to me wanting to know why something could not be done politically to get an inquiry to sheet home the responsibility of the people who had caused a situation whereby young Australians who were not trained were sent into action without weapons and without experience. But of course that man did not get what he was after. Neither, I suppose, will people get such an inquiry if as a result of what is happening today Australia is caught unarmed and unprepared and young Australians are sent into action without a chance of being effectively able to resist their enemies.
There are 3 points in the motion which I have moved. The first is the question of morale. I concede that the Government deserves some credit on a front which could be associated with morale because the Government has taken action, for which it has to be commended, to improve the conditions under which members of our armed forces operate. Having said that, I can only say that all the efforts that have been made to make service in the armed forces something of a career and all the efforts that have been made to improve morale in that direction must fall to the ground when young men who hope to make the armed forces a career find that the armed forces today are being downgraded and that they will be left without adequate training and without adequate weapons with which to fight.
One will be told in any part of Australia today that we have tanks, but the greater part of the time of our tank corps is spent in trying to repair, to maintain and to keep in operation tanks which have been obsolete for many years and which would be entirely useless in battle. Yet we are told by the experts that Australia is a country that is particularly suited to tank warfare. There was to have been a destroyer program. It is now in the doldrums. The proposal for Cockburn Sound is in the doldrums. Officers in the Royal Australian Air Force cynically talk of having to operate in balloons before long. As the last straw, we have been told that the Government proposes to save money by getting rid of at least four or five Army bands. I believe that the ordinary Army band is a considerable factor in relation to morale. When one finds that four or five of these bands, which are comprised of trained musicians who are able to make a considerable contribution to morale generally, are to be disbanded, one can only wonder where the Government will move next in this frantic search for economies at the expense of our defence forces.
What is happening, of course, is that the retirement benefits which the Government improved and made available in the belief that they would encourage people to stay in the armed forces are now being used by disappointed officers and non-commissioned officers who feel that the Army has been so downgraded that it offers nothing at all to a man who wants to make the best of his profession. These men of priceless experience who could not possibly be replaced will now take these improved benefits and get out of our armed forces in complete disappointment and disillusionment. The worst feature of this is that it takes many years to build up skilled cadres and skilled groups in various areas of our armed forces. If we get rid of those skilled organisations it will be years before we are able to re-form them, and there is no prospect of re-forming them in a hurry if we are faced with a crisis in which our defences are called upon. In the light of these circumstances, what are we doing? The Government is taking the action of getting rid of a large number of men whose services are vital if we are to have any sort of armed forces and will be more than vital if war comes and our armed forces have to be expanded.
The second point I make in my matter of urgency is that because of what is happening in relation to our armed forces we will lose credibility as an ally. We have always claimed that while we will make a contribution to our own defence we will rely upon allies, but that to ensure that they will assist us and join with us we will be prepared to make a contribution in the event of mutual trouble. I refer to two particular alliances. One is the South East Asia Treaty Organisation alliance. I was very surprised to note that when he was in Washington recently Mr Whitlam said that Australia still had a lot of time for SEATO. However, the suggestion is that it will become largely a cultural body and will cease the manoeuvres which it organised for quite a number of years. But what is the situation in the case of the ANZUS treaty? According to the records of our own Department of Foreign Affairs, while those concerned with ANZUS do not guarantee completely that they will support one another, ANZUS is based upon the likelihood that the countries concerned will assist one another. But one finds that the doctrine on which this will be based, as stated by President Nixon, says:
The US will provide a shield if a nuclear power threatens the freedom of a nation allied with the US or a nation vital to US security.
But it goes on:
In cases involving other types of aggression the US will furnish military and economic assistance when requested in accordance with its Treaty commitments.
But here is the rub for Australia:
But it will look to the nation directly threatened to assume the primary responsibility for providing the manpower for its own defence.
That doctrine indicates, we are told by our own experts, that limited military response by the US or other external powers to communist insurgency is unlikely to be affected unless accompanied by the fullest self-help by the government concerned. We say that we must rely on allies. We are a small country of 1 2 million people. But our principal ally says, and the others by implication say, that we must provide self-help, we must try to be self-reliant. Are we self-reliant? Everybody knows that we could not possibly be self-reliant. Everybody knows that we could not be regarded as in any sense a credible ally under the arms and military establishment which this Government proposes. Let me point out the case of the Army to illustrate this. The Army has about 3 1 ,000 men, perhaps a couple of thousand more; but the experts tell us that of those 3 1 ,000 or 32,000 men, most of them- the overwhelming majority- will be engaged in supply work, communications and all kinds of other work, while those available to bear arms will number about 5,000 or 6,000. Five thousand or 6,000. Let us consider the situation.
Mr Whitlam told President Nixon in the United States that. he should not believe the stories that were being put around that the present Government was adopting an isolationist policy, that it intended to retreat to Australia. Mr Whitlam assured President Nixon that Australia would carry out her treaty obligations if called upon to do so. But how could Australia be anything but isolationist with only 5,000 men in the Army able to bear arms? Those 5,000 men will make it completely impossible for us to make a contribution if one of our ANZUS allies is attacked. Our Government should admit straight out that it is now completely isolationist and that it has no intention under any circumstances of having forces which our allies could regard as credible from the point of view of playing our part in the event of trouble in the world today.
The third point I made was that our general security is being menaced. I believe that even though it costs money, expenditure on reasonable defence is insurance. It is all very well to say: I do not think my house will be burnt down’yet we insure the house and make sure that everything is right. In the same way to those who say: ‘I cannot see that anybody is going to invade Australia ‘ I simply say that at one of the inquiries that I attended, 3 experts in world history were present, and I said to them: ‘Would you say that history shows that nations can make decisions that they have nothing to fear for at least 10 to 15 years?’. They unanimously told me that the lesson of history was that nations which adopted that attitude had almost uniformly paid the penalty. We live in a world of violence. People talk about a detente. The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and China face one another across their common border where the Russians have 45 divisions and the Chinese have almost as many. The islands to the north of us have powerful subversive forces within their communities based on guerrilla movements which are sponsored by communist nations. When one speaks to diplomats from South East Asia one is told that it is not a question of invasion at the moment; the question today is subversion.
There is still a powerful underground communist organisation in Indonesia. There are subversive forces in Thailand, Vietnam and Malaysia. A diplomat from one of those countries told me that other day that his country has not yet recognised communist China. He said that his country sent one of its top diplomats to see Chou En-lai and told him that the position between their 2 countries would be much easier if China did not interfere in the internal affairs of this small South East Asian country. Chou En-lai said: ‘Look, we will promise not to interfere’. The diplomat was delighted. He said: ‘Does that mean that you will no longer support the national liberation front in my country?’ Chou En-lai answered this question by saying: ‘Well, support for a national liberation front is not interference’.
I would say that with the serious position to the north of Australia the increasing power of China and the Soviet Union and the big increases in the size of their navies, anybody who simply says that we can forget the rest of the world for 10 to 15 years will have a very serious awakening. I believe that the people of Australia are not as anti-defence as many people are making out. I believe that the people of Australia, although our Government at the time did not sufficiently tell them what was going on, were gravely disturbed by the implications of what was happening in Vietnam. I believe that as they look at the world today they are becoming gravely concerned about our defences. I believe that they are gravely concerned at the run-down which is taking place in our defences. I believe that all the Parties on this side of the chamber paid the penalty at the last election when they allowed themselves to be conned into the idea that defence would not be a good issue. All of the Parties on this side paid the penalty electorally for allowing their opponents and a big section of the media effectively to con them into the idea that defence was not an issue. I believe that it will be an issue at the next election. I believe that the people of Australia will indicate that they want this country to be secure and that they want our young people to be at least trained to defend themselves if an emergency or a crisis arises. It is all very well to say that we have 10 to 15 yearsthat is a gamble. Even the experts who have told us that we have 10 to 15 years have had to say when we have pinned them down: ‘Well, we cannot say that for certain but we think it’. As I said, this is a gamble. We in the DLP ask the Government to reconsider what it is doing on defence because it ought not to gamble with the security of our country.
– We have heard from Senator McManus what I think is a general statement of the philosophy of the Australian Democratic Labor Party on defence. His argument, of course, is based on the proposition that a maximum amount of money ought to be spent on all the Defence Services. What we are saying as a Government to the people and to the Parliament is that we have spent the maximum amount of money that should be spent in the situation which faces Australia. Estimates of the strategic situation which Australia faces indicates that there is unlikely to be any direct threat to Australian security over the next 10 to 15 years. This is the almost unanimous opinion of the Government’s defence and other experts who are the advisers who held those offices during the currency of the last Government. Their advice is based on the sharing of intelligence with people concerned with the defence forces of the United States of America and the United Kingdom.
The observations which Senator McManus makes in criticising the Government have to be tempered by what the Government is proposing. This defence vote is based on the opinions of the experts as we see and know them. The opinion which we have at the present time is little different from that of the days of the last Government when it put up the same proposition- that we are facing a position of low threat. As a start perhaps we should look at the figures to see the defence expenditure and the strength of the forces at periods in Australian history when it might have been thought that the amount spent on defence should have been greater. For example, let us look at the defence expenditure as a percentage of the gross national product. In 1961-62 the amount expended was $406m, which was equal to 2.7 per cent of the gross national product. In 1962-63 the amount was $428m or 2.6 per cent of the gross national product. In 1963-64 it was $52 lm or 2.9 per cent of the gross national product. In the current year, 1973-74, it is equal to 2.9 per cent of the gross national product. (Quorum formed)
I have been pointing out that defence expenditure as a percentage of the gross national product is little different now to the period of what was called the Indonesian confrontation. Actually the figures which I have quoted to the Senate represent more than the percentage which was spent when Australia was facing a crisis. It is not facing a crisis today. Our experts say so. Our knowledge of the situation indicates that we can look ahead to a period of peace of at least 10 to 15 years -
– Can the Minister guarantee that?
– Nobody can guarantee that.
– I’ll say they cannot.
-Of course they cannot. But what honourable senators opposite are posing to me is that the Government, in this day and age when it is spending huge amounts on welfare and on improvements to Service standards- to which Senator McManus gave some supportwhen it is trying to catch up on the lack of welfare provisions in the Services and in the community generally, and when it is providing additional educational facilities, should increase the defence expenditure above the amount which was granted by past governments. I refer also to the defence forces strength. For example, in 1961-62 there were 20,985 persons in the Army. In 1962-63 there were 21,944 and in 1 963-64- of course these are the years when we needed the assurance that our defence forces were strong and mobile- there were 22,681. In 1972-73 there were 33,990. Let us look at the total strength of all the defence Services- Navy,
Air Force and Army- in those years. In 1962-63 there were 50,142 servicemen. In 1963-64 there were 52,626. In 1964-65 there were 57,952. In 1 972-73 there were 74, 1 9 1 .
In relation to our defence allocation people are talking in 2 voices. For example, this morning I listened to Senator Kane speaking on the Australian Broadcasting Commission program AM’. He was talking about prices, and the reporter asked him what he thought the Government should do. He said: ‘I am very concerned about what the Government will do in the interim and what it will do about curbing Government expenditure’. On the one hand we have people who say that the Government has to curb Government expenditure- that is the argument put forward by the Democratic Labor Party- and on the other we have people who say that we have to be able to manage the defence Services in the climate of peace and detente which exists.
– It is you who should decide your priorities.
-That is right. Let me read out the comments of the editor of the ‘Armed Forces Journal International’, a fairly important Service journal published in Washington. The editor, Benjamin F. Schemmer, in the August 1973 issue, the most recent issue, said about Labor’s policies in an article headed ‘Australia’s Blank Canvas’:
Few nations ever enjoy the chance to design a defence program on a blank canvas. Australia does.
One can’t help but wonder how differently America’s military forces might be shaped were Pentagon planners to start from scratch. Think of how much stronger we might be and different the defence budget would be, if:
Then he pointed out the sorts of options which the American Government had in respect of expensive equipment and dealt with the failures in many respects. He continued:
We can ask the questions, but we can’t start with a blank canvas. That’s what makes Australia interesting. In many respects, it is. And the results so far are impressive.
Last December a new and traditionally anti-militarist Labor Government came into power.
It inherited a small and neglected regular Army held in low public esteem. Its defence industry was inefficient and sure to give up the ghost without a quick influx of technology and new business. Australia’s independence of policy and action had been traded away for ‘defence on the cheap’- yet its closest allies, the United Kingdom and the U.S., were withdrawing into low profiles’ on the understandable premise that their friends should be as ready to defend their own freedom as we had been.
Against this background, Prime Minister Edward Gough Whitlam took office and decided, rather than to surrender, to charge. He is literally designing a new defence program on a blank canvas.
The editor mentioned some of the things to which I would have referred. He continued:
First, he erased some old blotches. One of his first acts last December was to abolish conscription. He seized on a proposal ordered upon but rejected by the previous government and brought in a generous new pension scheme for the Services; he topped that with proposed pay increases that add up to $70 million annually in a country where only SS84 million was allocated for military pay last fiscal year. As a result, he has stemmed a rising tide of NCO and middle rank officer resignations, won a 45 per cent retention rate among National Servicemen with time remaining to serve out, and now has what Australians admit is ‘an embarrassingly high’ enlistment rate for his new all volunteer force.
That is a fact. He continued:
Whitlam has streamlined his defence ministries, abolishing the posts of 3 Service Secretaries while consolidating -
– Who is this man?
– I have the document here. It is a reputable defence document which is circulated -
– Who is the author?
– The author is Benjamin F. Schemmer. This document is read by all the defence Services.
– What does he do?
- Senator Byrne will not be convinced, but this document is circulated amongst our Service heads. I have mentioned to honourable senators what the proposition is.
– They do not like it.
– Of course they do not like it. He continued:
Whitlam has streamlined his defence ministeries, abolishing the post of 3 Service Secretaries while consolidating procurement and support functions (with paring some forces). His National Guard - and he refers to the Citizen Military Forces- . . a top heavy social organisation which has been attracting fewer and fewer volunteers, is due for an overhaul as well.
What we have been facing is a situation where the Labor Government contends that we should look at where we are going in the Army and that there should not be these complex of numbers for numbers’ sake. I shall refer to something which Senator Gair said recently. Of course, Senator McManus has criticised the Liberal Government. He has contended that the Liberal policies in the past were not defence conscious, and he criticised them. In Brisbane recently- I am told 2 weeks ago- Senator Gair said that the Liberal Government had nothing to boast about in the matter of defence as it had left the defence of Australia to girl guides and boy scouts. I hope that is literal, but I understand that it is a fair comment by Senator Gair. To my mind, what
Senator McManus has said tonight is not very much different from what Senator Gair has said.
What about morale in the Services? We have made some massive improvements. Senator McManus says that we have made massive improvements in conditions and pay but that it is not having the effect on the Army- on the Serviceswhich it might have. I think that perhaps the reason for this is that we have a new situation. Australia is no longer at war. Our Vietnam expedition is over. Those who served in Vietnam and in other places- and I do not say dishonourably, because they served there at the behest of the previous Government- were involved in those areas under Government directions. They were instructed in all sorts of tasks, which then were urgent, but today they have returned to Australia, like the reporters who covered the news in those areas, and they are facing a situation where exercises have to be held in Australia. They are facing a new situation of peace.
A situation of peace, as far as the defence forces are concerned, is always critical because soldiers are taught to be ready for war and to perfect the skills of war. There are always some strains in a peacetime situation. The writers of the publications that have given some consideration to what they call a crisis in the armed forces are themselves people who have served in those war areas, and they have returned to Australia where exercises are now being held under peacetime conditions. Everybody is wondering what will be the outcome of it. Surely our position as a government ought to be to insist that peace is something to be preserved and that while we have peace, while we have ten or fifteen years of peace in the foreseeable future- it is not guaranteed; nobody could gurantee that- we ought to be able to decide what our forces should be, what expensive equipment we might buy and what general position we might take internationally.
It is true that in some areas the purchase of equipment has been put off, and so it should be. The DDL destroyer program would have cost Australia about $330m. Recently in Australia we have tested the Leopard tank and the American tank, and if we were to use these tanks to replace the Centurion tanks it would cost more than $500,000 for each tank. The Government, the defence Services and the advisers have to decide how the Government will spend the money, how it will apportion the money between the Services. Of course the wages bill of the Services ought to be steady. That is what we are asking, because we have a situation in which we have time to think about the matter.
I deal now with the question of morale. In answer to a question in the Senate this afternoon I said that I just could not understand how anybody could say that the Labor Government could in any way be credited with any actions which would reduce morale in the Services. We have done everything in our power to increase morale in the Services, as everybody knows.
