30th Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Condor Laucke) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I present the following petition from 28 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned respectfully showeth:
That previous public inquiries into the Molonglo Arterial- Western Distributor have not considered Canberra ‘s total transport needs;
That construction of the proposed Molonglo Freeway will divert scarce public resources away from Canberra s public transport system;
That Canberra’s high unemployment problems will only be solved satisfactorily, both socially and environmentally, by the construction of urgently needed public transport facilities;
That massive environmental degradation of Lake Burley Griffin’s foreshores will occur if the proposed Molonglo Freeway is constructed;
That Canberra’s air pollution levels are already dangerously high as a direct result of over-dependence on the motor car for private transport and this situation will not be rectified in the foreseeable future by vehicle exhaust emission controls;
That many Canberra residents, particularly in the young and elderly age groups, do not have unfettered access to a car and therefore will be substantially disadvantaged if the money proposed for the construction of the freeway is not channelled into public transport facilities which will benefit these groups;
We your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Molonglo Arterial and Western Distributor be deferred until a full public enquiry has been carried out investigating Canberra ‘s total transport needs.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– I present the following petition from 3 1 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth that we are deeply concerned at the threat to the continuation of symphony orchestras throughout Australia posed by the I.A.C. and Green reports.
We believe that the Government should not allow the symphony orchestras of Australia to be reduced in any way at all.
Your petitioners humbly pray that your honourable House will take steps to ensure the continuation and growth of our symphony orchestras, thereby ensuring that the quality of life of the people of this country shall be maintained.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– I present the following petition from 1 1 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled, the petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the Commonwealth Government restore the Petrol Price Equalisation Scheme immediately for the benefit of those people who live away from the seaboard.
Your petitioners believe that the matter is urgent and your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– I present the following petition from 57 citizens, residents of Burketown:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned concerned citizens respectfully showeth:
Australia’s extensive road system is a national asset wasting because of inadequate Federal and State funding.
Commonwealth Government funding of roads has fallen over the last six years from 2.9 per cent of all Commonwealth outlays to 2.3 percent.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Senate in Parliament assembled, should ensure:
That the Commonwealth Government’s long-term policy should be to provide 50 per cent of all funding for Australia ‘s roads.
That at a minimum the Commonwealth Government adopts the recommendations by the Australian Council of Local Government Associations for the allocation of $5,903m of Commonwealth, State and Local Government funds to roads over the five years ending 1980-81, of which the Commonwealth share would be 41 per cent as recommended by the Bureau of Roads.
That priority should not necessarily be given to areas of high voting population but the highest consideration should be given to decentralisation, defence and development, having in mind the fair and just policy of giving all Australians, a minimum road standard before providing luxury highways to the city dwellers.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
-I present the following petition from 16 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That whereas an amnesty was announced for all illegal migrants and that whereas Mr Ignazio Salemi an applicant for amnesty had been denied amnesty.
Your petitioners humbly pray that the members in the House assembled, will take the most steps to ensure:
That as Mr Salemi fulfils all the publicly announced criteria for amnesty he is permitted to remain in Australia as a resident.
Petition received and read.
-I present the following petition from 10 1 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That grave concern is expressed about the Government’s intention to dismantle the Australian Legal Aid Office which is providing efficient, readily available legal aid to all communities in Australia.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government will undertake a full national inquiry as proposed in 1975 by the present Attorney-General, as a matter of urgency.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
-Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned concerned citizens respectfully showeth:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Senate in Parliament assembled, should ensure:
That the Commonwealth Government’s long-term policy should be to provide SO per cent of all funding for Australia s roads.
That at a minimum the Commonwealth Government adopts the recommendations by the Australian Council of Local Government Associations for the allocation of $S,903m of Commonwealth, State and local government funds to roads over the five years ending 1980-81, of which the Commonwealth share would be 41 per cent as recommended by the Bureau of Roads. by Senator Jessop and Senator Collard (4 petitions).
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate, in the Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the Commonwealth Government restore the Petrol Price Equalisation Scheme immediately for the benefit of those people who live away from the seaboard.
Your petitioners believe the matter is urgent
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Senator Sheil.
– I give notice that on the next day of sitting I will move:
That leave be given to introduce a Bill for an Act to amend Part III of the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918.
– 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 the Census and to Statistics.
– I give notice that on the next day of sitting I will move:
That leave be given to introduce a Bill for an Act to amend the Representation Act 190S.
-Pursuant to Standing Order 109, 1 give an amended notice of motion altering the terms of General Business Notice of Motion No. 1 standing in my name on the notice paper. The amended notice of motion is:
That the Senate endorses the opinions expressed in para- graph BIS (1 to 7) of the dissenting report of Senators Greenwood Webster and Wright contained in the report of the Committee of Privileges, tabled in the Senate on 7 October 197S, and relating to matters referred to the Committee by the Senate on 17 July 1975.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Treasurer. Does Senator Cotton recall that in the statement made yesterday by the Treasurer, which he presented to the Senate, the Treasurer made the following statement:
We know, of course, that the effects of our changed arrangements for health insurance will produce a higher December quarter CPI increase than in any quarter since the 5.6 per cent increase of the December quarter of 1 975.
Does the Minister recall that in the same speech the Treasurer said:
Above all, the rate of inflation has moderated substantially.
I ask the Minister: If the Government does know the consumer price index figure for the last December quarter, why does it not announce it? Alternatively, if that were an assumption on the part of the Treasurer, how can he claim that the rate of inflation has moderated substantially?
– I can assure the honourable senator that I read the Treasurer’s speech with the greatest possible accuracy. I also started later and finished earlier than he did in another place. I remember the comments made and I remember reading them and saying to myself: That demonstrates that the underlying inflation rate in this country has been diminishing. ‘ I think the figures prove that. Other than saying that, I do not want to get into a debate with Senator Wriedt about these matters. I suggest that he read the speech carefully again. Perhaps it will help him.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for National Resources and Minister for Overseas Trade. I ask: As the South Australian Government has undertaken studies for the possible establishment of a uranium enrichment plant in South Australia, subject to the mining of uranium in Australia, can the Minister state what level of discussions have taken place between the Federal Government and the South Australian Government in relation to the establishment of such a plant in South Australia?
– As was said in answer to a question from Senator Young on 1 7 November 1976, a study has been undertaken by the South Australian Government on the feasibility of a uranium enrichment industry being established in that State. The South Australian Government sought and received technical advice from the Australian Atomic Energy Commission. It was envisaged that contact should continue so that the Commonwealth could remain fully informed of the progress of the South Australian study. The present position is that the AAEC has continued to provide technical advice on draft papers prepared by the South Australian Government Uranium Enrichment Committee. Any current study of a uranium enrichment proposal in Australia, of course, must be conducted without prejudice to any future Government policy concerning the possible development of a uranium mining industry in Australia. The Government’s attitude is that discussions on the further development of the Australian uranium mining industry should await the second part of the Ranger Uranium Environmental Inquiry. As far as ministerial discussions are concerned, I understand that some months ago the South Australian Minister for Mines and Energy, Mr Hudson, presented a copy of the South Australian study to my colleague the Minister for National Resources and informed him of the work which had been done on this subject in South Australia.
-My question is directed to the Minister for Education and I preface it by reminding the Minister that he made certain statements in relation to the school on Elcho Island when replying to a question from Senator Kilgariff in this chamber yesterday. The Minister referred to an inquiry that was conducted in 1973, a recommendation of which he claimed was rejected by the Labor Government. Is the Minister now prepared to table for the information of the Parliament the report to which he referred?
– I do not know what was the background of the report and whether or not it was tabled. It was a report of the Whitlam Government which made a decision on whether or not to table it. Therefore, if it was tabled it would be available to the honourable senator. I shall look at the matter but repeat that a survey made of Aboriginal schools in 1973 recommended that the Elcho Island school have its toilet block replaced or rebuilt. That was not done. I shall look at the circumstances of the tabling or non-tabling of the report and will advise the honourable senator.
– I wish to ask a supplementary question. I remind the Minister for Education of his exact words yesterday:
In 1973 an inquiry was made for the previous Government. It was recommended that for the Sheperdson College on Elcho Island a new toilet system should be constructed. The previous Government declined to accept that advice; so no construction took place.
I have asked the Minister whether he would table a copy of the report to which he referred in that reply. I repeat the question.
-I shall give the matter consideration as I indicated in my previous answer and shall let the honourable senator know the outcome.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Transport and the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development. The Minister no doubt is well aware of the recent oil spillage around the coast of the United States of Amenca from vessels with rather questionable safety standards. Does the Commowealth Government have the power to ensure that only ships having acceptable safety and crew standards trade in Australian waters? If not, will the Minister give urgent attention to formulating appropriate legislation to achieve this protection of the ecology of our vast shore lines, rich fishing grounds and that wonder of the world, our Great Barrier Reef?
– All honourable senators would share Senator Bonner’s concern at the consequences of oil spillage in terms of the ecology, the threat of fire and other dangers. Equally, all honourable senators would be conscious that as larger and larger tankers are built so the danger will increase. It would be a brave or foolhardy Minister who got to his feet to say off the top of his head whether the Commonwealth Government had power over safety matters relating to these ships. One is aware of the power off-shore flowing from the High Court’s decision. The lawyers may be able to guide me in relation to pons. To that extent I shall take the question on notice and invite my colleague, the Minister for Transport, to have a look at it and provide an answer.
-I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs whether he is aware of serious allegations made by Mr Gordon Bryant MHR and Mr Jim Dunn, who is well known to members of this chamber, relating to the deaths of 6 Australian journalists in East Timor. As I am led to believe that Mr Dunn is to present his report to the Government, I ask whether upon receipt of Mr Dunn’s report the Minister will have the report tabled in the Parliament. Will the Government institute forthwith a public inquiry into the deaths of the Australian journalists, as a gesture of genuine endeavour to establish who in fact was responsible for their deaths?
-I shall seek that information from my colleague in another place.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations. Because of a dispute over tropical or isolated area leave and travelling allowances between the Public Service Board and members of the Public Service unions in the Darwin area, members of the Public Service unions once again went on strike in Darwin yesterday which resulted in the closing down of the power house for 13 hours. Similar action some weeks ago over the same dispute brought the city literally to a standstill and, as before, there was no air-conditioning or fans in the present monsoonal weather, particularly affecting the aged, the sick and young babies. There was spoiling of the food of families, losses for food distributors and retailers and a breakdown in communication and industry, and 2 schools were forced to close for health reasons.
– I raise a point of order, Mr President. The honourable senator has been here long enough to understand that too much information is not to be given when asking a question.
– It must have hurt.
– Generally speaking, when we on this side of the House ask questions, Senator, they are short and to the point. The practice on the Government side is to ask long questions giving far too much information- in fact making statements. Ministers, of course, having the right to answer in their own way, have been taking far too much time to do so.
-Information must not be given; it must be sought. Please make your question as brief as possible, Senator.
- Mr President, I thought that a brief preamble was necessary to illustrate the situation. The question is: In view of these continuing strikes will the Government take action to nave the strike issues reviewed and, if necessary, take them to arbitration as an industrial dispute? What is the present situation in regard to the conference that took place between the Public Service Board and the peak unions concerned? What is the present attitude of the Public Service Board to the strike issues?
– I can well understand the concern of the people of Darwin at the events that have been unfolded by Senator Kilgariff. I welcome the up to date information he has given to the Senate in prefacing his question. The present industrial action in Darwin has followed discussions between the Public Service Board and peak union councils last Monday. The discussions covered employment conditions for staff in all classified remote localities and were not confined to the situation in Darwin. The Board ‘s general review which was based on lengthy previous consideration by the joint council, represented an updating of conditions which had been unchanged since 1948. Some reductions in entitlements resulted, reflecting the fact that over the years the larger population centres had become less ‘hardship posts than they were in 1948.
Senator Kilgariff has asked what is the actual situation with the discussions with the Board. The present position is that the Board announced to the unions last Monday that so far as existing staff are concerned, any reductions in leave will not apply until leave credits have been exhausted up to the end of 1980. The Board also proposed that for the time being Northern Territory staff would receive existing fare destination provisions for their fares out on leave entitlements. However, for entitlements accruing after 1 July this year the officer fare contribution would be increased from the present $15 for single officers and $20 for married officers to $60 for both married and single officers. These were the proposals of the Board which have led to the bans and limitations imposed.
The overtime shift at the power house was not worked yesterday as a consequence of the bans but I understand that the power house is functioning normally today. The attitude of the Public Service Board is that this situation is properly a matter for the Public Service Board exercising its statutory role as an employer. The staff organisations are meeting today and tomorrow to determine their attitude. The Board is keeping the situation under constant and close review and is keeping the Minister informed of developments. I add that if the unions are not satisfied with the conditions that have been determined by the Public Service Board -
– The Board is taking them away.
– The unions have the perfect right, as you know, Senator Bishop, to take the matter to the Public Service Arbitrator. But they are not doing that. They are seeking to impose these hardships on the people of Darwin.
– I direct this question to the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs and/or the Minister representing the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations. Will the Minister confirm that the Australian immigration office in the United Kingdom advertised during midJanuary 1977 for potential migrants in the skilled trades? Is the Minister aware of a great deal of unrest amongst the unemployed migrants at the Graylands hostel in Western Australia, a great number of whom feel that they were conned into migrating virtually under false pretences by over anxious recruiters in the United Kingdom? Will the Minister explain how it is intended to place any new migrants -
– This is a long question.
-It is a 3-part question. Will the Minister explain how it is intended to place any new migrants who may apply in response to the latest advertisement into the work force in Australia, being mindful of the skilled worker job vacancies and applicants at the end of December 1976 according to the Department of Employment and Industrial Relations? Because there are so many people -
– Come on Senator Georges; take a point of order.
-As it is obvious that there are so many people in this chamber who do not read newspapers and the figures that apply to this question, may I quote that the figures show that there are -
– Order! Senator Coleman please do not quote from a document. Ask the question without undue explanation of it.
-Thank you, Mr President. The figures that I refer to show that there are 13 000 applicants to 1200 vacancies in the skilled building and construction trades and 19 000 applicants -
- Mr President, I rise to order. The point of order I raise for your consideration is this: The rules for the asking of questions provide that only enough information should be given to make the question intelligible. I draw your attention to the fact that the flood of information that has been given does not make the question intelligible.
- Senator Coleman, ask your question briefly now, please.
-Thank you. I would simply ask: Will the Minister explain how it is intended to place into the work force of Australia any new migrants who may apply in response to the latest advertisement?
– I could perhaps answer the first part of the question with regard to advertising which it may have been claimed was misleading and give some information from the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs on this matter. With regard to the placement of migrants in the work force, my colleague representing the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations may wish to add something in regard to that matter. The cases which were drawn to the attention of the Minister with regard to advertising for migrants, which it was claimed was misleading, are being investigated. I understand that the advertising mentioned ceased in November 1976. The Western Australian State Minister involved has replied already to some of the comments that have been made in the Western Australian Press by stating that the claims about hoaxing on migrant tradesmen were a load of rubbish. It is not possible for me to provide a full answer on the other matters that have been raised. Those that refer to personal documents of migrants concerned would need a more detailed investigation and go beyond the answer that I am able to give at the present time. But it is known that a number of those people who were mentioned are currently employed.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs. In view of the imminent admission to Australia as conference observers of members of the Palestine National Council with which the Palestine Liberation Organisation is affiliated, I ask the following questions: Will the Minister confirm that admission of the Palestine Liberation Organisation members as observers in Australia does not constitute recognition either now or in the future of the Palestine Liberation Organisation? Will the Minister confirm that the Australian Government’s well known total opposition to international terrorism including outrages perpetrated around the world by the PLO remains undiminished? Finally, does Australia’s opposition to the United Nations according recognition to the PLO remain unqualified while that Organisation continues to have as its avowed policy the destruction of Israel, a member state of the United Nations?
– As honourable senators would know, the Inter-Parliamentary Union will meet in Canberra from 10 April to 17 April this year. Members of all delegations, including observer delegations such as the Palestine National Council, will be admitted to Australia subject to the normal rules of entry. The admission of the Palestinian National Council representatives in no way involves any recognition of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation. The Australian Government unequivocally opposes the use of terrorism in all its forms, including the pursuit of political objectives and especially when that involves civilians. The PLO has been admitted to the United Nations as an observer and in that capacity it is represented at a number of international conferences. However, the Australian
Government has never given any specific recognition to the PLO and will not do so while the PLO maintains its denial of Israel’s right to exist as expressed in the Palestinian National Charter. The Australian Government supports all efforts to promote a peaceful solution to the Palestinian problem, based on Security Council resolutions 242 and 338. I might add that if recent media reports of moves towards acceptance by the PLO of Israel’s right to exist are confirmed unequivocally, this will be an encouraging development.
-Has the Minister representing the Treasurer been informed of the recent Australian Council of Social Service report which calls for an immediate Government spending program in order to create jobs? In view of the record 5.83 per cent unemployment when will the Government concede and introduce job creation programs such as a revised Regional Employment Development scheme? Will the Minister also accept that the Government strategy of cuts in Public Service expenditure is responsible for retrenchments and lack of job vacancies in a wide range of industries which supply the Government? Does the Government intend to alter the direction of its policy in order to create jobs?
– Yesterday afternoon, on behalf of the Government and the Treasurer, I made a statement about the economy, the details of which should be clear to everybody. If the details of what the Australian Council of Social Service or whoever they may be have had to say have not been taken into account by the Treasurer in examining that particular area of knowledge, they certainly will be taken into account. A lot of the propositions of the honourable senator will not stand up economically now, nor did they in the past when used by his Party.
-Can the Minister for Science indicate whether the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation or any other agency within his jurisdiction is undertaking, or has undertaken, tests as to the flammability of acrylic blankets? If so, what do these tests indicate?
– It is fortunate that the honourable senator asks me that question. I happened to be at the Division of Protein Chemistry at the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation on Friday last and that question came forward. The CSIRO has tested acrylic blankets and considers them acceptable for domestic use, although they are markedly more flammable than wool. Acrylic does not meet the stringent standards which are required for instance in aircraft where wool is normally used. Acrylic blankets, mainly because of their very heavy weight burn very slowly and cannot be considered an unreasonable fire risk. I understand that unlike cotton blanketing, acrylic blanket fabric can meet the requirements of an Australian standard. That standard concerns fabrics for domestic apparel of the low fire hazard type and was approved in 1976.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs: Is the Government paying the Papunya Aboriginal settlement at the rate of $3 per week per person for the sustenance of the unemployed at Papunya? Is the Government selling to the Papunya settlement overstocked cattle from Haasts Bluff off crown land at $50 a head? Is this in excess of the return that would flow to the Government if it were to sell the same stock on the open market?
– I have read some Press remarks in recent days with regard to Papunya. I have some information with regard to this matter which I shall give to the honourable senator. The Minister met a delegation from Papunya and several outstation groups in the reserve at Alice Springs on 4 February. He heard from the group complaints about the fall in the number of jobs, the inadequate funding of outstations and education services and the use of vacant Government houses. The Minister undertook to have all matters investigated and invited proposals for the re-establishment of the council at Papunya as a means of coping with some of the social problems.
I do not have any information with regard to the specific matter of selling cattle to these Aborigines at $50 a head. But I say that the Papunya people are not totally dependent on $3 each a week as suggested in some Press reports. The method of funding family groups at Papunya is based on per capita calculations designed to ensure equitable distribution of funds. The scheme introduced experimentally last August after discussions to meet the situation created by the desire of many to live in small groups at a distance from Papunya is the one which is under comment in the Press at present. This scheme was designed to provide income to Aboriginal groups which were unable to benefit from such employment programs as are working in other areas. There is a similar scheme at Hermannsburg which has operated for some time with success. These matters are matters of concern to the Minister. They refer to housing, education and health. I shall draw the attention of the Minister to the matter of the cost of cattle being supplied and to the other aspects which are referred to in the question. But I do stress that the Press reports that concern vandalism and other things were not strictly accurate according to the information I have from the Minister.
-I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Overseas Trade whether he is aware of the long established practice of the Department of Overseas Trade of engaging experienced businessmen to act as trade commissioners on contract for a specified period with an option to renew. How many of these contracts have not been renewed by the Department since December 1975? How many of these trade commissioners on contract are still in the service? How many have been replaced by public servants, and is it proposed to phase out the contract system permanently?
-The honourable senator was good enough to indicate that he had an interest in this area, so I have tried to get accurate information for him. First of all let me say that I think that all of us who have seen trade commissioner services agree on how valuable these services are, how hard working the people are and how well the services are served by both the people who come from outside industry and those who come from the Public Service. I have had experience with both types of people in the area and they have all done an equally good job. Specifically, the details are these: Only 3 contracts of trade commissioners have not been renewed since December 1975. That excludes commissioners who have resigned or retired. There are 54 trade commissioners currently employed under contract. The 3 trade commissioners whose contracts have not been renewed since December 1975 have not been replaced by public servants. There is no intention to phase out the contract system.
-Is the Minister for Social Security aware that in November 1975 the then caretaker Prime Minister, Mr Malcolm Fraser, wrote that a coalition government, if elected, would introduce a lone fathers’ pension? Does he now say that such a pension would cost $20m or $30m a year and is thus too expensive? Were these figures supplied by the Income Security
Review Committee which was then looking at the problem of lone fathers? Is it a fact that consideration of the problem of lone fathers has now been dropped by the Income Security Review Committee?
– It is a fact that the Prime Minister, when in Opposition, did refer to the matter of a lone fathers’ pension in correspondence with individuals and groups of people representing lone fathers. It is true also that throughout our period of government we have been investigating the matter of providing for a lone parents’ pension. It is also a fact that it is difficult to estimate how many people would avail themselves of a lone fathers pension. Work is continuing to be done in my Department and by the Income Security Review Committee with regard to estimating how many people would avail themselves of this pension if it were available.
As to the figures that were referred to by Senator Grimes as having been supplied by the Income Security Review Committee, I am not aware of the precise avenue from which he obtained the figures that he used, but I can say that my Department, in its benefits branch and in other ways, has attempted to estimate the number of people who would come within this category and who, through an income test, would be eligible and would avail themselves of it. As far as having dropped the matter is concerned, it is, in common with all matters, always able to be discussed. It is probably able to be looked at more in the context of consideration of whether a lone parents’ pension would more adequately meet the needs than the variety of pensions that we have in this country, such as the widows’ pension, the supporting mothers’ benefit and the special benefits in certain cases for lone fathers. So in those terms it is not a matter of abandoning investigation of the possibility of introducing such a pension. It is certainly a matter of continuing interest in my Department and to me personally.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Treasurer. What steps have been or are being taken by the Government with regard to the life assurance industry? In particular, have any steps been taken or are any steps under consideration to implement the Asprey Committee’s recommendation regarding review of the method of taxing life assurance officers?
– I do not have any specific details available to me as to any steps that the
Government might be taking about the life assurance industry. I know that the Asprey Committee dealt with that area and that some modifications have been made recently to the deposits situation of general companies including, I think, life assurance companies. I cannot go beyond that but I think that the honourable senator is entitled to have from me, through the Treasurer, an answer as to what extent any particular ideas are being developed following upon the Asprey Committee’s work. I shall obtain one for him.
-My question to the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs relates to the same matters as those which were raised earlier by Senator Brown. In view of the seriousness of the reports which have been received since the last sessional period of this Parliament relating to allegations of the commission of serious atrocities by the Indonesian forces in East Timor, will the Government inform the Parliament, either by way of a statement or in answer to this question, what information it has at present, particularly relating to the allegations which were made by Mr Dunn, the former Australian consul in the former territory of Portuguese Timor, and what actions, if any, the Government is taking to keep these events, which are so close to our own borders, under observation as well as what representations, if any, it has made to the Government of Indonesia on these matters, if it is in fact satisfied that there is some substance in the allegations that have been made?
-I will certainly pass on to my colleague the suggestion of the honourable senator. Perhaps the Government will put down a statement on this matter. As to the other matters raised by the honourable senator by way of his question, I will seek that information from the Minister for Foreign Affairs.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Social Security. I refer to the proposal for the establishment of an Australian institute on mental retardation, particularly a detailed public document which has now been prepared by those associated with this proposal and which I understand has been formally submitted to the Minister. Can the Minister say what consideration has been or is being given to this proposal and what progress has been made towards the establishment of a national institute on mental retardation?
– I have previously answered questions with regard to this matter that would indicate to all present that there is a great deal of activity with regard to the establishment of an Australian institute on mental retardation. It is a fact that we have received a proposal from the groups which are interested in forming this body. We have advised them that we regard their proposal as being basically a sound one but that it would not be possible for us to provide funds to establish an institute during the current financial year.
The proposal from the people interested currently is being examined in detail by my Department to see what assistance might be appropriate and possible in the establishment of an institute of this kind. The matter has been referred to the Minister for Education, the Minister for Health and the Treasurer for their comments. The Association is engaged also in negotiations with the Canberra College of Advanced Education with a view to developing an association between the 2 bodies, including the siting of an institute on the college grounds. I am able to indicate to the Senate that considerable work is being done with those people who are convinced that an institute of this nature would be of assistance to those who suffer from mental retardation. I hope that in consultations and co-operation we may see some progress on this matter.
– My question, addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry, refers to the Federal Government’s loans through the States to fruit canneries. I would like to know why no money has been advanced to the Manjimup Cooperative Cannery in Western Australia? Is the lack of money due to the negligence or disinterest of the State Government?
-I shall certainly find out. Equally, I would have thought that a letter to the Treasurer from the person responsible for the cannery might have ascertained this information.
– I preface my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry by referring to a statement by the Minister for Primary Industry on 26 January last when he said that the Japanese Wool Spinners Association had expressed grave concern at the contamination of Australian wool resulting in damage to their plant and a depressing effect on wool demand and prices paid. Their comments were supported by figures taken over a period of several months which indicated that foreign matter such as cigarette butts, metal and papers contaminated upwards of 25 per cent of the bales. In view of the probable adverse effect on our export wool trade, can the Minister say what action can be taken to remedy the situation?
