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Thursday, 5 March 1970


Mr JESS (La Trobe) - I congratulate the honourable member for Robertson (Mr Cohen) on the way in which he delivered his speech. I thought it was very good of him to refer as he did to his predecessor, Mr Bridges-Maxwell, for whom I, and I am sure everybody on this side of the House as well as on the other side, have a great respect. He was a hard-working member of Parliament and a conscientious one. Frequently when a man such as this loses his seat it is not through any fault of his; often it is because of the political climate that has been occasioned around him. He is lost to the country and, therefore, is not able to bring to us the benefits which otherwise he would have brought. I sometimes think it is difficult for members of Parliament, particularly at election time when we have the leaders of the political parties going out and competing with each other. We hope it is for the betterment of the people and the country, although frequently I doubt it. 1 think it is sometimes purely to obtain or retain power. It is not for the betterment of the people and the country.

It is difficult for a conscientious member of Parliament, who discharges the job that he has to do in Canberra, to compete with those who are at home attending all the small functions, saying all the palatable things because they have no responsibility and who can promise anything because they do not have to perform. However, let me say that I enjoyed the speech of the honourable member for Robertson. The major portion of it was a description of the beauty of his electorate. Indeed his electorate sounds Idyllic. I would suggest to him, however, that it is usually considered bad form for a new member who is making his maiden speech to criticise any member from the other side of the House because that member, through courtesy, is not able to interject. I heard the honourable member refer to one newly elected Minister as a racist. That Minister did not have the right to rejoin nor did members on this side have the right to object or interject. I think that the honourable member for Robertson should reconsider his remarks.

I should like to ask the honourable member a question, without supporting either the South African or the Rhodesian policy. When I first came to the Parliament about 10 years ago it was just after the Sharpeville incident and I remember listening to members from both sides of the House talking with authority about South Africa. I thought to myself what magnificent speeches they were making and what knowledgeable and great men they must be. I assure the honourable member that I have a different opinion today. Let it be said that I tried to find out which members had been to South Africa to see the problem confronting the people there. I discovered that only one member, from the Australian

Country Party, had been to South Africa. The other honourable members had never been there to see the situation at first hand. 1 should like to see how the honourable member and his colleagues opposite who criticise everything haphazardly would react if they were confronted with situations that face others in the world.


Mr Reynolds - There has never been an inhibition on the Liberal Party.


Mr JESS - I will accept that also, lt is approximately 10 years since I came into the Parliament; at times it seems like 100 years. When I was standing at the table with the honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Turner) waiting to be sworn in yesterday I looked across and saw the increased number of members on the Labor side. They looked very impressive - colourful, I might say, in certain instances. I thought to myself: 'There are the men who have stood and gained office and who now come to represent the people in their electorates'. I am not saying that this applies only to honourable members opposite because it applies to all members, but my main reference is to members of the Opposition. While prayers were being read I wondered to myself how many of the members opposite would stick to the things that they believed in; how many would stand and be counted for the things they believed in when they did not agree on a question of principle; how many would make their objections clear in this House. I wondered whether we would see, as usual, a 100% stand for the Labor Party's policy. How often have I and other members from this side gone from the house and said to a Labor member: 'You do not believe in what you were just saying' irrespective of whether it related to conscription, Vietnam or something else, and the rejoinder has been: 'No, but in my speech I did not say anything against it'.

This is the Parliament of Australia. Honourable members opposite are representatives of the people and we are representatives of the people. The Parliament will work only as long as we realise that we have a responsibility, at times above Party allegiance, for the betterment of the people and the betterment of Australia. One thing that concerns me at this particular time is the way in which the publicity media - television and the Press - refers to the Parliament. It seems to me that according to television and the Press all we do is to elect leaders. It does not matter how important we may think the Parliament is or how important we may think we are - and I wonder whether we are important - the Press and television seem to make it a competition between the leader of one party and the leader of the other party.


Dr Gun - Are you in favour of an appointed Ministry?


Mr JESS - That has nothing to do with it. If the honourable member has not made his maiden speech I would suggest that he does not interject. Is what the publicity media say right? ls that what we wish? If only one man elects the Government what is the point of our having public meetings? What is the point of our having opinions? The strength, the power and the future of the Parliament in the decade of the 1970s could well be proven or could fall by the wayside according to the behaviour of all of us as private members. It is the strength of Parliament that each member has a voice, and that he has the right to disagree with his Party. If I disagree with the Government I can say so, and do say so. It seems to be fairly common for the Press to talk about divisions within the Government parties. Perhaps there are some disagreements, but let it be understood that we are allowed to disagree and, if we wish, to cross the floor of the House. This is done. But it has yet to be seen that anybody from the Opposition can do this.