– It is at an all time low.
- Senator Sim says that it is at an all time low. Members of the Press who were involved in the Vietnam war talk about an all time low, but let me state some of our achievements. We have improved on the report of the Joint Committee on Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Legislation which was chaired by Mr Jess. There will be a continuing examination of that report which the previous Government, of which Senator Sim was a member, rejected. The previous Government would not implement all the recommendations in that report. We have promised to do so, and we have done so. We have substantially increased service pay, and we have improved the range of classifications and conditions of service. We have continued with the setting up of a committee to inquire into defence forces pay; Only yesterday a deputy president of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, Mr Justice Coldham, was appointed chairman of the committee. It will recommend on matters which, in civilian life, would be determined by negotiation or arbitration. That has never been done before. The members of that committee are experienced in the field of negotiation. They include my colleague Mr Commissioner Deverall of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission and Air Marshal Sir Alister Murdoch. Those things were never considered but were resisted by the previous Government.
In addition, we have provided a bounty of $ 1 ,000 for members who voluntarily re-engage. We have increased the vote for and have spent more money on defence Services homes than ever before. There have been some complaints about homes at Puckapunyal and other places. The improvements which we will carry out this year should have been carried out in past years by the Liberal Government. In addition, as everybody knows, we have promised to appoint a defence forces ombudsman. That will be done this year. I know of the new attitude in the Services because I am concerned with the Services. There is a new attitude in the Services. Servicemen, their wives and families can write to Ministers without those prohibitions which existed, in my day certainly, when daily routine orders carried the prohibition about servicemen not writing to members of Parliament and Ministers. Today it is common for servicemen to write to members of Parliament and Ministers. The regulations have been altered to allow this. We have established a new relationship for the defence forces. In circumstances of peace, soldiers who have come from a situation of war would wonder what the future holds for them and in those circumstances may wish to become publicly involved in discussion as to what the future holds. We are not against that; we are in favour of it. We have improved their standards more than any other government has, and I am quite certain that those people, like the ex-service organisations, are highly pleased with our programs.
As everybody knows, we have also provided to serving members the opportunity to choose whether to take the advantages conferred by the Repatriation Act or the advantages conferred by the Compensation (Australian Government Employees) Act. These things have been widely applauded. We cannot understand why people, even people in the media who are in a vacuum about defence at present, should say that the morale is at a low level. If that were so I should think that the number of offences under the disciplinary codes would have increased. It has not done so. It has dropped during the period of office of the Labor Government. Senator McManus talked about the cutbacks in the Army and in the bands. Of course there have been cutbacks in bands, but the cutbacks in the supernumerary forces and the bands have resulted in a higher rate of field force participation. Previously it was argued that a field force of 10,500 from a force of 32,000 was an excellent achievement. With the advice of the defence experts about whom I have spoken, we have been able to get a field force of 1 1,500 from 31,000 soldiers. That is the sort of thinking which the Labor Party is implementing.
So I cannot see how there is any substance in the propositions which have been put forward by Senator McManus. I can understand any Australian being concerned about how much money is spent on defence. I would like to see the defence vote increased. I would like to see the Australian Services better equipped than they are, if we could afford it. But we have decided that our expenditure priorities are such that in this Budget the defence vote will be kept at 2.9 per cent of the gross national product. In doing that we have been able to make the fairly substantial improvements on which Senator McManus was fair enough to commend the Government. The improvements are good things.
It seems to me that the next test which he put was whether our credibility is at stake with respect to our allies. I have already mentioned that the estimates about the possible 10 or 15 years period of peace have been based on shared intelligence. The estimates are not based solely on Australian intelligence reports. The view which the advisers are giving the Government is based on intelligence reports from the United States and the United Kingdom. There is very close co-operation between Australia and those countries, as there should be, and the Government welcomes it. I welcome it. Those reports are shared. In addition, we have extensive exercises still continuing. For instance, already this year a platoon of the 6th RAR has visited the United Kingdom, 150 soldiers have visited the New Zealand defence forces and members of the 6th Task Force have visited Hawaii for exercises with the United States 25th Infantry Division. British, Ghurka, New Zealand and Australian troops, together with Australian sailors and airmen, are now involved in the biggest joint exercise in New South Wales in the last decade. It is known as ‘Operation Dark Moon’. Other exercises are planned for the future. Mr Barnard has negotiated agreements which come within the concept of joint exercises at home and abroad with our allies in South East Asia as well as with the United States of America. In addition, individual training of Australian servicemen in Australia and in many overseas countries will continue. As most people know, there are day to day talks between the navies of various countriesfor example, the navy of the United States of America and the navy of Australia.
I return to Senator McManus ‘s first proposition. I think he stated the position of the DLP and his concern for a greater defence expenditure. In the circumstances we have decided that our Budget expenditure on defence is sufficient. We welcome the situation today. We think that detente is a practical proposition. We think that the great powers have created a system of understandings which will continue for the foreseeable future and which will mean a peaceful situation. We would prefer to see an increase in the expenditure on heavy equipment, but we have had to cut back on it for the present. We have cut back on some flying operations of the Royal Australian Air Force. If we had been able to expand the provisions of the Budget to those areas, certainly we would have done so. But as everybody knows, we have come down on the side of meeting our general welfare commitments and our commitments to improve Sendee conditions at a time when we can afford to do it.
I return to the proposition which Senator McManus raised about the war years. I know what the proposition was in the war years. I, like a lot of other people, was one of those who had reached an age at which they felt they should join the Services. Most people responded to the call. It may be true that in those days there was not equipment to hand; we used equipment which was made available by other countries. The lack of equipment was not the fault of the Labor Government; it was the fault of the Liberal Government which had not seen the threat.
– Did you see it?
– I have given honourable senators the opinions of experts. They were the same people who gave advice to Ministers of the former Government of which the honourable senator was a supporter.
– They were wrong.
– They were not wrong as far as I can see. We have a situation in which the United States of America and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics are on speaking terms. There is a detente in Europe. I know, and everybody else realises that despite the South East Asian conflict there are understandings between those great powers. Because there are understandings and exchanges they are not always outwardly recognised- that allows the Government’s advisers to put a proposition to us. I point out again that the advisers are the same people who advised the former Government when it was in power. They share the same intelligence gathered from the sources I have mentioned amongst our allies. These advisers have said that there will be no direct threat in the next 10 or 15 years. What the Labor Government has said is that in those years let us reorganise the defence forces to provide a new platform. Having done that, let us ensure that we have sufficient people serving in the defence Services. We have them. Our policies have met with a response from volunteers that is unusual. I remind honourable senators opposite- they well know this-that they always argued that they would never obtain sufficient volunteers to man the Services. As a result of that sort of proposition, the former Government adopted the course of conscription which the Labor movement generally does not like. Most Labor Party members believe- I personally believe this also- that a volunteer professional army is the best army that any country can have. I think that the Labor Government has set course on the proper paths.
I would like to have been able to say: ‘The cutbacks in defence spending will not take place this year’. But the cutbacks that have been made are minor ones. I refer honourable senators to what the Government did in relation to the trade unions. We have limited the number of retrenchments in the Services by ensuring that wherever possible cutbacks are covered by attrition. I am opposed to the motion that has been moved. I think that it might canvass in a worthwhile way what Australia should be thinking about. I do not disagree with the honourable senator who has moved the motion in that respect. We should be thinking about defence. But I think that the Government has set course on the right passage. I am quite sure that in the later years of the Labor Government we will expand our defence services and thus satisfy the aims of all those who want to see Australia properly defended.
– I think that the last words of the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Bishop) contain the only assurance that we can obtain from his statement. He said that in the later years of the Labor Government it will expand our defence forces. I say that the Minister did the best he could with a bad situation. I have the greatest personal respect for him but I am afraid that he failed completely to answer the charge that the Government is running our defence forces down to a serious degree. If I were to take a text for this debate, I would take the words used by Mr Barnard, the Minister for Defence, in a major election address to the Strategic and Defence Studies Centre of the Australian National University in March of last year. He said:
Any Government that shows it lacked interest in defence or sought to cut back sharply on defence or even dismantle pan of the defence structure would not be the Government of this country for very long.
This statement by Mr Barnard may well prove to be prophetic because he has done all those things. Today in the military forces we have a new term, a term of derision and contemptBarnardisation’. This term is used widely in the defence forces today as a term of contempt and derision at the actions of the Minister for Defence and the Government.
– Who coined that phrase?
– The military forces- the troops themselves- who are not bad at coining phrases. Despite what the Minister has said, the result of the Government’s policy has been a lowering of morale. This can be proved easily by a statement made by none other than Major Young who, I understand, is a member of the Labor Party and a member of the Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee of that Party.
– Has the. honourable senator checked this?
– I am quoting only what he is supposed to have said. He was speaking on an ATN Channel 7 broadcast and said that the Labor Government had misjudged very badly Australia’s defence arrangements and that if Army morale was not at rock bottom ‘it’s about two inches off it’. That is a view of a member of the Labor Party, as reported. I know of no contradiction by Major Young of that statement. The efficiency of our military forces has been destroyed. It is not my intention tonight to go through the various measures that have been taken by this Government which have destroyed the efficiency and morale of our defence forces. No doubt, my colleagues will do this. We can no longer say that our defence forces are credible. Following upon the so-called defence statement made by the Minister for Defence, the Government has continued with all sorts of ad hoc decisions, almost day by day, to dismantle further our defence forces.
When we hear about the encouragement of a voluntary defence force I am reminded of the Government’s reported decision to dismantle the university air squadron, a volunteer force made up of members from Australian universities. A number of officers have been trained within this squadron to defend Australia should the need arise. The Government takes great comfort in the belief that there exists no discernible threat for a period of 10 to 15 years. I acknowledge that the Minister said there is no certainty in this. I want to deal with the uncertainty of this type of prediction. If the lessons of history mean anything to us, they have destroyed completely these long term predictions in regard to threat. I am reminded that in June or July of 1914 Mr Lloyd George said that the international situation had never appeared brighter. In a month or 6 weeks from that time we were plunged into the First World War. After the Munich conference, Mr Curtin- I do not criticise him for this but it is a fact of life- said words to the effect that there was no longer a threat of war and any expenditure on defence forces was hysterical.
– I hope that the honourable senator is not criticising him.
– I am quoting the lessons of history. In 1932 no one believed that an Austrian corporal named Hitler would, in 7 years, plunge the world into one of the most horrible wars of history. From the early 1930s onwards the warning of Churchill went unheeded by all governments including the Conservative Government in Great Britain under Mr Baldwin, who was then its Prime Minister. Churchill was regarded as a madman.
– The warnings went unheeded by the Austraiian Government, also.
– I do not shrink from this. They were ignored by all governments including the Australian governments. It only proves my point further. It is that no one can make these judgments with any degree of certainty. History, regardless of politics, proves this quite conclusively. I would think that this is an obvious warning to us. Our defence forces may become depleted to an extent where they no longer have credibility. We could lose many experienced officers who take 15 or 20 years to train. There is evidence of an increasing number of resignations amongst officers. There is evidence of an increasing number of resignations amongst senior noncommissioned officers who take 10 or 1 5 years to train. If we are confronted with a crisis, either suddenly or with little warning, these people cannot be replaced. I accept the comments of Senator Devitt and Senator McAuliffe about what happened in 1939. We would be faced, in the situation I have referred to, with what we faced in 1939 when our defence forces were sent into action untrained and ill-equipped. Surely that is a lesson of history which we should not forget. Unfortunately the truth is that we never learn from history. I believe it is time we did so.
I want to refer to equipment. It is very easy to say that as there is no discernible threat our equipment should be allowed to run down. But it takes 5, 10 or 15 years to re-equip forces with the sophisticated modern equipment needed today from the time the decision is made to order to the time it is delivered. This delay seriously reduces the safety limit that is required. I am not suggesting that our defence forces should be extraordinarily large but they should be capable of rapid growth should the occasion arise- and one hopes that it never will arise.
I invite the Senate to look at the premises upon which the Government bases its assessment that no discernible threat is apparent for 10 or 15 years. I say that that is an assessment which is based on unwarranted optimism. The Minister for Repatriation and the Minister for Defence have said that we are now approaching a situation of global detente or that in fact such a situation has been reached. They say that South East Asia is reaching a period of stabilization. I only wish that were so. I suggest that this is not only an unwarranted optimism but it is also a dangerous assumption which is not based upon facts. True it is that it appears that the United States of America and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics have reached a degree of co-operation and understanding that did not exist previously. It is true also that there has been some measure of understanding reached between the United States of America and China. I think we all greet these things. We recognise the situation and we are pleased that it has happened.
But these understandings are by no means complete. There are major areas of disagreement still to be settled. There are major areas of uncertainty. It is also true that it can be argued- I am not sure how completely- that there is a new balance of power; a quadrilateral of power or a trapezium of power or a multipolar world. It has all sorts of names. This has developed in place of the former bi-polar system involving the United States of America and the Soviet Union. I accept the view that there is safety in a balance of power between various groupings but how safe is it? The new balances are far from clear. The balance between the United States, China, the Soviet Union and Japan- the quadrilateral in our region- is far from clear. No one knows how this balance eventually will work out. Relations between Japan and the Soviet Union are bedevilled by great differences over the return of the islands north of Japan. Only today it was reported that the Prime Minister of Japan, Mr Tanaka, left for a tour of Europe and the Soviet Union. It was reported that he may reach agreement with the Soviet Union over the return of the northern islands- this was disputed in other reports- in return for Japanese investment for the development of Siberia. If these things happen how will they affect relations between Japan and China? How will the balance of power be affected? This is yet uncertain. On the other hand, if Japan cannot reach agreement with the Soviet Union will Japan reach agreement with China? How would that situation affect the balance of power between the major powers?
Overshadowing all these things is the relationship between Russia and China. There are reports- I think this was mentioned by Senator McManus- that there are between 44 and 49 Russian divisions along the border between China and the Soviet Union and that they are faced by an equivalent number of Chinese divisions. That means that well over 2 million troops are facing each other. It is reported also that a significant proportion of the Russian nuclear deterrent as well as a significant part of its air power is facing China. I accept the view- I only hope it is true- that it is unlikely that there will be a major conflict between Russia and China. I do not believe that such a conflict could be isolated. It would affect the whole world. Such a conflict is unlikely but it cannot be ruled out. No one knows what is in the minds of the men in the Kremlin. I believe that today there is greater fear, in China of Russia than there is of China in Russia; I believe that the Chinese fear the Russians more than the Russians fear the Chinese in the short term. However, it may well be that the Russians believe that China may well threaten them in future. One cannot ignore the possibility of a pre-emptive strike. Such a possibility was very real in the minds of many people a few years ago. I think that now it is receding but it nevertheless still exists.
– Do you want us to buy into that?
– I hope that we do not buy into it. All I say is that it is difficult to believe that such a conflict between those 2 countries could be contained. One hopes that such a conflict will never happen and I believe it is unlikely but the danger is there and it could happen. That possibility does threaten the stability of the world; that cannot be denied. I am referring to these matters very briefly because of the time factor involved in this debate. It cannot be argued that there is a detente between the main powers. I could deal more fully with these possibilities. Today the chance of instability between the major powers is as great as the chance of stability. Until this problem is solved it cannot be argued, as is argued apparently by the Minister for Repatriation, that there is a detente between the major powers.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Davidson)- Order! The honourable senator’s time has expired.
– The Senate tonight is debating a matter of urgency, namely: . . the reduction of Australia’s defences to a degree which destroys the morale of our armed forces, leaves Australia without credibility as an ally and gravely endangers our security.
What is Australia’s position today so far as security is concerned? In recent weeks a series of newspaper articles has appeared on the capability of our present defence forces to defend Australia. I read those articles carefully and I could not find in any of them any reference to the possibility of a direct threat to Australia. In fact the writers of those articles acknowledged that there is no threat to Australia.
– There is no apparent threat.
-No apparent threat. That does not matter, however, because none of us can say for certain at this point of time that there is a threat or any apparent threat to Australia. From where is the threat supposed to be coming? We cannot say that we are being threatened by the countries of South East Asia. We cannot say that we are being threatened by Indonesia. Even Denis Warner, the author of one of the articles in this series, has acknowledged that the changing world in a way makes Australian involvement in Asian wars a remote possibility.
I now wish to refer to an article on defence which appears on page 17 of the 1972 annual report of the Returned Services League of Australia. The report indicates that the RSL does not believe that there is a foreseeable specific threat to Australia. Under the heading ‘RSL Defence Paper 1973 ‘, the report states:
This year marks an important point in the history of Australia’s defence development.