– Those comments are accurate as to the time at which they were made. I understand that the Minister has taken up the matter quite seriously. It is a serious matter. There have been complaints from Japanese spinners about contamination of the bales and the clip. Things like cigarette butts, bits of wire and occasionally a rock had been found in them. I do not know whether any half eaten meat pies have been found in them. It is a serious problem for the people at the other end who have to process the wool. I believe the matter ought to be taken seriously, as it is, by the Minister and by the honourable senator. I would add one other thing: It has occurred to me that Australia has had opportunities as a manufacturing country to do something more about processing its own wool in its own country. There have been some moves recently, in the last few years, in joint ventures between Japan and Australia to pursue that idea. I believe it is worthy of further encouragement. It certainly would overcome the problem of contamination. It would overcome the problem of shipping out of Australia in our wool clip great quantities of dust and grease. It has always seemed to me that that is not a very smart way of going about things.
– I address my question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. I refer to the Prime Minister’s letter of 3 December last to all his Ministers, reported by Clancy’ in this week’s issue of the National Times, in which the Prime Minister laid down instructions for beefing up the Government’s public relations in an endeavour to improve its sagging stocks. As these instructions call on Ministers to seek informal meetings with editors and senior correspondents when on interstate visits I ask the Leader of the Government whether the editors of important country newspapers in South Australia, such as the Angaston Leader, the Pinnaroo Times, the Murray Valley Standard, the Border Watch and the Border Chronicle are to be included in these informal meetings. If not, why not?
-I think the correspondent referred to must be Clancy of the Overflow if he reports that sort of thing. He must be overflowing somewhere else. Quite frankly, I cannot recall such a letter. I have asked my colleagues.
– You do not read them.
– I read the Prime Minister’s letters. As I have said before, honourable senators should not get excited about all the misinformation they get out of the media.
-‘ Clancy’ has a copy of the letter.
-I do not know who Clancy ‘ is. I do not recall the letter.
– Does the Minister read the Border Mail?
-It is the Border Watch. One has to get the correct name of the newspaper.
– Does the Minister read that newspaper?
– I read the Border Watch with great glee because Senator Wheeldon sends it to me with marked passages after he has gone through it. But I know nothing of the matters adverted to by the honourable senator.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Treasurer. In his statement to the Senate yesterday the Minister referred to the growth in money supply and indicated that the anticipated growth of 10 per cent to 12 per cent at the time of the Budget may have to be revised ‘marginally upwards’. I ask: Firstly, can the Minister say what is the new money supply target? Secondly, can the Minister say whether one consequence of allowing the money supply to grow above 12 per cent will be that current bank lending limits will be raised?
-In my position I do not think one ought to speculate upon potential positions ahead which the money supply might reach. I think it was possible at an earlier stage to indicate money supply targets but there has been a changed set of circumstances of which the honourable senator will be aware as we move from a fixed exchange position to a position of a managed exchange. In those conditions the money supply situation can tend to be more mobile. There was from this country a heavy capital outflow which was induced by speculation- a lot of it quite improper. We then had a heavy capital inflow. The latest figures show that the situation is coming back into balance. It ought to be possible, a little further down the road, to get more precise about future targets of the money supply. When that time comes, no doubt the Treasurer will make such an announcement and I shall faithfully report it to the Senate. It is equally true to report that bad management of money supply- either too excessive or too restrictive- is very harmful in any well balanced economy.
-Has the attention of the Minister for Social Security been drawn to a report in the Courier Mail of 9 February in which it is stated that the Federal member for Griffith, Mr Donald Cameron, claims that a group of Aborigines in Brisbane has formed a cooperative to steal pension and other social security cheques from letter boxes? Can the Minister advise whether there is any substance in Mr Cameron’s claim? If the Minister is unable to advise at this stage, will she agree to have the allegations investigated and subsequently advise the Senate of the outcome of the investigation?
– The statement by the honourable member for Griffith was drawn to my attention and I asked the Department to make such investigations as it was able with regard to the allegation. The examination disclosed that in recent times there had been no upsurge of applications for duplicate cheques. No particular Brisbane suburbs could be isolated as the sources of larger numbers of applications than was usual. If any cheques, stolen in the circumstances described in the allegation, are cashed the Department of Social Security proceeds to recover the funds from the bank or trader involved. This action is taken in accordance with the provisions of the Bills of Exchange Act and the financial directions issued under the authority of the Audit Act and is justified because it is usually found that inadequate measures have been taken to identify the payee and to ensure that the person presenting the cheque is the rightful holder. I have no further information with regard to the allegations made by the honourable member concerned. I shall ask him whether he has any more specific information which will enable the necessary investigation to be undertaken to overcome the difficulties.
– I ask a question of the Minister representing the Treasurer. I preface it by saying that no doubt the Minister realises that a number of people like to save coins, especially coins minted or prepared at important times or on special occasions. I therefore ask: Has the Government examined the possibility of altering the Acts which relate to the pressing of coins so that a one dollar silver coin can be pressed to commemorate the coming visit of Her Majesty the Queen? If not, will the Minister ask the Treasurer to investigate the feasibility of pressing special one dollar coins as is done in other countries such as Canada and the United States of America? Will the Treasurer also investigate the feasibility of circulating coins with a face value larger than our present 50c coin?
-I think some work has been done on this matter. The problem was with the size of the coins. It is quite true that the American silver dollar has become famous. It is equally true that I am under strong family instructions to get the 50c piece which has been struck for the Queen’s visit, for my grandchildren, otherwise there will be a divorce. In the United States one can buy from a copying machine company a machine to print money in a bank note form. Many devices are available for those who wish to interest themselves in the currency. However, what Senator Townley said has a lot of merit. There is a growing interest in collecting coins, and in the identity of coins with a national significance. When one sees freely advertised in most of the newspapers all kinds of arrangements to produce silver coins for commemorating such things as veteran motor cars and national symbols, it appears to me that there is an opportunity for enhanced government revenue in this area which could well be worth considering. If in due course a decision is made to strike a collection of silver coins of noteworthy Australian character depicting the faces of all existing senators, I shall buy a full set.
-My question is directed to the Minister for Science and concerns his announcement, following his visit last month to Antarctica, that an international consortium was planning to spend $ 100m in drilling for oil off Antarctica. I ask whether this consortium is proposing to carry out the drilling in waters adjacent to the Australian Antarctic Territory, for which Territory the Minister for Science is ministerially responsible to this Parliament.
-As the honourable senator has indicated, I visited the Antarctic in January of this year. On my return I made some comments during a Press interview in which the main interest of the individuals concerned was the resources of the Antarctic. In answer to the particular question raised by the honourable senator, I point out that at that time I made this comment:
Generally, exploitation is not occurring for minerals. That would be the official situation. I’m told, whilst I’m there, that there are some drilling programs which obviously will bring forth information upon which mineral exploration, in the future, can be based. I don’t know what the official situation of the many nations are, I was told that there is a drilling program by a consortium which is taking place in off-shore waters, to the value of some $ 100m, which sounds a very big program. But that is in the waters just outside the Territory.
I made that statement when I returned from the Antarctic. There is no particular secret, I would think, about the discovery of mineral resources generally or the resources of the Territory generally. Antarctica has very large resources and they have been mentioned on many occasions. Indeed, I believe that an ABC program broadcast in the last couple of days carried a report from America to this effect. However, that is the comment I made, and if the honourable senator studies my words he will know that they are correct.
-By way of supplementary question, I ask the Minister whether he is prepared to state the source of his information? Secondly, will he state the names of the people or organisations which might be involved in the international consortium?
– The answer to the 2 questions is no.
– I ask a question of the Minister representing the Treasurer. I remind him that the Treasury has just released figures which show house completion figures for the various quarters from September 1975 as follows: September, 30 900; December, 3 1 900; March 1976, 33 000; June, 36 300; September, 37 400- a 2 1 per cent increase over that period. Will the Minister comment on whether, on the information at hand, the trend appears likely to continue, and whether it augurs well for the recovery which we are still talking about and which seems to be under discussion in other places?
-There have been many occasions in the Senate and elsewhere publicly when I have said that economic growth has clearly returned, and I think the figures have proved this. This has been discernible since June last year although this return has been uneven and there have been places where it has been much better than it has been in other places. There is a clearly established improving trend in housing and other dwelling construction as the honourable senator has mentioned, but in this area too the improvement has been uneven. New South Wales has been the flattest State but its position has been improving. All of the indications that the Department has show that this is the trend to which we can look forward from now on. Economic growth has clearly returned and the figures achieved are better than the Budget predictions. The complications in these predictions always involve the farm sector for we cannot be certain of our position until we actually sell a lot of the export products which were produced in earlier times and until we have determined the effect of seasons and disasters in various places. However, economic growth clearly has returned and the housing sector is certainly improving. The general underlying rate of inflation appears to be a great deal better although employment has not yet improved and it is unlikely that it will do so because it is always one of the last things to improve in an economic recovery.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Science and follows the question which was asked by Senator Douglas McClelland. Was the information which the Minister received about alleged drilling off Antarctica received in the Antarctic or was it a comment made to him in Melbourne prior to his departure for the Antarctic? As Australia is a party to the Antarctic Treaty, along with several other major nations with which presumably the Minister had discussions in the Antarctic, if he is not prepared to divulge the source of the information, would he not agree that a Minister of the Crown should not make public statements with the implications of the statement which he made unless he is able to substantiate them, particularly when asked to do so in the Parliament?
-The information was given to me whilst I was in the Antarctic and not whilst I was in Melbourne, and I disagree with the honourable senator’s suggestion. If a comment such as the one I made is induced by a request from publicity sources for information relating to particular resources, I think it is competent for me to make the comment. I disagree with the honourable senator’s remark.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs and I refer to processes at reception centres for refugees from various places in South East Asia, particularly Thailand. Can the Minister and the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs give assurances in relation to health checks and tests in Australia on these refugees? Is the Minister aware of concern being expressed at reports that some refugees are moving into the community before tests have been completed, which is seen as a possible threat to the health of the community and, more particularly, to the future of the humanitarian refugee program? I seek from the Minister information relating to the health care of refugees.
– If I were to answer the question in a general way I would not be giving as much information as I could about the more recent arrival of refugees from South East Asia. Those who arrived in Adelaide and Melbourne on 7 February, and in Brisbane and Sydney on 13 February, had undergone a preliminary health check undertaken by a Commonwealth medical officer prior to their departure for Australia. My Department, which has responsibility for post-arrival services for refugees in Australia, has convened meetings of refugee settlement co-ordination committees in each of the States receiving refugees to ensure that there is close co-operation between Commonwealth and State departments and voluntary agencies in providing assistance upon arrival and subsequently co-ordinating orientation and settlement activities. Representatives of the State and Commonwealth Departments of Health are on the committees to which I have referred and they have co-operated closely and undertaken a detailed program of medical examinations and tests on the refugees upon their arrival in Australia.
With regard to South Australia, in which I would assume the honourable senator is particularly interested, I am able to say that in Adelaide a comprehensive screening program was commenced by the South Australian Department of Public Health upon the refugees’ arrival at Pennington hostel. The program has included testing for tuberculosis, parasites and tropical conditions such as malaria. As a result, several persons suffering from particular conditions are receiving appropriate treatment under close supervision. All the refugees have been immunised against diphtheria, tetanus and polio. State health authorities in South Australia, and I assume in other States, have provided and are continuing to provide a nurse to attend refugees at the hostels and at Commonwealth hostels. Nurses have been engaged for 2 weeks following the arrivals of refugees to care for the 26 migrant children who arrived without close relatives until more permanent arrangements can be made. Since their arrival in Adelaide 2 group sessions in hygiene have been undertaken with the refugees. Assurances can be given that every step has been and will continue to be undertaken to ensure that there is no risk to public health from the refugees group and that appropriate treatment is being prescribed for individuals where necessary before their entry into the community.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Transport. What reasons have prompted the Government to allocate charter rights on the Western Australia-Bali route to MacRobertson Miller Airline Services, a subsidiary of Ansett Airlines of Australia? Is this not a marked departure from established Government airline policy laid down over many years? Why has Qantas Airways Ltd not received even a firm reply to its application to operate a scheduled service on this route? Can this decision be taken as a precedent for the allocation of regional air traffic routes to domestic airlines at the expense of Qantas, the traditional carrier?
-I ask the honourable senator to put the question on the notice paper.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs and the Minister for Health. I refer to the report Immigrants and Mental Health issued by the Australian Council of Social Service on 24 January 1977, which outlined the deficiencies in mental health services available to migrants. Is the Minister aware of the report’s claim that migrants suffer a higher incidence of psychiatric disorders compared to the rest of the community, being attributable to difficulties experienced in the migration and settlement process as well as to the current high unemployment rate among migrants? What steps are being considered to alleviate this particular situation?
– I recall the matter relating to the psychiatric disorders of migrants as referred to in the report of the Australian Council of Social Service. I can give no definite information with regard to the matters raised in that report but I am able to say that the whole of the function of the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs and the Department of Social Security with regard to migrant services is to assist the integration of migrants and their settlement into this country. Continually programs are being undertaken that are of assistance to migrants. The Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs made a recent announcement about a unit dealing with ethnic affairs in his own Department and other matters which will be of assistance to migrant communities. I shall refer to the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs and to the Minister for Health the specific matters raised in the question but I give the assurance that in whatever way we are able to identify assistance to migrants we are proceeding to do this, and to enable migrants more fully to determine the assistance which they require.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Education been drawn to an article which appeared in the Age on 8 February 1977 titled ‘The Missing Migrants’? If so, can the Minister comment on the following claims that were made in the article: Firstly, that no Australian education authorities are notified of the arrival or existence of school aged migrant children, and secondly, that there is at present no procedure for finding out the number of non-English speaking migrant children, particularly teen-agers, who are not going to school? Will the Minister undertake to investigate these claims and if necessary take steps to rectify the situation so that the older migrant children are given the educational opportunities to which they are entitled?
-My attention was not drawn to the article in the Age newspaper of 8 February 1977. Therefore, I am unable to respond immediately to the question. I will have the matter investigated and communicate with the honourable senator.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs. I preface it by stating that I have received a number of representations from East Timorese refugees now residing in Australia who are extremely concerned at the delays in processing visa applications from East Timorese refugees in Portugal. When does the Government intend to make a decision concerning East Timorese in Portugal? Is the Government treating them as migrants or refugees for the purpose of visa applications?
Will East Timorese refugees in Portugal who have no relatives in Australia be permitted to reside in Australia?
-I undertake to refer the matters raised in the honourable senator’s question to the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs and assure him that I will attempt to obtain an early answer to the matters raised.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister for Education, follows the question asked yesterday by Senator Walters concerning alleged physical intimidation of delegates to the Australian Union of Students conference. Can he assure the Senate that control of the Australian Union of Students is vested by democratically impeccable procedures free of intimidation, threats and violence?
-Yesterday I informed the Senate in answer to a question by Senator Walters that I had invited the vice-chancellors to look at the various procedures available to them. The honourable senator will know that the control of autonomous institutions is in the hands of the senates or councils and under the regulations or by-laws. I have asked them to see whether reforms could be made which would ensure democratic procedures. That is the essential test. They would allow, if possible, an opting out where conscience was involved while not allowing a person to opt out of a normal authentic commitment towards sporting or recreation activities. Of course, I have also drawn the attention of the vice-chancellors to the allegations of violence on campus. I am bound to say that they accept quite fully that it is their responsibility to ensure that the ordinary law of the land shall function on the campus as it functions outside. They are quite clear that there should be no law breaking in any sense at all and no special privileges towards law breaking. They would eschew violence as we all would.
Because various institutions are involved- not only the 19 universities but also some 80 colleges- and they have varying rules and bylaws, there is no one simple solution. I will be in touch with the universities and colleges in the weeks ahead and I will be sensitive to any suggestions that they can bring forward whereby anything can be done at the Commonwealth Government level. However, it is important that what is done should be done, firstly, within the general rules of the institutions and, secondly, that there should be no heavy handedness from a central situation such as a government which could in any way destroy the essential and authentic freedom of students to run their democratic bodies. So there is a conflict as between the need to do something to get a democratic situation and at the same time not to use a heavy hand. It is very heavily upon my mind and I will keep it in mind in the immediate weeks ahead.
– I inform the Senate that pursuant to standing order 64 I have received a letter from Senator Chaney that he proposes to move that in the opinion of the Senate the following is a matter of urgency:
The importance to the future of Australia of the continued development of the resources of the Pilbara area of Western Australia and the North- West Shelf.
I have also received a letter from the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Wriedt) that he proposes to move that in the opinion of the Senate the following is a matter of urgency:
The continuing decline in the Australian economy and the failure of the Government to take remedial action.
I point out to honourable senators that only one such motion can be made during a sitting of the Senate. In 1938 the Standing Orders Committee recommended an alteration to standing order 64 to clarify the procedure when two or more members of the Senate desire to submit urgency motions on the same day. It was proposed that where two or more statements of motion it is proposed to move are supplied to the President on the same day, that received first shall be given precedence’. Agreement not being reached on the proposal, the question was referred back to the Standing Orders Committee for further consideration and report, but no further report was made to the Senate.
In 1956, two proposals for urgency motions on a similar matter were received. The President called to speak first the senator whose letter was first received. In accordance with precedent and practice I call Senator Chaney whose letter was first received.
– by leave-Mr President, I do not wish to delay this Senate with any debate on your ruling; much less would we on the Opposition side question your ruling because we realise you have ruled in the context of the established practice of the Senate. But I believe it is important that the Senate understand that what we have been confronted with here today is a very unusual event. Mr President, it is right, of course, that in your statement you should cite the events of 1938, which was nearly 40 years ago, as the basis on which you make your decision and which was further clarified by a decision of Sir Alister McMullin in 1956. 1 am not sure of how many occasions we have been confronted with such a situation since 1956 but that has been the practice. I suggest that this is a matter to which the Senate or at least the Standing Orders Committee should give its attention. I refer to the opening paragraph of chapter XIV of Australian Senate Practice because I believe it is important that we recognise it. It states:
The urgency motion procedure, which commands precedence of Government business for a period of up to three hours on any day for a debate on a matter which any five Senators regard as a matter of urgency, is part of the greatness of the parliamentary system of government. It is a recognition of the right of the minority not only to be heard but to be heard before the ruling Government of the day. In its variety of uses, the urgency motion provides a unique opportunity for bringing the Government to account for its administration, which is Parliament’s duty.
I understand that to mean that there is an implied preference to an Opposition to bring matters before the Parliament as part of its normal parliamentary duty. I know that in the past that has not been recognised or at least has not been recognised in practice. But I think this is an occasion on which the Senate ought to consider the implications of the decision which you, Mr President, have had to make. You have made your decision fairly on the basis of the Standing Orders and the normal procedures of the Senate. I suggest to Senator Withers, as Leader of the Government, that this matter ought to be given some consideration again by the Standing Orders Committee before we find ourselves in a similar position, probably not before very long.
– by leave- Like the Leader of the Opposition, Senator Wriedt, I do not wish to canvass the conclusion that you, Mr President, have reached. I draw your attention and the attention of this Senate to the fact that this is not only an extension of the precedent that was created by Sir Alister McMullin but, I suggest, it is the creation of a new precedent. The situation in 1956 to which you alluded was a situation in which former Senator Gorton, as a member of the Government, and former Senator Toohey, as a member of the Opposition, both gave notices of motion of urgency relating to a similar matter. It was on that basis as I understand it- that is, because former Senator Gorton’s urgency motion was first presented- that Senator Gorton’s urgency motion was taken at that time. In accepting that motion, it was agreed that Senator Toohey should be given an extension of time of 30 minutes to reply to Senator Gorton in relation to a matter which he, Senator Toohey, had submitted to the Senate in somewhat similar terms.
Here I suggest that the urgency motion proposed by Senator Chaney is completely at variance with the urgency motion which has been proposed by Senator Wriedt.
We agree, as Senator Wriedt has said, Mr President, that you have come to the conclusion in all fairness, having regard to a precedent. Nonetheless, because this creates a new precedent and because in 1938 the Senate as a Senate did not see its way clear to write that matter into the Standing Orders, today by your ruling and by the creation of this new precedent, we are virtually writing into the Standing Orders something which was not written into the Standing Orders in 1938. Therefore I support Senator Wriedt ‘s submission that this matter be referred to the Standing Orders Committee for full consideration.
– by leave- Mr President, I have no objection to the proposal- in fact, I welcome it- to refer this matter to the Standing Orders Committee. Let me make 2 comments in passing. I suppose that there are a number of vehicles by which in this place we could say the Government is at a disadvantage or is put under question by the Senate, and not just by the Opposition in the Senate, whether the Opposition has the numbers or has not the numbers, whether it is the majority or the minority. In that respect, I mention question time, urgency motions, the adjournment debate and general business. Addressing my mind to the subject quickly I can think of those 4 devices immediately.
I hope that when the Standing Orders Committee looks at this matter, it will consider it on the basis that an urgency motion proposing a matter for discussion is a matter for senators, and only 5 senators need rise to support the proposed discussion for it to proceed. Those senators may be from a majority or minority party or act as individual senators. We could open the door at question time, on the adjournment debate and through urgency motions and general business discussions if we accepted that it was the right only of the minority in the Senate to bring matters to the attention of the Government. I say that as an opening to my remarks.
An urgency motion is a parliamentary vehicle. The support of 5 senators is needed for debate on an urgency motion to proceed. Initiation of such a debate belongs strictly to 5 senators; it belongs to neither the Government nor the Opposition.
This is one of the few times when the Senate operates as a Senate and not on a Government versus Opposition basis, one would hope.
-Senator Georges is rather indicating that the Opposition brings matters of urgency for discussion only for political reasons. Senator, I never thought you would do such a thing.
– The Senate is a party house. We act it on a party basis.
-Come, come! You would not say that we are doing this on a politically partisan basis today?
– You have the Western Australian elections coming on next Saturday.
-Oh, come, come! What a terrible thing to say! The Opposition proposed for debate as a matter of urgency this proposition:
That the Neilson plan formed the basis for a Commonwealth initiative with all the States to reduce unemployment.
This was another matter of urgency proposed by the Opposition: the immediate need for governments to act to preserve the human and economic investments, built up over generations, in Queenstown and adjacent areas of Tasmania’s west coast.
Those 2 matters were proposed for discussion on 3 November 1976 and 9 November 1976 respectively, just before the Tasmanian elections. It never passed my mind that there was any politics in those actions. I thought Opposition senators were just showing genuine concern for their electors.
– Face up to reality. We do.
-Thank you, senator. You are a great realist. I am only grateful that the Greeks did not put you in the army when you visited them; we would have missed you sorely. An excellent opportunity is provided by the raising of this matter for the Standing Orders Committee to consider it along with the other matters before it. Mr President, on behalf of the Senate, I formally request you to list this matter for consideration at the next meeting of the Standing Orders Committee.
– I have noted your request, Senator Withers, and I shall advise the Standing Orders Committee of it.
Matter of Urgency
-Is Senator Chaney ‘s motion supported?
More than the number of senators required by the Standing Orders having risen in their places-
– I move:
That in the opinion of the Senate the following is a matter of urgency. The importance to the future of Australia of the continued development of the resources of the Pilbara area of Western Australia and the North- West Shelf.
I am very pleased that I have had sufficient support in the Senate to be able to move this motion. I have noted that I needed the support of only 5 honourable senators and that I received the support of some 4 times that number. I should say that I was a little surprised to hear from the Opposition some complaint about the procedure that is being adopted. As a lawyer I have learned always to follow precedent. Last year I sat here and watched on 9 occasions the Opposition move motions of urgency, and I noticed that resourceful honourable senators from Tasmania on the other side of the chamber moved motions about Tasmania at what they thought were critical times. I thought that was a precedent I might well follow.
I think it is important- I hope that I can explain to the Senate why it is- that what is happening in Western Australia at the moment and what is to happen over the next few years is not simply of significance to Western Australia but is of broader significance to the whole of Australia. I would go so far as to say that if any of the political ambitions of people in this chamber are to be met- I refer to members of the Opposition and to members of the Government- then they had better pay regard to the 2 States of Western Australia and Queensland, which I believe will provide the fuel which will permit the Australian machine to function and which will enable us to fulfil our general welfare and social ambitions for the country that we all represent.
The fact of the matter is that we have in Australia a very interesting political situation. Everywhere I go throughout the State of Western Australia I find that there are demands for increased government expenditure. It is a very interesting phenomenon. I went to the eastern goldfields, for example, which is a place where people tend to be very independent and to believe that they should be independent and should stand on their own 2 feet and where, at the same time, they are asking for the extension of television and radio services, health services and education services. If one goes south from there to Esperance in the State of Western Australia one will find consistent demands for extension of television and radio services, which are not thought to be adequate for the people in that area. The holdup is, of course, simply one of expense. If one goes to the Pilbara area one will find demands for more roads- roads in that area are very expensive- and better communications. One will also find that there are demands not for less but for more Australian Broadcasting Commission programs. The people of the area want a second radio station, more television and so on.
Throughout the metropolitan area one gets requests for more expenditure on education. One also gets resentment at the fact that people are now called upon to fund part of their medical care, yet there is a continuing demand for increased medical services. There is a demand right throughout Australia for increased child care facilities. Honourable senators opposite are vocal in the demands that they make on government for these facilities and they have widespread support in the community. People want these additional services. But the very odd thing is that contemporaneously the same people say that they want their taxes reduced. All round Australia there is a demand for a reduction in taxation. People say that their incentive is being destroyed, that too much of their income is being taken from them and that they therefore cannot make their own decisions. I think that the demand for reduced taxation comes from the same people as those who want an increase in the provision of government services.
I would also like to refer to the expectations of Australians generally. It has become a truism that Australia is a wealthy country. That has been translated to mean that we can therefore afford whatever we want. These are basic political facts that honourable senators opposite and those of us on this side, who support this Government, have to face. In my view those basic political facts lead to an inexorable conclusion: We simply have to have economic growth in Australia if we are to achieve our ambitions. Ours is a country which will meet its people ‘s expectations only if the economy continues to grow. So it becomes particularly footling to decry economic growth, as some members of the Opposition occasionally do, because if we decry economic growth we have to be prepared to reverse the expectations and demands of the community. We found in the last Government an attempt to govern without heed to that reality. There was a view that one could greatly increase government services without increasing taxation. Mr Whitlam ‘s statement in that regard is well known: Taxes, in some miraculous way, would continue to grow.
I refer honourable senators who are interested to the wonderful expose of the fallacies of that theory by the late Professor Downing in the George Judah Cohen Memorial Lecture at Sydney University in November 1974. I believe he exposed, in the simplest possible language and in the clearest possible way, that a gigantic trick was involved if it was thought that we could have these services without paying more tax.
If it is accepted, as I certainly accept and as I believe the Government accepts, that the whole of Australia- not just Western Australia but the whole of Australia- requires economic growth if we are to succeed, then what areas hold out some reasonable promise of economic growth? I venture to say that no honourable senator really believes that the industries of the south-east corner of Australia are going to provide the massive growth that is required. Nobody would seriously suggest that the motor industry, important as it is as an employer- and may it continue to be important -is going to expand mightily and raise the standard of living of everybody around Australia. We hope that manufacturing industry will proceed to grow and become more healthy, but it does not represent great hopes for enormous expansion. The fact is that it is Queensland and Western Australia, with their potential for resource development, which will do the trick if the trick is to be done.
Today I do not wish to talk about Queensland. The motion refers specifically to Western Australia, to the North-West Shelf and to the Pilbara. A great deal of the history of the development of the Pilbara is well known and does not need canvassing. It is generally known that some $2,000m worth of expansion in the Pilbara during the 1 960s completely changed the position of Australia’s balance of payments. It greatly strengthened the Australian economy and gave us a much broader base on which to depend. Currently in the Pilbara, following that great expansion, there are further projects for secondary processing. Two companies, the Hamersley company and the Mount Newman company, have proposals. I think Hamersley is a little ahead of Mount Newman in its planning. Hamersley is to spend something like $375m over 2 years and Mount Newman is to spend about $240m. These companies are moving into secondary processing, picking up ore which currently is not usable or exportable and bringing it to a higher grade so that it will be useful. For the Hamersley project between 6000 and 8000 tons of fabricated steelwork will be constructed in Western Australia over the next 2 years in which a large number of firms will be involved. There is a great addition to the general prosperity of the community from which I come when this sort of thing happens. I emphasise that this is an addition to the prosperity not only of Western Australia but also of the whole of Australia. The Robe River company also plans expansion in the Pilbara, and at Telfer we have had a gold development of late. All these things come together to give hope for the future of the economy.
Next to that we have the great prospects of the North- West Shelf of Western Australia. That project represents something as big as the iron ore development which has occurred already and rivals even such a great national project as the Snowy Mountains Authority. It is estimated that development of the North- West Shelf will cost somewhere between $2,000m and $2, 500m. A great deal of that money will be spent directly in Australia and will add greatly to employment and other opportunities. It will add greatly to our export income. It will give us an economy which is more stable and more productive, one in which there are far greater opportunities for Australians to get work.
In all these things government has an important role, but to some extent government has a role of not interfering too much. We saw under the last Government the very great difficulties which arose when there was excessive government interference. Since we on this side came back to office in the Federal Government we have offered and provided tax incentives to development, and to mining in particular, which will ensure that many projects which were not viable under Labor will get off the ground. I have mentioned already projects which under Labor were stultified. The North- West Shelf is the classic example. With that sort of incentive and the framework of a government which favours free enterprise we have a situation where these developments can occur.
Why is this a matter of urgency? I believe it is a matter of urgency because there is great concern around Australia about the state of the economy. There is a great desire in Australia to see the Australian economy grow and blossom and prosper. In my State of Western Australia where we have a State election coming up we face a real choice between the prospect of continuing enterprise, continuing expansion, and stultification. I believe that the election next Saturday therefore has a national significance, not only for those who are interested in development as development but also for all those who want to see better education, better social security, better health and better welfare. All these things are dependent on growth.
The record of the Liberal State governments in Western Australia during the 60s, as I have already mentioned, is too well known to need repeating. The vast upsurge in mineral production in Western Australia is something which changed the whole face of that State. Over the last 3 years the Court Government has been greatly hampered by the fact that for two of those 3 years there has been a Labor Government in Canberra. That fetter and restriction has now gone. In the last 12 months we have seen the decision on the development of Agnew which is very significant for the eastern gold fields. We have seen the development at Teutonic Bore which is proceeding at present. We have seen the Pilbara expansions, which I have already referred to, announced and brought forward. All these things are happening at present. The basic point I wish to make to the Senate is that under a continuing Liberal Government in Western Australia all this can proceed, advance and improve, and the rest of us in Australia will be able to benefit accordingly.
It might be said that the significance of a Labor government in the State of Western Australia is not much because, after all, all this will happen anyway. I would simply remind the Senate and anyone who asks that question that the Labor Party operates on a very structured basis. There is a constitutional link between the Labor Party and its parliamentary members. Where a policy is followed by the Federal Labor Party because it is the Party’s policy, the same policy will apply to a State Labor government. I remind the Senate of the sort of things which were done by the Federal Labor Party before the Whitlam Labor Government was defeated and which put such a stopper on the sort of growth and development that I believe is essential. I remind the Senate that in October 1973 Mr Connor announced the brilliant policy that the Government would take gas at the well head. He did not get round to telling the people who might produce the gas what he was prepared to pay for it or what the commercial prospects were for them. The Labor Government seemed to think that in those circumstances development would continue. Surely it is ludicrous to expect people to spend their money or to make the effort to produce something which the Government simply announces it will acquire at the wellhead when it says also that it will then make whatever decisions it likes about development. So I remind the Senate of the Connor approach to the Northwest Shelf, the Connor approach to petroleum generally, which slowed down the development of the North- West Shelf to the extent that in May 1975 the Age was reporting that the development of the North- West Shelf gas field had come to a standstill following Mr Connor’s announcement last October that the Pipeline Authority would buy all gas at the wellhead.
There are some simple facts available to show the trend of exploration on that field. In 1972 in excess of 15 000 kilometres of seismic work was done on the North- West Shelf. In 1973 there were 10 000 kilometres, in 1974 there were 10 000 kilometres, and in 1975 there were 1500 kilometres. Last year we saw the beginnings of a recovery and about 6000 kilometres of seismic work was done. That is significant because seismic exploration precedes the more detailed work, the drilling work which might be done. We have had the announcement that the State Government and the consortium which in on the North* West Shelf are now negotiating for an agreement. We are in a situation where this enormous project which will make such a significant difference to the balance of payments in Australia, to economic growth in Australia and to the standard of living in Australia, is at last moving Out of the shadows and into production. An attitude has been put forward by Mr Keating, the present Labor Party spokesman in this area. What does he say to hold out encouragement for development of this sort? I quote from a statement of 9 August 1976 which states:
Mr Keating said he wanted petroleum explorers to clearly understand that a future Labor Government will not look favourably in respect of production licences upon permit areas granted by the Western Australian Government after the date of the handing down of the decisions of the High Court on the Seas and Submerged Lands Act.
That means that producers are being told that they cannot rely upon leases granted by the State Government after the High Court decision which, of course, was handed down some time ago. What soft of an incentive is that for producers to get Ofl with the job and to pursue development? I think it is only the certainty that the previous Labor Party Government is unlikely to regain office quickly that enables Sir Charles Court’s Government to have any hope of bringing the Shelf proceedings forward. In the field of uranium again the extraordinary attitude of the Labor Party is demonstrated. In this debate I shall not enter into the area of whether there ought to be uranium mining. I simply point to the rather extraordinary stance which nas been put forward by Mr Keating in statements of 17 and 30 November that the next Labor Government will not be bound to honour any future contracts entered into by the present Government in this field. I read from the statement of 30 November, which states:
A future Labor Government will not be bound by decisions taken by the Fraser Government or any other conservative government, in relation to uranium.
These matters are worth drawing to the attention of the Senate because I think they indicate an approach on the part of the Labor Party which is completely incompatible with resource development. One cannot expect people to raise large sums of money or to borrow large amounts of money to expend on development when there is no certainty as to the future. If developers face the prospect such as occurred when Mr Connor acquired gas at the wellhead and the threat that arrangements made with existing governments will simply not be honoured, then Australia’s future economic development is extremely doubtful.
I bring this matter before the Senate because I regard it as of national importance. I think the whole of Australia will depend upon the development which is possible over the next 10 years in my State of Western Australia and in Queensland. The significance of this week is that the electors of Western Australia will be asked to make a choice between a government which 1 believe can deliver the goods to the people and a government which will not deliver the goods to the people. All the talk in the world about welfare, education and all the rest, if it is not underpinned by economic expansion is, in my submission, so much cant. I trust that the electors of Western Australia, since it is their opportunity to make the decision, will recognise all this talk as cant and ensure the continued progress of Western Australia.
-Senator Chaney has moved as a matter of urgency:
The importance to the future of Australia Of the continued development of the resources of the Pilbara area of Western Australia and the North- West Shelf.
I assure Senator Chaney and honourable Senators on the Government side that the Australian Labor Party has no opposition to an urgency motion of that nature. Of course the development of the Pilbara area in Western Australia is of importance to the future of Australia as is the development of the North-West Shelf. We would be the first to agree that that development is part of the totality of Australia’s development of its natural resources. I was very pleased to hear Senator Chaney say 2 things. He concededthese were his words- that there was great concern around Australia at the condition of the economy. We certainly agree with that. I have no doubt that any development in Western Australia or in any other part of the Commonwealth which will overcome the disastrous policies which have emanated from Canberra in the last 12 months would be welcomed by the Opposition. But the more interesting aspect of the honourable senator’s initial remarks concerns the effect all over Australia of individual development within a State. This is very important.
T am glad to hear that there is this degree of unanimity between the Government and the Opposition. The honourable senator said that what was happening in Western Australia at the moment and its future was important to the whole of Australia. I think I took those words down verbatim. We could not agree more with that statement. The honourable senator made some criticism of the previous Federal Labor Government. He stated that because of the policies of that Government the development of resources in Western Australia was in some way hampered. Let us begin at the beginning. I could not agree more that the benefits which are developed in New South Wales should flow all over Australia. A Western Australian has every right to share in a bonanza which may be found in Tasmania. I am sure the average Western Australian would agree with that. I am sure he would also agree that the development which is taking place in his State is part of the national development of Australia. A New South Welshman would think the same thing.
I have never seen a survey on this matter but I feel certain that despite the alleged isolation of Western Australians they see themselves as Australian first. As a Tasmanian I can speak with some authority because we are alleged to be strange people down in that southern isle, and that we only see ourselves as Tasmanians. The great majority of Tasmanians see themselves first as Australians. I am sure that Western Australians see themselves firstly as Australians also. They are prepared to see the development of their State as being part of the national development of our country. Senator Chaney made that point. He used the term ‘our country’. He stressed that. That is why I am stressing it now. I was glad to hear him say it. He said that Western Australians appeared to want more and more. He said that they wanted more roads, more television, more telephones, more homes, more hospitals, etc. I see no reason why Western Australians should not have more of those things. They are so much the essential things of life to which every citizen, not only in Western Australia but also in every other part of the country, is entitled to get. I interpose and indicate that I notice that funds for roads in Western Australia this year from the Federal Government have been reduced from $62m to $56m. That cannot be of much help to any government, Labor or Liberal, in Western Australia, which is developing the resources of that area.
Let us go back to the days when criticism was levelled against the policies of the Labor Government. We were attempting to ensure that the development of our resources achieved two basic things. Essentially and as far as it was practical, the Australian equity in our development would be maximised; that is, we would not allow the situation, which we inherited in 1972, to go on unchecked, whereby the great bulk of our resources was in foreign hands. I can recall a directory which was put out by the McMahon Government in 1972 on the holdings of overseas companies in Australian development and industry. One could open that book at random and find that the great majority of our industries had in fact passed to foreign control. We did not believe that that was good either for Australia or for Western Australia. We tried to correct that situation, particularly in the area of mineral development. Had we been able to proceed and had we been given the opportunity to do so, we would have made much more progress in conjunction with States like Western Australia. Our second objective, of course, was to ensure that financial resources were available to develop our natural resources throughout the Commonwealth. In the case of Western Australia, the Labor Government in conjunction with the Tonkin Labor Government m the West, instituted the Pilbara study group, for which the Australian Government paid $156,000, 1 might add. We did that because we wanted to develop, in conjunction with the Western Australian Government, the resources that exist in Western Australia. Surely that was evidence of our good intentions.
Then came the dispute over the off-shore rights, and eventually the High Court decision. We did not wish to delay the development of these projects, but it was obvious that until the High Court clarified the rights of the Commonwealth and the States in respect of the legislation, there was going to be an atmosphere of uncertainty. Two Acts were passed in this Federal Parliament, not by the Labor Government after 1 972 but by either the McMahon Government or the Holt Government in 1966- certainly by a Liberal government. I cannot recall the exact titles of the Acts, but one related to off-shore agreements. Under those Acts the States and the Commonwealth were obliged to consult with each other on development projects. One of the significant facts about those Acts was that the sovereignty argument virtually was lost. It was no longer a matter of whether the resources were mine or yours; they belonged to the nation. That legislation was enacted by a Liberal government long before the Labor Party came into office, and I think those Acts are still law.
It was then that the initial ground seemed to be lost, and an antagonism developed after the election of the Court Government. I presume that Sir Charles Court considered that making noises about the rights of Western Australians in some way would confuse the public in that State. It is tragic to think that so much more development would have transpired had there been more co-operation between the 2 governments. I am not saying that all the blame lay with the State Government. Of course that is not so, but I have instanced the Pilbara study group as demonstrating just how much can be done when 2 governments work together.
Coming to the more recent position, Senator Chaney made the observation that it was irrelevant whether a Labor or Liberal government was in power because the development would go ahead anyway. I have forgotten his precise words.
– I said that question might be posed.
-That is fair enough. Senator Chaney raised that proposition and I do not wish to misquote him. The implication was that because of the magnitude of the development it would not really matter much whether a Labor or a Liberal government was in power.
– No, I posed that as a questionas an attitude one might adopt. I did not put it as an attitude of my own.
– Very well. I want to consider the prospects for the development of the resources in Western Australia at the present time under the Liberal Government. That is what we ought to be concerned about. In recent months Sir Charles Court has claimed that he is not receiving and in the past has not received the co-operation he might have received. While it is in my mind, I invite any Government speaker to nominate during the course of this debate an area in which this Liberal Federal Government would relinquish any of its rights in a way which the Labor Government would not do as a result of the High Court decision. If Senator Chaney ‘s argument is right about the structural nature of the Labor Party, I invite him to consider that the State Liberal Government is in exactly the same position in respect of a Federal Liberal Government. When he talks in this way about the Labor Party, let me assure him that he could talk in the same way about the Liberal Party. Let us see just how much more a State Liberal government can get from a Liberal government in Canberra. I suggest that it would get absolutely naught.
Quite apart from all the noises he makes, I would say that the Western Australian Premier could hardly be described as someone who is helping the situation at the present time. The Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) has written to Sir Charles Court to advise him of the Commonwealth’s prerogatives in respect of the High Court decision, and yet Sir Charles Court appears to be still debating the matter. There is obviously no rapport whatever at the present time between Sir Charles Court and the Australian Prime Minister. There is also the matter of the intense feeling which exists between Sir Charles Court and a gentleman by the name of Hancock. They have had a prolonged dispute about the development of the Pilbara and about what part of the Pilbara ought to be developed. Sir Charles Court has also taken an antagonistic attitude towards Japan, where our main market lies. The Japanese are in a state of complete confusion, and I suggest that that is the central point of the issue we are discussing today. Obviously the Japanese wanted to see a certain part of the Pilbara developed. As I understand it, that was not the area that Sir Charles Court wished to see developed and so he has made things extremely difficult for the Japanese, who are now in a state of complete dismay. Even when the Australian ministerial delegation went to Japan only 3 or 4 weeks ago it was not able to obtain one guarantee from the Japanese of resumption of contracts for the export of iron ore. The Japanese have become very uncertain about the development in Western Australia because of the policies of the Western Australian Government, and obviously they are looking for alternative sources of supply. I do not suggest for a moment that they will find a completely different source of supply; naturally, they will still need to get iron ore from the west.
However, as Japan is our major market and a country with which we are very much interlocked at present because of its steel industry, the question that can be legitimately asked is this: Why is it that obstacles have been put in the way of the further development of these deposits? Presumably it is because of a dispute which exists between the Premier of Western Australia and one of the main private individuals in that State. From this distance, I daresay it is a matter for the Western Australian people to make an assessment and a judgment as to whether they are better off under those policies of Sir Charles Court than they would be under the alternative policies of the Labor Party. But one thing is clear. So much more could have been done had there been a greater degree of co-operation, not only with the Federal Government over the last 3 or 4 years but also, it seems, with the Japanese.
I have no doubt that my Western Australian colleagues will deal in greater detail with the local issues, but before closing my remarks I want to point out that, so far as the attitude of the Labor Party is concerned, we do seek and always have sought maximum co-operation with the State governments in the development of our mineral resources and our national resources generally. Blame should not be laid at the door of any federal government, either Labor or Liberal, when a State government or a State Premier adopt an attitude of hostility to any sort of cooperation with a federal government. The expenditure on programs, particularly in Western Australia, is high. In the case of the North West Shelf there is investment in excess of $2 billion. The Pilbara development estimate went as high as $8 billion in the original study prepared for the 2 governments. Money of that magnitude has to be found by governments, by way of borrowings or by private industry but we should retain as much equity as possible in these programs in order to maximise the benefits for our country.
I close by saying that the urgency motion raises a very important subject. There is no question of that, whether it is a matter of urgency within the meaning of the Standing Orders of the Senate is another matter but the Opposition accepts the fact that the development of these resources in Western Australia is something which we must have for the benefit of all Australians.
– I would like first of all to address myself to some remarks made by Senator Wriedt. One remark was a mistake of fact and concerned the announcement made some months ago by the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) that the allocation of roads funds to Western Australia would be the same as it was last year. Senator Wriedt also mentioned foreign ownership. The LiberalNational Country Party Government believes in having as much Australian equity as possible in these developments but in view of the magnitude of the figures which Senator Chaney quoted, it is impossible for us to finance the amount of development needed from within this country alone. Senator Wriedt also mentioned the apparent conflict between Sir Charles Court and our Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser). I get the distinct impression when in Western Australia that Sir Charles Court is fighting as hard as he can for Western Australia. Of course he is never satisfied. Of course he wants more, and it is natural that there is this conflict.
Senator Wriedt mentioned some apparent conflict between the Japanese and the Western Australian Government during a recent visit to that country by Sir Charles Court. This is news to me. The only conflict I have heard about is over price of iron ore and in view of the highly inflationary trend which we inherited, price is a matter of serious conflict. I know of no other area of conflict between the Western Australian Government and the Government of Japan. Incidentally, I ask: Who should determine where development will take place in Western Australia, the Japanese Government or the elected Government of Western Australia? Senator Chaney in his usual competent way outlined the importance of the development of Western Australia, the Pilbara area, and the North West Shelf to the well being of all Australians. He referred to the reduction in taxation, which everybody wants, and the increased demands on governments. One point that is overlooked by those people who advocate a reduction in taxation is that the Fraser Government has in fact reduced the projected taxation yield to the Commonwealth by the introduction of 100 per cent indexation of taxation. This has reduced the projected taxation yield by $ 1,200m, so we have made a major contribution to tax reduction. Senator Chaney also indicated the importance of the Pilbara and the North West Shelf to the growth in earnings of government and it is only by such growth that we can finance the increasing expectations of the Australian people.
Let me refer for a moment to the export earnings of the project in the north-west of Western Australia. In 1975-76 iron ore represented some $770m in export earnings for Australia. Based on what the Parliamentary Library terms the paramarginal economic reserve, it is estimated that there are approximately 16.2 million million cubic feet of gas reserves in the projected northwest gas field, which Mr Connor so successfully held up. The Japanese value that reserve at about $2 per cubic foot which means that the deposit is worth about $32.4 billion. The decision has not been made yet on the amount we intend to export or on the amount we need for local consumption but in passing I point out that the Dongara field which is currently supplying a very large portion of the gas used in the metropolitan area of Perth will run out in a few years and we will need to get this alternative gas supply on flow to Perth quickly.
I turn briefly to employment. The mining industry in Australia directly employs between 10 500 and 15 500 people. The population of the Pilbara in 1966 was 8900 persons- honourable senators may remember that the iron ore development in this area started only in 1966-67-but 10 years later in 1976 there were, according to the latest census, 38 678 persons in the Pilbara. This increased population is due entirely to the development of the iron ore project there. During the same period the eastern gold fields population increased from 35 000 to 42 000 persons so the development of the nickel projects has more than taken up the slack caused by the downturn in gold mining. The Bureau of Mineral Resources estimates that for every person employed directly in the mining industry there are 3 persons employed indirectly in back-up services, so when we talk about increased employment we need to consider the increased employment in those areas which are indirectly dependent on the mining industry.
The Mt Newman Mining Company Pty Ltd recently wrote a contract which will provide 5000 more jobs in the development process to which Senator Chaney referred. There is another company in the process of negotiating in respect of a project which will create 3000 more jobs. The gas project which Senator Chaney mentioned will require an expenditure of over $200m just to get the gas to the shore and provide some refining, but no more than that. We hope that the gas will be on shore by 1 983 and that this project will create thousands of jobs. It is well recognised that Western Australia has the best employment record of any State and when a few more projects get under way it will further improve. I would like to cite some figures to support that claim. The Tonkin Labor Government was in power in Western Australia until March 1974 and in the March quarter the Western Australian unemployment figure was significantly higher than the Australian average. That situation continued for the June 1974 quarter but in every quarter since December 1974 to the present day there has been a significant reduction in unemployment in the State. The unemployment figure in Western Australia is now significantly lower than the national average.
I should like also to mention immigration. We agree that immigration is important in many ways for Australia. It improves our cultural relations with other countries and allows us to understand them better. It also provides expertise that is not available in Australia. Western Australia has 8 per cent of the Australian population, and since 1966 has consistently absorbed almost 13 per cent of the migrant intake. Also people have moved from other States in Australia to Western Australia. So one can see the importance of the big projects to Western Australia. I have mentioned the new project at Mt Newman. There is the huge Alwest project in Wagerup which was announced by the Premier, Sir Charles Court, in November. The Yeelirrie uranium deposits will be of great significance if we decide to export uranium. The significance of Yeelirrie is that it is in an extremely remote area of Australia. It is right away from any major centre of population. If that is considered important, the development will make Yeelirrie most significant.
I really do not have to say that there are problems in the Pilbara. Inflation, of course, is a great problem all over Australia and no less so than in the Pilbara. In response to Senator Wriedt ‘s point I mentioned that the cost of production is an extremely important factor in the production of iron ore in this area, so inflation has an important effect I should like to quote from the Parliamentary Hansard of Western Australia of 1974. Mr Jamieson, the Australian Labor Party Leader, said:
I suggest there is nothing wrong in letting inflation run the full cycle. I feel we do more harm to the community if we run in and try to stop inflation . . . so we must let inflation run: it has never killed anybody.
He has not really changed his mind because on 4 August 1976 he said:
The problem of inflation cannot be cured locally. A few million dollars floating around in Australia will not make one bit of difference to the economy.
I can assure Mr Jamieson and the Labor Party that this Government is concerned about inflation and we are doing all we can to correct it. In the Pilbara the area of communications, radio, television and telephone facilities, and roads are inadequate. There is no doubt about that, but they are being improved. Television is available now to most people in the Pilbara. Housing is of a high standard for those who work in the Pilbara. Telephone services are still inadequate but are being improved, and the Federal Government has allocated quite a large amount of money to complete the sealing of the highway right around the west coast of Australia.
I should like to mention briefly one more point- this is an area of importance to the people in Port Hedland- that is, the air service between Port Hedland and Bali. It has been the subject of intense negotiation between the State Government and the Commonwealth Government. The honourable member for Kalgoorlie, Mick Cotter, has worked very hard in this area and so has Brian Sodeman, the member for the Pilbara in the Western Australia Legislative Assembly. Just recently it was announced that charter flights will be permitted from Port Hedland to Bali. It must be remembered by honourable senators that Bali is just as close to Port Hedland as is Perth. This is an important issue to the people. This announcement was received with great glee in that area. In conclusion, I should like to say how important it is for the people of Western Australia to re-elect the Court Government to ensure that the development in this important area continues in the way we think it should.
– No one could possibly deny the importance to the future of Australia of the continued development of the resources of the Pilbara area in Western Australia and the North- West Shelf. This urgency motion has been put before the chamber 3 days before a most important election for the people of Western Australia. It has been brought on purely and simply as a ploy to get the Premier of Western Australia off the hook because there will be an election next Saturday. There have been leaked letters and of course one must ask: Who would benefit from the leaking of those letters? The answer must come back: The Premier of the State would. Sir Charles Court promised things would be done when he was elected in 1974 and they have not been done, particularly with regard to the development of the north-west.
It is all very well for the State Government now in its magnificent half page advertisements to state that there will be $ 1,900m worth of development in the north-west over the next few years, and I have no doubt that there will be. But these are basically the same promises that were made 3 years ago. The Premier could not fulfil them then and he cannot fulfil them now. Those figures being quoted in Western Australia are purely and simply projections from the various companies now operating of what they will be doing in the next 5 years, and from the companies who intend to commence operations within the next 5 years. I believe that the people of Western Australia are alert enough to realise that it is not a Government operation. They know they were hoodwinked in 1974; they will not be hoodwinked once again.
It is important when we are debating such a subject that honourable senators opposite recognise that this importance that they speak of in this urgency debate is to the whole of Australia, not just to Western Australia. We have not seceded yet. Mr Hancock may have wanted to, but I can assure, honourable senators that the majority of people in Western Australia are happy to remain as part of the nation. We are the greatest part, both in geographical proportions and in regard to the mineral deposits that the State has. The North- West Shelf has the largest gas reserves in Australia. The figures for 1976 are impressive. In fact, I shall cite them for the benefit of those honourable senators who are not aware of just how much we have in Western Australia. We have 66.82 1 million cubic metres of liquid natural gas and 410.1 129 billion cubic metres of gas of which only a maximum of 70 per cent can be recovered. In view of the world’s diminishing energy resources, particularly of liquid and gaseous hydrocarbons, the Northwest Shelf becomes even more important. Australia has very large reserves of coal and uranium but we are relatively depleted in oil and natural gas. For this reason, and in the light of the impending energy crunch, Australia must hasten to explore and to develop as much of its oil and gas reserves as possible, and these reserves must be used efficiently and in Australia’s long term interests.