The withdrawal of our combat forces from operations in Vietnam, and the absence of any foreseeable specific threat, provide a breathing space in which to determine long range policies. Even the major powers in our strategic area are jostling for position in the power-balance struggle.
Senator Bishop and Senator Sim mentioned here tonight that the balance and detente between the great powers make large scale international conflict highly unlikely. The Nixon Doctrine leaves no doubt that the United States will not again engage in Vietnam-type intervention. The Labor Government would not be willing to intervene in any way in this type of situation. Not only is it against our principles, but it is counterproductive. Of course, the Opposition does not share our principles.
A government would be foolish if it did not listen to its defence advisers. The Labor Government has listened to its defence advisers. The Government’s defence advisers have completed a strategic re-appraisal of our defence needs based upon information from the Joint Intelligence Organisation. This Organisation was mentioned by Senator Bishop. I might add that it shares intelligence information with the United States and Great Britain. So I fail to see on what basis it is said in the matter of urgency that our credibility as an ally has been affected, because both Great Britain and the United States are still sharing intelligence information with Australia.
– I am not so sure about that.
-Well, I do not know; but we have to rely on what has been mentioned not only here but also in other places, and it has been said that we share this information with Great Britain and the United States. The re-appraisal carried out by the Department of Defence was concerned not merely with the apparent intentions and ambitions of other countries but also with their military potential. The conclusion has been reached that no one is threatening our security or is likely to threaten our security for the next 10 or 15 years. It is true that there is no guarantee that the lead time will be 10 or 15 years. There is always a likelihood of some major upheaval in the world in view of the situation today. Mention was made of the confrontation between China and Russia. Even the experts do not believe that these 2 countries would engage in a shooting war at this point of time. I feel that Australia’s present position was well expressed by Sir Victor Smith, who has been mentioned here this evening already, when he said recently that at this moment we are one of the most secure countries in the world. Regardless of which party is in power, this is Australia ‘s strategic situation. The difference between the political parties in Australia is that the Australian Labor Party welcomes this absence of threat whereas our political opponents lament the passing of an era in which elections could be won by stressing the threat from the north.
But we should not be lulled into a sense of false security or complacency. The Minister for Defence (Mr Barnard) is not allowing the fact that there is no direct threat to Australia to lull the Government or himself into any state of false security. He has given the assurance that the Department of Defence will regularly review the international situation, which is being monitored, so that any deterioration in our strategic situation will be recognised in advance of the threat becoming a conflict. Much of our present problem results from the fact that Australia’s strategic situation, which has been apparent for some years, was not allowed by the previous Government to be reflected in the size and shape of our armed forces. We have accepted the responsibility of making substantial changes in relation to defence, and we recognise the fact that there must be changes. The Government has outlined these changes. The proposed changes involve members of our defence forces in a transition virtually from a war-time to a peace-time situation. National service has been abolished and our defence forces now operate wholly on a volunteer basis. Any change of this nature inevitably creates a degree of uncertainty. It is not surprising that some privates and sergeants and even colonels and captains have been affected by these changes’ and have some qualms about the future. But if one reads the annual report of the RSL one finds on page 1 9 -
– For what year?
-The year 1972.
– The 1 97 1 -72 report, yes.
– It has only ‘1972’ on my copy. The section I read earlier was under the heading ‘RSL Defence Paper 1973 ‘.On page 19. under the heading ‘Defence Forces’ the report states: ‘
The Defences Review shows we will spend this year $ 1 ,252m on defence. $97 1m of this sum goes on maintaining the forces of 8 1,000 men (backed by 52,000 civilians) -
– From what report are you reading?
-The 1971-72 report.
– I think the honourable senator said that it was the 1 972-73 report.
– I said that it is the 1972 annual report of the RSL National Executive.
– The latest?
-The latest report, and the headings are under ‘ RSL Defence Paper 1 973 ‘.
– It sounds a bit Irish.
-You had better tell that to the National Executive of the RSL. The report stated that there were 81,000 men including 52,000 civilians. I am not a mathematician, but subtracting 52,000 from 81,000 gives a total of 29,000 men in uniform. The Defence statement brought down by Mr Barnard has the Army strength at 3 1 ,000 with an increase of 1 ,000 a year until 1976 when it will reach a total of 34,000, at which time another review will be made of our situation. Then, if necessary, the numbers will be increased and the whole defence force will be updated at that period. We have been told that 3 1 ,000 men- that is the number of the Army at present- constitute divisional strength and could quickly be built into greater strength by the expertise that remains in the Army. The Army is a professional body. These men have been professionals since the Second World War and they take pride in their professionalism. Not only do they take pride in it but I believe their morale will not suffer as a result of the cut back in the Defence vote.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Brown)- Order! The honourable senator’s time has expired.
– The Australian Country Party associates itself with this urgency motion because the Australian Country Party believes great emphasis should be placed on defence. There is no doubt that since 2 December many tragic decisions have been made by this socialist Government but one of the most tragic, I believe, is the effect it has had on the defence forces of this country. The Government has run down the defence forces to such an extent that they will take a long time to recover. There is a mistaken idea that defence expenditure can be turned on and off like a tap. Some people have the idea that if there is a situation of little risk- it has been said by the advisers of the present Government that there is no possible risk to this nation for 10 to 15 yearsit is a waste of money to spend money on defence and that what the Government should do is to spend it in some other avenue. This is the very thing that the Government should not do with the defence forces.
In the first place, this applies particularly to the Army for there the Government is dealing with individual people most of whom are young and are making a career of the Army. They want to know beforehand where they are to go for the future and if the Government starts cutting down on the numbers of establishments it will put into the minds of these people doubts as to where their future lies, whether they are to be allowed to continue in the armed Services or required to move out and find their own way in civilian life in positions for which they have not been trained. This is when the lack of morale starts creeping in- and there is no doubt that there is a great lack of morale in the defence forces today. It takes years to train a senior officer and a senior noncommissioned officer. If the Government runs down the forces or if these people decide to leave the forces because for one reason or another there is no future for them, it will take years to replace them.
It is all very well for the government of the day to say: ‘Our advisers say it will be 10 to 15 years before there is any forseeable threat to this nation ‘. But when one pins down the top military people they all admit that none of them is prepared to forecast more than 5 years ahead, and some restrict forecasts to as short a period as two or three years ahead. But they all agree that it takes 7 or 8 years to build up the armed Services if they have been allowed to run down. So the Government has no idea what will happen in 3 or 4 years and whether it will require armed Ser1 vices. If it does require them it will take 7 years to get them into top condition and top form. We must maintain at all times an armed force which can be readily taken into battle and be the nucleus or the base of an armed force if we are attacked. But we must keep the top officerstrained men- and we must keep moving into the armed forces new, modern weapons at a fairly regular rate so that the pipeline of munitions production and maintenance people is maintained. The Government just cannot operate the defence forces with obsolete weapons and it cannot expect maintenance people or trained experts in this field to be able to switch straight on to new and modern equipment. It just cannot do it.
This is what amuses me when people say there is no threat. Who is going to threaten Australia? None of us could say who is going to threaten Australia today. Even the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam), when he was in Canada recently stated that he could have some feeling for the Chinese in exploding nuclear weapons because they feared they were under threat. From whom are they under threat? The Soviet Union, obviously. No one who has any knowledge of military matters would say that the only threat would come on the border, that the only fighting would take place on the border, because everybody knows that the Soviet Union has nuclear submarines spread all over the world. It has bases everywhere. If the Chinese feel that there is a threat from the Soviet Union then obviously they will try to match those particular bases and a situation could develop where the confrontation will be not on the border between Russia and China but in some remote part of the Pacific. The sea lanes which affect both countries could be in dispute and that is where the battle could take place. If the sea lanes were affected it would bring in another nation very smartly, because one of the strongest nations- Japan- is dependent completely on the sea lanes for her whole existence. She has to bring in materials from outside. Senator Devitt who is interjecting knows this as well as I do. There is no doubt that the Japanese would get very toey if there were a conflict in the sea lanes of South-East Asia. So we all hope that we will not be involved in an issue like this, with nuclear submarines in the Pacific and Indian oceans and ourselves in the middle. We must be careful when we have a government like the present Government which is isolationist in its point of view and wants to withdraw from its commitments and wants to defend Australia with a Fortress Australia policy. It is only natural that we must have much stronger armed forces.
I would like to bring to the attention of the Senate the danger that has resulted from the defence cuts. I not only want to talk about the numbers affected, because that is not so important, but also about training and equipment. I am very disturbed about the cutback in flying hours for Royal Australian Air Force personnel. As an ex-RAAF pilot I can appreciate the effect this will have on the RAAF. A pilot must accumulate a certain number of flying hours each week so that he can maintain normal control over his aircraft. A pilot who has not flown for some considerable time finds it difficult to maintain his control. It takes him some time to familiarise himself with the normal practices of taking off, landing and general flying. As a result of these cutbacks pilots will not be able to spend time in front line operational training. It costs something like $250,000 to train a Mirage pilot and maybe more to train an FI 1 1 pilot. If Royal Australian Air Force pilots decide that they are not getting the flying that they want they will turn to civilian flying. What savings will the Government make by cutting down their flying time by a few hours? The Government should realise that if pilots who cost millions of dollars to train decide that they have had enough of the Air Force, the Air Force will lose expertise which will take years to get back.
The Royal Australian Air Force also stands to lose key maintenance personnel as a result of this cutback in flying hours. It takes a lot of people on the ground to keep one aircraft in the air. It is not easy to train these people to the required level of expertise. If these personnel does not have the equipment to work on their time will be wasted and the Air Force will not be getting the benefit of their expertise. The wages that are being paid to them will be another waste. I am very concerned about the cutback in flying hours not only because of the loss of morale of Air Force personnel but also the fact of the wastage that must occur.
I wonder, as Senator Sim said earlier, whether we will ever learn the lesson of sending untrained people with inferior weapons into battle. I can recall that some of my colleagues had to fight in Wirraways against Zeros in New Guinea during the last war. It is interesting to note that the pacifists and those who believe we will never be attacked are almost always silent when we face an aggressor. It is always the best young people in our country who have to go and risk their lives at odds which they should not be asked to face. I think it is absolutely necessary that we make sure that in the future -
– What about Mr Menzies?
– I believe that we should have learned the lessons of the past. But we have not learned them. People are prepared to forget those lessons. I believe that those of us who remember these things should point them out from time to time. It is absolutely wrong that a nation with the standard of living that we have cannot afford a bit more to ensure that the defence forces are maintained so that in time of aggression we can defend ourselves. We should be able to make sure that we never again send untrained young people into battle to fight with inferior weapons. On the last occasion this happened they had no chance. The pilots who flew Wirraways against Zeros in New Guinea during the last war had no chance. In fact, I think only one survived. These are things we should not ask our people to put up with. Who is to say that we will not be in New Guinea again in the foreseeable future? Anything could happen in New Guinea or Indonesia at any time. It is all right to say that the situation is stable now. But no one in this room can say what the position will be in South East Asia, Indonesia or New Guinea in four or five years time. What does the Government intend to do? It proposes to run our forces down despite the fact that they willi take 7 years to build up again. But something might happen within 5 years. History could repeat itself and our gallant young men may have to go into battle without the equipment and training they should have.
I want to mention another matter that has been mentioned by Senator Bishop on half a dozen occasions. Indeed, I think it was mentioned twice today. I refer to the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Fund. Senator Devitt, Senator Byrne and I were members of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Legislation. When that Committee brought down its report we knew that the recommendations contained in the report would have to undergo a great deal of investigation. We had introduced a completely new concept and no one, including the Commonwealth Actuary, could really tell us what our proposals would cost. No government, whether it be your Government or our Government, was prepared to endorse something without costing and testing it. We, as a committee, had no way of testing it. We had to depend on the experts to do that. What happened was that the McMahon Government decided that the DFRB report would be held up for a while pending investigation. Of course, the present Government, having gained office while the investigation was going on, was able to do what the McMahon Government would have done anyway. It was fortunate that the present Government was in the box seat.
– That is not what they did.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Brown)- Order! Can you relate your remarks to the motion before the Chair, senator?
- Senator Bishop made a point of outlining the good things that were done by this Government to improve morale and the conditions of service of the armed forces, and the DFRB scheme is a very important part of those conditions of service. I emphasise that what has been done by this Government would have been done by the previous Government had it been in office.
– Eventually, when it got around to it.
– Well, it would have got around to it, just as the present Government has got around to it. The Government got around to it after the Treasury, the Department of Defence and everyone else had had a look at it. As a matter of fact, one of the main reasons why the McMahon Government held it up was because the Defence Department itself and representatives of the armed forces wanted to have a look at it. They wanted to ensure that all personnel were treated well. That is why this measure was held up.
It so happened, of course, that there was a change of government on 2 December. When the investigation had been completed and the Treasury said ‘Yes, you can go ahead’, another government was in power to implement the decisions of the Committee. So I object to the statement that the previous Government did not intend to carry out the recommendations. Indeed, the Gorton Government, prompted by Mr Jess and other members of the House of Representatives, formed this Committee. The Committee brought down its findings and I assure honourable senators that we had been given an assurance before we went to the last election that once the Treasury and the Department of Defence had investigated the recommendations -
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Brown)-Order! The honourable senator’s time has expired. Before I call Senator Devitt might I tender an apology to you, Senator Maunsell, for intervening and taking up the time which you had at your disposal. I was not aware of the remarks made by Senator Bishop, otherwise I would not have raised the matter.
-This debate will probably go down in history as one of the poorest debates we have heard in this chamber for a long long time. It has been played in a very very low -
– Do not blame yourselves.
– They cannot take it. It has been played in a very low key. One can readily understand the reason why this is so. Quite frankly, there has been a complete lack of conviction on the part of those who have spoken up to this stage. I suppose the reason for that is that the urgency motion which has been put to the Senate is based upon 3 assumptions- that there is a decline in the morale of members of the armed Services at present, and this is based upon a number of factors which were outlined to us at the commencement of the debate; that we have somehow got offside or will get offside with our allies; and there is a threat to the security of this nation. Of course the defence structure is based very largely upon the twin considerations of money and men. Certainly it is acknowledged that there has been a cutback in the number of men in the armed Services. I suppose that proportionately there has been a cutback in the defence vote, although this year in terms of money the defence vote has increased. That ought to be on the record. There has been an actual increase in the amount of funds allocated for defence in the current Budget. Do not let us get away from the fact that while, as I acknowledge, there has been a decline in the proportion of defence expenditure in relation to the gross national product the total sum has not declined but has increased.
The record very clearly shows that in 1967-68 4.6 per cent of the gross national product went into defence expenditure. In the next year, 1968-69, under a Liberal-Country Party Government there was a drop of .3 per cent which took the figure from 4.6 per cent to 4.3 per cent. In 1969-70 there was a further drop of 0.6 per cent from 4.3 per cent to 3.7 per cent. Then in 1 970-7 1 there was a further drop of .3 per cent. And so it has gone on. The present Government has done no more than continue the trend which commenced in 1967-68. This is probably the reason why there has been no spark or fire in the debate up to the present time. Those who have spoken completely lack conviction on the subject because the whole proposition is based on assumptions, and not very sound assumptions.
It may be recalled that on 22 August 1973 the Minister for Defence (Mr Barnard) put down a ministerial statement in the Parliament. At this stage it would not do any harm to repeat what the Minister said. He made this point:
At the present time, however, it can be said that Australia’s situation is favourable and that various important factors and trends in the international situation support Australia’s security into the longer term. We and our advisers do not at present foresee any deterioration in our strategic environment that would involve consideration of the commitment of our defence force to military operations to protect Australia’s security or strategic interests.
Let us not forget that this was based upon a report made to the Minister for Defence which he commissioned immediately on assuming responsibility as Minister for Defence.
– Those were the sorts of reports received in 1938.
-Will you shut up? The Minister set out immediately not to follow what had happened under the previous Government.
– The same thing was said in 1 938 and we were at war in 1 939.
– For God’s sake, cannot somebody stop him? The Minister set out to make a -
– That would be sensible if the honourable senator would explain why it happened in 1939.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Brown)- Order! Senator Little, I think you understand my method of chairing this Senate on all occasions, that is, with consistency. On two occasions I have asked you to desist from constant interjection. I ask you please to respect my wishes.
– I will. My interjections were not constant. I have interjected only twice.
– I was saying when Senator Little interrupted me that the Minister for Defence commissioned a complete report on the whole defence structure. I think that if he had not done that he would have been guilty of a dereliction of duty. Surely it is our responsibility to obtain such a report if this issue is such an important one. And of course nobody underestimates the importance of defence. One of the first things I would have done and surely one of the first things that any sensible person would have done would be to take a complete look at the whole structure of our defence.
One very seriously doubts whether the subject we are debating is really one of urgency. However, let us accept that it is. I think that if we are spending vast sums of money it is tremendously important to ensure that we are spending it properly and that we achieve what we set out to achieve, that is, a proper defence capacity. The report was based not upon assumptions or observations of some remote person outside somewhere but on the gathering together of all the expert advice available to this Government. It is interesting to note a remark made by way of interjection by Senator Sim during the speech of Senator Bishop. Senator Sim said that the Department of Defence advisers were wrong when they gave the previous Government the same advice as was given to this Government and said that they could see no threat to the security of Australia in the next 10 years. Surely that is a very serious charge. One asks: Does the LiberalCountry Party put itself above the experts of the Western alliance, because it was through this source that this information came to the Government? Will the Opposition accept only advice which accords with its own electoral propaganda? Is that why it did not adjust the force structure to accord with what the Department of Defence has long known to be the strategic fact of life in this area? Now where do we go from here? Does a government go to its advisers, obtain their advice- the same advice which they gave to the previous government, it transpires, but of which the previous Government took no notice- and then reject it? I am very pleased to say that in the interests of this country and its people this Government accepted the advice about the restructuring of our whole defence capacity. Surely that is a sensible, logical and reasonable thing to do. Will anybody seriously challenge the Government on that?
Further on in the statement he made on 22 August, the Minister said:
Political competition among the major powers can, of course, be expected to continue. Nor can we rule out the possibility of limited local conflicts during the years ahead in various parts of the globe. But present trends generally point to a prospect of relative stability in the global order. Any major, protracted conflict, drawing nations into general war, appears remote.
That was the Minister’s statement to the Parliament. It was quite open. He laid the whole situation before Parliament as it was reported to him, based upon the Government’s assessment of this advice. He went on:
This assessment of the situation Australia is likely to face in the next decade does not, of course, mean that Australia can dispense with defence strength. I have already referred to uncertainties in the longer term. In matters affecting the nation ‘s security it is necessary to move with prudence. I wish to stress also the extent to which Australia nowadays and in the future must accept the primary and independent responsibility for safeguarding our security and strategic interests. We are no longer simply a junior partner whose activities are largely shaped by the strategic and military policies of more powerful friends. We shall maintain our co-operative relations with them, which we greatly value. But we cannot assume that their interest in local and regional situations will necessarily be the same or as close as ours. Nor is it our wish or intention simply to sit back and rely on them to safeguard and protect us. We must maintain a defence capability that accords with our foreign policy.
As I said, the planning of the present Australian defence system is based upon these sorts of considerations.
I cannot for the life of me accept that there has been a decline in the morale of members of the armed forces. I suppose that as long as there are soldiers there will be disgruntled soldiers. Once upon a time, one of the few rights that a soldier in uniform had was to grumble and grizzle about his conditions but, by and large, when the chips were down and when he had to express himself as a trained soldier he gave a pretty good account of himself. At least that is my understanding. I would not accept for a moment the proposition which Senator Maunsell put up, that is, that it takes 7 years to train a soldier. But that does not say very much for the hundreds of thousands of Australians who served this country in the Second World War. We were committed to it in 1939 and by 1945 it was over. We then had some of the finest soldiers in the world. This has been acknowledged world-wide. They were highly trained and mighty efficient soldiers. In the other areas of the armed services- the Navy and the Air Force- there were first class fighting men. They reached that standard not in 7 years or in 5 years but in a matter of 12 months or very little more than that. We had crack polished troops in the field. So I think it is a gross and very serious reflection on the capabilities and capacity of Australian servicemen in uniform to attain the point of efficiency that they have attained.
One wonders why, if there is a decline in morale, re-enlistments are running at the rate they are. In fact, re-enlistments are now running at a rate higher than they have been for years and years. The reason why this is happening is that upon its assumption of office this Government brought into operation all the benefits which were mentioned by Senator Bishop in his remarks. There were eight of them, but I will not go through them again.
-I know that Senator Cotton does not want me to. In a statement on Australian defence policy tabled on 30 May 1973, Mr Barnard, after listing all the benefits which have been provided by this Government in so short a time, said:
A number of these decisions have already become law.
And they have. He continued:
Others are being dealt with in this current autumn session. They are all designed to give practical effect to our policy to develop modem volunteer forces.
Without going into detail, one recalls occasions when the Opposition members, then the Government, said that it was not possible to build up an all-volunteer Army. This Government got to the stage quite recently where it had to knock applicants back because the applications for enlistment were exceeding the establishment of the Army, Navy and Air Force. This does not seem to me to be indicative of a lowering of morale. Those who have spoken from this side of the House before me, Senator Bishop and Senator Drury, 1 believe completely debunked the assertion that we are suffering from a lack of credibility with our allies. Nothing could be further from the truth. The statement that there is a threat to our security again is unsupportable. The situation is that we are now fighting a war.
But it is a war on poverty, hunger, need, want, rapacity and all those things which are evident in the Australian community and beyond. We have increased our overseas aid so that the shocking conditions in which some of the people in our neighbouring countries live can be improved and their standard of living raised. We will continue to spend money on that sort of war.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Brown)- Order! The honourable senator’s time has expired.
-In rising to support this motion I make it quite clear from the start that 1 will be referring to one aspect of Senator Devitt ‘s speech a little later, when it is his turn. Secondly, I do not propose- I am not called upon to do so in a speech of 15 minutes- to proclaim a defence policy or to deal with minute details of our defence services. I make it quite clear also that in supporting this motion and the establishment of increased defence Services in Australia I am not being a warmonger. I am glad that so afar in this debate that sort of nonsense has not been thrown around, as has been customary. But I do believe in defence preparation and in defence education.
Senator Devitt, my Tasmanian colleague who served with distinction in the Air Force, criticised Senator Maunsell for saying that it took about 7 years to train a serviceman, but he will agree that it does take a number of years to train people to officer rank in the sophisticated Services, particularly the Navy and the Air Force. Naturally Senator Maunsell did not imply that it takes any number of years to train an Australian to be an ordinary serviceman in the Army, Navy or Air Force. Our defence academies are providing up to and above university education for the officers who are required for the sophisticated equipment, aircraft and ships that we have.
The matter of urgency before the Senate regrets the lowering of the morale of our defence Services, and I support that aspect of it. It is true to say that the morale of a nation is mirrored in the morale of the defence Services. It is also true to say that the morale of a nation gets some lead from the morale, moral fibre and behaviour of its national Parliament. We should be setting an example and the people of Australia should be looking to their Service personnel with respect and with support. At no time can it be said that it is easy to run a peace-time defence Service, lt will be more difficult because of the announced policy of this Government that troops and servicemen generally will all remain in Australia and or in Australian waters. Even Australian participation in naval exercises outside Australian waters has recently been cancelled. Lesser flying hours are to be incurred by our Air Force.
All these factors will add to the problems of the commanding officers and people who run our Services in trying to maintain the morale of the troops. No bribes in respect of recruiting, reenlistment or discharge will attract young Australian men into our armed Services if the morale of those Services drops as I believe it is dropping today. I am a firm believer in the armed services for defence only, not for aggression. Also I do not believe that we should have one person employed in uniform or as a civilian purely to take up slack in employment. Nobody who cannot be usefully used in the work of the defence services and their administration should be employed in the Services.
I do not believe that bands and other display units should be maintained merely for display purposes. In times of difficulty in recruiting- in every period of full employment it is difficult to recruit servicemen and it will be more difficult as the morale of the Services falls- there is a need to show the Services to the people. The taxpayers, who are paying immense sums of money every year to maintain the Services, deserve to see on occasions the Navy, the Air Force and units of the Army from various areas parading and displaying their training and ability in order that the public may know what their defence Services consist of. The stronger we maintain our defence Services the greater will be the respect shown to us by our allies. It is axiomatic that the stronger we are and the stronger the respect of our allies for us is the less is the chance that we will have to call our defence services into action to defend us. If we weaken our defence power and go on insulting our allies, neighbours, influential countries and friends the greater will be the chance of attack from the north, be it the near or distant north, upon these shores. This is why I believe that we should be alarmed at what appears to be happening today in relation to the Australian defence services.
In 1945, when Labor was in office, the Australian defence Services were the strongest, bestequipped and well-trained in our history. With the cessation of the war and with the Labor outlook at that time the Services were allowed to dwindle. I remember early in my career in the Senate in 1954 saying in the Budget debate that we had found that our defence Services were a thing of shreds and patches. From that time on the government of the day gradually built up, reformed and modernised the Services. No one can deny that those Services proved to be able to meet the test and requirements that were put to them.
We were criticised from time to time- I do not say by the Labor Party, because 1 forget its criticismsby elements in the community who said that we were not spending enough of the people’s money. But looking back those critics now would swallow their words and say: ‘No, you had other national responsibilities which you saw and you helped to develop Australia rapidly’. So everyone knew, at least up until 1972, that this land of ours was known as Australia unlimited. But during the latter years of the regime of the Liberal-Country Party Government there were winds of international change blowing that were not foreseen by anybody. We saw the United Kingdom, for obvious reasons, withdraw from east of Suez. We saw the closing down- it appears for keeps- of the Suez Canal which would be an important sea link for us should ever we require our defence Services to be maintained in a time of war.
This Government has been highly critical and insulting about South Africa, but we who know our nation’s history remember that South Africans fought side by side and bravely with our men in 2 world wars, and those who may be blind in their ideology and criticism of a country that they know little about should remember that the naval base at Simonstown, the ports of Cape Town and Durban and the sea routes around the Cape will be of great importance to Australia and its allies should our defence Services ever be called upon to defend this country.
Another wind of change has come into the Pacific and Indian oceans. The British have withdrawn to all intents and purposes, so there has been an understandable contraction of United States influence and involvement in this part of the world. The vacuum there is being filled to a large extent by Russian forces. I am not prepared to say at this moment that that is all bad, but we cannot help but proclaim that Russian armed services are a potential threat to this country and we would have little defence against them if we did not maintain the friendship of strong allies in America, the Commonwealth of Nations and other countries. Senator Devitt was critical and said that this Government would not take the advice of its advisers. I throw this back in his face.
– I did not say that. I said ‘your Government’.
– I am sorry; I made a mistake. It is easy to make a mistake after more than 20 years of Liberal-Country Party Government. Senator Devitt said that the previous Government- the Government that really cared about defence- did not take the advice of its advisers, yet the new 2-man syndicate that started to run the country on 2 December last year did. What did Mr Barnard say in this statement from which Senator Devitt quoted little parts in order to help his case? I read from page 8 of the roneoed copy of his speech:
But the favourable strategic prospect allows us an opportunity to review and rationalise, to promote more efficient and economical defence capabilities. After the more or less continuous defence expansion of the last 10 years, it is a time for taking stock . . .
We should all be conscious of the fact that Australia has developed over the past decade a very significant level of defence capabilities. There has been a very substantial growth in manpower and equipment, and in some forms of defence facilities, although not in others.
That was said by the Minister for Defence and all the other portfolios in a statement in the House of Representatives on 22 August 1 973. Mr Barnard was man enough to say: ‘Yes, we could close down a bit because in the last 10 years my predecessors have built up strong defence forces for this country’. But where I differ with my Tasmanian colleague, Mr Barnard, is that I believe the closing down has been too rapid. In my view it has been done at the behest of an economistnot of a soldier, a sailor or an airman. It has been done at the behest of the Coombs report. It has been done to such a degree that some units in the field have so few men that training is a farce. It has been done so much that the Air Force of its own volition has placed ‘for sale’ notices on the Mirages. It has been done to such a degree that the FI 1 1 pilots have 12 more aircraft coming to Australia but they know not what they will do with them.
It is understood in the defence Services that the one great shortage which this Government has caused or is causing is the shortage of mothballs because the Government just cannot find enough throughout the world to put into the equipment which will lie idle. This is because the
Government has scant regard for the importance of and need for adequate defence forces in Australia today. One newspaper, quite rightly and a little humorously- not with pride, as we would have done recently- referred to the Royal Australian Army Corps as the Royal Australian Army Corpse. Another newspaper saw fit to say- and I completely agree with it- that there is no person outside the defence forces who knows in reality how much shearing and cutting off is going on and that the only way in which we can find out is by asking a series of searching questions of the Minister. These things are being done in the form of open government. There is no such thing as open government in the defence Services of Australia today.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Wood)- Order! The honourable senator’s time has expired.
– I was interested particularly in one or two comments made by Senator Marriott. One significant point that he made in his general attack on the defence policy of this Government was that the closing down has been too rapid. I presume that, by implication, he agrees that some sort of closing down- whatever he means by that- should be followed by the present Government and presumably the trend to which Senator Devitt referred earlier would have been followed also had the present Opposition still been in Government. It was quite clear from the figures that were quoted by Senator Devitt that there was a continuing decline in the amount of defence expenditure by the previous Government as a proportion of the gross national product. In 1966-67 4.2 per cent of the gross national product was spent for defence purposes. The following year the figure was 4.6 per cent, and then the decline set in. It was 4.3 per cent, 3.7 per cent, 3.4 per cent, 3.3 per cent, 3 per cent and now 2.9 per cent. So I think it is quite evident that if anyone would like to compare the present situation with that which obtained over the past few years under the previous Government, he would not really find all that much difference. The significant difference is the emphasis which is placed on improvements in conditions now. I will return to that in a moment.
Senator Marriott said that he opposed the use of bribes- I think that was the word he used- to get men to volunteer to join the armed forces. For the sake of the record I wish to state some of the inducements which this Government has offered not only to recruit men to the armed forces but to keep them in the armed forces. For example, the recommendations of the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Legislation, which was chaired by Mr Jess, have been accepted by this Government. There have been substantial increases in service pay. There has been a range of improvements in salaries and conditions and a bounty of $1,000 for members who voluntarily re-engage. The defence Services homes loan has been increased from $9,000 to $12,000. There has been an increase in the range of eligibility for repatriation benefits, and a defence forces ombudsman will be appointed shortly. Yesterday Senator Bishop quoted from a letter in which the Returned Services League of Australia commended the Government for the initiatives it had taken not only to recruit people into the armed forces but to keep them there. They are the sorts of initiatives which have been taken by the Labor Government, not by those people who claimed that they were the only ones who could represent members of the armed forces.
I return now to a more general proposition. It was claimed by one Opposition speaker that we had in some way abrogated our responsibilities to our allies and to those people whom we have traditionally called our great and powerful friends. The reverse is the truth. Our obligations are not simply to be isolated because of our concern for world peace; we must take whatever initiatives we can to ensure world peace. They are the sort of things which we have done. Who would claim for one moment that the visits of the Australian Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) overseas since he became the Prime Minister have not been of advantage to this country? Is it not true that today this country can hold its head higher than it could at any time in the past 23 years? Around the world we are respected, not because we can flash great guns, great bombers and other weapons in our arsenal but because we have taken initiatives to bring about a stability in our area. One of the first things that the Prime Minister did was to visit the countries to our near north and talk to these people. It was not to race off to London, Washington or Moscow. We have established a kinship and a trust in the short time that we have been in power, which was something that had not been done for many years.
Of more interest is the fact that it is not just a matter of how much money is spent on defence, it is a matter of how that money is spent. I think Senator Devitt made this point. We have always said that our forces should be wholly mobile and should be directed towards the defence of Australia. I can well recall the debate in this Parliament over the past 2 or 3 years about the purchase of DDL destroyers as replacement vessels. The first estimates of the cost of each vessel was $50m or $60m. The final estimate was over $ 100m. It is not economically feasible to put that sort of money into one unit. No other navy in the world, with the exception of the American and the Russian navies, has invested this sort of money in one fighting unit because none of them is capable of doing it. The West Germans, the Swedes and the British in particular have realised the need to reduce the percentage of the total vote which is expended on one unit.
We did not seem to have learned that lesson. Why? We wanted to have something that looked good and sounded good and we wanted something that we could shoot up 5,000 miles from Australia. Such vessels would have had a range that vessels might have had 20 years ago, but they would have been built at a fraction of the cost involved today. That was one of the inane decisions of the previous Government which has been changed by this Government. We are reassessing the areas in which we are spending money on defence. Another example is jungle warfare. There is no longer the emphasis on jungle warfare that there was in the past. Therefore, there has to be a re-assessment of the type of equipment that the armed forces need. Recently my attention was drawn to the fact that 7 out of 10 men in uniform in Australia are civilians. In the United States the number is 5. In Sweden it is 2.5. These diseconomies have crept into the system over the years, and we have a responsibility to change them.