The idea of flogging off the farm quickly for a few fast bucks no longer applies in Australia and any party or any government that attempts to do this is disgraceful. This is what Sir Charles Court is endeavouring to do. In his policy speech he did not make any mention at all of the social aspects that go with development, not only of the Northwest Shelf but also of other areas of the northwest of Western Australia. Senator Chaney spoke of the demands of people in Western Australia for a continuance and an expansion of various services, and for additional services in Western Australia. I believe that taxpayers everywhere are entitled to get some return from the Government for the high taxes they pay. Nowhere do they get less for their tax money than in some of the company towns that operate in the north-west of Western Australia. I stress the words ‘some company towns’ because they do not all have the same specific problems. However, there are a number of company towns where there are specific demands for increased television services, telephone services and education services and for the maintenance and creation of roads.
One company town where there are definite and specific problems, of course, is Koolan Island. I had the rather doubtful pleasure of visiting Koolan Island only last week. It is not only isolated; it has an insular isolation where people receive virtually no benefits from their taxation, which is extremely high, because as a general rule they work a 6 day week and some times a 12 hour day. They get no benefits from the Government and in a lot of cases they get very little from the company. Great social problems exist and these will be magnified when neither government nor company does the things which are necessary to enable stable population to exist in extremely difficult areas,
Let me assure anybody who wants to visit Koolan Island to see the conditions under which the people live that difficulties may arise. If that person belonged to the Liberal Party of Australia, the company may go out of its way to make sure that all the facilities are available, but I found it extremely difficult to get around Koolan Island. Suddenly, on the day I arrived, 7 vehicles belonging to the company were unserviceable. The company controls who will visit the island. But when a factory inspector or health inspector visits the island, the company officers make a telephone call to the men who are working on the day to tell them to keep down the dust, the noise or something of that nature because the inspectors are on the island. The company does not want inspectors to see the conditions under which the people have to work and live.
Of course, the people on the island are there for 1 1 months of the year. I was there for 24 hours and was rather pleased that was all the time I had to spend there. There is one telephone line connecting the people with the mainland. Incidentally, that line is not in good condition. It is generally extremely difficult to make oneself heard when telephoning from the island over a protracted period- that is, when the company allows its employees to use the telephone. The people are dependent entirely on the company for transport to and from the island. It is not unusual for families to find when they arrive at Derby that there is room on the aircraft, which is under charier to the company, for the husband but not for the wife and family. Such people may be returning from their annual leave. But the wife and family may need to stay an extra day in Derby while the husband is returned to work because he is required on duty.
I spoke about the lack of transport on the island. It is all company transport. No private vehicles are allowed. This is a determination by the company alone. There is no access for the people there to beaches. Four-wheel drive vehicles are required to reach them. I understand that it is approximately 10 kilometres to a beach where children can swim. There are no buses to get the children to kindergarten. On the way back from the kindergarten at 1 1 o’clock in the morning in extreme tropical conditions the children pass a pool. I wonder when I look at the profit made by the Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd and its subsidiary companies last year, a profit which amounted to only $71m, why it has not been found necessary or essential to provide a lock for the pool gate to ensure that none of these 3Vi or 4 year old children drown.
The company cares so much for its employees in .these areas in the north-west that in a tropical area like Koolan Island it has not even provided flyscreens on the houses in which the people live. Children fall out of the windows. I understand that it is difficult to find a child who has not fallen out of the window. There are no gardens because the land around the houses was never levelled. There are no ovals for the kids to kick a football around. There is no community hall. In fact, there are no community facilities at all. The only entertainment area is a licensed club. Even the apprentices gravitate there because of the lack of community facilities for them. I understand that one 3-year apprentice was discharged from the island at the end of his third year because by then he was almost a confirmed alcoholic. That is a marvellous record for a company as large as BHP. It does not surprise me that the labour turnover is in the vicinity of 58 per cent. These are the social aspects that I see when we talk about development of the north-west and the development of the North- West Shelf. We can look at places like Karratha, Port Hedland and Mount Tom Price. Of course, there are complaints about the lack of facilities, about the lack of television services and about the high prices. Families are being broken up because young people have to go away even to attend high school. They then return to find that there are no jobs available for them with the company; so they have to go away again to live in the cities or in larger country areas and they create more social problems in those areas again.
Let me deal with prices. Western Australia has the unenviable record of being the State most consistently on top of the 6 States per capita figure in the consumer price index figures. That is a wonderful record for Sir Charles Court to put before the people when he stands before them on Saturday and says: ‘Give me your No. 1 vote, please’. As I mentioned when Senator Thomas was speaking, Mr Grayden said only last week when there was a 40 per cent increase in the unemployment rate in Western Australia that the result was pleasing. I am sure that it is pleasing for him. It is not so pleasing for those people who find themselves unemployed. We have to be concerned about the social aspects just as we have to be concerned about the continuance of the development of the North- West Shelf. Let me remind honourable senators of the terms of this matter of urgency which was brought before the Senate in such haste by the Government today. It states:
The importance to the future of Australia of the continued development of the resources of the Pilbara area of Western Australia and the North- West Shelf.
I believe that the people of Western Australia will decide on Saturday whether they want development for development’s sake the same way as they have had it over the last 3 years or whether, in fact, they want development under a government which is concerned about people and about the social implications of development being carried out too rapidly without the ancillary services being available for them. I think we will find in Western Australia that we will have a State Labor government returned by a magnificent majority.
-If the people in the large metropolises of our country wish to live the life style they are used to or even improve it, the far flung States of Queensland and Western Australia must continue with their development. This is not the first time I have spoken about the contribution of the lesser developed States to the Australian economy. My State of Queensland and the State of Western Australia are very similar in many ways. They have large areas. But also they have large developments. They have great natural resources. They are lacking in many of the refinements found in the large metropolises. But they are playing their part in the development of our country. They are providing new industries and, more importantly, they are providing jobs. New South Wales and Victoria might have the large metropolises of Sydney and Melbourne with all their bright lights, but this country is being financed by the less populous States with their large developments and associated industries. In my speech in the Senate on 25 February 1976 1 said:
The vast metropolises of Sydney and Melbourne might be the centres of commerce, but the business which they transact is really generated in areas far removed from their city and State boundaries.
Of course, this is the case at present. In discussing this matter of urgency, we are looking at the development of one of these areas in Western Australia. Look first at the coal industry which covers a broad spectrum, especially in the eastern States. I have mentioned previously that this industry directly employs 2 1 000 men. Its export earnings are in the vicinity of $ 1,000m per annum and are now 10 per cent of the visible export earnings of the Australian economy. In the future, new projects in Queensland alone could lead to about 10 000 construction jobs and eventually could lead directly to the employment of 4500 men in the coal mining industry itself. All this is taking place in the developing States, the States that are playing their part in our economy. As I said previously, these States provide jobs. The consulting firm of W. D. Scott and Associates in its economic advice to business on 14 February put out some very interesting figures on this subject in terms of total civilian employment on a State by State basis. It was stated:
If employment in each New South Wales industry had changed by the national percentage change for that industry between November 197S and November 1976, total civilian employment would have been higher by 1 . 1 per cent instead of lower by 1 . 1 per cent.
I mention this because using the figures that W. D. Scott has produced it can be shown that the total of civilian employees has increased in Queensland and Western Australia. It has gone down in New South Wales. That is really the sick State of our nation. In Victoria, the figure has increased by 0. 1 per cent. The figures I am citing are for the 3 months to November 1975. In New South Wales the number of civilian employees was 1 712 700 or 36.19 per cent of the total. In the 3 months to November 1976 it had decreased to 1 693 100 or 35.77 per cent of the total. Victoria maintained a status quo at about 1 319 800. In Queensland the number had risen from 622 200 to 625 900 and in Western Australia it had risen from 381 600 to 389 800. The percentage change from November 1975 to November 1976 was minus 1.1 per cent in New South Wales, a plus of 0. 1 per cent in Victoria, a plus of 0.5 per cent in Queensland and a plus of 2.5 per cent in Western Australia. I submit these figures as I think they prove the role the developing States are playing. But more to the point, I think they point out that at this stage New South Wales, even with its large population, is the sick State of our Australian economy when it comes to employment.
There has always been a lack of appreciation by metropolitan areas for the role of the far flung areas of our nation. There seems to be this antipathy by the urban dweller towards the rural dweller, unfortunate though it may be. There is a lack of the appreciation of the difficulties or the conditions involved. At times there seems to be almost a complete alienation. I dare say some of this might be as a result of the actions of political parties. I dare say we bear some of the blame there. But somehow or other we have to get the message across to the large metropolises that the only reason they exist is that there are people living in far worse conditions than those in which they are living and that those people are providing the finance for this nation of ours. This is often reflected in government because politics, if it is nothing else, is a numbers game. When you are representing large numbers of people, you try to provide for them, but the people who do not have the same representation suffer. As I said, it is the people with the lesser representation who are doing the work of supporting this country.
These particular thoughts were never more pertinent than when a large metropolitan newspaper named the defender of Fraser Island as the Australian of the Year. There is no doubt in my mind that that particular man did not lack in tenacity or courage but, together with the support he received from southern States, he destroyed a viable industry. He destroyed jobs; he destroyed confidence in a city which was just recovering from a previous shutdown in industry; he cast a pall of gloom over a whole State. As I have heard it said, we now have an island saved for the people of Australia. These are the same people who, through litter, careless fires, wind blows caused by fires or by tourists trekking through the wilderness, ironically will cause far more damage to that island than any controlled sand mining ever would have done. All this arose through pressure from southern States and, I must say, from the large metropolises. If this is indicative of the thinking of metropolitan Australia, then God help Australia.
In my speech of 25 February I was at great pains to point out through the figures for 1972-73-1 have not updated them but they will serve this particular argument- the role these States play. The impact of the less populous States on the economic life of our Commonwealth is far beyond what most people would imagine. Total Australian exports amounted to $6,2 14m, total imports amounted to $4, 121m, leaving a surplus of $2,093m. Queensland exports amounted to $ 1,306m, with imports of $3 lim, leaving a surplus of $994m which was 47.5 per cent of the national surplus. Western Australia- as I said, a State with very similar conditions to my own- in the same period had exports amounting to $ 1,154m and imports of $227m, leaving a surplus of $927m or 44.29 per cent of the national surplus. Victoria’s surplus was 1.08 per cent of the total surplus. New South Wales provided a deficit of 18.59 per cent. Per head of population the average surplus for Australia was $157.73; for Queensland, $5 10.71; for Western Australia $854.9; for Victoria, $6.29 and for New South Wales a loss of $82.12. So at all times this Government has to take into consideration the role that States such as Queensland and Western Australia play.
This motion recognises the role that the Pilbara and the North West Shelf can play in the future. There has already been vast development there and members from Western Australia have alluded to that. It is estimated that the resources in the Pilbara are sufficiently large to start a major and virtually permanent development. I ask honourable senators to note that comment: A virtually permanent development, such are the resources in that area. It could also support an industrial complex manufacturing such things as chlorine, caustic soda, ethylene, ethylene dichloride, low density polyethylene and nitrogenous and phosphatic fertilisers to name just a few products. The main advantage is of course that it has natural gas close by on the North West Shelf which can be supplied very cheaply. Present indications are that there is a 25-year supply. Surely in that time and once these industries are developed, some other source of power will be developed, albeit nuclear power, but that of course is another argument. We have oil on Barrow Island which we are using in Australia at present. But the off-shore petroleum deposits are in only the early stages of exploration so there is a reasonable expectation that the recoverable resources will be increased. Heaven knows, we need oil. At one stage we were 80 per cent selfsupporting in our oil. I believe the figure is now down to 70 per cent. If we can possibly avoid it, we do not ever want to get into a situation where we are beholden to other countries for our fuel and resources. So already this area has assisted Western Australia in its exports. In 1966-67, iron ore was worth $45m or 10.64 per cent of Western Australia’s exports. In 1973-74 that amount had increased to $45 8m or 45 per cent of Western Australia’s exports. In Western Australia employment directly used in the mining industry has risen over 5 years fom 10 500 to 15 000. As Senator Thomas said, for every one person emloyed in the mining industry 3 people are directly involved in close by ancillary industries. I believe that number can be extended to include another 2 people so that the number of people who rely directly and indirectly on the mining industry is one in five. We can see the vast help that this mining industry and the potential mining industry and development in the Pilbara area can bring.
Too often we have given lip service to the call for decentralisation. It is quite pertinent to note that of all the States, Queensland is the most decentralised. Western Australia, with these developments, is heading that way. In most of the other States at least 50 per cent of the population is centred in the capital cities. In 1 966 in Pilbara there were 8910 people. In 1971 there were 29000 people and in 1976 there were 38 678 people. We can see the use there is of these mining ventures from the point of view of decentralisation alone. They have also brought to Australia expertise that we did not have originally; expertise that the Australian workmen and tie Australian technician has very quickly caught on to and will be using in future mining ventures in our country. New drilling techniques, new explosives, computer and electronic developments in mine and plant operation, improved methods of extraction and improved methods of bulk handling and shipping are but a few of these areas of expertise.
Australia has to come to grips with the problem that if we want to maintain our life style, if we want to improve our life style, we have to accept these new developments. At this point in time there is not a better area than the Pilbara or the North West Shelf area in Western Australia. The potential is tremendous. It will play a great role in decentralisation, in providing jobs and in providing revenue for governments. But the Government has to recognise this area and the role that it has to play. It also must recognise that people living in such areas have special needs. They are entitled to the facilities that people in cities enjoy. They are entitled to telephone and postal services and television and other means of communication because, heaven knows, they are providing what enables the rest of Australia to enjoy those benefits. I support the motion.
- Mr Acting Deputy President, what we are witnessing this afternoon is a subterfuge designed by the Liberal Party to try to get Sir Charles Court off the hook in the Western Australian State elections to be held next Saturday. This debate is a red herring to divert attention from Premier Court’s failure to deliver the cargo which this greatest of all cargo cultists promised in the 1974 election campaign. Among other things, the Premier gave an assurance in March 1974- and I use his own words- that inflation to a substantial degree can be beaten State by State. He promised that, if elected, a Liberal Party government would proceed to do just that, that is, to beat inflation State by State. He promised also that he could, as he put it, ‘put things right within 6 months’. By that, he meant that he could generate thousands of additional jobs and cure unemployment within 6 months of being elected Premier of Western Australia.
How has his performance measured up to those extravagant promises? In fact, since he was elected almost 3 years ago, the Western Australia Premier has presided over the highest rate of inflation of any Australian State. He is currently presiding over the most rapidly increasing unemployment in any State of Australia. He has presided over a 250 per cent absolute increase in unemployment since March 1974. Let me quote the actual statistics to support my claim. If we look at the consumer price index for Perth we find that since Premier Court proceeded with his strategy to beat inflation State by State the consumer price index in Perth has increased by 44.5 per cent compared with a national average of less than 40 per cent. That increase of 44.5 per cent is above any consumer price index increase recorded in any other Australian State. So, far from beating inflation State by State as he undertook to do, the Premier of Western Australia in fact has failed miserably and has the most miserable record in this area of any government of this country.
Let us look next at unemployment. While it is true that the current level of unemployment in Western Australia is below the national average- and that is normal in a recession- it is not true as the Premier and one of his Ministers asserted that it is the lowest in Australia. In fact, South Australia has the lowest percentage of unemployment in Australia. More importantly, there is an alarming trend in unemployment in Western Australia. If we look at recent figures, we find emerging that alarming trend which shows that unemployment is increasing far more rapidly in Western Australia than it is in the nation as a whole or in any other State. Using round figures based on 1000, from the end of November 1976 to the end of January 1977 unemployment nationally increased from 272 000 to 354000, Alarming though that increase is- and the figures are artificially suppressed by the decision of this Government on the payment of unemployment benefits by which the Government has attempted, as the Australian Financial Review succinctly put it, to cook the unemployment figures- looking at the position in Western Australia in the light of that alarming national trend, we find that the number of registered unemployed in that State has increased from 1 8 000 to 26 000 in the same period- an increase of 40 per cent. So, I say: So much for Premier Court’s ability to beat inflation State by State and to put things right.
Having failed to deliver the cargo, he now says that there are 25 000 jobs in the pipeline, pursuant to the magnificent developmental projects of which he is the architect and which only he can bring to fruition. The basis of the calculation of these alleged 25 000 jobs- or the assumed multiplier to which Senator Thomas referred earlier- has not been mentioned. The basis on which that figure is arrived at includes such pie in the sky projects as the proposed Alwest alumina refinery. The consortium at this stage has not even reached agreement on the financial arrangements, much less made a firm decision to proceed with the project. Although Agnew is being developed, there is no new iron ore project yet in the pipeline. There are expansions of a couple of existing projects, but there is no new project proposed. One of the reasons why there is no new project is the eternal fued between the Premier of Western Australia and Mr Lang Hancock. I will have more to say about that matter later if time permits. These 25 000 jobs are about as likely to materialise as Sir Charles Court is likely to beat inflation State by State and to put things right within 6 months.
There has been a significant downturn in the mining industry in Western Australia and in the nation as a whole. The reason for that downturn- or should I describe it as a cessation of growth- are complex and numerous. I commend to Senator Chaney a study of the most recent annual report of the Industries Assistance Commission. It is worth nothing. If he cares to look at the appropriate table, he will discover that the total investment in mining in Australia increased steadily in the late 1960s and early 1970s. It peaked at $195m in 1971-72. But that total investment fell in 1972-73 to $ 107m. From 1971-72 to 1972-73 investment in mining almost halved. The significance of that fact is that it predated the ministry of Mr Rex Connor and any effect, beneficial or otherwise, Mr Connor may have had on mining in Australia. So, whatever were the numerous and complex factors which caused the pause in mining growth from 1973 onwards one reason certainly was not the ministry of Mr Rex Connor.
The major factor in regard to iron ore and nickel was that the market had been saturated. In the late 1960s and early 1970s a massive expansion occurred in the production base of mining. Investment figures for Australia show this. It will be seen that similar circumstances prevailed in a number of other producing countries. That lumpy development entailed a slower rate of growth in the future no matter what else happened. But superimposed upon that inevitable downturn in the rate of growth was the world wide recession of 1973-74 and the absolute reduction in the quantity demanded, particularly of iron ore, by Japan. In those two factors- I repeat that the first was that growth had been abnormally high in the late 1960s and early 1970s and that the second was the quantitative ceiling on demand from 1973-74 onwards because of the international economic recessionlies the major reason for the pause in mining development in recent years.
But there is little doubt that over the last year in Western Australia that pause has been compounded by the abrasiveness of the Premier himself. I refer again to his feuding with Mr Lang Hancock and also to his refusal to co-operate in any way with the development of the Hanwright Marandoo deposits. I mention also his attempt to score political points by talking about Reds under beds, hot lines to Moscow and similar paranoid outbursts that he came out with 6 months ago. He claimed that there was a communist plot engineered in Moscow to subvert mining and, therefore, mineral development in the Pilbara. I suppose that it is considered par for the course for any Liberal Party Premier or Prime Minister to indulge in a bit of union bashing. But in this context it is far more significant for us to look at the relations of this Premier with his coalition partners and his own Ministers.
The feud between the Liberal and Country Parties which led ultimately to a breakdown of the coalition in May 1975 produced, for example, a comment from Mr David Reid, who I understand was once a senator in this place and who at that time was the President of, I think it was called, the National Alliance- the political organisation which used to be known as the Country Party and which is now, I think, called the National Country Party. The President of that body at that time said of Sir Charles Court:
I know how totally bloody-minded he can be. So much so that he will cut the nose off the State and endanger its vital industries to win a personal point.
That was the opinion of the President of the Party which was in coalition with Sir Charles Court’s Party on Sir Charles Court and the well known abrasiveness of that personality. Although I do not think that Mr Hancock’s language has ever been quite so blunt, he has frequently gone on public record as saying similar things about Sir Charles Court and Sir Charles Court’s refusal to co-operate with anyone and to share power or responsibility with anyone. Sir Charles Court has to be running the entire show his way all of the time. That is one of the factors supplementary to the others that I have mentioned which have made it more difficult to achieve a substantial resumption of mining industry growth in the Pilbara.
There was another factor with special relevance to the North West Shelf. I think that Senator Wriedt mentioned it. I refer to the fact that Woodside-Burmah or Burmah Oil- I have forgotten which company it was- was in extreme financial difficulties and ultimately had its share in the North West Shelf consortium taken over by Shell and BHP. Reasons of internal company liquidity and solvency therefore were also a factor in that delay.
A further complication, of course, was the long continuing dispute, which finally has been resolved, over legal control- governmental controlof off-shore areas. In this regard I noted that Senator Chaney saw fit to castigate the Labor Party’s spokesman on these matters, Mr Keating, for having said- I cannot remember the exact words-something to the effect that a future Labor federal government would view with some suspicion exploration permits granted by State governments in view of the High Court’s decision on these matters. Senator Chaney saw fit to castigate Mr Keating for expressing that view. I wonder why he failed to castigate the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser), who, in a telex to the Premier of Western Australia on 8 November in reply to a request by the Premier of Western Australia to administer off-shore areas in this way, said:
The Government has had regard to the advice received from its law officers that the Commonwealth could not legally accede to the State’s request on this matter.
So the Prime Minister was simply endorsing the view that has been put forward by Mr Keating and that has been put forward by almost everyone who has looked seriously at these matters. Ever since the High Court judgment they have said that this is a black and white question of law and that it is not a question of political ideology. The sooner Sir Charles Court faces the fact that he does not have legal control over these areas, no matter how much he would like to have legal control over them, the sooner real development is likely to proceed.
As evidence of the State’s failure to achieve its objective in Sir Charles Court’s way- I suspect that it is only Sir Charles Court’s way; I think that there are many other people in the Western Australian Government who have a more rational approach to this matter- I wish to quote from an article in the West Australian of 8 January of this year in which the Minister for Mines, Mr Mensaros, announced that the State was calling applications for exploration permits over quite a wide range of off-shore areas. Mr Mensaros said that applications had been called previously by the State. The article states:
Mr Mensaros said that the areas had previously been offered with a closing date on applications. However, there had been no applications.
That was long after Mr Rex Connor ceased to be Minister for Minerals and Energy. It was in JulyAugust 1976. It was long after the Whitlam Government was out of office federally. The reason no applications were received was that the oil companies realised what a farce it was for Sir Charles Court to pretend that he had effective control when he does not have effective control. The sooner Sir Charles Court realises that, the more likely projects are to go ahead.
In conclusion, in addition to the threat posed by Sir Charles Court to the development of Western Australia, including the development of the Pilbara, there is the threat posed by the Fraser Government’s new federalism policy and its capital starvation of the States, which has forced the Western Australian Government into the ludicrous position where it is contemplating going out onto the private capital market and allowing a private consortium to build a power station at Muja to provide the electricity that is needed for industrial development in Western Australia.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Mulvihill)-Order! The honourable senator’s time has expired.
~As usual, Senator Walsh has not contributed anything to the standard of debate in this place. He seems to have come into this chamber with a gigantic log on his shoulder. That log is Sir Charles Court. Every time Senator Walsh speaks he indulges in a long, irrelevant hate session against Sir Charles Court. I remind Senator Walsh that the same Sir Charles Court is the man who was largely responsible in the first place for the tremendous development in the Pilbara region of Western Australia. That should not be forgotten. If Sir Charles Court had not had the drive, initiative and foresight that he had, this development never would have taken place and the employment situation may well have been a great deal worse. Indeed, if Senator Walsh had visited the Pilbara region some 20 years ago he would have found only one town of any significance, that is, Port Hedland, which had some 1 100 people. Today, because of the enterprise and initiative of Sir Charles Court, there are a number of towns in the region and they have living conditions that are amongst the highest one could ever expect in a tropical area.
It is all very well for Senator Walsh to wave a finger around the place and to try to castigate Sir Charles Court about his so-called feud with Mr Lang Hancock. That has nothing to do with the further development of the iron ore in the Pilbara region. There are plenty of other development projects besides Mr Lang Hancock’s project which are awaiting the go-ahead. He has one of them. His is in the pipeline. But there are plenty of others. I will not express an opinion as to which one has the highest priority, but obviously there will be priorities and, in part, those priorities will be decided by the buyers.
Senator Walsh made reference to some areas being made available for oil drilling and said that there were no takers. I say to him that either he does not know the position or he has ignored the fact that these areas are extremely difficult areas for drilling, being in extremely deep water. It is quite understandable that there should be some reluctance at the moment because there are other areas where, prior to the advent of the Labor Government, oil drilling and gas drilling were active. Those areas will become active again. They are areas which, prior to the advent of the Labor Government and Mr Connor’s disastrous policies, showed great promise. I have no doubt that in time the oil rigs that have left Australian waters and the expertise that has left Australia will return because there is no doubt that these areas are areas of promise.
I turn to the terms of the urgency motion. Senator Wriedt made the very valid point that was also made by Senator Chaney- indeed, it is incorporated in the terms of the motion- that any development of the Pilbara region is to the advantage of Australia, not just Western Australia, as development in any part of Australia, including Tasmania, is to the advantage of all Australians.
That is clearly recognised in the matter of urgency we are discussing. I think Senator Chaney, in his opening remarks in this debate, put the importance of development not only in the Pilbara area but elsewhere in its proper perspective. It is only by continued growth and the development of our vast mineral resources that the aspirations and expectations of Australians can be achieved. They cannot be achieved without growth. The money to meet those expectations does not grow on trees. Higher standards of living, better roads, more television, more radio, better health services and so on depend on increased growth in Australia, and mineral growth in particular. Therefore it is vitally important that this Parliament and the community at large give continued strength to encouragement of the development of these vast mineral resources.
The mineral industry has provided a broader basis upon which Australia can expand. One has to wonder what would have happened if we had not had vast development in the 1960s. Senator Walsh has left the chamber but I would remind the Senate of the enterprise and initiative of Sir Charles Court. To a very great extent his confidence and his ability to influence people overseas led them to put their capital into such development. It was a risk development in those days and they invested huge amounts. Without that development the Australian economy over the last 4 or S years would have been in a far worse condition than it is. The vast income we earned from our mineral exports to a very large extent sustained the Australian economy in recent times. We must have further growth if the Australian economy is to grow stronger. To a large extent this again will depend on the development of mineral resources, particularly those in the Pilbara region of Western Australia where there are still large untapped resources.
It is true that the iron ore industry has gone through some difficult times but that is a part of life. Continued growth is not always possible. The world economic recession affected the steel industry in Japan quite drastically but as that industry comes out of that recession there are indications of what is to come. Senator Chaney and Senator Thomas mentioned the large expenditure by the Hamersley company and the Mount Newman company in increased facilities to increase production. The increased orders they have received already from Japan indicate the faith of the Japanese in the Australian industry. Senator Wriedt made an extraordinary statement when he referred to Sir Charles Court having bad relations with the Japanese. I do not know where he got that information. Sir Charles Court is constantly speaking to the Japanese.
There has been no indication that the Japanese are antagonistic in any way to Sir Charles Court. On the contrary, his relations with them have always been extremely cordial. I would be very interested to see the evidence to support that allegation by Senator Wriedt.
I do not think there is much good to come from dwelling on the disastrous policies of the past but there certainly was antagonism between the Japanese and Mr Connor. They did not understand Mr Connor. They did not know what he was talking about. One doubts whether he knew at times what he was talking about. He seemed to have some great chip on his shoulder. Senator Wriedt returned again today to this bogy of foreign devils, foreign ownership. Let us be quite blunt about this. We are never going to develop the vast mineral resources in Australia, whether it be the Nott West Shelf gas which requires $2,000m plus or any other project, if we wait for funds from within Australia. That type of money is just not here. Some of it, a great deal of it, must come from overseas.
It is rather interesting to recall the attitude of the Malaysians to foreign investment. Their investment guidelines are very similar to those which we have in Australia today. They want a substantial equity, indeed a majority equity, whenever possible, but if an enterprise is in the interests of Malaysia the Malaysians are prepared to accept 100 per cent foreign equity to get the development started. Very rightly that country has a strong feeling of economic nationalism but it realises the simple fact of life that you have to have this type of investment. Is it such an evil thing? After all, foreigners cannot take away their mines. In all the agreements that Sir Charles Court has made with the iron ore companies there is in the final analysis complete control by Australia and the companies accept that position. They accept it because they know the rules of the game. They do not accept when they do not know the rules. Unfortunately that has happened in the past.
Let us look at the development of gas on the North West Shelf. As Senator Chaney pointed out, this development was hindered and deferred because of past policies. Let us forget about that and look to the future because here is an enterprise of tremendous promise to Australia. Now, when certain problems have been settled, the green light is showing for this development. We want it. We want the export income. We want controlled exports which are of value to Australia. We also want the gas for Australian industry. It may well be that gas from the North
West Shelf will be the means of further developing industries in the Pilbara and other regions of Western Australia. It is of vital importance not only to Western Australia but also to the future of Australia. The employment situation was worrying Senator Walsh but I would point out that it is estimated that for every job provided in the mining industry there are 3 jobs provided also to support it.
– Go and tell the people that at Rockingham.
– I will repeat it. For every job in the mining industry there are 3 jobs to support it, not necessarily in Rockingham and not necessarily in Perth but throughout Australia. Those figures can be well documented. The development of Pilbara will mean more employment in Western Australia and perhaps more employment in other parts of Australia. It is a vital project not only for Western Australia but for Australia and it should receive support from all sides of the House. We do not want knockers; we want people with faith in the future who are prepared to take risks. Overseas investors have shown their faith in the past but they have been discouraged and frustrated. Now they are once again showing faith in the future development of Australia. I would have thought that anybody interested in the development of Australia and in providing employment -
– And interested in people.
– And people. After all, people in jobs are happy people. No one is arguing about that. I am not knocking environmentalists. I am only knocking the extreme people who do not believe in development simply because they want to protect something that probably does not exist. If we are going to have development, if we are going to provide jobs and make our people happy, we do not want knockers but people with faith. I move:
- Mr President -
– There can be no debate. The motion must be put.
– I seek an explanation for this procedure. Are we voting on the gag? Is that the actual question that is before us?
– That is right. The vote is on the gag.
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator the Hon. Condor Laucke)
Question so resolved in the affirmative. Original question resolved in the affirmative.
– For the information of honourable senators I lay on the Table the report on the seventh conference of Presiding Officers and Clerks of the Parliament held at Rarotonga, Cook Islands, from 28 June to 1 July 1976.
– Pursuant to section 32 of the Snowy Mountains HydroElectric Power Act 1949 I present the annual report of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Authority for the year ended 30 June 1 976.
– Pursuant to section 30 of the Honey Industry Act 1962 I present the annual report of the Australian Honey Board for the year ended 30 June 1976.
– Pursuant to paragraph 1 1 of the third schedule of the Airlines Agreements Act 1952 I present the annual financial report relating to the operation of air services by Ansett Transport Industries for the year ended 26 June 1976.
That the Senate take note of the paper.
I seek leave to continue my remarks.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– For the information of honourable senators I present the reports of the Industries Assistance Commission on brassieres and copper foil etc. together with an interim report of the Industries Assistance Commission on files and rasps.
-In accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1969, 1 present the report relating to the following proposed work:
Modernisation of H.M.A. Naval Dockyard (Stage 2) at Williamstown, Victoria.
Motion (by Senator Withers) agreed to:
That, unless otherwise ordered, the days and times of meeting of the Senate for the remainder of this Session be as follows:
Tuesday, 2.30 p.m. to 6.00 p.m.; 8.00 p.m. to 10.30 p.m.
Wednesday, 2.30 p.m. to 6.00 p.m.; 8.00 p.m. to 1 1.00 p.m.
Thursday, 1 1.00 a.m. to 1.00 p.m.; 2.15 p.m. to 6.00 p.m.; 8.00 p.m. to 10.30 p.m.
That, unless otherwise ordered, the Sessional Order relating to the adjournment of the Senate have effect at the terminating time each day.
That, unless otherwise ordered, General Business take precedence of Government Business after eight p.m. on Thursdays.
Sitting suspended from 5.49 to 8 p.m.
– Honourable senators will be aware that since the price of the weekly Hansard was raised to $63.10 in January 1975 the number of subscribers has fallen substantially. This has caused considerable concern among members of the Senate and of the House of Representatives in view of the long established principle that Hansard should be available at a reasonable charge to any member of the public who wants it. It should be pointed out that even at a cost of $63.10 per annum a substantial subsidy from the public purse has been involved. Nevertheless, there has been a strong feeling that Hansard is being denied to many people who have a deep interest in the work of the Parliament and wish to have access to the official record of debates.
The Joint Publications Committee has considered the matter thoroughly on several occasions in the past 2 years and at the end of last year recommended to the Presiding Officers that the charge for the weekly Hansard be reduced to the nominal figure of $10 for each House, inclusive of postage. This recommendation was approved by Mr Speaker and myself and referred to the Treasurer for endorsement. I am pleased to advise honourable senators that the Treasurer has concurred in the proposal. The Australian Government Publishing Service will be offering new subscription rates from today and those people who have subscribed at the old rate will receive a rebate on application. The new single copy price will be 50c at Australian Government Publishing Service bookshops in capital cities.
Debate resumed from 4 November 1976, on motion by Senator Withers:
That the Senate take note of the Paper.
– The Senate has before it a statement by the Minister for Defence (Mr Killen) on the Government’s views on defence. As always when we debate any matter involving defence, there is a tendency to confuse a defence debate with a foreign affairs debate. Obviously the 2 matters are inter-related. Nevertheless, there are specific aspects of a defence paper which do not necessarily impinge on foreign affairs. I will be dealing mainly with the more specific defence aspect of this paper and my colleagues in the Opposition will be dealing in more depth with the foreign affairs implications. It is timely, of course, that this paper has been brought down. It deals with a matter of great public concern, and I am sure that during the course of this debate we will hear some interesting comments.
The document provides the basis for debate on Australia’s defence policies and, as such, should be regarded seriously although, as I intended to point out later, I believe that the Minister and the Department have been too circumspect about some of the vital issues surrounding Australia’s defence policy. Unfortunately, Australia’s defence policy has never been subjected to what should have been a widespread public debate, and incidents such as the Nowra fire, the Voyager disaster, the rapid increase in costs in producing the FI 1 1 and other peacetime incidents have not enhanced the image of Australia’s defence forces. It is worth stating initially that the Australian Labor Partythat is my Party, the Opposition Party- has a very firm commitment to a strong balanced Australian defence force capable of ensuring our territorial security, the security of our overseas trade, and our peaceful development as an independent nation. This commitment was clearly spelled out in the platform of my Party at our national conference in Terrigal in 1 975 .
The Labor Government, of course, was beset by problems similar to those of any government in that defence involves large expenditures on sophisticated equipment and there are always strong competing needs from every other sector of the Australian economy. Any substantial increase in defence expenditure is regarded suspiciously by the civilian community as sacrificing much needed social welfare, while any reduction in the absolute amount of defence expenditure or its proportion of the gross domestic product is interpreted as running down Australia’s defence capability. An acceptable balance is very difficult to obtain because there is merit and truth in both of those arguments. In addition, there is continual pressure not only from within Australia but from outside to reduce defence expenditure as a contributing factor to the lessening of the arms race. That is a pressure which is understandable and about which I shall say more later on.
Within those restraints, it is extraordinarily difficult for a Defence White Paper and its financial implications to prove acceptable to all sections of the community. It is not on that basis, however, that I want to discuss certain aspects of the paper. There are a number of areas in which I believe the White Paper suffers seriously from a failure to discuss alternatives, and there is a lack of adequate detail. It appears to be based on a relatively static situation and assumes no substantial change in the relationship of the superpowers or their allies over the next 10 years. It is interesting that there appears to be an assumption that international agreements may not work or that they are not worth the effort to achieve. For example, reference is made to the strategic arms limitation talks, and one would infer from the paper that these cannot be seen to be even partially successful. Secondly, there appears to be, according to the Paper, little prospect of an agreement between the 2 super-powers, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and the United States of America, to limit existing armaments in the Indian Ocean or to deal with any possible build-up in the Pacific. Thirdly, it indicates that Australia might be forced politically to re-assess its defence arrangements with the United States.
It is quite reasonable to discuss possibilities over the next 10 to 15 years because any decision a government makes now about equipment procurement will have to be effective over a period of approximately that time. In the normal sense, the development of our economy would not allow otherwise. Following the election of the new President of the United States, there appears to be a move towards making the strategic arms limitation discussions effective. History does show that the total objective might not be obtained, but it is possible that there could be a restricted agreement on the limitation of strategic arms or armaments generally. For example, the Montreux Convention of 1936 and the Greek-Turkish Protocol of 1930, are still in force and both have been partially successful in overcoming the problems with which they were meant to deal. The same applies in the case of the Washington and London naval treaties of the 1920s and 1930s. Both were indications of partial success with arms limitation agreements. If any agreements can be reached then the United States, for example, although remaining strong militarily, might not be able to supply as much manpower, technical and equipment support to the countries with whom it has normally been associated as friendly powers as it has done in the past. In fact, the White Paper recognises that when it states:
Nor would it be prudent to rely upon U.S. combat help in all circumstances.
The possibility is more likely if the United States President is able to achieve an effective reduction in the United States defence expenditure. If those changes occur and if China continues to see itself as having to maintain some strong military force because of its problems with its principal neighbour, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, the balance of power in the western Pacific region again may be altered. These are all variables which ought to be discussed publicly. Although the White Paper recognises that our spheres of influence are in the south-west Pacific and Asian areas, it is my view that there should have been a more detailed assessment of possible changes in what we generally term the balance of powereven though that term may in some way be considered dated at present- in the Asian and southeast Asian areas. It may be highly unlikely at present but for defence purposes we need to consider and assess the possibility of governments to the near north of Australia in the future not being disposed in a friendly way towards our country. The White Paper does not contemplate these possibilities and I am sure that none of us hope that they would ever arise but in the assessment of a defence policy and strategy for the Government these options must be considered. The memories of the Indonesia-Malaysia conflict, the India-Pakistan war and, of course, the continuing civil strife in countries such as the Philippines, must serve as a reminder to all of us that stability is not something on which we can rely indefinitely much as we would hope to see these areas remain peaceful for as long as is humanly possible.
Rather than proffer a bland assumption about possible constancy of events in this region, the White Paper should have discussed in more detail the alternatives which Australia might face, although I am sure that all of us without reservation reject the concept of the use of nuclear weapons in any conflict. We find that the major powers such as the United States of America, Japan and probably the Soviet Union regard as important free and unhindered access to certain areas such as the Arabian Gulf, Indonesia, Malacca and the Sunda and Lombok Straits. That is understandable. They have commercial interests to protect in exactly the same way as we have. These areas, of course, are very close to our north-western regions. This inevitably raises the matter of the Indian Ocean and associated with it is our own involvement in that area and the areas peripheral to it. Apart from the supplying of a great deal of exports to the area there is a real prospect of our domestic supplies of oil having to be supplemented from those regions. Unfortunately, there are certain aspirations among some of those countries about which other nations in the area have reservations, but these are the possibilities which we must consider. The White Paper implies that Australia would rely on the United States to deploy a force based on Diego Garcia or its Middle East fleet to maintain freedom of access to these areas. There is the possibility that because of our commercial interests Australia could be drawn into a limited regional dispute and in the circumstances this could have very dubious consequences for us.
The other area with which the White Paper has failed to deal adequately is the South Pacific, the region in which Australia is strong in natural geographic interests along with New Zealand, Papua New Guinea and Fiji. As the White Paper indicates, there is a limited amount of cooperation between Australia and these countries and a multitude of ex-British countries. Some of these colonies have received overtures from other countries whose interests may not be regarded by some people as coinciding with those of Australia. The White Paper has given inadequate attention to this area and has not discussed how best Australia might continue its involvement in the defence area. The strategic situation is important because its assessment has such a bearing on the equipment procurement and the manpower recruitment in our defence programs and our deployment programs. While I do not wish to deal specifically with the Army as such there are a couple of matters concerning the Navy about which I do wish to speak.
Firstly, I refer to the naval role and in particular the replacement of HMAS Melbourne, the role of the fleet air arm and the arguments dealing with fishery surveillance and drug trafficking control. Secondly, I refer to the general equipment procurement program, in particular the coordination with countries which have been traditional suppliers. Thirdly, I refer to the organisational structure of the Department of Defence. In the House of Representatives my colleague Mr Hayden, who is our shadow spokesman in that House on this subject, dealt adequately with the question of financing our defence expenditure. I will deal more with the specific procurement program. One of the areas of major concern arises as a consequence of the likely extension of the maritime resources zone. Once it reaches the 200-mile limit- we assume this may well be the case after the international conference on the law of the sea has finally completed its deliberations- it will impose a very great task on both our Navy and Air Force in regard to patrol activities. Protecting commercial interests within the maritime resources zone more properly falls within the province of an Australian coast guard rather than perhaps the Navy or the Air Force. The White Paper suggests the making use of every source of information, particularly the Australian fishing fleet, in improving the efficiency of locating illegal military and civil incursions into our waters. Presumably this is a similar concept to that of the merchant weather ships of which much use has been made over the years in regular reporting on weather conditions. It seems that these other sources of information- that is, the fishing fleet -could well prove to be of considerable use in this area. The equipment and organisation of a coast guard service would be closely linked with the defence forces and in time of war or national emergency presumably would come under their jurisdiction. At present we have one major vessel in the fleet, the earner Melbourne. Of course, it is a very old vessel now, a wartime vessel of the Majestic class which the White Paper says would, along with the selective mix of fleet aircraft, provide a naval strike capability against maritime or land targets. However, the White Paper makes no qualitative assessment of strike effectiveness. Paragraph 49 makes this all important statement:
By saying that its replacement is not a matter requiring decision at the moment seems to be deferring consideration of what should be a matter under current public discussion.
The United States is a country which over the years has dealt in a much bigger way with the problem of the enormous cost involved in maintaining this type of vessel. I understand that its policy is to have one carrier at sea, one carrier under repair and one carrier undergoing refit. Australia could not afford that sort of expenditure. However, because of our vast coastline and our commitment to the trade routes traversing the Indian and Pacific Oceans and the sea surrounding Papua New Guinea, it may be necessary eventually to replace that vessel with something of a later style, such as a helicopter carrier. Any decision on this matter must affect future Budget planning. The strategic and associated equipment procurement questions surrounding Melbourne should have been the subject of detailed discussion in this report. While the White Paper refers to increasing sophistication in defence equipment it has not drawn out the implications for the financing of the purchase of new equipment. It is obvious that the actual contract equipment is a very small pan of the total required except in the case of the possible replacement of Melbourne. The back up systems are extremely expensive and will cost as much if not more than the main equipment itself. As costs continue to increase rapidly and defence equipment and associated technology becomes more sophisticated, the current financial provisions may be totally inadequate. The financial aspect may severely limit Australia’s capacity to work effectively towards any degree of independence from other countries.
The final point I wish to make ralates to the organisational structure of the Department of Defence and the forces themselves. I am disappointed that very little discussion was devoted to possible changes which might flow from changes in technology over the next 10 years. The Australian Labor Party initiated substantial changes to the structure of the Defence Department and the present Government has had an opportunity to assess the effectiveness of those changes. An intelligent discussion about the administrative structure and its future is warranted. I share the reservations of my colleague, Mr Hayden, in the House of Representatives, about the financial aspects of the whole paper and would like to see the matter referred to the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence.
It would be wrong, I believe, for any one of us to assert that miracles can be worked in these areas of great expenditure. As I said at the beginning of my speech, it is essential that a proper balance be struck between what we consider is necessary to ensure the security of Australia, whilst always seeking the most friendly relations with all our neighbours. No government has it easy, and as the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) has said, life was not meant to be easy. I am sure that he and his Treasurer find much the same position as we did in government. Trying to meet the enormous cost of defence equipment is a real headache for any government. On behalf of the Opposition I move:
Senator Sir MAGNUS CORMACK (Victoria) (8.23)- I took a mental note and some pencilled notes of what the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Wriedt) said in his address to the motion before the Senate that it take note of the
White Paper on defence. Before I begin to reply to Senator Wriedt I am bound to make the observation that his motion, in my opinion, is nugatory for the sole, simple reason that it has been announced that it is the intention of Her Majesty’s representative to prorogue this Parliament. If the motion of Senator Wriedt is agreed to and the matter is put on the Senate notice paper to be referred to the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence, it will be wiped off the notice paper the moment the Parliament is prorogued.
– Like your Government’s defence policy. You have not got one.
-I will deal with the defence policy in a moment. I merely make that observation. I suggest that the Senate would be wise on that ground alone to reject the motion moved by the Leader of the Opposition because it will not have any effect if it is agreed to because the matter simply will not appear on the notice paper unless it is reestablished by notice of motion of the Leader of the Opposition after the prorogation of the Parliament.
In the context of the observations of the Leader of the Opposition, I am bound to confess that I was delighted with the general tenor of his speech. Senator Wriedt recognised a matter that disturbs the Australian people in a substantial degree, namely, that we do have a defence problem. In the 18 or 19 years that I have been a senator it has always been my attitude that there should be no real quarrels between the Opposition and the Government of the day, whatever their complexion, on the matter of defence for the sole and simple reason that any true Australian must be concerned to see that the integrity of his own homeland is maintained. Whatever theoretical and philosophical views we may have about wars, the fact is that Australia has to be defended because a lot of countries, a lot of nations, a lot of people, believe in a substantial way that Australia has no right to occupy this country.
I can express this in a simple illustration by a conversation which I had with a gentleman in an Asian country only in the last three or four months. He said to me categorically with no apology whatsoever that the European people living in Australia- an Asian country, so he claimed- had no right to the resources available in Australia because these resources belong to the people of the world and the Australian people are keeping them to themselves. I will not say that this is a pervasive view anywhere in Asia but it is a view and it indicates that there is some thinking in certain Asian areas that Australia has no right to occupy this country, no right- if I may say in a general sort of way as I report this conversationto those resources that enable the Australian people to have a high standard of living whereas the people from this person’s country have almost no resources or have exhausted their resources. This person maintained that therefore Australians are trying to deprive his people of access to resources. I repeat that however pervasive that view may be, the fact that it was stated to me illustrates that some people hold to that point of view in the Asian area. I do not know what is going on in the Tasmanian corner, Mr President, but there seems to be a rumble or some sort of wave effect there.
– We are trying to find out which Asian country is going to attack us.
-I shall get to that in a moment, Senator O’Byrne. There is Utile difference in essential terms between the White Paper published by the Whitlam Government and the White Paper that has been published by this Government. The reason is that the problems do not alter whatever government is in being if the defence services are worth their salt. They are charged as defence services with advising the government of the day of the actualities that exist in the area in which we live. The White Paper presented by the Minister for Defence (Mr Killen) which we are debating at the moment does not differ much from the White Paper produced by the previous Government. It carries on in a substantial way the recommendations, which are now given effect to, of what the procurement program should be in the context of the Australian defence effort. So to that extent it seems to me that there exists in the Senate, which is right and proper, a bipartisan attitude towards the defence problem of Australia.
I noted as I read the White Paper that it is in essence a citizens guide to the Australian defence problem, short of a nuclear holocaust. I do not believe that there will be a nuclear holocaust between the major powers. There is a proliferation of nuclear power developing in the world at present and that is the great problem. The White Paper states that it is a strategic appreciation of the circumstances which, within the wits of men, can be envisaged. Whilst we inherited the traditional concept of Great Britain that a strategical appreciation should be based on a 10-year period, I suggest that that concept is no longer valid. Times have changed. Thing happen with great speed. It was easy enough for the first
Elizabeth, Queen of England, to be able to discern what were the problems in relation to the defence of England because of the preparations for the invasions of England by the Great Armada. If we know our history, we know that that invasion took years to prepare. But today the problem cannot be discerned with that clarity in that time period. The strategical situation in relation to the defence of Australia can alter with great speed.
The White Paper makes 2 observations in masked words. It makes the point that there is the problem of north-east Asia. Any government putting down a White Paper would be unwise to define what is north-east Asia. But in Parliament where we have to get down to the real nitty-gritty of defence problems or strategical problems in our area, what is meant by north-east Asia is quite clear. It is that area which involves the problem of the conflict between the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and the Chinese Peoples’ Republic on the one hand and the problems posed by North Korea and the Republic of Korea on the other hand. That is what is meant by the term ‘ north-east Asia ‘.
The other masked phrase in the White Paper relates to the problem that exists in the northwest area of the Indian Ocean. That is another masked phrase. Quite clearly, what is meant by the north-west area of the Indian Ocean’- Senator Wriedt made some casual reference to this- is the development of an enormous strategical power which is taking place in the horn of Africa- in Somaliland. I refer to the development of the complex at Aden, the re-armament of the Iranese kingdom and other developments in the area. For example, I remember being on a motor boat going out from Bombay Harbour only three or four months ago and seeing half a dozen Komar class missile vessels proceeding out of Bombay Harbour into the Arabian Sea. So it is obvious that there are problems of great tension in that area. But the position is masked in the White Paper by referring to the problems that relate to the north-west Indian Ocean area.
I have before me a speech delivered by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) entitled Giving Reality to our Vision’. He was talking about the environment in which Australia exists at the present time and on page 18 of that speech he made this rather interesting observation:
The environment provides grounds for concern to people who are willing to look at the world as it is rather than as they would like the world to be.
That is the problem that surrounds governmentwhether it be the Whitlam Government or the present Fraser Government- in dealing with the Australian defence situation. We have to deal with the world as it is, not the world as we would like it to be. We have to deal with the world not as it was seen by the former Minister for Foreign Affairs who sat in the Senate, my old friend Don Willessee. He said that our foreign policy was based upon the reciprocity that existed between his Party and his Government and fraternal parties that existed in other pans of the world. I submit that that is not the basis upon which we should conduct foreign policy or defence policy. If there is one thing in this world that disturbs me it is that we are dealing with a world not as we would like it to be or as Senator Willessee, the former Foreign Minister to whom I referred, thought it was. We must deal with the world as it is. In this world as it is we have defence problems in Australia. The defence problems we have in Australia relate to that old problem that confronts the defence planners and the Government, that the strategical assessment of a defence problem is based upon that fundamental problem that strategy always poses, namely, that it presents the option of difficulties. What is the option of difficulties that we have in Australia?
I suggest that it is doubtful that Australia has any capacity to influence the events in the world as it is today for one simple reason. It is based upon a form of logic that fills me with terror, and it is this: When nations embrace the concept that war is simply an extension of a foreign policy by other means, we are in trouble. The inventor of that definition was a man called Clausewitz. That is only incidental. But it is the philosophy of Clausewitz, the great discursive writer on war, that influences the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, that war is an extension of foreign policy by other means. In this speech I am not carrying out an attack on the U.S.S.R. I simply say that in the dialectic procedures upon which the Communist mind operates the Clausewitzian doctrine is the absolute. It is that foreign policy is war conducted by other means or that war is the foreign policy conducted by other means. Having stated that, I feel it is proper that I should give the proof of what I say. In 1964 the Chairman of the Communist Party in the U.S.S.R. was a man called Khrushchev who is now dead.
– He was the General Secretary.
– He was not the Chairman? He was the General Secretary.
– That is right.
-I am grateful to Senator Wheeldon for bringing me up to date on the protocol of the U.S.S.R. However, Khrushchev made the statement that the U.S.S.R. refused to accept the fact that the Chinese Republic at that stage was offering, namely, that the world was confronted with a nuclear war. But what the General Secretary of the Communist Party in Moscow said was that the Americans had nuclear teeth and that nuclear war was not a proposition. Nuclear war was out of the question. But he went on to say that the U.S.S.R. would support wars of national liberation wherever they occurred. This is the problem with which Australia is beset in its analysis of what its strategical appreciation should be. I refer to wars of national liberation. I am not trying to exacerbate old wounds or raise old issues. But I say quite clearly to the younger honourable senators that over the last 12 years since 1964 we have seen the pursuit of wars of national liberation as an extension of the foreign policy of the U.S.S.R.