I wish to look at the matter in a broad sense. The main point I want to make in the brief time which I have at my disposal relates to the argument that we are downgrading the defence forces. We are supposed to be spending less than was spent in the past. In money terms, we are spending more this year than was spent last year. As Senator Sim said, we mostly refer to the expenditure on defence as a percentage of the gross national product.
– Money having lost its value, is that comparison valid any longer?
– I made that comment in passing. I think the honourable senator will realise that. I am coming now to the point about the percentage of the gross national product. For the past few years there has been a continuing decline in that percentage. One could assume that as there has been a drop in the expenditure on defence as a percentage of the gross national product there has been an abrogation of responsibility. If that accusation can be levelled against this Government, obviously the same accusation could be levelled against the previous Government.
I wish to quote now the expenditure on defence, as expressed in terms of” a percentage of the gross national product, of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation nations. The figures are revealing. In each case the percentage spent on defence has dropped. For example, the figure for Belgium has dropped from 2.9 per cent to 2.3 per cent. Other figures are: Britain from 5.4 per cent to 4.7 per cent; Canada from 2.7 per cent to 1.8 per cent; Denmark from 2.8 per cent to 2.4 per cent; France from 4.8 per cent to 3.1 per cent; West Germany from 3.6 per cent to 2.8 per cent; Greece from 5.1 per cent to 3.3 per cent; Italy from 2.7 per cent to 2.6 per cent; and the Netherlands from 3.6 per cent to 2.9 per cent.
Looking at these figures, it is interesting to find that in most cases the percentage is less than Australia’s percentage. The figures also show: Norway from 3.7 per cent to 3.1 per cent; Portugal, which is higher than the average, 7.4 per cent to 6.3 per cent and Turkey from 4.5 per cent to 3.3 per cent. If we look at the position of other European countries which are presumably just as concerned about their security as Australia is about its security, we find that Austria has dropped from 1.2 percent to 1 percent; Finland from 1.6 per cent to 1.4 per cent; and Spain from 2.2 per cent to 1.8 per cent. Sweden’s percentage, which is higher than the average, has dropped from 3.9 per cent to 3.7 per cent. Switzerland’s percentage has dropped from 2.4 per cent to 1.9 per cent.
– What are our figures? I missed them.
-It is 2.9 per cent.
– You have to take into account the readiness of their forces and the equipment of their forces.
– The readiness of forces is a matter of judgment. I recall that the honourable senator dealt with this matter of readiness. I will return to it in a moment because he has reminded me of it. The same trend is found in ever)’ other major country. One would assume that if Australia was out of step with its so-called friends and allies- I hope that we have more friends than enemies in the world because friends are more important -
– We have not got too many friends now.
– I am quite sure that we have more friends now than we have ever had before. All these nations realise that the real war in the world today is a war for markets and trade. People do not want to live in a state of confrontation with each other any more. They want to be able to trade with each other and to receive the maximum benefits that flow from that trade. Earlier, reference was made, I think by Senator Sim- I apologise if it was not him- to the the remarks of Major Young who is a member of the Australian Labor Party. It was alleged in those remarks that Major Young had made certain statements critical of the Government’s policy and that, in fact, he had made no further statement.
– I quoted the report.
-I draw to the attention of the Senate the fact that Major Young wrote a fairly long letter to the ‘Sydney Morning Herald ‘ of 22 September in which he said:
I would, however, like to take issue over your description of myself as ‘a leading defence apologist for the Labor Party’ in your editorial yesterday. Let us not forget that it was 20 years of neglect and an even worse crisis in morale which prompted me and so many like me to resign to press for reforms and improvements.
Of course, that was back in the days of the Liberal-Country Party Government
-Who said that?
- Major Young said that. He continued:
The first aim of improvement in conditions of service has been achieved with a speed and generosity which beggars the record of the McMahon Government, which only relented on pension reform under pressure of a threatened revolt from its own backbenchers. And for this Mr Barnard deserves and must be given full credit.
I know that other honourable senators wish to speak in this debate. But I wish to state that the essential feature of the defence policy of this Government is that it does not see the need to confront neighbours. We do not see the need to go and find a potential enemy. We would rather live in a world in which we have potential friends around us and real friends, people with whom we can live in peace and to whom we can talk. We can say to them that we have goods we want to sell to them and that they have goods they will want to sell to us. That is the role of a government. That is the role that we will fulfil. But at the same time, we are not unmindful, nor will we be unmindful that a nucleus of a trained defence force is necessary. That is the way in which our policy will develop.
– I am entering this debate this evening because I am a very concerned Australian. We are debating a matter of urgency concerning the reduction of Australia’s defences to a degree which destroys the morale of our armed forces, leaves Australia without credibility as an ally and gravely endangers our security. That is a matter which should be of great concern to all Australians. I am conscious of the fact that the honourable member for Bass (Mr Barnard) in another place before he became the Minister for Defence showed some concern in relation to this matter. He showed that concern by a statement he made. My colleague, Senator Sim, quoted from it. I think that it is appropriate that I should quote again what Mr Barnard said because it shows the double standards and the right about face that this Government has seen fit to engage in since gaining office on 2 December. The Minister for Defence said:
Any government that shows it lacked interest in defence or sought to cut back sharply on defence or even dismantle part of the defence structure would not be the Government of this country for very long.
Perhaps that is an omen. As I see it, with all the nonsense that has been going on under this present Government, it will not be in office for very long. I am sure that the people of Australia will ensure that it leaves office very shortly. I would like to read a statement I have here made by General Sir Thomas Daly. A little over 12 months ago he made this remark about our armed forces:
I doubt very much if there is, anywhere, a more proficient, more professional group of soldiers than those in the regular component of the Australian Army today.
Let us look at the position some 1 3 months later. What has happened since this Government came to office and since the Minister for Defence started to cut back on defence spending? We find that the members of our forces today are still proficient and are still very professional. But morale has deteriorated gravely. Officers and men alike are bewildered, frustrated and disenchanted. They have been given little concept of their likely role. They see little future in the Services. In increasing numbers, and at levels of rank and competence the Army can ill afford to lose, they are resigning to take up jobs in civil life. That shows that the morale of our armed forces today is in a very low state.
Let me cite some of the figures in regard to resignations of members of our armed forces. From 30 November last year to 3 1 May this year there have been 61 resignations. A further 17 officers resigned in June, 18 in July and 23 in
August. That shows that the morale of the Army is certainly lower than it should be. The Government claims that there is no threat to Australia within the foreseeable future- within the next 10 or 15 years. I am quite sure that that is the Government’s prerogative to decide that there will be no threat to Australia in the next 1 5 years. But I feel that the Government ought to have kept such an important matter to itself as being classified and top secret rather than spouting it to all and sundry. To use one of the Government’s own phrases, it is time that the people of Australia woke up to the fact that because of the actions of this Government, particularly of the Minister for Defence in regard to what is happening with our armed forces, the morale is low and the men are wondering what will happen to them next. There have been cut backs in every possible way. The Government talks so much about a volunteer Army. But even the expenditure of the civil defence service has been curtailed and it is not able to do some of the things it wants to do.
– There are no longer school cadets.
-That is right. Even the school cadet corps have ceased to function. Where does the Government expect to obtain a volunteer Army when it cannot even look after the Army we have at present? I am concerned and I know that many other Australians are concerned about what is happening at this time. I feel that the Minister has made a grave mistake in making these cut backs. It is time that he woke up to himself and made sure that this country had a defence policy and that we would be able to defend ourselves should there be a need for this. At the moment, it looks as though we will finish up as my forefathers did. We will be trying to defend this country with a couple of boomerangs and a couple of spears.
– The wording of the matter of urgency before the Senate seeks to condemn the Federal Labor Government for behaviour which, to use the words of Senator McManus, ‘has reduced Australia’s defences to a degree which destroys the morale of our armed forces, leaves Australia without credibility as an ally and gravely endangers our security’. This motion is one of a series which comes from the Opposition Parties on Wednesdays when the Senate proceedings are being broadcast. It revives the old arguments which the Opposition Parties feel served them so well during the 1 950s. I remember my own local member in the House of Representatives at that time, who now holds a high office to which I cannot refer. He used to flood the electorate with maps of Australia showing red arrows descending from China by rather circuitous routes, some going through Malaya, some going through Honolulu, some going up and some coming down, but all of thiem ultimately finishing up at the Royal Perth Golf Club.
We have heard about this subject for a long time and a large number of people in Australiaone American writer described them as little old ladies in white tennis shoes- were terrified of the hordes of reds and yellows descending on this country by unspecified means, mainly by sampans, as Senator Gietzelt suggests, while others swam and others came by some mystic power known only to orientals. They were going to seize control of this country. Indeed, the previous Government used these arguments so consistently, and with such support from the Press and other similar ill-informed circles in the Australian community, that they were able to hang on to office for a very long time.
But one of the changes which has taken place in Australia over the past few years has been a maturing of the Australian electorate. The Democratic Labor Party the Liberal Party and the Country Party have not yet caught up with that change- and they are incapable of catching up with it. The people of Australia no longer believe in Chinese witches on red broomsticks flying down to Australia. They believe that the world is a much more complex place than was shown in the pamphlets which used to be given out by a number of now defunct Liberal politicians in the 1950s. However, as the question of defence has been raised I suppose one has to take some trouble to answer the arguments, if they can be described as such, which have been presented tonight.
It is interesting to look at the figures of Government expenditure on defence. They have been quoted already. I would have thought that if the Senate were to conduct itself in any logical way the arguments produced already this evening by my predecessors on the Government side would have been regarded as so irrefutable that we would not have had to listen to Senator Bonner, Senator Maunsell and others who have spoken tonight. When talking in terms of money we must remember that after 23 years of a government which had promised to put value back into the pound, money had become so devalued that to talk in monetary terms was to be almost meaningless. However, let us look for example at the expenditure by the national government of Australia on defence in the year 1959-60- a period at the height of the cold war. I refer not only to the cold war between the United States, its allies and appendages, and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics but to a time when the divisions between the USSR and the People’s Republic of China had not become as apparent as they are now. Those divisions were not only not as apparent, they were not as great as they are now. On top of that there was the Indonesian confrontation with Malaysia which we were told was a tremendous threat to this country.
In the financial year 1959-60 the Commonwealth of Australia spent 2.8 per cent of its gross national product on defence. In 1960-61 the figure decreased to 2.7 per cent and it was the same the following year. In 1962-63, again a time which we were told was fraught with dangerthe reds were coming, the yellows were coming and the blacks were coming- it fell to 2.6 per cent of the gross national product. This Government’s estimated budgetary expenditure on defence for the 1973-74 financial year is 2.9 per cent of the gross national product. Expenditure this year will be higher than it was in the years from 1959 to 1963 at the height of the cold war and at the height of the confrontation with Indonesia.
I am not going to set myself up as any sort of militarist. In fact I know as little about the Army as Senator Bonner does. My Army experience was confined to serving as a private in Perth Modern School Senior Cadet Detachment for 3 years when Mr Hawke, President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, was a fellow private. In fact we considered ourselves lucky not to be demoted from the rank that we held. Therefore I do not set myself up as an expert or as one who claims that the solution to our problems is a military solution. However, as this matter has been raised by the Opposition I think it is worth while taking a little time to tell the Australian people and the Opposition that in fact the percentage of the Australian gross national product now being spent by this Government on defence is greater than the percentage of the gross national product spent by the previous Government in any financial year between 1959 and 1963- and it was very little higher than the present figure at any stage during the life of the previous Government.
I want to reiterate what the Minister for Primary Industry (Senator Wriedt) has said already. If it is alleged that the morale of the Australian armed forces is being destroyed by this Government- that is the preposterous allegation which has been made- is it not worth while reminding the Senate of what this Government has done as far as the conditions of service of members of the Australian Army, Navy and Air Force are concerned? This Government has carried out the recommendations of the Committee which inquired into the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Fund- a committee chaired by Mr Jess, a former Liberal member of the House of Representatives. If I may say so with no disrespect to him, a very paramilitary member he was indeed. The recommendations of his Committee were rejected by the previous Government but were accepted by our Government and in fact enlarged upon. Our Government has raised the salaries of members of the armed forces. It has improved their living conditions and their working conditions. It has offered a grant of $1,000 to any member of the armed forces who, upon completing his service, desires to re-enlist. That grant has been described by some honourable senators on the other side as a bribe. The Opposition is saying that by providing this valuable inducement to professional soldiers not to throw away their profession but to remain in our armed forces we are bribing them. What a contemptuous attitude to adopt towards the members of the armed forces which members of the Opposition claim to be representing this evening.
This Government has increased the defence service homes loan and the amounts available for homes for servicemen. It also has increased repatriation benefits. There have been no complaints from the Returned Services League. I have to confess that if there were any complaints it would not worry me very much. In fact the League has congratulated the Government on the steps taken since it gained office. Any changes cause some difficulties and I dare say there are some difficulties in the armed services in implementing the changes. But all the changes introduced by this Government are changes which improve the wages, the conditions, the possibilities and the professional careers of members of our armed forces.
The next point I wish to make does not delight me particularly but I might as well raise it since we are talking about defence and it has been drawn to my attention. It should interest members of the Liberal Party, the Country Party and the Democratic Labor Party who are so enthusiastic about the American alliance. For the first time there have been Navy to Navy talks between the United States and the Royal Australian Navy- something which never took place during 23 years of conservative government. There are people who feel, as I think members of the Opposition feel, that it is important that there by trust between the United States and Australia. Members of the Opposition have said that they are the only people who could be servile enough to inspire that trust. The fact is that under this Government Navy to Navy talks have taken place and that never happened under the previous Government.
I mean no disrespect to members of the armed forces or those concerned about defence matters but I believe that there are much more important matters for Australia’s security than the percentage of the gross national product spent on the Army, the Navy or the Air Force, or what we are doing in those fields or what we are doing in talking about the Navy. I believe that the greatest contribution we can make to the security of this country is to take steps which will lead to the elimination of war. We have taken those steps. We have taken Australian troops out of the dirty war in Vietnam. We have recognised the Government of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam. We have recognised the Government of the People’s Republic of China. We have recognised the Government of the German Democratic Republic. All of these are forward steps, progressive steps, which lead to a situation in which the people of the world are able to talk and in which a country does not carry out its dialogue by way of abuse and by saying how great its arms are and printing ridiculous pamphlets with red arrows coming down from Peking and pointing to the Nedlands Golf Club.
We have made a contribution by taking part in ending the war in Vietnam. I do not believe there can be any doubt that, just as our participation in that war was used by aggressive elements in the United States to justify their position, so our withdrawal from that war had an influence on the United States Government in ending its participation in the war in Indo-China. These are positive contributions which we have made. We are in a position where we can talk to the people in China. We have recognised the Government of East Germany- the German Democratic Rebublic. That is a step which the previous Government would never have taken. Are we out of step with world thinking? We are not out of step with world thinking because both East Germany and West Germany are now being admitted to the United Nations and more than 100 countries now recognise the Government in Berlin- the Government of the German Democratic Republic. All of these are forward steps which have been taken by the Australian Labor Party. They are steps which lead to world peace.
The peoples of the world are afraid of the possibility of a third world war. That is why the strategic arms limitation talks are taking place in Helsinki. That is why President Nixon has travelled to Peking. That is why there have been negotiations between the Administration of the United States and the Government of the Soviet Union. There are black features in the world situation. The dispute between the Soviet Union and China is a black feature at the present time. I think every sensible person would agree that it is necessary for world peace and human progress that the differences between those two great countries be resolved. But is it suggested that, while every major power throughout the world is trying to lessen the tensions of the cold war, we in Australia should reject those moves, that we should stand against the Helsinki talks and that we should stand against President Nixon’s visit to Peking? Certainly the Australian Labor Party rejects that proposition.
We know that it is a dangerous world in which to live. Recently we have seen a democratically elected government in Chile destroyed. It was not destroyed by any body which we have been told in the past was likely to invade Australia. It was a body quite different which destroyed the democratically elected government in Chile. It was a body whose influence is one of which I have always been most suspicious. I believe that those responsible have shown their hands very clearly over recent days in Chile. There are tremendous problems in Asia, Africa and Latin America, involving people who have been living in deprivation for many years and who are trying to improve their conditions. On many occasions violence breaks out; but on more occasions than otherwise the violence comes not from the people who are trying to improve their conditions but from those people who are trying to stop them from improving their conditions so that they can retain their privileges and vested interests.
Having said all that, the fact is that the major powers or the great powers of the world are trying to bring about a situation whereby, owing to some accident or some flare-up, the world will not be destroyed by a nuclear holocaust. We are playing our role in bringing about this situation. We are playing our role by recognising the effective governments of those countries which are our neighbours and by lessening the tensions of Europe by seeing that both of the Germanys are represented in the United Nations. This is the great contribution which the Australian Labor Party has made. If it did nothing else, the role that it played in ending the Vietnam war and the role that it played in seeing that sensible relations exist between this country and China, Vietnam and East Germany would be abiding memorials to this Government and of permanent benefit to the peace of the world and the security of the Australian people.
-As little time is available to me, I propose to deal with only one aspect of this matter. The main argument produced by the Government to substantiate its reductions in our defence forces has been that the main theme of our policy must be to make friends with the countries around us. I agree with that. Having the advantage of a few years over Senator Wheeldon, I remember when Chamberlain went to Munich and made friends with Hitler. We were friends with Hilter when we went to war. I remember, too, that Japan had been our ally and was our friend until we had to sacrifice some of the best men of this country by sending them up in Wirraways to defend our country against an aggressive Japan which was armed far better than we were, even though we always had the idea that Japan was incapable of modern armament. In relation to the conflict that developed in Europe, Russia and Germany had a non-aggression pact when Germany attacked Russia. So history has shown that having friends and neighbours has never protected a country. I think in this regard the old axiom applies, namely, that in international diplomacy there are never any permanent friends, nor are there ever any permanent enemies. I think that is a fact.
I was interested to hear the figures quoted by Senator Wriedt. He mentioned the proportion of the gross national product spent on defence by countries such as Switzerland. When he did so a picture of the differences between Switzerland and Australia immediately sprang to my mind. Switzerland has no coastline at all and Australia, with its enormous area and enormous mineral resources, has an enormous coastline and a population not greatly in excess of that of Switzerland upon which to draw. I want to draw attention to just one set of circumstances which I feel it is fatal for Australia to ignore as world events are today. At this moment there is a war in the Middle East. There are wars in Laos and Cambodia and Thailand is under external pressure in some of her regions that are far distant from her major centres. Indonesia is in a state of instability. Indeed, at one stage her political system almost changed to one which is different from the one she has today. We have an enormous responsibility in New Guinea. We cannot ignore the political instability that exists in the Philippines.
However, I do not want to refer to any of those situations. I want to give only one reason why this country has to be very careful to protect its own future in the Indian Ocean area. The reason I give is the Sino-Russian conflict that is taking place at this moment on the Manchurian border. Indeed, this conflict has been going on over a long period of years. It has forced both Russia and China to change their international policies so that they have sought to make friends with other countries because they fear a major conflict between themselves. I want to give a commonsense appreciation of what this means to Australia and her position in the Indian Ocean area. I am horrified when I hear people such as Senator Wheeldon make smart or clever remarks such as: How will they come here in sampans?’
– In kayaks.
– That is the standard of Senator O ‘Byrne’s intelligence and his analysis of the situation. Yet he knows, as I know, that the Russian fleet in the Indian Ocean is the smallest of the Russian fleets.
– They have 2 buoys out there.
-For Senator 0 ‘Byrne’s information, the Russians have more than 75 conventional submarines and 70 nuclear powered submarines in that fleet alone. This does not take into account battleships, cruisers and other implements of war that are necessary to bring it up to strength. That is the smallest of the Russian fleets. Government senators say: How are they going to come here in sampans and how are they going to cut the Australian sea lanes which connect Australia with its main trading partners?’ If honourable senators opposite are not trying to fool the public they are fooling themselves, and that also is dangerous. World diplomacy has trembled on 3 occasions in the last half a dozen years. The killing that is going on at this moment between Russian and Chinese troops on the Manchurian border could lead to a conflict that might even result in nuclear warfare.
There are no friends and no enemies in international affairs. The key to victory for either Russia or China in a conflict between those 2 countries would be the economic power of Japan to produce the weapons of war. The Japanese economy and the use of her electronics industry, her shipbuilding industry and her capacity to produce all the articles required in war are the key to the success of any war in the Indian Ocean region, in the same way as the military strength of the United States in this area may be the key to countries respecting Australia’s peace. If we are completely unprepared, where do we go? On what is the Japanese economy built today if it is not built on Australia’s capacity to produce iron ore, bauxite, copper and nickel? The Japanese shipyards would not produce anything without Australian raw materials. Australian primary industry would be a key factor in any struggle that took place between any nations in the Indian Ocean area. Yet those who are supposed to be the leaders of this nation- men in Parliament- say we can depend only on resort to neighbours who are friends and who have peaceful intentions. If this factor is ignored in Australia’s defence structure we are asking for trouble. It may not be that there would be any political intent at all by nations that came to war.
We seek no aggression; nobody in this Parliament would think that we have in any shape or form ideas of aggression in the light of our numbers and capacity to build an adequate defence structure that will at least gain us the respect of friends or potential enemies. Those who attack us could very well be in a state of great friendship with us. Would that prevent them? Could that prevent them, if as a result of their own need to win a conflict, thrust upon them perhaps by somebody else, they had to control the economic resources which were pouring into Japan from the industries of this country? Of course, it would not. They may not even want our resources for themselves but they must deny them to their enemies. We, with our coastline, are being compared in terms of defence with countries that have no coastline at all. We with our enormous resources are compared with countries surrounded by major military nations that have recourse to atomic weapons, as many nations in Europe have today.
This is a foolish dream that peace will automatically follow if you are weak- a dream which I shared before 1939 when I was an ardent pacifist. Those of us who were ardent pacifists were largely responsible for our situation when a nation was making protestations of friendship while its air force was winging towards Hawaii to strike the blow that involved us in a war with Japan. I recall the absolute need for air power to cover whatever naval resources we had. When the ‘ Repulse ‘ and the ‘ Prince of Wales ‘ were sent into the area to stop the Japanese advance they proved as puny as toy ships on a peaceful lake because they lacked air cover. Our Navy is complaining today that it does not have the right ships. It certainly has not aircraft to cover the naval engagements that may take place at any distance from the shores of Australia, and we are sitting back saying there is no need to be alert.
The armed forces of this country, no matter what figures the Government may quote, have been withdrawn and reduced. The potential for tomorrow is being restricted all the time yet in this area the Government knows, as I know, that we must plan 10 years in advance even for air power alone to be able to cope with anything like modern defence forces.
These are the reasons why I say that I for one as a politician in Australia would always counsel that we take adequate steps and make those sacrifices which are necessary to show to those from whom we may attract support that we are worthy of that support should anybody attack us in the course of a war that may be occurring somewhere else and we become involved merely because ours is the country which it is. The resources and the primary industries that we have make it essential that we should be in a state of preparedness.
-Order! In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate I formally put the question:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– I raise briefly the question of 2 Taiwanese fishing captains who have been arrested and placed in gaol in Western Australia. I would like to draw the attention of the Minister for Primary Industry (Senator Wriedt) to the plight of these unfortunate men. Their 2 ships were arrested off the coast of Western Australia some time ago by a naval vessel and the captains were charged with illegal fishing in Australian waters. They were conficated and a fine of $4,000 was imposed upon them, and the vessels valued at $40,000 each were confiscated. An appeal has been lodged against both the conviction and the sentence but because of the great delay involved in the case and the necessity for the hearings to take their turn it is unlikely, as I understand it, that the appeals will be heard before the middle of November.
We have before us the plight of 2 men who cannot speak English, who have no money and no clothing, who are bewildered and frightened in a strange country, who have no means whatever of paying the fines and who have been arrested on the orders of someone and placed in gaol. There is no possibility of these 2 unfortunate men paying $4,000 unless it is raised by the local Chinese community or by public subscription in Western Australia. I understand that while they are legally responsible for the fines, the shipping company did undertake the responsibility. The latest reports indicate that the company is bankrupt as a result of the seizure of its ships. In any case we no longer have any relations with Taiwan and there are no legal means of obtaining this money from Taiwan. So these 2 unfortunate men are being held in custody and may be held for several months. If the appeal is successful they will then, of course, be free. If the sentence is reduced and if the fines are paid the Commonwealth Government will have to refund some of the fines. The men cannot leave Australia, they cannot do any harm, yet today they are languishing in gaol and are likely to remain there for at least 2 months, bewildered and frightened, with no warm clothing in a strange country.
I do not know who gave the instruction. I am sure, knowing the humanity and the sense of decency of the Minister, that he did not. I can only appeal to the Minister in the name of humanity and common decency for the release of these men. I do not quarrel about the arrest of foreign vessels fishing in Australian waters; of course, the waters must be protected. But only the other day many Indonesian boats were apprehended while fishing inside Australian territorial waters. A naval vessel escorted them outside territorial waters and let them go. Apparently the rule is that if 100 vessels are fishing it is considered that there are too many to handle so they are escorted out and let go, but if there are only 2 vessels they are arrested. There does seem to be a matter there that requires some cleaning up.
An article in today’s ‘West Australian’ newspaper quoted Mr Stephen Chew, the legal counsel of the Taiwanese- I think this should touch the hearts of any of us with any sense of humanity- as saying:
They are very miserable.
The article continued:
One of them burst into tears when he saw me. They don’t speak English, they have no warm clothing and the food is totally different.
I think all of us would appreciate and understand this. The article went on to state:
They have no hope of paying the fines themselves. It is too much to expect Penh’s small Chinese community to raise such a large sum, so this calls for virtual sympathy from the Australian community.
I believe that Australians, with their innate sense of decency and humanity would respond to this. But why should they? The article continued:
Mr Chew said that the Commonwealth’s action in ordering the men ‘s arrest seemed to serve no useful purpose.
He had tried to find out the motives for the action, but all that the Commonwealth representatives in Penh would tell him was that they were carrying out instructions.
The people who gave these orders are far away, and not in touch with the issues’, he said.
They can’t appreciate the plight of these men’.
I am quite sure that everyone in the Senate would echo the sentiments of Mr Chew. The West Australian’ newspaper of today was so moved as to write a sub-editorial headed ‘Gaoled Skippers ‘. I do not intend to read the article in full. However, I think that one or two comments are worth repeating. The article stated:
The Federal Government appears to be going to extraordinary lengths to extract its pound of flesh from the two Taiwanese trawler skippers convicted in Penh on August 29 of fishing illegally in Australian waters.
The article then deals with the confiscation of the boats and the fines and states that the fishermen face 1 2 months in goal. The article states:
It is hard to believe that the Commonwealth expects the skippersmarried men with families to SUPport-to pay the fines out of their own pockets. Nor can it believe that gaoling the men is necessary to discourage others from entering our waters.
Further on the article states:
When they return to Taiwan -
And we know this to be true- the 2 men face the prospect of losing their skippers’ licences and further court action.
I appeal to the Minister in the name of decency and humanity and for Australia’s good name throughout Asia to see that these men are released from gaol immediately. They should be released at least until the appeal is heard and the court makes it final decision on this matter. I understand that the Court did not indicate a time in which the fine was to be paid and therefore I think it is a matter of administration to allow leniency in this case. I am told by my legal friends that it is most unusual for persons convicted and fined to be imprisoned without being given a reasonable time to pay.
This is a most unsual case in the judgement of legal people in this Parliament. The ‘West Australian’ newspaper comments that if these men came from mainland China perhaps the situation would be different. I am not appealing on any political grounds despite my friendship and sympathy with Taiwan. I am merely appealing in the name of decency and humanity that these frightened bewildered men should be released from gaol. If the Government is not prepared to remit the fines and allow them to return home to their families whom they have not seen for many months because they are being held in AustraliaI think it would not be beyond the bounds of reasonableness for the Commonwealth to do this- at least it should let them out of gaol and allow them to lead ordinary lives among their own community, which has been looking after them. The Australian community generally has seen fit to befriend them and help them. I appeal to the Minister because I know his sense of decency and his sense of humanity. For God ‘s sake, get those men out of gaol immediately.
– I wish to refer to certain matters which took place this afternoon. By way of introduction I wish to quote from a copy of a speech which was given on 6 September in which the speaker, none other than the Treasurer of Australia (Mr Crean) said:
I find myself by some strange good fortune -
And in the copy of the speech I have the word good ‘is underlined - in a very happy and confident situation. The fact is that by practically any test we care to make the Australian economy today is thriving and the immediate future looks good.
That is what the Treasurer was prepared to say a little less than 3 weeks ago- ‘by some strange good fortune the Australian economy looks good ‘. And by some strange good fortune he was happy. I just wish to record that I am far from happy and I believe that the people of Australia have cause to be far from happy, and that honourable senators on this side of the chamber have very good cause to be far from happy because the Treasurer is prepared to say that the economic situation is good only as a matter of chance. In his view this is a matter of fortunebecause the gods were prepared to smile upon him- and not as a result in any way at all of the economic management of the Government, not as a result of anything that it has done, but ‘ by some strange good fortune ‘.
That shows how entirely dissociated from the complaints of the average person in the community he has become. It shows too that he is totally unaware of the seriousness of the problem of inflation in Australia. It shows that he does not realise- perhaps this is the reason for the events of this afternoon- and that the whole of the Australian Labor Party does not realise that the people of Australia are concerned about the question of inflation. They are concerned about what is proposed to be done about it. They are concerned to know whether we are going to have a referendum and whether they are to be requested to vote -
– A point of order, Mr President -
– Order ! There is no need to take a point of order. I was just about to draw Senator Rae’s attention to the fact that he must not refer on the adjournment debate to matters that have been the subject of debate today. When he starts talking about referenda he is referring to matters that have been decided in the course of debate during the day.
-Thank you, Mr President. I wish to refer to what the people of Australia will be concerned about in December. They will, of course, be concerned to know fully what are the arguments and what are the considerations related to the decision which will be required of them.
– I rise on a point of order, Mr President. It is the same point as you raised. The question that the people will have to decide in December is the question that we debated today on the 2 Bills that were before the House. The matter that we dealt with today was being referred to by Senator Rae. I would say that that is in complete breach of the ruling that you have just given, Mr President. We cannot have a rehash of what went on this afternoon.
– I wish to rise on a point of order, Mr President. I was anxious to hear what Senator Rae had to say. My understanding is that the Prime Minister has announced that there will be least 6 matters to be decided at the referendum.
– What is the point of order?
– The point of order is that I wish Senator Rae to be heard and not to be interrupted. He is not speaking on a matter that was referred to during the day.
-Order! Senator Webster, you are totally out of order.
- Mr President, I rise on a point of order. I put the point of view that what Senator Webster is urging is this: The Prime Minister having made a statement of possibly 4 or 5 matters that will be decided in referenda it is not to be assumed that when Senator Rae mentions a referendum it refers to the subject matter of the debate this afternoon.
– Do not be so innocent.
– I thought the President wished to listen to me.
– Yes, I do.
– I do not think the President can hear me over the chorus of interjections. Surely the plainest possible point is that the reference to referenda per se does not necessarily refer to the referendum which was debated this afternoon.
– May I continue with due regard to the objections which have been taken and refer to the fact that many people in Australia are concerned about inflation. Many people in Australia are concerned to know what the Government proposes to do in relation to inflation. They become all the more concerned, as my colleague Senator Webster has just pointed out, when they hear from the Prime Minister that wide cross-sections of alterations to the Constitution are proposed by the Government but are not explained. It is this lack of explanation to which I particularly wish to refer. It appears to have become a matter of habit on the part of the Government to pontificate upon -
– How do you spell that?
– P-o-n-t etc. I do not think that Senator Poyser, who joined me in Rome last year, needs to have the word ‘Pontiff’ at least spelt. I will continue, if I may. The people are concerned to know what the Government proposes to do. They hear suggestions that the Government will have a referendum about this or about that, and they are anxious to know what it will mean, what this power will mean, what the passing or the rejection of a particular referendum will mean to them, and what sorts of policies they can expect. I have not the slightest doubt that as a result of the announcements of today they remain all the more confused and all the more irate about the Government’s behaviour and its refusal to explain itself.
– I raise a point of order. Is it right for the honourable senator to canvass material which has already been debated today?
-Order! Senator Rae knows as well as I do and, as every other honourable senator knows, that he must not refer in the adjournment debate to matters which have been the subject of debate during the day. This is an area where the ingenuity of honourable senators has been exercised for 70 years. I ask Senator Rae to exercise his ingenuity without drawing my wrath upon him.
– I raise a point of order, and I think it is important. By the clever use of words Senator Rae is trying to traverse a debate which we had this afternoon.
– We did not have a debate; that is the point.
-Order! I am hearing a point of order and I do not wish to be interrupted by any honourable senator, wherever he sits.
– I think that more debate went on this afternoon than takes place on most days. But I am referring to a debate which occurred last week, yesterday and today. Standing order 4 13 states:
No Senator shall allude to any debate or proceedings of the same Session unless such allusion be relevant to the matter under discussion.