– Like Vietnam.
– They originated in their own countries.
– That is quite right. We had an example recently in Angola where the Cuban Army descended upon the country. That was a war of national liberation funded and transported by the U.S.S.R. In a substantial way, the problem in our defence structure is the problem of a particular super power which will finance and aid a so-called war of national liberation. I suppose, without raising the shadows and pains of Vietnam, it could be said that this policy has been a successful one because Vietnam is now a unified Communist society.
– And regrettably so.
-I will move on to deal with the domino theory in a moment. This in part is an Australian problem. Because we live on an island continent we are cast into a geographical and demographic area. We are surrounded to a large degree by centres in which world communism is attempting to establish areas of power and authority. One area at the moment is in the South Pacific. I do not deny the right of the U.S.S.R. to pursue its foreign policy. The U.S.S.R. has said quite clearly that that is its policy. We must look at its policy and say: ‘All right, does it present any inimical and dangerous circumstances for Australia?’ I say that it does. What is the problem that confronts the defence planners? The problem came with the end of the Vietnamese war and the withdrawal of the United States presence from the Asian mainland. I think the United States made a mistake in embarking upon that policy. President Eisenhower would never have allowed it to happen and stopped it from happening. It was only the great liberal Presidents of the United States- President Kennedy and President Johnson- who embarked on an Asian war; it was not the conservative Republicans. With the advent of the Nixon Government we got the Guam doctrine in which President Nixon announced that United States aid to the area of the Pacific would be based simply on the capacity of the people who lived in the area to take some defence measures for themselves. The United States was not going to pick up the tab. United States soldiers were not going to die for Australia for example, or for India, or Burma, or Malaysia, or Singapore, or Fiji or New Guinea. That meant that the whole of the strategic needs in Australia, which had been based on the United States alliance, were then placed in some sort of doubt. I think it quite proper that the United States of America should say to us: ‘You must help yourselves’. How do we help ourselves? That is the problem of the White Paper.
The problem exists as to whether we can become on the one hand a Fortress Australia- I think that unfortunately I was the author of that phrase- or have a forward defence plan which is now being abandoned. Perhaps in this context we should examine seriously whether we should leave 2 squadrons of Mirage aircraft in Butterworth because once we abandon the forward defence policy we should automatically withdraw the Royal Australian Air Force presence from Butterworth and bring it back to Australia. But there is a strategic need for consideration to be given to that point. But there is also another need because when we bring 2 Mirage squadrons and their attendant support systems back to Australia we cannot house them. I think that is the real reason for the Mirage squadron and the RAAF presence still to exist in Butterworth. If we brought these 2 squadrons back to Australia we would have no place to put them, so it is a money problem. The whole of this defence paper is based on a money problem, as Senator Wriedt has said.
What the White Paper suggests in rather imprecise terms, or carefully guarded terms, is that we have abandoned the forward defence concept for Australia. We have the problem of the defence of this continental island of Australia and we cannot live without being able to discharge our exports and earn money. In other words, we have to have an ability to be able to allow the commerce of Australia to move freely across the seas and through the narrow straits. So the thrust of the White Paper is this: First of all, there has to be an increase m naval power. Again that presents problems. On the one hand the protection of narrow waters and the protection of commerce requires one type of ship. On the other hand we are involved in the northwest Indian Ocean where there is an enormous concentration of Russian strategic influence. We must bring oil supplies through that area. If we cannot bring oil from the Arabian Gulf we will have to bring it from Indonesia. So we have to have another type of ship involved in strategy as distinct from tactics. I think the White Paper makes this reasonably clear, though in imprecise terms. It states, in the relevant parts, that there should be short steaming capacity in the Navy- that there should be light vessels to deal with the problems mentioned by Senator Wriedt concerning the protection of fisheries, coastal trade and so on. But a second problem is involved; that is, the strategic capacity of the Navy. It has to have larger ships and these ships are very expensive. As Senator Wriedt has said, it throws in doubt the problem of air power in the context of the Royal Australian Navy. That problem has to be solved.
Another problem also exists- I would describe it as maritime power- and that is the Navy and the land-based aircraft service acting in conjunction. We have to be able to command the narrow straits that lie to the north of Australia. Through the Torres Straits, for example, something like 210 vessels a year pass carrying Australian produce to the north. So I assume that we have a right in the Australian context to say that we have to protect our trade routes from northern Australia, from Western Australia through the Torres Straits to the Arafura Sea and so on. We have that problem also.
Again we have the problem of what is to happen to the Australian Army. What is its function? Is it the Australian Army’s function, for example, to repel sporadic raids? Let us assume that it is. I do not believe that the war of the future in Australia’s defence will be anything like the war from 1942-1945- the Japanese war. The Australian Army must be able to move freely inside Australia. I remember a speech Senator Bishop made some years ago in this regard. How does the Australian Army move? Senator Carrick will remember when a Senate committee sat to examine the problem of the Australian Army. One of the questions that arose was: How do we move the Australian Army inside Australia. This is not an easy problem to solve. The White Paper does not deal with this aspect. For example,
Australia has 2 climates: It has a wet winter climate in the south and a tropical summer in the north. Whereas in the southern area, which is fairly highly developed, we can move armed forces, the support systems and the RAAF one way or the other, in the north we can find ourselves in the extraordinary position that in the same period in the same season we cannot move forces north of the Tropic of Capricorn. I am sure that Senator Carrick will recollect this problem. Taking a suppositious case, if a regimental combat team had landed in the Wyndham area, it would take in the vicinity of 3 months to move a land-based force from southern Australia to be able to deal with it because we have no airports in that region capable of taking the transport aircraft that one would wish to use to transport our troops. These are the kinds of difficulties confronting us.
When we talk about Fortress Australia, we have to be able to move inside the fortress which, I suggest, is something that honourable senators opposite have never looked at. It is very glib to fight wars and make defence postures on paper. The harsh realities of the defence of the country are involved in what the Americans call logisticsa term which everyone uses this day. Only a few weeks ago honourable senators and members from another place were invited to attend an exercise known as Kangaroo II. It was the first divisional exercise since 1945 in which men were on the ground, aircraft were used and naval ships were operating. I was attendant upon that exercise and I do not intend to make any observations about the exercise except in one respect because, basically, it was a training exercise to find out whether command structure would work effectively and efficiently. But the interesting thing about that exercise was that in the Australian defence efforts which Kangaroo II demonstrated were some serious deficiencies. First of all, in order to simulate an attack by a sporadic raid on the Australian coast we had to obtain from the United States of America a force to represent a regimental combat team. We had nothing in Australia that was the equivalent of that marine combat team. We had no landing craft of any validity or value in that respect. We did not have the equivalent of troops who could land across beaches. So we had a United States marine regimental combat team to produce that portion of the exercise, with its vertical take-off and landing aircraft, its cover coming from the vast resources of the nuclear carrier Enterprise, and so on. In order to flesh out the exercise, we had to put in what was known as a notional division, that is to say, an Australian division on paper. In the course of this exercise, this paper division was moved here and there by the umpires to confuse the defenders, who were the Australians. Finally, we had one brigade group that had been gathered together to represent the Australian defence effort.
Do not let me for a solitary moment convey the impression that I despised the efforts of the Australian brigade group that was operating that exercise. They were first class soldiers, well trained, and cheerful in adversity. Indeed, they were involved in adversity. One night, I remember, when an artillery regiment had to move up, the country just became a bog. No tractors could move the guns and for 9 hours the artillerymen manhandled their guns into the position which they were supposed to be and in which in fact they did put their guns down. Within the limits of the Australian military resources, I felt extraordinarily proud to watch these Australian soldiers. I could not see the airmen because they were up in the air. I could not see the seamen because they were out at sea. But I have no doubt that there was an esprit de corps and a determination at all levels to do a good job. I felt heartened to think that I was seeing another generation of young Australians, both officers and other ranks, who were accepting the obligations of defence and citizenship of this country.
Having said that, Mr President, let me go on to point out the problem. I was an experienced soldier at one stage of my life, so I asked what was the logistical capacity to support this exercise. I was told what the tonnage was. I said: ‘But if this were reality and not an exercise, what tonnage would be required to support the defence effort that this exercise represents?’ I was told. I said: There is not the capacity in this area to produce that logistical support system. The roads will not carry it. The railway system is not capable of doing it’. So, this becomes a problem. These are the options and strategic difficulties with which the White Paper does not deal.
The defence of Australia is an extraordinarily difficult problem. The White Paper makes it clear that the priority goes on naval and maritime defence. I agree with that. It makes the air defence structure the second priority or gives it equal priority to naval defence. But wars are not won by navies and by air forces. In the final analysis, the defence of a country rests on that unfortunate man, the infantryman, who moves on to the enemy’s area on his flat feet- as Senator Bishop did on another occasion at another time. It is the Army that is the poor relation of the Australian defence structure at the moment.
What worries me almost to distraction is that we have a morality in this country at present which leads to the belief that someone will come to our aid. I do not believe that anyone will come to our aid until we can demonstrate a capacity and a willingness, together with an acceptance of the moral obligation that we have to defend our country. A further moral problem in Australia concerns the belief that when an enemy does appear the problem can be solved by people going down to the beach and waving palm fronds, one of the simple and traditional methods of illustrating that one is not an enemy but a peace lover. In fact, the United Nations surrounds its insignia with palm leaves. Having witnessed the United Nations in operation for a long time, I do not believe that the palm leaves around the insignia of the United Nations indicate peace; rather the United Nations in a substantial degree tends to be the birthplace of wars.
So, the White Paper is not a suitable White Paper. It has been carefully edited. It does not state clearly what are the problems. It does not state clearly the cost which will confront this country. The armed forces to a substantial degree have been stripped of all their capacity in order to provide social services of one sort or another. This is what happened in Great Britain. There is hardly a defence force left in Great Britain as a result of its economic condition; the armed forces there have been reduced to almost nothing. I do not believe that there is any more fat left to be cut out of the armed forces of Australia. I believe that the Australian people must make up their minds on this matter. They must understand that they are alone in this world. They have no friends. They have to hold this country and eventually they will have to fight to hold this country. Any nation which abdicates the responsibility to defend its own homeland deserves to lose the homeland that it refuses to protect.
– Order! The honourable senator’s time has expired. Honourable senators, at the conclusion of his speech, the Leader of the Opposition, Senator Wriedt, moved that the paper under debate be referred to the Joint Committee on Defence and Foreign Affairs. I have studied the motion. I rule now that it must be dealt with as an amendment to the motion before the Chair, which is that the Senate take note of this paper. With the concurrence of Senator Wriedt, his proposed motion will be dealt with as an amendment, that is, seeking to add words to the motion.
-Mr President, I am sure that we are all distressed to learn that Senator Sir Magnus Cormack finds the White Paper which his Government has produced on defence to be unsatisfactory. I am afraid that I would not be able to compete with him in knowledge of military matters and discuss some of these technical subjects that he has raised. My military experience was limited to 3 years as a private in the Perth Modern School senior cadet detachment, at the end of which the best that could be said was that I had not been demoted. In the last year of that training, I belonged to a squad which was known as the Vickers squad. We learnt how to operate a Vickers gun. Immediately after the completion of the course it was announced that the Vickers gun had been made obsolete and would no longer be used by the Australian Army. This tended to give me, at a rather early age, a certain lack of faith in the military mind.
As Senator Wriedt has said, when we are debating defence, there are 2 matters which must be considered. One is the technical aspects of defence itself. The other concerns the foreign policy ramifications of defence. For the reasons that I have already stated and because Senator Wriedt has already dealt with them- no doubt some other speaker will deal with those matters also- I propose to confine myself to the foreign policy implications of this White Paper. I must say from the very beginning how encouraging it is, on the one hand, to see produced this document which completely repudiates 25 years of Liberal Party policy. But, on the other hand, I must say how disconcerting it is to find really no explanation why there has been this dramatic change.
I live in the electorate of Curtin in Western Australia. Two of the members who have represented that electorate were at various times members of the ministry of this country. One of them became a Governor-General of this country. I well remember that when that member who became Governor-General held the seat of Curtin the 1950s and 1960s every week just before any Federal polling day I used to find a pamphlet in my letter box. The pamphlet had a map on it. It was always the same map. It always showed red arrows coming down from China directed at the Nedlands golf club. The message which was conveyed by the pamphlet was that there was a world-wide Communist conspiracy centred either in Peking or Moscow- it was not quite clear where it was centred, but from the map it seemed to be centred in Peking- and that the communists were coming down and had one goal in mind, which was to take away all those valued possessions which we were enjoying. They were coming down through Indonesia, the
Philippines and Indo-China and were trying to get down into Penh. It is interesting when one reads the White Paper which we now have before us to find that this idea apparently has been quite blithely abandoned- one might even say abandoned in a cavalier fashion if it were not for the fact that the Minister for Defence has such a round head.
What does this document say about international communism? In paragraph 2 of chapter 1 it refers to the fact that Britain is no longer able to defend us- something of which I think all of us have been aware since the Second World Warand it goes on to say in paragraph 5 that changes have occurred in the communist world. It reads:
While possessing massive military power, the U.S.S.R. has long ceased to command the undisputed political preeminence and leadership it enjoyed in earlier years. The communist movement is still a potent international force; but it is not the monolith that so concerned Western leaders in the earlier post- War era.
It is interesting to note that the Government now talks about ‘the earlier post- War era’ because during the enure period of the Vietnam war we were told that there was a monolithic communist movement and that the reason we had to send troops to Vietnam was because of the monolithic communist movement. In fact, Senator Sir Magnus Cormack told us tonight that the U.S.S.R. follows the doctrines of Clausewitz that war is diplomacy carried on by other methods. I should have thought that there would have been some other countries which subscribed to that doctrine, not just the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. It seemed to be a little unfair to pick it out from all the other countries which have engaged in war from time to time. He told us that the U.S.S.R. was the country which organised the war in Vietnam and which benefited from the subsequent victory of the national liberation movement in Vietnam, which was in fact composed of the overwhelming majority of the people of Vietnam. It is rather strange that he has not said that China was responsible for what happened in Vietnam because, as I understood the map that Sir Paul Hasluck used to send to me and what we were told in the Parliament, the Chinese were coming- not the Russians. I know that the Russians were coming, but they were not coming quite as fast or quite as hard as the Chinese. But apparently now the Chinese really had very little to do with the matter. In fact, the reference which is made to this matter in paragraph 6 of chapter 1 of this rather extraordinary White Paper reads:
In particular there has been a major re-assessment of China.
The document does not say by whom this major re-assessment has been made. Members of the Australian Labor Party have always said that we ought to have diplomatic relations with China, that it ought to be admitted to the United Nations, that we ought to seek peace with China and that we ought to seek trade with China. I can well remember that for many years members of the Australian Labor Party were accused of being unpatriotic, subversive and traitors to this country because we advocated the policies towards China which have now been accepted by this Government without one word of explanation- just a limp little sentence which reads:
In particular there has been a major re-assessment of China.
After all that brouhaha and after sending 400 young Australians to be killed, all the Government can tell us is that someone- unspecifiedhas made a major re-assessment of China. The White Paper continues:
China’s earlier isolation has been modified . . .
By whom was it modified? China’s earlier isolation was modified by the Australian Labor Government when we entered into diplomatic relations with China and when, although we were not members at that stage, we supported the admission of China to the United Nations. We were the people who modified China’s earlier isolation. Had it been left to honourable senators opposite and had there been people in the United States of America, Great Britain and France who were as silly as they are, China would still be isolated. God knows where we would be today if China was still as isolated as honourable senators opposite tonight would have liked to have kept ner. The White Paper states:
China’s earlier isolation has been modified and it has entered into widespread relations with other governments. It plays an important role in world affairs. We welcome the opportunity to develop our relations with China; but we recognise the important differences in our political attitude.
That is at least something. Something is left of those grand old days when we all had to put our rifles to our shoulders and go off and fight. We have some political differences. They are just the same sort of political differences as the Liberal Party has with the Country Party, but they are nothing in relation to which anything more serious should be done than to deny each other one’s preferences in an election in Western Australia.
What else does this White Paper say? Let us deal with the situation in Vietnam. One should have thought, after all those years of slander directed against the Australian Labor Party because of its policies on Vietnam, that for the first time from this Government, back in office after the debacle in Vietnam, there would have been some explanation of what had happened in Vietnam; what was the change; what had occurred; what was the explanation for sending troops there then and pulling them out only to see the whole thing go down the drain and the people of Vietnam take over their own country, as they should have done 30 years previously? But what has the Government said? The White Paper states:
Vietnam has been unified under the Government of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. Communist governments have likewise been established in Laos and Kampuchea.
The Government has even gone so far as to no longer call it Cambodia; it is now Kampuchea, the Government now having linked so far with the Third World. The White Paper continues:
Tentative steps have been taken towards the establishment of relationships with the ASEAN governments, but, given the basic political differences, many uncertainties persist about future development.
They are now only ‘uncertainties’. A few years ago they were as clear as the Ten Commandments. One had to go up there and kill. But no explanation has been offered. No. It happened; it is over. The Government is virtually saying: ‘We have included a little paragraph here. We have thought about it. It has all changed ‘.
One comes then to the situation in the U.S.S.R. One of the features of conservatism in Australia is that one always has to find some enemy who is coming down to threaten Australia. It is a rather more bloodthirsty version of the old Roman doctrine of bread and circuses, although there is not too much bread but there might be a few circuses.. One always has an enemy. The Boxer rebels were going to get us in the 1890s, so Australian troops had to be sent off to China. The Boers were causing terrible trouble in the Transvaal and the Orange Free State so Australians went there. We were in the First World War. We would have gone to Suez if the war had lasted long enough. We were involved in other wars in which we should have been involved because we were under threat. Then we were involved in Vietnam. But there is still an enemy lurking. There has to be an enemy lurking. We find that enemy in paragraphs 1 1 and 12. Paragraph 1 1 reads:
A most significant event has been the massive build-up undertaken by the U.S.S.R. in both its nuclear and conventional armaments. The U.S.S.R. has achieved essential nuclear strategic equivalents with the U.S. and competes with the U.S. as a global power.
Why says so? I would recommend to supporters of the Government that they peruse some of the recent very well informed statements of one of the Democratic members- probably the best informed Democratic member- of the United States House of Representatives Committee on the Armed Services. I refer to Representative Aspin from Wisconsin. There they will see a very detailed analysis based on proper intelligence, not just a bit of off-the-cuff stuff like we have in this White Paper, about the relative strength of the U.S.S.R. and the U.S.A. I think that honourable senators will find that what Representative Aspin puts forward- he has not been contradicted- shows quite the contrary, that is, that the U.S.A. still has overwhelming preponderance over the Soviet Union in both nuclear and conventional weapons. In saying this I am not here as any sort of apologist for the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union has itself to blame for its actions in Czechoslovakia and Hungary, and its lunatic meddling in the Middle East where not only has it been immoral but also incompetent and has finished up without a single friend anywhere in the Middle East after having antagonised everybody and having been the original country to move the resolution in the United Nations, it having been moved by Mr Gromyko, that Israel ought to be established. But the U.S.S.R. has blown the whole thing, not because it has any great humanity but because it is rather silly itself.
Great power has never improved anybody and I think the present people who occupy high positions in the Soviet Union are living embodiments of that adage. I am not here to say that they are admirable people or that they would not try to clobber someone if they thought they could get away with it. What I am saying is that if we make a systematic analysis of the relative strengths of the U.S.S.R. and the U.S.A. we find that the U.S.A. is overwhelmingly more powerful than the U.S.S.R.
The authors of the White Paper on defence go on and turn to the Indian Ocean. They come back to this new threat which is the threat of the Soviet Union. They say in paragraphs 15 and 16 of chapter 2 of the White Paper:
Littoral states on the Indian Ocean have varying relationships with the Super Powers.
They have even adopted Maoist terminology. They are now talking about the ‘Super Powers’. It is remarkable. Once you only used to be able to read this language in Vanguard. Now you read it in a White Paper from the Minister for Defence. The White Paper continues:
These are a function of national strategic situations and are a matter for national discretion. Significant extension of Super Power Activity,
Capital letters are used for the words ‘Super Power’- however, can exercise a powerful influence on the strategic circumstances of nations in a region.
That is perfectly true. No one could dispute that statement. The Paper continues:
Arms supply and other support can heighten regional confrontation and destabilise the military balance;
What the authors are saying, if I can understand what is being said, is that arms should be kept out of the area because the more arms that go into the area the more unstable the area becomes and the greater the chance of there being some sort of conflagration. I think that is what they are saying. If they are not saying that, I do not know what they are saying and perhaps somebody else will explain it to me. They continue: it can attract competition and confrontation from the other Super Power; regional states can be drawn into these rivalries. Short of such major developments, the U.S.S.R. could seek and gain local access for its military deployments, enabling it to exert direct pressure on local political developments.
I do not have the slightest doubt that the U.S.S.R. would like to do precisely that. Of course it would like to influence developments in those areas. Of course it would like to build up its military strength in the Indian Ocean. The leaders of the U.S.S.R. are not angels; they would love to do it. If they could do a Czechoslovakia on Somalia they would do it without batting an eyelid. But they cannot do it and so they do not do it. But they would love to do that and we are aware of it. What are the facts? Are they doing it?
The Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence brought down a report on this matter. What was the decision that it came to? It came to the decision that there was no threat to Australia from a Soviet presence in the Indian Ocean. There is a Soviet presence in the Indian Ocean; there is no doubt about that. The Soviets are in Berbera. But what that bipartisan or tripartisan committee with a majority of Government members on it recommendedSenator Sim is its chairman and I think he will be speaking later- was that there was no substantial Soviet threat to Australia which would necessitate any cause for alarm in this country. Paragraph 1 6 of chapter 2 of the White Paper states:
The Australian interest is that these developments be avoided in the Indian Ocean littoral. The ability of the U.S. to match the U.S.S.R. and establish a restraining influence is important. For this reason, we support the present U.S. program for modest development of the facilities at Diego Garcia -
I emphasise the words ‘modest development’ - which will enhance the operational capability of the U.S. Navy. But we would wish to see the Super Powers exercise restraint in their activities so that their deployments may be maintained at the lowest practicable level.
What humbug that is, Mr President. Once you have the U.S., in opposition to the democratic majority in the U.S. Senate, if it were to take the advice of this Government, establish what are euphemistically described here as some modest installations in Diego Garcia, that would be the surest way of ensuring that the Soviet Union would be in the Indian Ocean as well. After all this discussion about the super powers that we have in this document, does anybody seriously believe that one super power can go into the Indian Ocean in the way in which the U.S. has already gone-through its installations at North West Cape for example, which this Government wants it to add to by establishing a base in Diego Garcia- without inviting the Soviet Union to come into the Indian Ocean? The Indian Ocean is no more the property of the U.S. than it is of the Soviet Union. It is closer to the Soviet Union than it is to the U.S. If the U.S. is to be brought into the Indian Ocean then, as night follows day, the Soviet Union is going to build up its resources and seek to do those things which are deplored here- influence governments along the littoral of the Indian Ocean. It will do so because the U.S. will be there. It will be completely entitled to do it because it would be in self defence that they would be doing it.
What do we say about this? We say we ought to follow the sort of policies put forward by the Indian Government which have been supported by the Government of Sri Lanka; that is, that all the super powers should get out of the Indian Ocean. Neither the Soviet Union, the U.S. nor anybody else should be allowed in there. Of course, if we were to give our support to countries such as India and Tanzania that is an end which it would be possible for us to achieve. This could be the beginning of a worldwide agreement on the elimination of armed forces.
The Indian Ocean is not within the immediate range of interest of either the U.S. or the Soviet Union. It would be very difficult to talk about getting the super powers out of the Atlantic or the Mediterranean or the north Pacific, but it is completely feasible to talk about getting the super powers out of the Indian Ocean. Proposals have been made by neighbouring governments that we should do this and the Australian Government has rejected them. It says there is no longer any world communist threat. It has some minor political differences with the Chinese and the Russians are not as good as they might be, but despite having said all this the Government still carries on with the same old slogans, the same old ideology that caused us so much heartbreak through the 1950s and the 1960s. It is still inviting the Americans to come in. It is still inviting the two super powers to build up a conflagration of some sort around the shores of the Indian Ocean.
I would like to refer to one other rather odd thing. Having made these various suggestions as to what might happen and what could happen, having referred to what Clausewitz said or what Kruschev said- as Senator Sir Magnus Cormack has been reminding us- and having stated what might be the ideology of the Soviet Communist Party or the Chinese or somebody else, we then find reference to Indonesia in paragraphs 37 to 40 of chapter 2 of the White Paper. I do not want to read all this but it starts off on this happy note:
Friendly relations between Australia and its major neighbour Indonesia have prevailed for 30 years . . .
Apparently the Government has forgotten all about confrontation when, under a previous Liberal-Country Party Government, we were sending troops to Malaya because of the confrontation. That has all vanished. The more one watches politicians of a number of different persuasions the more one sees the force of those prophecies made by George Orwell concerning newspeak’ and the re-writing of history. We are told that friendly relations have prevailed for 30 years and that we have ‘successfully weathered’ occasional sharp differences. If they were sharp differences I would hate to see a war. The White Paper continues:
The substantial considerations sustaining basic accord between the two countries have long been understood and acknowledged in Australian policy.
The White Paper goes on about the Indonesian archipelago and Papua New Guinea. There are 4 paragraphs on this area. There is not one mention of what has just happened in East Timor. In East Timor there has not been aggression in the mind of someone, or the thought that aggression might take place because Karl Marx said so or Clausewitz said so. Aggression has taken place there under our very noses. The Indonesian Government ruthlessly, cynically and brutally invaded a neighbouring country and at the very least killed tens of thousands of its inhabitants. If this White Paper were meant to be some sort of examination in depth of the defence problems which face this country at present I would have hoped that there might have been some consideration given to the dramatic change which has taken place in Indonesian foreign policy. For years, including all the time under the much maligned Sukarno, Indonesian policy with regard to what it claimed constituted Indonesian territory was that the territory of the Republic of Indonesia was co-extensive with the former territory of the Netherlands East Indies- no more and no less. The Indonesians made their claim to West Irian, formerly Netherlands New Guinea, which the Dutch did not transfer to them as they agreed to do at the time of the treaties in the late 1940s. The Indonesian claim was based solely on the juridical proposition that the former Netherlands East Indies constituted the Republic of Indonesia. The Indonesian Government with which we have these friendly relations, despite occasional sharp differences which are not specified, has forcibly incorporated East Timor, and by all accounts it was against the will of its people. I was in the country a few years before the Indonesians invaded the place and I detected no desire on the part of anybody there to become part of Indonesia. The Indonesians invaded Timor and forcibly incorporated it. This showed a completely new attitude by the Indonesians as to what ought to constitute Indonesian territory. Indonesia has incorporated the other part of an island which it shared with the Portuguese until a couple of years ago. It had never claimed that part of the island. Seeing that we have been talking about Clausewitz and the world communist conspiracy I shall raise a matter. I hope it will not be on too gloomy a note. If the present Indonesian Government feels that it can claim half of one island because that island is shared with the Indonesians through their occupation of another half of that island, what would be inconsistent about their making precisely the same claim to another island?