The matter under discussion is the adjournment of the Senate. It has to be shown thai the allusion to any debate which occurred in this session is relevant to the adjournment of the Senate. I suggest that we have had several days of discussion of items which are to be submitted to the public in December. We have had reference to this matter all through. It has been suggested that this power either is or is not a cure for inflation. Tonight again we are told that it either is or is not a cure to inflation. We are rehashing the debate which took place in relation to 2 Bills which were before the Senate. That is in complete defiance of Standing Orders and with respect, Mr President, I say that it is in defiance of your ruling.
– May I speak to the point of order, Mr President?
– I wish to make it quite clear that the very thing I am not talking about is the debate that we did not have today.
– Order! That is not a point of order.
– Well, Mr President, it has been suggested that I was speaking about a debate which took place today. I would like to point out that one of the matters about which I would like to comment but about which naturally I cannot comment because I wish to observe the Standing Orders is the fact that the Government refused to let us have such a debate today. I would like to refer to it but I am not allowed to do so; so I will not.
– Order! There is no substance in the point of order. I call Senator Rae.
– Thank you, Mr President.
– This is the third time the honourable senator has risen.
– If I may continue without too many interruptions by fruitless points of order, Mr President, I wish to say that the matters to which I wish to refer are the general policy of the Government in relation to inflation, the announcement of the Prime Minister that there is a wide cross-section of matters other than matters debated today which apparently he would like to put to the public of Australia by way of referendum and the importance to the people of Australia of being able to know what the Government wishes to do in relation to them and to what use it intends to put any of the powers that may be given to it as a result of a particular referendum proposal being accepted by the people of Australia.
– Order ! You are beginning to trespass upon the Standing Orders, Senator Rae.
– I am sorry, Sir.
– How many warnings do you have to have? Do you have 9 lives?
– It has been suggested to me that I am sailing a little too close to the wind. You would know what happens if you sail too close to the wind, Mr President.
– Yes. You are put in irons.
– I do not wish to be put in irons.
– You have been luffing all night.
- Senator O’Byrne has suggested that a little luffing may be going on. Perhaps we can have a luffing match. If we are to talk about the drawing of analogies perhaps I could talk about what happened in ancient Rome and go back into the history of the Roman Empire.
– I rise to a point of order, Mr President. I did not want to have to do so, but I think that this debate has gone beyond a joke. It is questionable whether the matter being discussed by Senator Rae is in order. You have allowed him to continue his remarks, Mr President. Senator Sim raised a matter of substance before Senator Rae began to speak. I do not think that we should allow this debate on the motion of the adjournment of the Senate to develop into a protracted one, but it is headed that way. I think Senator Rae should be asked to keep to the subject he raised in the first place.
– I am grateful to my colleague from Tasmania, Senator Wriedt, for his help. He is obviously intent upon ensuring that the Government is not criticised for some of the serious faults in its administration which are becoming increasingly evident to the people of Australia and which were not well received last week by the people of Parramatta. I wish to speak about those faults. If some of the honourable senator’s on Senator Wriedt ‘s side of the chamber want to make a little fun, perhaps I can have a little fun back again. If they want to talk seriously, I will talk seriously. I wish to talk about a matter which is important. I believe the
Government should provide adequate opportunity for the public to understand what it wishes to do. I wish to register a protest at the Government ‘s actions in failing to provide adequate opportunity for the public of Australia to know what is proposed to be done by the Government and to let it hear informed debate about those matters.
– You said that 10 minutes ago.
– I have taken the opportunity of doing so, notwithstanding the cat calling and caterwauling of the Opposition. I believe that the people of Australia want to know the facts about the Government’s policies. I believe that they would like to know how they will affect them and the significance of what has been proposed. I do not think the people of Australia will give much credit to the Government if it prevents the opportunity being taken for that information to be made available to them in relation to any of the proposed policies of the Government. Those were the comments which I wished to make. I thank you, Mr President, for ensuring that I have had the opportunity to make them.
– I would like to support Senator Rae in what he has said tonight in the adjournment debate. I believe that the people of Australia, having been subjected to the imposition by the Government of a Bill seeking a referendum costing approximately $2m -
-Order! Senator Jessop, you cannot refer in the adjournment debate to matters which have been the subject of debate during the day.
- Mr President, I rise to order. I draw your attention as President to a ruling which you made last Thursday night. It will be recalled that Senator McLaren spoke in the adjournment debate last Thursday night. He referred at length to matters which had occurred in the course of a debate that afternoon and the point was taken that he should not refer during the adjournment debate to matters which had taken place during debate that afternoon. Notwithstanding that, he was allowed to proceed. I refer to what Senator Cavanagh, who was the last person to rise to take objection, said tonight because it is quite contrary to the argument he put last week. Last week he said, as reported in Hansard:
I recall that an alteration was made to a new reference to a debate if it is pertinent to the point that had to be made. Whether it is current or not, if it is pertinent it is in order to raise it. Senator McLaren is claiming that someone has misinformed the House. I think he is quite within his rights in referring to the occasion of the misinformation, without raising the question of the subject of the debate. I think that under current Standing Orders you, Mr President, must rule that he is in order.
Mr President, you are reported in Hansard as saying:
Yes, I agree with that. But Senator McLaren must confine himself to the misinformation and not refer to the debate. That is all I am saying.
Then, for one column and parts of 2 other columns of Hansard, Senator McLaren proceeded to elaborate the point of misinformation about which he was concerned. He did so with nothing more than the interjections which usually attend what he has to say. He completed what he had to say. With respect, Sir, there should be consistency in rulings and, if there is an allegation that misinformation was given and that has to be explained, the complete absence of information is probably of more vital significance than misinformation. It is a matter of how you determine it in the context. I certainly put it to you, Sir, that no honourable senator should really argue the subject matter of the actual debate, but to refer to the fact that matters were brought forward and that there was no opportunity for debate is not referring to the debate and is well within the ruling which you gave last week. These matters have to be viewed with a degree of tolerance, which you showed last week. I submit that the same ruling should be applied this week.
- Mr President, I rise on the point of order because there has been a complete misinterpretation of what I said.
– It was only read out.
-Order! Honourable senators must understand that when a senator has risen to his feet to take a point of order and to elaborate on the matter which is in his mind and which he is asking me to decide, that senator shall be heard in silence because the Chair is being addressed and I do not want any interruptions.
– I am not questioning Senator Greenwood ‘s ability to read; I am questioning his ability to interpret. It may be that his lack of ability to interpret stems from the profession which he follows. The other evening I said that when Senator McLaren was making a speech he was able to allude to something debated in the current session if it was relevant to the point that he desired to make. What I said on the other occasion is supported by standing order 4 1 3 which reads:
No Senator shall allude to any debate or proceedings of the same Session unless such allusion be relevant to the matter under discussion.
Senator McLaren was claiming that a misstatement was made and that another senator had deceived the Senate. If that a senator has deceived the House a senator who believes the deception took place has a responsibility to explain to the House that the deception took place. For the purpose of showing that the deception took place and that the House was deceived it is necessary to refer to what the honourable senator said during the course of the debate. That is entirely different from what we have seen tonight. We have had a debate on the question of referenda. Senator Jessop referred to quarter of a million dollars or half a million dollars -
- Senator Jessop referred to the amount of $2m which the Government is to spend on a referendum in December. This is obviously the very point. There is no similarity between the attitude I took previously and the attitude I took tonight. I say, with respect, that standing order 4 1 3 is very definite and very clear. Honourable senators know it is clear. The point is whether honourable senators can use words to defy Standing Orders and to defy the President’s ruling.
– I rise on a point of order. Mr President, lest you be misled by the insufficient reference by Senator Cavanagh and on matters of relevance I direct your attention to standing order 63 which states:
The adjournment of the Senate may be moved at any time by or on behalf of a Minister of the Crown, and on such motion matters irrelevant thereto may be debated.
– I deal first of all with the point of order raised by Senator Greenwood. Senator Greenwood claims that I must be consistent in my rulings. That is perfectly true, but I must be consistent with my rulings on matters of similar circumstances. The circumstances to which Senator Greenwood referred are not the circumstances prevailing tonight so I do not uphold the point of order. Senator Jessop may speak on any subject he chooses on the adjournment debate except matters which have been the subject of debate today.
– Thank you for your ruling, Mr President. I wish to advert to future referenda which may be promoted -
– That matter has been the subject of debate today.
-No. I was referring to future referenda that may be propounded by the Government. I understand that the Prime Minister of Australia is prepared to subject the people of this country to -
– I rise on a point of order.
– I can anticipate Senator Cavanagh ‘s point of order. If honourable senators wish to challenge the forms and procedures of this House during the adjournment debate they may do so. I cannot stop them but I can give rulings that matters cannot be referred to during the adjournment debate which were the subject of a debate in the Senate on the same day.
– All I ask is that if the referendum which will follow the passage of the Bill in this House today is not a future referendum, is it a past one? What is it?
– I believe that I am quite in order in referring to something that has been proposed by the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister has indicated that he wishes to put before the people of Australia a referendum concerned with the control of working conditions for the people of Australia. I am worried about this matter. Every time we have a referendum it costs the taxpayers of Australia something like $2m. I believe that when we are faced with an inflationary problem in this country we cannot afford to subject the people of Australia to such extravagances. I ask you, Mr President, whether on future referenda it will be in order for the Government to use the ruthless methods of the gag and for its members to rise in this place -
– Order! Senator Jessop, you know perfectly well that the Standing Orders are under the control of honourable senators. If the required number of senators in this place wish to do certain things with the Standing Orders and they have the numbers to do so, they can.
– I do not know whether I have the numbers to do what I am doing at the moment. I suggest that what I am saying is of great significance to the Australian people because in the past the Senate has been used to the detriment of the Australian people and I want to ensure that this is not allowed to continue. I recall on many occasions since I have been here members of the Government choosing to raise in the Senate questions associated with matters of importance which I believe were against Standing Orders. For example, on more than one occasion I have heard a Minister in this place move a motion and at the same time move that the question be put. 1 believe that this is a deliberate -
- Senator Jessop, you know perfectly well that you are straying outside the bounds of propriety in the context of an adjournment debate in the Senate.
- Mr President -
– Do you want to address me, Senator Cavanagh?
– Yes, on a point of order.
– What is the point of order?
– I heard the motion to which Senator Jessop is objecting moved today..
– I did not say that.
– No, I know that Senator Jessop did not say that, but obviously he is referring to a motion that was moved today. He was referring to an action which was taken by an honourable senator today. Otherwise, Senator Jessop has to indicate that it happened other than in the present session. The only occasion on which I have known it to happen before was during a previous session when the Opposition was in Government.
– I call Senator Jessop.
-Thank you, Mr President. My main concern is that this Senate will be confronted with a series of referenda and that it will cost the Australian taxpayers approximately $2m for each exercise. I want to make sure that in future adequate time is provided for the presentation of a case against a particular referendum that may be proposed. I ask you, Mr President, knowing that you are a benevolent and reasonable man, to ensure that the Australian taxpayers have an adequate opportunity to express both points of view in the future.
- Senator Sim raised a matter on which I believe I should make a few comments. It is indeed an unfortunate matter which concerns 2 Taiwanese fishing masters and it was drawn to my attention a couple of days ago. Essentially it is that these 2 vessels were apprehended in Western Australian waters in May of this year when they were inside the declared fishing zone, that is, inside the 12-mile limit. As a result, the masters of the 2 vessels who were legally responsible were tried in the Perth District Court for being in breach of Australian law, and the court found each of them guilty on 2 counts, and fined them a total of $4,000 each. Subsequently, the crews of the ‘2 vessels were repatriated to Taiwan, with the exception of the radio officer who was a Crown witness. The court’s finding was that in default of payment there would be 6 months imprisonment. I understand that as an appeal has been lodged it is possible that the appeal will be upheld and the court may order a retrial. It does not mean- as the honourable senator himself seemed to indicate- that the court would automatically -
– I do not know what the court would do.
– I have to explain this background because Senator Sim has raised the matter. The current position is that these 2 Taiwanese are being held pending the possibility of a retrial. I am not aware that they are incarcerated in conditions that are not as they should be, but I will find out and if this is not the case I will endeavour to rectify the position. But I should say that the Australian Government has taken this action because there have been repeated complaints from the Western Australian authorities that the Australian Government is not exercising proper vigilance on the Western Australian coast. We have endeavoured with the limited facilities available to us in co-operation with the armed forces, to ensure that there is a proper surveillance of fishing vessels which are inside the declared fishing zone. It is for this reason that action was taken as a -
– I am not asking or arguing about the action that was taken.
– I am trying to explain the situation. The case which the honourable senator presented to the Senate would indicate that there had been some disregard by the Government for the human aspect of this matter.
– Yes, I do say that.
– As I have indicated, we have been regularly criticised for not taking action and were exhorted to take more stringent measures on the Western Australian coast to ensure that foreign fishing vessels do not get inside the declared fishing zone. In no manner have we had this response in stronger terms than from the fishing industry itself. I am not able to say to the Senate tonight that I can take any specific action. The court has made its ruling. It is not for me to vary the decision of that court. It was the concern of the Government that, if the 2 masters involved were repatriated to Taiwan, it may be possible to get them back in the event of a retrial. I certainly will look into this matter in more detail. The notes on it were given to me only a couple of days ago. I have not had any further information apropos what the honourable senator has said tonight. I can assure him that the Government will look as sympathetically as it possibly can at the matter. As a Government, we must exercise reasonable control over our Australian declared fishing zones. If we allow, as a matter of right, foreign vessels to come into those areas and then simply allow them to leave those waters again, obviously we are not discharging our obligations.
– Well, you are doing it.
– The honourable senator mentioned the matter of the Indonesian vessels. Let me say that the case of the Indonesian vessels was in no way analogous to the matter of the Taiwan vessels. They were drifters- sailing vessels which are so classified- and it is customary and has been the practice for many years for those Indonesian vessels every season to be blown by the monsoons into Australian waters. We recognise that fact. The Taiwan case involves commercial fishing vessels found inside the declared fishing zone. I think that the Government has the right to exercise some jurisdiction in those waters. Even so, I undertake to look at the matter more closely and, if I possibly can, certainly I will ensure that efforts that are directed against the fisherman involved are within the law.
– I rise tonight on the adjournment motion to refer to the standing order to which Senator Wright has drawn attention. That standing order provides that on the motion for the adjournment matters which are quite irrelevant thereto may be debated. The matter which I believe should be in the forefront of our attention this evening is the extent to which the Standing Orders of the Senate as they are now in force are adequate to preserve the institution of parliamentary democracy in this country.
Certain events have occurred from time to time since I have been a member of the Senate which give me some real concern about whether we have in our Standing Orders an adequate preservation of those rights. We have seen not only in this chamber but also in the other chamber from time to time, and particularly since this Government came into power, the use of the Standing Orders as they are now printed to railroad completely the Parliament and members in this chamber and in another chamber, preventing them from performing their duties and even from expressing their viewpoints on matters of the greatest concern. It seems to me that our Standing Orders, which we have believed and which I am sure that the electors have believed are a sufficient guarantee of proper debate on matters of national concern, are not a sufficient guarantee of freedom of speech and debate in this country. I think that this matter is one of the gravest concern to the Senate. I am sure that if the electors knew of the inadequacies of the Standing Orders it would be of the gravest concern to them as well. I know that Senator Cavanagh in particular is concerned about the Standing Orders. He has expressed concern about them from time to time.
– Only when in Opposition, I think.
– Yes, when in Opposition. I regret that there has been a great change in the sensitivity of members opposite since they have come into office. There can be no question that the experiences in this chamber and in another place have shown that our Standing Orders and the Standing Orders of the other place are by no means a guarantee of freedom of speech in this Parliament. I appeal to honourable senators to give the most urgent attention to this matter. I believe that attention ought to be given to it tomorrow. It is as serious as that.
-What time, 8.30?
-Make it 6.30. That frivolous interjection simply reveals the indifference of the Labor Party to the question of democracy and freedom of speech not only in this country but in this Parliament.
– You have a majority in the Senate. How is it the Labor Party’s responsibility.
-Senator Wheeldon ‘s interjection reveals the complete indifference of members of the Labor Party to the question of freedom of speech in Parliament itself. They believe that if you have the numbers you can do what you like. Senator Wheeldon ‘s interjection reveals their mentality. If a party has the numbers it can do what it likes.
– I rise on a point of order. It is based on standing order 415, which states:
No Senator shall reflect upon any Vote of the Senate, except for the purpose of moving that such Vote be rescinded.