– Papua New Guinea?
-Precisely; I mean the island of Papua New Guinea. If they can claim that former Portuguese East Timor ought to be incorporated into the Republic of Indonesia, why cannot the Indonesians also claim that Papua New Guinea should be incorporated into Indonesia? They have never made that claim but they never made the claim about East Timor until the very day they invaded it. That is the first time that we knew Indonesia had a claim. I do not believe that we ought to be sabre-rattling against Indonesia. But when we are looking at the issues which confront Australian defence, instead of talking about what might have happened in Peking we ought to be looking at what actually has happened. We have seen what has happened right next to us, namely, the forcible occupation of a neighbouring territory h is only a few hundred miles from the coast of Australia. That territory is not even mentioned in this defence White Paper.
Australia occupies a huge area and has a small population. I was reminded just recently that the population of this country is really quite microscopic. An area from Chicago, up to Milwaukee and to the north of Wisconsin where I happened to be travelling only a few weeks ago- a few hundred miles- has a greater population than the whole of Australia. We are spread across an area as great as that of the continental United States, exclusive of Alaska. We have great areas across to the north of our .country which are almost indefensible. The best means Australia has of defence is not by buying arms, not by buying cruisers, not by talking about having atomic bombs, but by its foreign policy. That is our best means of defence. I do not say that as a pacifist. I do not say that as somebody who believes that we should not have armaments at all. I believe we should have a sufficiently large strike force to be able to come to the assistance of the inhabitants of Papua New Guinea, for example, were they to be attacked. But to talk in these terms about Australia as if it were a super power or as if we ought to be part of some arrangements with super powers which would bring them into the part of the world in which we live, could be disastrous for this country. The only way in which we can secure our defence is by our foreign policy, by taking steps to see that the super powers are not in the Indian Ocean, whatever may happen with Indonesia.
The greatest chances of conflagration of a major nature will come because of disputes between super powers. We ought to be working for regional arrangements whereby the people in our part of the world- that is South East Asia and the Indian Ocean- are able to determine their own affairs without military interference from any other country, whatever it is. That is the surest path to peace and the defence of Australia. And that is the policy for which the Australian Labor Party stands.
– I support the White Paper on defence. It is a most important document. I have been interested, as I am sure all of us have been, in listening to Senator Wheeldon tonight. In his usual eloquent manner he talked mainly about the super powers and the possibility of conflagration between the super powers. Of course, I do not think that that has any great relevance at all to the defence of Australia. It is perfectly obvious that if this world ever gets to the point where there is a conflagration between the super powers- that description is not only used in the defence White Paper but also it is commonly used in the Daily Mirror and the Press around Australia- then Australia’s hopes of survival lie purely and simply in its capacity over the years to impress its more powerful allies that it is a place which is worth saving. So I think that a concentration on a possible massive conflict between the super powers is somewhat unnecessary in the terms of this debate. I do not know that I should call it a debate. I hope that it is a responsible discussion because we are talking about probably the most important thing with which all of us can be concerned, namely, the security of this country and the people and the way of life which happens to be Australian. That is what this discussion is about.
Earlier tonight in this debate Senator Wriedt spoke with, I felt, a general acceptance of the responsibility of the White Paper on defence. He mentioned that he felt that there was a lack of adequate detail in some areas. I am sure that that is a point of view held by all of us. But I think it is a point of view which has to be looked at in the context of defence itself. Defence is an extraordinarily sensitive area. To express oneself in a White Paper or in any other document or context in extraordinary detail is a most difficult and dangerous procedure. If, indeed, there is an area of criticism about the lack of detail, I believe it is because defence, whether it be in Australia or in any other country, is a sensitive subject which one does not shout from the housetops. Senator Wriedt also mentioned that the things that need to be done may not be financially possible. That is a statement with which none of us would disagree. The extraordinarily important thing is that we recognise the matters which have number one priority in the context of Australian defence and go to the very limit of our financial capacity to bring those things about as quickly as possible.
Senator Wheeldon said it appeared that the concern at international communism had been abandoned. I do not believe that that is a true statement. I believe there is a measure of concern around the world in many continents at international communism. The concern is that that sort of international communism should, in fact, have taken the place of the economic imperialism which has been the circumstance of the history of the last 200 years. It is not a step in the right direction because it is, in essence and ultimately, another form of colonialism or imperialism- call it what you will. In the last 150 years we have largely moved away from that area of economic imperialism and from the days of colonialism with all the aspersions made over the years referable to that circumstance. I believe a danger still exists in the world and that we could be moving from a problem of economic imperialism to a problem of continuing- if not always at a high point- international communism.
It is interesting to note that Senator Wheeldon felt that the capacity of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics was so infinitely below the capacity of the United States of America. That does not seem to be the sort of evidence which many of us including at times, I believe, Senator Wheeldon, have heard. There is not the evidence to suggest that the U.S.S.R. military, naval and air capacity is so far below that of the United States of America. Indeed, Senator Wheeldon put the interesting proposition that, rather than seeking a matching presence in the Indian Ocean between the super-powers it would be far better if those super-powers abandoned any form of presence in the Indian Ocean. Of course, on the surface no one would argue with that proposition. But where is the guarantee that if the super-powers, with their present relatively small capacities there, move out of the Indian Ocean the other littoral States around the Indian Ocean will not involve themselves in a constant and continuing conflict? I can see no logical reason why it should be assumed that if the superpowers withdrew from the Indian Ocean there would then be a sea of peace because there would then be no other navies- and there are significant navies and air forces and also nuclear capacities- around the Indian Ocean. Senator Wheeldon feels, I am sure, that there would be no reason to assume that any of those navies or air forces would involve themselves in conflict. I do not believe that that would be so, and I tend to the view that in the foreseeable future the best security of this country and of many of the littoral States of the Indian Ocean lies in their capacity to ensure that there is a measure of matching power in the Indian Ocean between the super-powers at a low level.
Having made those few points, let me deal in general terms with the White Paper which is under discussion. I believe that the Paper is important, and probably a measure of congratulations is due to the Government and to the Minister for Defence (Mr Killen) for having brought down this responsible analysis of the possible commitments of Australia in relation to defence and her capacity to meet them. There has been a need for such an analysis in this country for a long time. It was essential that we should have sought to assess those areas which are areas of possible menace to this country and that we should have sought to assess and analyse the method by which we could best approach a capacity to resist those attacks which in some ways might appear to be real possibilities. The White Paper devotes considerable space to a discussion of the manpower, equipment and training that is necessary in the context of the Australian economy to produce that capacity. Our economy certainly is a restraining influence on our capacity to build up our defence forces. For instance, we have not sought to do what I understand the Soviet Union nas done. It has raised something in the vicinity of $36 billion worth of long-term loan money in the Soviet Union for capital and consumer goods. This has enabled the Soviet Union to devote enormous amounts of its capacity to the production of aircraft and tanks and to the training of soldiers. We have not been able to do that sort of thing. Indeed, we have not sought to do it, and I believe it is important that we remember that.
The debate tonight, which concerns the security of this country, should be accorded the highest level of importance and the highest level of discussion in this country. (Quorum formed.) Mr President, I was saying that because this debate concerns the security of the nation it is a matter of absolute and maximum importance. It is somewhat ironical, I believe, that to a free people security is a much more difficult thing with which to come to grips than it is to a people of a totalitarian type state, and whether it is fascist or communist is of no moment at all. Somewhat ironically, security seems to be a much more difficult matter about which to convince ourselves and the free people around the world than it is to convince people in a totalitarian nation where security is simply imposed. It is for us as free people to understand the necessity for security and the sort of effort that we must make to give us a reasonable and responsible measure of it.
Let us consider for a moment the Australian situation. Australia is a remote and massive island continent and, situated as it is, it has probably found itself in the last 10 or 15 years to be more isolated in one sense than ever before in its history. It is isolated in the sense that Great Britain has withdrawn from its position east of Suez. For all the criticism that has been directed at her over the years, Britain has been in real measure a stabilising force in this part of the world and her sudden total withdrawal has increased the responsibility which falls on Australians to look to their own security and to be prepared within reason to defend themselves. Likewise, the economic imperialists- the colonialists, if you like- have also withdrawn from the South East Asian area. I am not saying that that is a bad thing. All I am saying is that it clearly demonstrates to free Australians that they have a greater responsibility than ever before to recognise the sorts of threats and problems that can confront them. They have to recognise that in that situation they are on many occasions likely to be largely by themselves. It is most important that we recognise that fact in terms of Australian security.
The concept of forward defence has been mentioned once or twice tonight. Indeed, as we find ourselves today in this part of the world, we can see forward defence only in terms of going to the aid of our immediate neighbours. Through the passage of time, and because of the circumstances that have occurred in South-East Asia in particular in the last 10 or 15 years, we have a situation in which forward defence does not make the sort of sense that it did traditionally during the first 50 or 60 years of Australian Federation. During those years Australians fought on many occasions- in Korea, in the Middle East, in western Europe, in South Africa and in other areas- and they did it as a measure of forward defence. They were able to fight for the causes which they believed were right in areas far beyond their homeland and in terms of devastation and destruction I suppose that they were relatively fortunate. Regrettably, today that is not the situation. Today we are not likely to have the privilege- if it is a privilege to fight anywhere and I doubt that it is-to fight in somebody else’s backyard. From this point on, if the ravages, destruction and disaster of war apply to Australia they may well apply to Australia’s homeland.
– And in Australia
-And in Australia. I go on now to make one or two more references to the White Paper itself because that is the matter we are basically discussing tonight. I believe that the significance of this Paper is purely that it brings out clearly the sort of problems that could confront this country and demonstrates reasonably clearly the sort of moves which we should make to establish a capacity to defend ourselves against those threats. The White Paper forms an ideal background for discussion for all Australians and if the detail of the White Paper, which is sometimes decried as being deficient, makes Australians aware- I repeat the word aware’- of the sort of circumstances that surround this country, if it makes Australians prepared to think about the realities that confront them, it has done a worthwhile job. It may even go so far as to help to create a form of national enthusiasm, a national enthusiasm not for war but for an understanding of Australia’s circumstances from the point of view of security, defence and our connections with our friends and allies here and in other places around the world. If this Paper through discussion has a capacity to arouse the nation to some sort of enthusiasm to understand and take action in defence and security areas then certainly it has served a worthwhile part.
It has been made clear in the Budget and in this Paper that financially we are committed to a $12 billion five-year rolling program in defence which is a significant step forward and has within it the basis of a continuing development of our defence capacity. In no other area is there a greater need to have the sort of confidence that comes from knowing that we are looking at our needs, that we are looking where we are going and that we have the deliberation to keep going on that path. This Paper also has made reference to the necessity for review and the necessity for flexibility in a defence and security policy, and how essential that is. I need hardly remind the Senate of the manner in which the world that we live in is shrinking or of the amazing and rapid technological growth of the last 10 or 20 years. Because the world is shrinking through communications and technological change there are likely to confront us problems that we never dreamed of 3 or 4 years ago and consequently the need for review and flexibility is an absolutely basic need in a defence policy.
The White Paper concerns itself with an equipment program for the near future at least and with establishing the urgency of selfreliance. More than that, it seeks to expose the major problems with which we could be confronted and which we must resist and repel. It draws attention to the fact that we have to look responsibly at what might be called low level attacks. Low level attacks raise the problem of defending ourselves against smugglers and against terrorists of whatever nature; of defending not only our sea lanes but also those seas in which we fish; of defending ourselves and our coastline against disease and the movement of people and animals which have no right to move on to the Australian mainland; and of defending ourselves against other obvious forms of low level attack. They are dangers which we should, must and can have the capacity to repel.
We must have a capacity to move to the aid of our immediate neighbours for if they were to find themselves in circumstances that were dangerous to them, those circumstances naturally would be dangerous to us. Though we have in large measure moved away from forward defence we must have a relative capacity and a determination to move to the aid of people who are close to us, people who are our neighbours and friends, should they be menaced from some direction. I draw the attention of honourable senators to the fact that unless we are capable of establishing and are determined to establish a responsible defence pattern and a responsible level of selfreliance we cannot expect greater friends and allies and mightier powers to come to our succour should there ever be- and God forbid that there ever will be- a massive conflagration around the world. Surely we as Australians have an absolute responsibility to examine those things that we can do within our financial capacity. We have an absolute responsibility to build the most effective defence capacity with a view to the jobs that it may have to do, not only in connection with low scale attack but also because we must appear to be and in fact be responsible in the eyes of other nations which perhaps believe largely in the same things and attitudes as we do.
We have to promote and emphasise the necessity to be able to deter an enemy. I must also make the point that to defend this continent, difficult though it be, is in a sense simpler because of its immensity, because it is a vast island continent which would take an immense force of immense capacity to invade. Consequently I suggest that the obvious and natural need for defence in the foreseeable future of this land must lie in a top priority being given to maritime and air strength strike and reconnaissance capacity. We must be looking surely to establish a force that can cut the sea lanes that would supply a potential enemy. We must be looking to a force that is highly mobile, that is well trained, well equipped, a force that can make sure that any potential enemy here would be unable to secure his lines of communication.
I take the point made so clearly and importantly by Senator Sir Magnus Cormack that difficulties also arise from within Australia because of the immensity of this land, because twothirds of it is arid or semi-arid country, because of a lack of roads and communications. That problem seems to suggest to me that we should be looking to establish around the northern, north-western and western coastlines of Australia a series of bases from which may operate long range patrol type craft with considerable hitting power. We should be looking to have a significant number of bases around that vast coastline- something like 7000 or 8000 miles of it just in that area. We should be looking to have reconnaissance aircraft and strike aircraft with that same capacity so that they are not dependent on crossing 1000 miles of desert but so that they can be supplied by sea and can, in fact, operate from points close to the area which they must survey and defend.
I draw my remarks to a close by saying once again that I believe this paper on defence, if it has done anything- I am sure it has- has proved to be a responsible approach to an extraordinarily important problem. It has indicated the sort of problems and threats that may confront Australia. It has indicated the most logical way in which those threats can be combated. I hopeperhaps this is more important than anythingthat it has generated amongst Australians a responsible discussion on the defence circumstance of this country, a determination for self-reliance, a determination to reproduce a national pride, a national determination in defence and, hopefully, across the board.
– I rise in this debate tonight to support the motion moved by the Leader of the Opposition, Senator Wriedt. I want firstly to deal with some remarks that were made this evening by Senator Sir Magnus Cormack. When he spoke of the Soviet threat he also mentioned the fact that he had seen a number of vessels going in and out of Bombay harbour recently. I think he would probably recall that I was with him on that occasion. However, earlier this year I was fortunate enough to visit the headquarters of CINCPAC which is the U.S. 7th Fleet headquarters in Hawaii. I certainly gained the impression there that the United States Navy places a very low priority on the Indian Ocean. Officers pointed out to me that they would be sending a task force into the Indian Ocean every 90 days as a perception of power, and purely as a perception of power. They also pointed out to me that whenever the Enterprise is in the Indian Ocean the balance of power- if one wants to use that expression- because of fire power is overwhelmingly in favour of the United States. In the briefing that I received the officers gave me the impression that they thought that if there were any major conflict in which the United States Navy was involved, that conflict would take place in the Atlantic Ocean. They said too that if there were another conflict it could take place in the Pacific Ocean, and also that as far as they were concerned there would be no conflict in the Indian Ocean. In fact they said that if a conflict took place in the Atlantic, both the Soviet Union and the United States would pull whatever ships they had out of the Indian Ocean and return them to the Atlantic.
The Minister for Defence (Mr Killen) has observed that the White Paper endeavours to lay the base for mature debate upon Australia’s new role in the world and also at the same time to encourage the development of a bipartisan approach to defence matters. By and large, I think this paper achieves these aims. I am sure all of us here would agree that these aims are desirable. The Opposition agrees that defence planning and our national defence posture should be an area for bipartisan effort. I should mention that as a member of the Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence, and of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence, I have been agreeably surprised in the period that I have been a senator at the bipartisan approach that has been shown. I have helped compile 3 reports: Australia and the Refugee Problem, an Interim Report on the Lebanon Crisis and Australia and the Indian Ocean. I think Senator Scott, the previous speaker, has served on all those inquiries. I see Senator Sim in the chamber. One afternoon in Melbourne he and I went through the draft of about 50 pages of the Indian Ocean report and then had that draft agreed to by our colleagues. As I have said, in the period that I have been here all the other joint committee reports have been unanimous.
I think one comment must be made after saying that in order to put the background of this White Paper into proper perspective, and that is simply that this White Paper was commissioned especially by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcom Fraser) who insisted on a more realistic assessment of our nation’s defence needs. But it in no way differs substantially from the documentary submissions put to Labor Defence Ministers Lance Barnard and Bill Morrison. They were criticised severely by the Liberal-Country Party Opposition in the period 1973 to 1975 for failures to perceive threats. In 1975 Bill Morrison’s submission was called unrealistic by the present Prime Minister but this White Paper that we are discussing tonight is not much different from the document that was put forward by Bill Morrison. In short, the basis for Labor’s defence programs of 1973 to 1975 have been shown to be realistic and quite sound, as was acknowledged by Senator Sir Magnus Cormack here tonight.
I am also pleased to be able to say that this White Paper has finally done away with the forward defence concept. It seems to offer reasonable recommendations for future defence planning. It places greater emphasis on self-reliance.
But the crucial consideration is cost. Some $ 12,000m is estimated to be the expenditure over the next 5 years. Almost certainly the cost will be well in excess of that amount because of inflation and devaluation. I have already read that one critic has said that devaluation will cost this program an additional $300m over the next 5 years. So I wonder what the end cost of this $12, 000m program will be.
I think we ought to look at the major components of this 5 year rolling program. Firstly, there is an estimate of approximately $500m for new fighter aircraft to replace the Mirage. I think that we have to ask ourselves as a Parliament what sort of aircraft we want. Do we want an offensive weapon or a defensive weapon? I know that there has been a lot of talk and speculation that Australia needs the F16 from the United States at a cost of approximately $ 17m each. But I also noticed the other day that the Israelis are producing a fighter, the KFIR C2, using a Mirage frame- a plane that we already have- at $4.2m each. This is something we have to look at seriously in the future. A sum of $150m is estimated for the FFG program, $60m for patrol boats and $30m for additional Hercules aircraft. There will also be heavy outlays for additional tanks, surveillance aircraft and a replacement ship for HMAS Supply. Recent purchases of defence equipment by the Government have included some $8m spent on acquiring the Australian Trader for the purposes of turning it into a training ship, and some $25m for the purchase of blind-fire radar tracking equipment and support material. This blind-fire tracking equipment is designed to complement the Rapier surfacetoair weapons system ordered by the Labor Government in late 1975. When one looks at the outlays of public moneys on this scale it is essential that we examine Australia’s defence needs. We have to bear in mind that Australia has a coastline over 20 000 kilometres in length. Therefore, it is a difficult country to defend. Traditionally, we have relied on our powerful friends to assist us in this effort. To a certain extent we continue to do so today. But as Senator Wheeldon said earlier tonight, the thing we must avoid is a super power buildup in the area.
It has been put to me on more than one occasion, and it has also been mentioned in the Senate of the United States of America by a member of the Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee of the U.S. Senate, Senator John Culver, that in evidence taken by the U.S. Committee it was shown that the U.S. had not criticised the Soviet’s buildup in Berbera as might have been expected for the simple reason that it did not want a public outcry until it had completed the facilities at Diego Garcia. No matter what we have to say about that now, because the United States took this low posture on the Soviet Union’s stance in Berbera, Diego Garcia as a base is practically completed and we do have a super power buildup in the Indian Ocean whether we like it or not. Both major political groupings in this country have realised the need for greater independence and self-reliance in defence planning. Certainly, this is borne out in the White Paper. I wish to quote from page 10 of the White Paper which states:
A primary requirement emerging from our findings is for increased self-reliance. In our contemporary circumstances we no longer base our policy on the expectations that Australia’s Navy, Army or Air Force will be sent abroad to fight as part of some other nation ‘s force supported by it.
I suppose that is a reference to the end of the Vietnam episode. It is not much of a reference to it in a White Paper report. In relation to the ANZUS pact, the White Paper reads, again on page 10:
Our alliance with the U.S. gives substantial grounds for confidence that in the event of a fundamental threat to Australia’s security United States military support would be forthcoming. However, even though our security may be ultimately dependent on U.S. support we owe it to ourselves to be able to mount a national defence effort that would maximise the risks and costs of any aggression.
I think it should be realised also that as far as defence planning is concerned a number of contingencies may arise in which Australia’s territorial integrity may be violated, although our security may not be put at fundamental risk. Some of these contingencies have been illustrated by a conservative defence commentator Brigadier F. V. Speed in an article entitled Australia: Defence Planners Teaser which was published in July 1976 in the Army Quarterly and Defence Journal. In this article Brigadier Speed draws attention to some potential problems in our defence operation. Among these are illegal fishing. Fishing boats from other nations, notably Taiwan, often intrude into Australian territorial waters. To counter such intrusions the Royal Australian Navy needs patrol boats. Currently there are 7 boats based in Cairns and Darwin to patrol that great expanse of ocean from our eastern to our western coastline and to protect Australia’s fishing grounds. The problem is likely to be increased in the not too distant future when Australia, as it seems likely, extends her territorial waters to a 200-mile limit as was mentioned in the debate early tonight by Senator Wriedt. This will take in vast off-shore sea-bed resources, especially oil and natural gas in the south-east coast between the mainland and Tasmania and also on the North- West Shelf. These areas will need to be protected. Again, Senator Wriedt spoke tonight of the need for a coastguard. No mention is made of this in the White Paper.
Another problem that has been mentioned by Senator Scott tonight-it was raised also by the Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence which dealt with a reference concerning the Indian Ocean region- is that of terrorism. While Australia has been singularly free of terrorism in recent years, there exists the danger of aircraft hijacking, of piracy or of terrorist incursion somewhere along Australia’s coastline. Finally, we must take into consideration the security of our most distant territories such as Cocos (Keeling) Islands and Christmas Island. I suppose it could also be said that Antarctica is another consideration. Perhaps that is something about which I should ask Senator Webster. All these areas are part of the Commonwealth of Australia. As part of the Commonwealth of Australia they demand that Australia’s defence forces be of such a capability as is required to ensure their defence in time of threat. These are the enormous demands placed on Australia’s defence forces by simple geographical circumstances.
I think this brings us to the vital question. That is the issue of threat and perceptions of threat. Early in its term of office the Fraser Government drew attention to the supposed threat that I have mentioned earlier posed by the Soviet naval presence in the Indian Ocean. This threat has no basis in reality. This has been amply demonstrated by the report of the Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence which dealt with the Indian Ocean region. The Soviet threat was a product of 2 elements in the thinking of this Government. Firstly, there was the obsession with Soviet military strength that characterises the thinking of both the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and the Minister for Defence (Mr Killen). Secondly, there seemed to be on the part of the Liberal Party of Australia a determination to find some diversion which would take the mind of the public away from domestic policies to foreign policies. In fact, there is much evidence to suggest that the Indian Ocean as an issue arose in Australia as a direct result of this Government’s desire to present the Court State Government in Western Australia with something which could be used once again to divert public attention away from that State’s administration. In relation to threats, we as members of the Australian Parliament should be prepared to say that we recognise that the world is uncertain and that there are patterns to international diplomacy and patterns to political developments within our region.
In the last couple of years we have seen ASEAN develop into a viable, constructive, progressive regional grouping which I believe functions effectively and efficiently. We have seen Papua New Guinea come to nationhood without the bloodshed that was promised by some members of the present Government and we have seen it do so with considerable international goodwill. Australia enjoys constructive and friendly relations with her nearest neighbours, at the moment. I certainly support Senator Wheeldon ‘s remarks when he said that in this White Paper there is no talk about the threats that could arise to Papua New Guinea from Indonesia. We enjoy extensive ties with most nations in the globe. Despite the Prime Minister’s best efforts, relations with the Soviet Union remain at least correct. I would like to quote from the report of the Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence when we dealt with this matter. We stated:
The Committee agrees that Australia’s best interests are not served if we are seen both regionally and globally to take sides in such issues as the Sino-Soviet dispute. Events of that nature are not of Australia’s making and we cannot expect to influence their outcome without prejudicing our relations with one or other of the disputants or with others.
As I have said, these relations with the Soviet Union are not as previously both under Labor governments and under Liberal-National Country Party governments as cordial or friendly as perhaps they should be. But at least we can say that at the present time they remain correct.
Relations with the U.S.A. and Western Europe are also of immense importance to Australia. But we should be at all times prepared to project the image of an independent, able and self-reliant nation prepared to engage in international and regional efforts to the benefit of other nations and to the benefit of ourselves. Our defence preparedness is a part of this effort. This defence White Paper that we are discussing tonight goes a fair way towards establishing those prerequisites for Australia to assume the role of an independent and capable power prepared to undertake its responsibilities both at a regional and at an international level. However, I believe that this White Paper that we have been discussing contains flaws other than those I have already mentioned. It does not mention at all the possibility of a limited regional conflict which I think is perhaps the biggest threat facing this country at the moment. It does not mention anything to do with the South Pacific area. We in the Opposition have serious reservations about the financial aspects concerning the $ 12,000m over the 5-year period which I have mentioned. I support the amendment to refer this matter to the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence.