It is evident to me that Senator Durack is referring to a vote of the Senate which was taken today.
– Order! There is no substance in the point of order. Senator Durack did not refer to any matter which took place in the Senate today or to any vote of the Senate today.
-I think Senator Brown has taken a fairly interesting point of order. It is a case of ‘if the cap fits-‘.
– They are very sensitive about the matter.
– They are very sensitive indeed, and well they might be. We have to ensure that our Standing Orders guarantee that freedom of speech and freedom of debate in this Parliament are sacrosanct. I rise tonight to appeal to the Senate, to the Standing Orders Committee and to you Mr President, to call a most urgent meeting of the Standing Orders Committee to ensure that this vital principle of democracy and of parliamentary government in this country is inviolate.
– I want to speak in relation to the matters raised by Senator Durack. I could not agree with him more completely than I do in relation to the freedom of speech. I have always spoken very strongly in favour of the freedom of speech of honourable senators. But Senator Durack and Senator Greenwood have extremely short memories. I can remember the ruthless use of the gag in the Senate when Government senators were on the Opposition side of the Senate. On one occasion, one of the most important pieces of legislation ever to come before the Senate was being debated. Honourable senators opposite were trying to grind the workers of this country into the ground under a vicious Conciliation and Arbitration Bill. Honourable senators opposite gagged through clause after clause of that Bill. They did not allow honourable senators in the Opposition to speak on them. They kept us here all night until 7 o’clock in the morning to force through that legislation before the session of the Parliament closed and refused to allow an extra week for the sitting of the Parliament to allow that debate to take place. It proves to me that honourable senators opposite are like the drover’s dog. They can give it but they cannot take it. This is the situation we face at the moment. Honourable senators opposite were dominant for 23 long years. For far too many years they formed the Government of this country. They took ruthless action in another place.
Mr President, you will recall that some 2 years ago they gave the Opposition exactly 1 5 minutes in which to approve the handing out of over $4m to an industry in Victoria and New South Wales to get it out of trouble. That trouble was caused by their own mismanagement. They gave out that $4m in 15 minutes flat and would not even allow the Opposition to move amendments in the commitee stage of the consideration of the Bill. They have given it out. On this one occasion since we have become the Government we have replied in kind in the Senate. We hear honourable senators opposite squawking and squealing about democracy. No one ever heard about a democratic system of parliament when honourable senators opposite were in power. They ruthlessly used their numbers on all occasions on which it suited them. Now they have to cop it and they cannot take it. They are crying in their handkerchiefs.
They are doing this for 2 reasons: They are still not used to the fact that they are in Opposition. It has been a tremendous shock. Senator Greenwood surfaces every now and then and says a few words. Then he does back into his state of shock again. He just cannot understand that he is not throwing boys into gaol because they would not fight in Vietnam. He cannot understand that he is not able to continue to chase little old ladies on Christmas Day, searching their houses to see whether their sons have come home to see them. He had a great team of policemen outside the house. Then, he would be trying to throw some lad into gaol because he stood for a great principle for which members of the Labor Party also stand. It makes me sick in the stomach to see a person like this talking about democracy. You gave the kids no chance. You did not give them a vote but you sent them to war.
- Senator Poyser, I do not think you can refer to Senator Greenwood in those terms. He has not even spoken in this debate.
– He has been attempting to interject a great deal. In between his spasms of shock he has been putting in his few words. Honourable senators opposite are in a state of shock. I did not enjoy the situation that developed today. I have spoken in the Senate on such matters before. I did not enjoy seeing the situation develop in which we did not have time to debate fully the things that we should have debated. But I voted for the gag because we saw the filibuster in which honourable senators opposite were trying to engage. We had a long debate in the Committee stage in relation to the title of the Bill. That had nothing at all to do with what was contained in the Bill.
- Senator Poyser, you are not referring to a debate which took place today, are you?
-I certainly am.
– Then you are out of order.
– What happened during the 20 years when honourable senators opposite formed the Government has happened once in their period in Opposition. Honourable senators opposite are squeaking and squawking as though it happens every day. I hope they will learn their lesson about democracy and will ensure that real democratic processes are observed in this House.
We have 461 standing orders and I certainly agree that the whole thing should be reviewed. There are many contradictions in the Standing Orders. One can find a standing order that can suit ones own purpose at any time.
– If you have the numbers, you always have the numbers.
– That is true, as I was going to say. Irrespective of how many standing orders there are, this Senate is its own master; it makes its own decisions. If the numbers are against you, you have lost; if they are for you, you have won and we have lost more times than we have won.
- Mr President -
– Order! Senator Cavanagh, do you wish to enter this debate?
– Yes, Mr President. I want to say only a few words.
- Mr President, I raise a point of order. I should like to ask how many times a senator may speak on the adjournment debate.
– A senator may speak on the adjournment only once. Senator Cavanagh took points of order. When Senator Cavanagh got to his feet I asked him whether he was raising a point of order or entering the debate and he said that he was entering the debate, as he was entitled to do.
-And I shall not speak again in the debate. I think Senator Durack raised a very important point tonight. I know that he used an irrelevant standing order which he learnt about from Senator Wright in order to go very near to speaking on what other honourable senators were prevented from speaking on because they did not have the art of using words that Senator Durack used, namely, that no one could raise a point that may have some reference to an earlier debate. I think it is very important that our rules do protect us so that there is freedom of speech for everyone in this Senate and so that they all have the opportunity to speak. My opinions on this matter have not changed since I have been a member of the Government. However, I realise that on occasions when there are attempts at filibustering and stonewalling some drastic action is justified. In the past I was in Opposition when this occured and I never appreciated it. If there is anything that can ensure the right of senators to have a full discussion, I think it should be adopted. The Standing Orders Committee perhaps could look at it. But, equally, there must be a protection to ensure that the business of the Senate can be done and that we are not at the mercy of a few individuals who want to stop progress or the working of the Senate. These matters should be balanced out and I think this is one of the things at which the Standing Orders Committee could look.
But the other and important point, I believe, is whether there is a solution to this problem. You would remember, Mr President, when Senator Murphy as Leader of the Opposition received the support of the Senate when he said the action of this Senate was determined by the Constitution. lt does not matter what a standing order may say; if it is contrary to what the Constitution lays down for the Senate, that standing order is inoperative. This particular matter related to the bringing on of business where questions were decided by a majority of senators. I think we are restricted by the Constitution. If one has the numbers, one can carry a lot of things in a chamber while the present provisions of the Constitution apply.
– The decision you are referring to was a numbers decision not a legal interpretation.
– I think it was supported by legal opinions, including opinions by the then Attorney-General. A very interesting point was raised by Senator Durack for debate. He drew our attention to the wording of one of the Standing Orders but I do not think it referred to freedom of speech, the subject about which he spoke. It brings up the important question of whether honourable senators are entitled to speak in debates on the motion for the adjournment of the Senate other than when the adjournment motion has been moved by or on behalf of a Minister. Standing order 63 states:
The adjournment of the Senate may be moved at any time by or on behalf of a Minister of the Crown, and on such motion matters irrelevant thereto may be debated.
– We can test that now by asking whether you are entitled to speak.
-The motion for the adjournment tonight was put in accordance with the sessional orders. Therefore this is another question that the Standing Orders Committee could well consider. It shows that there are dangers in attracting attention to matters which are not relevant to the point which the honourable senator wishes to bring out and which have the very reverse effect to what the honourable senator wanted to raise for debate. If the honourable senator can suggest a means of securing the right of full discussion on all subjects and ensuring that there will be no filibustering, I am sure that the whole Parliament will be happy.
– I rise briefly to pay a few words of tribute to members of the Australian Democratic Labor Party. I think they deserve some tribute. I was prompted to rise because we have heard a considerable amount of agitated discussion about the application of the gag in this chamber. I can well imagine that had I been a member of the Opposition today and had found that my old friends in the DLP had crossed the floor and voted with the Government while I was not able to speak on a matter -
-Is the honourable senator referring to today’s debate?
-No. I am speaking hypothetically. Were such a situation to arise I would feel extremely irritated. There were occasions in the past when I felt very irritated. I well remember, for example, when the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill was before the Senate. At that time Senator Wright, who was very indignant today, was just as enthusiastic in moving the gag so that we were unable to discuss that Bill. Senator Wright says that the situation was different because he was then a Minister while now he is a member of the Opposition. The important point is that, no matter which Party is in government, from time to time it wishes to apply the gag. Let us be realistic about this matter. If we get out the Hansards and the record of proceedings in the Senate, we will find that the last Government regularly applied the gag in debates in this chamber.
– Only when we let it do so.
– I will come to that point. The last Government regularly attempted to apply the gag and frequently did apply it. I am congratulating the DLP, so Senator Little should not get upset. I offer it congratulations rarely enough, so he should appreciate my doing so. I think that Senator Durack misunderstood the history of this chamber when he complained tonight about the state of the Standing Orders. The Australian Labor Party has not had a majority in the Senate since 1950. If any desire had been evidenced by members of the conservative parties to change the Standing Orders, they had 23 years in which to do so. But Senator Durack, peeved tonight at being defeated when he thought that he would be able to frustrate the Government’s program, said: ‘Oh, isn’t it shocking; the Standing Orders are crook’. His Party hardly functioned from 1950 to 1972. It seems to me to be a little late now.
As I said, I did not wish to bring a discordant note into these proceedings but rather to pour some oil on troubled waters by offering a few words of congratulations to the Democratic Labor Party. For well over a decade neither the Liberal Party and Country Party in combination nor the Australian Labor Party has had a majority in the Senate. In fact, to put not too fine a point on it, the Democratic Labor Party has held the balance of power. So on any occasion when the gag was applied it was applied because the DLP wanted it to be applied. Senator Wright often wanted to apply the gag. If the DLP agreed with him the gag was applied. Senator Murphy may have wished on some occasion to apply the gag and, if the DLP agreed with him, he was able to apply the gag. The DLP has not supported the application of the gag in all this time. I would like to commend its members for having regarded this entire discussion as nonsense and having maintained silence throughout the whole proceeding.
-The matter I wish to raise this evening arises basically from the adjournment debate which commenced at 1 1 p.m. Mr President, you will recall that when Senator Rae spoke you interrupted him when he first mentioned the word ‘referendum’.
– I did not interrupt him when he first mentioned it. I interrupted him because his speech indicated that he was beginning to refer to matters that had taken place this day. Do not put words into my mouth.
– I thank you, Sir, for prompting me on that point because it was that point which I wished to raise. I refer to the matter of the Chair prohibiting an honourable senator from mentioning a matter that apparently had occurred that day. I note now that it was yesterday. If one refers to the referendum one would be -
– There is no validity in that.
– I raise the matter in all seriousness because I believe that it would be appropriate after midnight to refer to matters which have occurred on the previous day. That would be one facet of my argument. The main point I wished to raise was that undoubtedly you drew Senator Rae’s attention to standing order 413. Apparently it has become common law or the established custom that standing order 413 be interpreted to mean that a senator may not refer to a matter which has been raised in debate during the day’s proceedings in this Senate.
– During the same session.
– I would like that point to go into the record also. The Minister for Works indicates that the correct words contained standing order 413 are ‘during the session’. I make 2 points in relation to that matter. Firstly, standing order 413 does not prohibit an honourable senator from raising on the adjournment matters that have been referred to during debate on the same day. The wording does not prohibit him from speaking or referring to any matter. I think it is a point of particular importance to which this Senate needs to direct its attention that, if a matter of importance has occurred during the day, standing order 413 gives a senator a total right to discuss that matter during the adjournment debate. Mr President, when Senator Rae rose you apparently thought it was your duty to tell him to sit down and to express the view that he should not refer to a matter that had been raised in debate during the day. The same thing occurred when I rose on a point of order and mentioned the word ‘referendum’. With great respect, I suggest that you suggested to me that I could not refer to a matter that had been debated during the day.
Let us look at the wording of standing order 413. Perhaps I could give my interpretation of it. It says:
No Senator shall allude to any debate or proceedings of the same session unless such allusion be relevant to the matter under discussion.
The matters under discussion this evening were not only those raised on the adjournment but also the matter of urgency which Senator Rae sought to raise during his contribution to the adjournment debate. So we find that an honourable senator can allude to a matter that was the subject of debate during the day provided that it is relevant to the matter under discussion. The Minister for Works, Senator Cavanagh, interrupted and said that the word used was ‘session’. It would be interesting if common Senate practice had established that we could not refer to any matter which had been under discussion in the same session, because that cannot be interpreted as debating a matter which was under discussion on the same day. I refer to page 100 of ‘Australian Senate Practice’ which reads:
Then within each Parliament there may be a number of what are known as sessions. Sometimes the one session lasts for the life of the Parliament. At other times there may be two, three, or more sessions in each Parliament. A session does not mean that the Parliament is continuously sitting for the duration of the session. There are usually adjournments during each session. Put in parliamentary language, a session means the time from the opening of the session by Her Majesty, or the GovernorGeneral, to the prorogation of the Parliament or dissolution of the House of Representatives.
I say: Those who have ears to hear let them hear. The fact is that a matter debated during the day may quite appropriately be raised on the adjournment debate.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 12.12 a.m. (Thursday)
The following answers to questions were circulated:
asked the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice:
When will his Depanment consider the 1972 Returned Servicemen’s League Federal Congress submissions, particularly the section regarding returned servicemen who are members of the Commonwealth Public Service.
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
In accordance with usual practice, my Department considered the 1972 Returned Services League Federal Congress submissions on Repatriation matters both prior to and during the Congress. Senior representatives from the Department attend Congress and express views at the time. Subsequently, the R.S.L. refers appropriate resolutions to me for consideration and reply direct.
The submission relating to the retirement age and superannuation benefits for ex-service members of the Australian Public Service referred to by the honourable senator, is outside the area of Repatriation responsibility. However, I understand that this particular matter has been the subject of correspondence between the Prime Minister and the National Secretary of the Returned Services League.
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice:
– The Prime Minister has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The Australian Government’s policy in respect of the Five Power Arrangements has been made clear on a number of occasions. I refer the honourable senator particularly to my statement of 24 May 1973 (Hansard, House of Representatives, page 2646) in which I said ‘We believe that our pledge to uphold the Five Power Arrangements does not require the stationing of forces abroad on permanent garrison duty for its redemption.’ I also draw the honourable senator’s attention to the statement made by the Minister for Defence on 22 August 1973 that a Royal Australian Air Force detachment of some 1,500 and our Mirages will remain at Butterworth, at least until we review the situation again in 1975 and that we shall continue to maintain a small naval presence in the area. (Hansard, House of Representatives, 22 August 1973, pages 238-9).
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice:
– The Acting Treasurer has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The Government has undertaken to re-assess the situation before the end of this month.
Gold Mining: Tax on Profits
-On 28 August 1973, Senator Withers addressed a question without notice to me concerning the Government’s decision announced in the Budget to withdraw the exemption from income tax of profits from gold mining, commencing with this income year.
The Acting Treasurer has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
I confirm what was said at the time by my colleague, the Special Minister of State, with respect to the Government ‘s intentions towards the gold mining industry. The decision to withdraw the exemption was taken only after careful consideration and in the light of the changed present circumstances of the industry. Although I find it hard to believe that withdrawal would have the effects alleged in some quarters, I have already indicated that, if problems are created as a result of Government decisions, I am perfectly ready to receive deputations and to look sympathetically at the situation.
As to the meeting to which the honourable senator refers, both the Prime Minister and I received invitations from the Kalgoorlie Council to be present. Parliamentary commitments, however, made it impracticable for us to attend and our regrets were conveyed to the Council accordingly.
Papua New Guinea: Financial Guarantees
– On 22 August 1973, Senator Cotton asked me a question without notice, concerning existing financial guarantees to
Papua New Guinea. The Acting Treasurer has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
No decision has yet been taken on the question of whether or not the Australian Government should continue to guarantee borrowings by the Papua New Guinea Government on the Australian and overseas capital markets after that country becomes independent.
It would be most unusual for one sovereign government to guarantee the external borrowings of another sovereign government but this matter will be considered when the detailed arrangements for independence are drawn up after Papua New Guinea becomes self-governing later this year.
As stated by the honourable senator, the Australian Government will continue in the post independence period to honour the guarantees we will have provided for borrowings entered into by the Papua New Guinea Government before that time. The Minister for External Territories recently introduced legislation into Parliament to give effect to the Government’s assurances in this respect. At the present time borrowings by the Papua New Guinea Government which have been guaranteed by the Australian Government amount to more than $300m, including principal and interest. The comparable amount at independence will almost certainly be greater than this.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 26 September 1973, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1973/19730926_senate_28_s57/>.