– I think the Minister for Defence (Mr Killen) is to be commended on this most comprehensive defence statement. I think it is the most comprehensive defence statement ever presented to the Australian Parliament. In the past, defence has been treated by the Parliament as of rather small moment. The fact that governments have not seen fit to present comprehensive defence statements is, I think, more the fault of Parliament than of governments. I also must observe that often in the past defence statements have been based upon attitudes and ideology, rather than realistic assessments. I commend Senator Wriedt tonight for his speech with most of which I think Senator Sir Magnus Cormack and myself are in agreement. I also commend Senator Sibraa for his remarks. We are dealing with defence in a manner in which it should be dealt with.
Whether one agrees with all the assessments made in this White Paper, it does avoid the mistakes which sometimes occurred in the past of ideological comment, because in the final analysis what we are talking about when we speak of defence is the security of the nation. Security is first safeguarded by an effective foreign policy. For a foreign policy to be effective it requires a defence POliCY to support it. There has not been enough appreciation of the role that military forces play in international relations and the credibility that strong defence forces give a country’s diplomacy. This defence White Paper covers 4 elements of defence assessment: Intelligence, strategic policy, force structure and development and management. This break up into these 4 areas is welcomed as it provides some insight into the Government’s thinking on all these matters.
However, there are some comments I will make which I trust will be accepted in the spirit in which I make them. I do not make them as a criticism, but as a constructive attempt to further develop and improve defence debate in the Parliament and in the country. Perhaps my criticism would be better directed again at Parliament rather than at governments. In the past, Parliament has been happy to accept from governments of all political complexions at times rather sloppy statements. Certainly Parliament itself has not encouraged governments to provide more detailed analysis of its thinking within, of course, unclassified limits. I doubt whether any other parliament in the world would have accepted some of the assertions which have been made in the past and, I suggest, one or two which have been made in this White Paper, without challenge or comment.
I deal with only one or two of these matters as examples. The first to which I would draw attention is the statement contained in paragraph 29 at page 6 of the White Paper. It deals with South East Asia and states:
For a variety of reasons much will depend on how China, the closest of the external powers, decides to pursue its interests. It maintains its contact with the Maoists, and some support for dissident parties in the region, although currently at a subdued level. Chinese support for insurgencies in South East Asia appears now to be at a lower level than for many years.
One must ask whether in fact this is an accurate statement. Chinese support is being maintained for insurgency in Thailand and Burma. Whether it is at a much lower level, it is difficult to know, but certainly there is considerable support. So at least we must question the accuracy of that statement. I think it would have been helpful if, in support of that statement should it be accurate, the Government had analysed as to why this is so. I do not know whether we are being asked to accept the idea that perhaps there has been a change in the face of policy on the part of China. I am not too sure how to read the statements. I do not know whether it is suggested that China’s policy has changed and it no longer seeks to guide and support fraternal parties on a large scale. While China’s foreign policy may have altered in emphasis over recent years, I suggest there has never been any evidence that China has ever changed its view that history has shown it that the world can be liberated from the imperialists and the capitalists provided the correct course is followed; that is, of course, the correct Marxist-Leninist doctrines. But if it is at a lower level, perhaps we should attempt to analyse why. I hope my criticism is constructive when I say that it may have been wise for the Government to have provided the Parliament with the reasons.
It could be argued that the Sino-Soviet conflict which has now extended into South-East Asia is a reason. The Chinese Government would question the wisdom of providing large-scale support for insurgency in Malaysia for fear of alienating the established government and driving it maybe further towards the Soviet Union to the disadvantage of China. We do not know whether China support on a former scale is now required. It is known that insurgents in the north-east of Thailand and indeed m the south of Thailand are now being armed with some of the most modern United States weapons which were left behind in Vietnam. That is adding a new dimension to the problem in Thailand. We do not know whether at the moment China is concentrating on its domestic problems or whether the Chinese have decided that because of a dispute within the communist parties of South-East Asia they can rely upon them to follow the correct MarxistLeninist line and not turn more and more to the Soviet Union. They have learned this to their cost in Vietnam and Angola. They might also consider that the time is not ripe at the moment for revolution; that we are now in a trough and the wave will come when they will provide more support. This has been the history of Chinese support for revolutions. I doubt very much whether this assertion is endorsed by all of our Association of South East Asian Nations friends. I think it would be more prudent to assume that Chinese policy will continue to support the correct Marxist-Leninist and anti-colonial forces. Any concessions made to imperialist powers will be made in the form of hard bargaining that extracts every ounce of advantage for the Chinese. I do not think it is sufficient, as the White Paper says, to recognise important differences in political attitudes. I suggest that there are vital differences in aims and objectives. As has been pointed out, the same aims and objectives apply to the Chinese as apply to the Soviet Union and none of these is in our interests.
The White Paper does express a view of South-East Asia which I think is a correct one, and that is that there has been a strong improvement in the situation in South-East Asia. The assessments are still necessarily short term. The defence White Paper says that our assessments ‘depict a regional situation with reasonable prospects of stability, although’- and here the qualification is- ‘with many imponderables and uncertainties’. Again I say it might have been better if we had been allowed to enter into the minds of the Government to find out how it sees these imponderables and uncertainties. Perhaps it would have enabled us to make better judgments. I say this not to be critical; I hope to be constructive as a means of seeking an improvement in our defence debates. I believe that the fault has lain more with the Parliament in the past than with former governments. Now that the Parliament is taking a greater interest, I trust, in defence matters, I hope governments will be encouraged to provide the Parliament with full information as to their thinking.
There are many encouraging signs amongst the Association of South East Asian nations- the ASEAN countries- but big power competition still exists. There is a competition between the Soviet Union and China which is a matter of concern for the countries of the ASEAN region. The main concern at the moment is the policy of the new administration in the United States of America and what priority it will give to its relations with South East Asia. Perhaps this is one of the imponderables and uncertainties about which the Government speaks in its White Paper. The fear is that, if the United States regards South East Asia as an area of low priority, the only two major powers left to compete are the Soviet Union and China, without the balancing effect of the United States. I agree with the Government’s thinking that this is an imponderable and an uncertainty. It is very much in the minds of the countries of Asia.
Dealing with South East Asia, I am a little puzzled as to the very short reference to Vietnam. I believe that another one of the imponderables and uncertainties is the relationship between the ASEAN states and Indo-China. It could well be that Vietnam will be a more destabilising influence in South East Asia than will the other powers. It is giving widespread support and encouragement to insurgency at the moment. There is concern as to its ultimate objectives. Therefore, I wonder why it is dealt with so briefly in this paper.
The other matter to which I make some reference concerns a statement which appeared to say that there has been no extension of nuclear power in the region. Some time ago India exploded a nuclear device. I would have thought that that was an example of the extension of nuclear power certainly into the South East Asia and Indian Ocean regions. I wonder why that was ignored.
Having made those fairly minor criticisms of the White Paper, there are one or two other aspects to which we should refer. I mention first the way in which detente is dealt with. The Government accepts the value of detente. I believe that detente is of limited value. I think it was either Senator Scott or Senator Sir Magnus Cormack who said that detente did not mean that the Soviet Union was not going to support wars of national liberation. The Soviet Union itself does not claim that they come within the umbrella of detente yet such wars could be one of the more destabilising influences, particularly in the Indian Ocean region. The White Paper in dealing with detente states a qualification that neither exploits the other’s difficulties. I would have thought that this was a little unrealistic as, after all, the aim of detente is to restrict competition in areas where it is not- at least on the surface- in the interests of either power to have unrestricted competition.
The strategic arms race has been mentioned as one area. At the same time as detente seeks to restrict competition, new areas of competition are being developed. For example, the United States has a distinct advantage in trade and technology. It would be quite unreal not to expect the United States to exploit this advantage. One wonders whether the question really concerns exploiting one another’s difficulties; it seems to be rather an odd expression.
It seems to me, those points being made, that the defence requirements as laid down in the White Paper are sensible. They include a mobility, an independent logistic capability, a means to control our sea approaches and to provide surveillance on our continental shelf and, of course, forces to repel and attack on our own shores if that need should eventuate. I agree with Senator Sibraa and Senator Scott that the most likely foreseeable attacks are attacks from terrorism or very low level attacks which would require us to protect our shores. Very sensibly, the White Paper recognises that these are the defence requirements in the near future.
I suppose that the critical issue that faces our defence planners and which is not dealt with at great length in this paper is the mix of weapons which will be required. I can understand why at this stage this matter is not dealt with at any length. I think that we are still developing our strategic considerations. I hope that, as time goes on, further statements will be made by the Minister as these issues become clearer so that the Parliament will be informed of the Government’s thinking. Certainly this White Paper provides the basis on which to build further statements.
I welcome the recent decision by the Government regarding intelligence gathering and assessment. It is essential that, while intelligence for Australia should be gathered from as wide a source as possible, we should make assessments of our own that fit in with our requirements and not necessarily the requirements of others. I think that this is one of the most valuable moves that has occurred in the field of defence for some time. I wonder why there is no mention in the White Paper of the new generation of modern high technology weapons which are now becoming well known. It would seem to me, particularly as the White Paper rightly places considerable stress upon the need for self-reliance- which I am sure is the wisest and only policy- that we should have been given some indication of the Government’s thinking regarding these weapons many of which, as I understand them, could be of tremendous value as they would increase our defence capacity considerably. Their acquisition would be of immense value to Australia. Again, stress is being given to this aspect and we can expect in the future some statements from the Government on such weapons.
I welcome as realistic the statement which appears in paragraph IS of the White Paper dealing with the ANZUS treaty and our relations with New Zealand. I think that the statement made is a most prudent and wise one. Several of my colleagues have referred to it already. In dealing with the ANZUS treaty the White Paper states’. . . but it is prudent to remind ourselves that the U.S. has many diverse inerests and obligations.
Its interests and obligations may not at times be in complete line with ours. The White Paper continues:
Australia has local and regional associates with whom we enjoy close and co-operative relations. We must continue to work constructively with them to support stability and security in the general strategic situation; and by our own policy and effort we can insure against the uncertainties that continuing change will sustain and that could produce situations with which we may well have to deal on our own.
As I have said, that is a sensible and prudent statement. We will have to rely more and more an ourselves. No longer can we rely completely on great and powerful friends, as we may have been able to do in the past. Except for the several points that I have raised in relation to which I feel that the Parliament should be given further information as to government thinking, I believe that the Government has in this White Paper provided a basis for informed debate not only in the Parliament but also, one would hope, in the community at large. I think that it augers well for future defence statements, which I hope will deal comprehensively with the subject. If governments of the day are to have the support of Parliament and the essential support of the people, they must provide all the information they possibly can as to their thinking and as to requirements. We can then expect the debate on defence in the Parliament and the country to develop further. I believe that there have been indications tonight of bipartisan attitudes developing. I think that the Minister deserves commendation for what he has attempted to achieve. I certainly wish him good luck.
– I rise in this debate to discuss the White Paper on defence which my colleague, Senator Sim, has just discussed. I want to be very limited in my remarks. Firstly, I would like to say that in a very basic way the discussion of defence policy in
Australian politics has become a very phoney issue. If there were anything on which I could agree with Senator Sir Magnus Cormack, it would be his comment that there would be a possibility of there being a bipartisan policy in relation to defence in Australia if people were prepared to grasp the nettle. I do not agree with much else of what Senator Sir Magnus Cormack said. If one analyses his speech one will find that it was full of what I think I might fairly describe as rather phoney name dropping and quotations from faceless men in South East Asia- mythical Asian politicians. All of this was said in an attempt to introduce a notion of threat in Australia’s defence policy. What Senator Sir Magnus Cormack did earlier in this debate- he has been followed by, I think, more realistic men in the Liberal Party- was to try to introduce the notion of threat into Australia’s defence policy. He did that, as I have said, by quoting examples of discussions with Asian politicians whose names and credentials he did not mention and about whom he had nothing to say except that he had had private discussions with those people and that they were of the opinion that Australia was subject to threat from the very fact that a European nation occupied this continent in what was predominantly an Asian area.
I will come back to Senator Sir Magnus Cormack ‘s comments on this subject and to his threat theory because I want to put the point that it is symptomatic of the Liberal Party’s attitude to a defence policy over a period of about 20 years, but before doing so I want to discuss some other issues. If one examines the history of Australia’s foreign policy and goes back to the last war and the period of Sir Robert Menzies, one will find in an historical context that the appellation coined by the Australian Waterside Workers Federation of the Prime Minister of Australia at that time of ‘Pig Iron Bob’ was an appropriate appellation because if one examines the history of the Second World War one will find that prior to that war the Liberal Governmentthe United Australian Party Government as it was known at that time- was totally oblivious to the threat to Australia from Japan.
– What about the Labor Party?
- Senator Missen asked me about the Labor Party. Of course, the Labor Party was turned to by the people of Australia at the time of the Second World War as the appropriate government to defend Australia
– But it had been oblivious altogether, had it not?
- Senator Missen said that it had been oblivious altogether, but the people of Australia did not think so because they turned at the time of the Second World War to a Labor Government, having no confidence in the Government of Sir Robert Menzies who, prior to that war, had been oblivious to the threat to Australia from Japan and had rightly achieved the appellation of ‘Pig Iron Bob ‘.
– A couple of independents crossed the floor.
-Senator Missen referred to the couple of independents who crossed the floor. That may be of some comfort to him, but the fact of the matter, irrespective of whether independents crossed the floor, is that at the beginning of the Second World War and later in the Second World War the people of Australia turned to the Australian Labor Party as the appropriate Party to defend Australian in time of war. I suppose Senator Missen finds that difficult to accept.
– I do not know what the armed forces were doing. I thought that they defended Australia and not the Labor Government.
– I was anticipating a brilliant interjection from Senator Withers. I would be grateful if he would articulate it more clearly.
– I am sorry if your hearing is not good, Senator Button, but I thought that it was the armed forces that defended this country and not any government. I did not see any government where I was.
-Senator Withers was probably in Bunbury.
– I happened to be in the Middle East, so suck back on that one.
-I am surprised to hear Senator Withers say that he was in the Middle East. It was probably as an Army chaplain or in some capacity of that nature. But the fact of the matter is that in 1941 and again in 194S the people of Australia turned to the Australian abor Party as the appropriate Government to resist aggression from overseas.
– I did not see you up in the front line where the bullets were.
-Senator Withers offers a comment which is derogatory to every Australian who served in the Second World War that he did not see them where the bullets were. The Japanese or the Germans did not see him where the bullets were because, with his corporation, if bullets were being fired by the Germans or the Japanese he would have been an easy target. But they did not pick it and he is in the Senate today. The fact of the matter is that the people of Australia whatever Senator Withers likes to say by way of interjection, turned to the Australian Labor Party in 1941 and 1945 because they felt that the Australian Labor Party was fair dinkum about the defence of Australia and, whatever his service in the Army Services Corps or wherever he may have happened to be, Senator Withers Party of later adoption was rejected at the time of the Second World War.
I turn from the Second World War to the period of the 1950s. Honourable senators who ave some recollection of the 1950s will recall that this was the period when the Liberal Party in Government referred consistently to the yellow peril as a threat to Australia. What we were concerned about in Opposition at that time, and what intelligent people in the community were concerned about at that time, was whether it was a threat by the yellow peril or a threat by the red peril. There was a certain tendency towards colour blindness in the Liberal Party and we were not sure whether we were being threatened by a yellow peril or a red peril. But the fact of the matter is that throughout the 1950s we were told that we were threatened by the yellow peril. People who were involved in politics in Australia at that time will recall the Liberal Party’s election propaganda which showed arrows threatening Australia from the north. The effect of those arrows was to induce in the minds of the Australian people a sense of fear of threat of invasion from the north. A former senator, Senator Kennelly- he is not in this Chamber tonight but I believe he was a distinguished Labor Party senator in former years- drew attention to that threat by asking what was the threat from China. Senator Kennelly answered his own question by asking how the Chinese were to come here. Were they to come in sampans? We in 1977 are debating this very same issue and trying to identify the threat to Australia.
Throughout the 1950s Australian political life was plagued by threats, introduced by the Liberal Party, about invasion from some mythical country- probably China or Russia. Whichever country it was, throughout that period there was a notion of threat in Australian foreign policy and we were induced to spend money on defence to meet that threat. Throughout the 1950s that was wasted expenditure. It was also wasted expenditure throughout the 1960s, as I shall show in a minute.
In the 1960s there was a further sophisticated development of the threat to Australia. It was called the domino theory. Vietnam was a domino and when Vietnam fell there would be other dominoes. Australia would be, as Mr Malcolm Booker suggested in the title of his latest book, the last domino. Throughout the 1960s this was the threat offered to Australia. From reviewing the political history of that period we all know that the Liberal Party, in Government, took assiduous steps to identify the threat to Australia in order to justify defence expenditure. The threat was the war in Vietnam, Chinese communist expansion and the expansion of various powers in South East Asia, powers which were never identified, as Senator Sir Magnus Cormack failed to identify them tonight. All these threats were apparent throughout the 1960s as justification for defence expenditure in Australia.
In 1976 we got the final threat from the present Prime Minister, Mr Malcolm Fraser. In June 1976 the Prime Minister announced that Russia was the threat to Australia about which we should be concerned in the 1970s. That notion was exemplified in his various statements and they attracted Press headlines such as ‘Warmonger Mai grabs the Red Book’. There were other headlines in the Australian national dailies such as ‘Loom of danger from Fraser’ and ‘PM outspokenly anti-Soviet’. All these threats were offered in July 1976. Another headline was ‘PM challenges Russia on arms’. A lot of threats of a similar kind were uttered in July 1976 by the Prime Minister in an attempt to cultivate in Australia the fear of some invasion, whether it be by the Soviet Union or some mythical power about which we have never heard.
I mention that because Senator Sir Magnus Cormack, in his contribution to this debate tonight, indulged in the sort of name dropping and snobbery which is characteristic of his performance in the Senate. I well remember last year when the honourable senator was trying to prove a point about rural industry. He mentioned the fact that he had had lunch the previous week with Colonel McArthur, the Chairman of the Australian Meat Board. That was cited by Senator Sir Magnus Cormack as proof of the fact that the propositions he advanced were valid. I am not interested in that form of snobbery. When I hear Senator Sir Magnus Cormack I recall the words of the Irish poet, W. B. Yeates, who referred to Maud Gonnes’ lover as an old bellows full of angry wind. We heard a lot tonight from the old bellows full of angry wind who sits on the other side of the chamber. He talked about threats to Australia in 1977. From where do these threats come? The threats in 1977 are based on Senator Sir Magnus Cormack ‘s discussions with an anonymous and faceless Asian politician during the parliamentary recess.
The honourable senator told us with great aplomb that he was overseas early this year and during that time he had discussions with an Asian politician who told him that we in Australia as a European race, had no right to be here. Senator Sir Magnus Cormack felt no compunction about mentioning or any need to mention the name of the Asian politician. He remains a faceless man. In the context of this debate Senator Sir Magnus Cormack ‘s position is completely consistent with everything the Liberal Party has said about defence in the past 20 years because always there has been a bogy, always there has been somebody supposedly threatening Australia. Once it was the Chinese, who are now espoused by Mr Malcolm Fraser as great allies of - Australia. It was the Vietnamese; it was the Russians; it was all sorts of people. Now the threat has been reduced finally to its ultimate quintessence, the concept of Senator Sir Magnus Cormack who spoke of an Asian politician he met and with whom he had discussions over lunch earlier this year.
The basic conceptual attitude behind all Liberal Party policy is that there is a threat to Australia, and that threat is identified as the Chinese, the Russians, or anybody it likes to name. The threat revealed by Senator Sir Magnus Cormack came from some mythical Asian politician he met last year. Sheer snobbery prevents him telling the Senate about the origins of that man. It prevents him telling us what that man stands for, what country he comes from and the threat he offers to Australia. This is the reality of this whole Australian defence debate. It is a phoney. It is phoney because it relies on imaginery threats created by the Liberal Party in the minds of the Australian people.
Throughout 20 years of Australian history the only relevant facts in Australian defence debates which have concerned the Australian people have been threats from all sorts of mythical people, whether they be the Chinese of 10 years ago or the Russians of one year ago, as mentioned by Malcolm Fraser, or this faceless Asian man that Senator Sir Magnus Cormack met 3 months ago. What we have to decide is this: What it the reality of the perceived threat to Australia in 1977? Not one speaker on the Government side has shown us the reality of the perceived threat to Australia in 1 977.
– You should listen to Government supporters.
-I could not hear the interjection from Senator Chaney. I assume it was intelligent because he passed his Higher School Certificate. If he would repeat it I would be happy to answer him. One thing that ought to be put to rest about defence policy in Australia is that throughout the last 30 years of Australian history there has been one period of real warthe Second World War. In that war the Australian people turned to the Labor Party because they believed it was fair dinkum about the defence of Australia. They believed in its bona fides. They were not concerned about the Brisbane Line and all that sort of thing. They were concerned about a fair dinkum defence of Australia. The second period about which we might be legitimately concerned was that of the Vietnam war. All of us in this Parliament know, however much Government supporters might try to kid themselves, that the people of Australia were misled into the Vietnam war. No honourable senator on the Government side is prepared to get up and deny this because they are gutless about it. No Government supporter is prepared to deny that in the period of the Vietnam war the people of Australia ultimately accepted the view of the Australian Labor Party. This Government, the Fraser Government, now accepts the view of the Australian Labor Party about the origins of the Vietnam war, its consequences and its implications in international affairs.
It was only after the Vietnam war that we found people like Malcolm Fraser, the western district grazier with all his prejudices and class concepts, attempting to raise- contrary to his own Defence Minister and Foreign Minister- the concept of a threat from the Soviet Union. Why does he do that? He does that because that is old style Liberal politics. Sir Robert Menzies got away with that. People in the past got away with it. Sir Robert Menzies’ second rate successors in government got away with that stuff about a threat to Australia from the yellow peril, the red peril or whatever we might like to call it. They got away with it for 20 years. That threat, which was posed for the Australian people, never eventuated. In 1977 we are faced with the real possibility of a perceived threat to Australia. I say this: The Labor Government between 1972 and 1975 grappled with the realities of defence expenditure. I shall refer to that as found in a document which cites the actual figures.
– Hardly a grapple; it was more of a tackle.
– I heard a mild interjection from Senator Missen. If he would make it more loud I would answer. Let us look in real terms at this claim of the Liberal-National Country Parties being the great defenders of Australia Quite apart from their sordid involvement in Vietnam, in 1968-69, $30m was spent on defence. In 1969-70, $53m was spent on defence. In 1970-71, $153m was spent on defence. In 1971- 72, $24m was spent on defence and in 1972- 73, when the period of Labor Government started, $84m was spent on defence. That makes a total of $344m spent on defence. From 1973 to 1976 the total spent on defence was $7 16m. That, in real terms, represents the Labor Party’s commitment to defence and something which the Liberal Party, characteristically, chooses to ignore. That represents the determination of the Australian Labor Party in relation to the defence of Australia in real terms. We cannot talk about defence in the abstract terms in which Liberal Governments have talked about it over many years. I cannot remember during which election we brought the FI 1 1 aircraft to Australia as an election issue because we were going to defend the people against militant communism-the Chinese. Mr Fraser was over there suck-holing to the Chinese last year. I use the term ‘suck-holing to the Chinese’ and I meant it. That is what he was doing in terms of his announced policies in relation to the Soviet Union and China.
- Mr President, I raise a point of order. I personally take exception to the language which the honourable senator has used in regard to our Leader.
- Senator Button, the word is unparliamentary.
-Mr President, I would like an apology.
- Senator Button, objection has been taken to the words you have spoken. Will you please withdraw?
-Yes, I will withdraw.
– Thank you; carry on.
-The final point I wish to make is that we cannot discuss this issue of defence realistically unless we look at the infrastructure of Australian defence. We are in a situation where we keep debating whether we have so many minesweepers or so many destroyers and so on without looking at the fundamental question of the nature of Australian society, its defence capacity and the unity of the Australian people. I shall cite a couple of examples in relation to this. It is no good talking about our defence capacity unless we look at Australia’s defence industries. In the 23 years of Liberal Government prior to the Labor Government of 1972, Australian defence industries were run down. Every honourable senator knows that the aircraft industry, the ship building industry and the situation of the Army in terms of defence capacity were run down. We must contrast our situation in Australia with a country like Sweden. Sweden can put into the air 800 first-class fighter aircraft. Australia has no such capacity. Sweden can do that simply because of the infrastructure of its industry. We have not looked at that matter in Australia. We must do so if we are to establish a viable defence position.
Finally, I refer to one or two foreign policy aspects of Australian defence policy. I do not want to go into this in detail. I shall refer in this debate to Mr Malcolm Booker, a distinguished Australian diplomat, who has made some comments on this matter. I read from the Australian Defence Reporter, a sordid little trade magazine dealing with defence in which Mr Malcolm Booker has an article. It states:
In short, before we commit ourselves to spending the large sums of money proposed by the White Paper we need to drop our reliance on hopeful guesses and give hard thought both to the real dangers we will face and the opportunities which might exist for avoiding them.
Mr Malcolm Booker in that article is making a comment about the realism of Australia’s foreign policy and the relationship between defence policy and foreign policy. Mr Booker is simply saying that we lack the capacity to defend Australia and that the notions in the White Paper are unreal if we consider the defence of Australia in terms of our ambitions and aspirations for the defence of the continental shelf, for preservation of peace in the area and so on. We must limit our aspirations and, in limiting them, we must realise that we can defend the mainland of Australia only in a very limited sense. We must not rely on our so-called allies whether they be Great Britain or the United States. We can only adopt a realistic approach to this question and give hard thought to the real dangers which face Australia That is a question which is posed, in a sense, by the White Paper. We must adopt a realistic approach to it and to the conclusions at which it arrives. There really need be no difference between the parties in Australia on this question of defence. The only real differences are created by people like Malcolm Fraser who insist on a policy of inducing threat into the Australian community. That is an old Liberal Party trick which we must ignore in our realistic assessment of Australia’s foreign policy and defence.
– Order! In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 11 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for National Resources, upon notice:
– The Minister for National Resources has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for National Resources, upon notice:
– The Minister for National Resources has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 16 February 1977, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1977/19770216_senate_30_s71/>.