Captain Sam Benson, the former member for Batman, belonged to the Defend Australia Committee which endeavoured to see that Australia had sufficient defence services and that Australia's foreign affairs and defence policies were adequate. He was expelled from the Australian Labor Party. If one looks at what is happening today it seems to be accepted by members opposite as perfectly all right for the Victorian President of the Labor Party to chair a meeting of shop stewards and to call on our troops to mutiny. This, to me, is an extraordinary set of values. I cannot understand why the Government has not taken action in respect of this treachery, because treachery it is when troops are fighting abroad and calls are put forward for them to mutiny. We may well wonder where we are going, where we are being led by the minority in the Labor Party and their fellow travellers, those who are next on the spectrum, as the honourable member for Lalor mentioned.

What is happening in this country? At the moment the Labor Party is strongly supporting the suggestion that the Government should give Mr Burchett a passport to travel abroad and to go to our ambassadors and foreign ambassadors who should give him every assistance. If honourable members read the passport they will see that this is what it provides. Members of the Labor Party are pressing for this. I went into the Parliamentary Library and I got as many books on Vietnam as I could. I was curious to find whether this Mr Burchett was mentioned. Each reference was to the Australian Communist author, Mr Burchett, who was speaking from behind the North Vietnam lines or speaking from Hanoi and North Korea. All I can say is that if we feel that he is the type of person we should be supporting, and not the many others who deserve support and have better cases and are in more need of support, I do not know where we are going.

Regarding the call to mutiny that I mentioned, what are we doing about it? Where does the Labor Party stand? It seems that the Labor Party supports Burchett. The Labor Party supports the call for mutiny because the Victorian President of the Labor Party puts it forward. On the question of the breaking down of censorship, it appears that there are members opposite who would let everything in. I distinctly recall the Leader of the Opposition in the Victorian State House saying in respect to one play that was banned that he saw nothing wrong with the play, for after all he had read the same sort of language in a public convenience. I suggest to the Australian Labor Party that the general public does not wish to have its moral standards reduced to those of public conveniences. I think that the Labor Party should accept that suggestion.

I now turn to the subject of the drug marihuana. What is the outlook in Australia with regard to drugs? We find there are pressure groups supported by the academics and by members of the Labor Party who are obviously the free thinkers who suggest that these things should be made free and open to everybody. What sort of nation will Australia become if the once great Labor Party now in opposition in this Parliament now propounds this kind of thing as a major issue? Without doubt I think there has to be a rethinking in this country.

What is the policy of the Labor Party in respect to the Vietnam conflict? Its policy seems to have been consistently changed. Admittedly it now seems to have a slightly more unified effect, but is it the true policy of the Labor Party or is it the patched-up policy which was put forward at the last election and is to be put forward for the Senate election later this year? Does the Labor Party intend to pull out all our troops from Vietnam? Will the Labor Party assist South East Asia? What is the defence policy of the Labor Party? Its defence policy seems to me to be something that will certainly not give Australia strength and standing in the South East Asian region. I think its policy is to get out and leave it for the enemy, but I have no doubt that ultimately it will be able to make a compromise somewhere.

There is so much that needs to be said in this Parliament that one will have to say much of it on other occasions. I think that the points mentioned by the Governor- General are essential; they were promised in the policy speech before the last election. The Governor-General said:

This year we commemorate the discovery of Eastern Australia by Captain Cook, two hundred years ago in the past.

This is what I want to say. He said:

Now we turn our eyes to a future which, more than ever before, is rich with the promise of achievement if we have the will to achieve.

As I said, the matters referred to in the Speech are essential. They will be expensive, but they are necessary. I wonder if in this decade the situation that we are in, where our major former Commonwealth partner is vacating the South East Asian region and where there is a possibility that the United States of America will withdraw from the area, does not constitute a challenge to this nation to stand on its own feeL I wonder if it is necessary each time that there is an election to promise more and more to the people merely to achieve power. I wonder if this is what the people of Australia want. 1 think that what the people of Australia want is to be told what we could be; to be told what our responsibilities are; to be told what the threats can mean for the future and what we have to do to prepare. 1 think that the people are even prepared to be told that we may have to make some sacrifices to achieve our objectives. I feel that this country can be a great nation. Aus.tralia faces a great challenge and has a great part to play in this part of the world, but I am not convinced by any of the political parties that we are aware of the true position at this time and are prepared to give the leadership which is necessary because of our sophistication and our industrialisation and because of the opportunities that we have had. I would like to think that someone will come forward and lead Australia into the 1970s, because much will depend on leadership. It is not just a matter of 'give me this and give me that'. I think that in any democracy it should be a matter of saying: 'What can I do and how can I help'. I would like to hear this feeling propounded more by those in power and by those in opposition who seek to gain power.

Another matter for discussion is that of Commonwealth-State relations. 1 do not agree that this is just a matter of the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton), the Treasurer (Mr Bury) and the State Premiers meeting and distributing the available financial cake among the Commonwealth and States. I accept that the States have enormous problems, but I think that the question ultimately is one of how federation will work and how we as representatives of the people of Australia - not just the executive government - feel that this country should be run in the future. I was disappointed that the Premiers seemingly did not put forward a request for Federal aid for government schools. It is my firm belief that the Federal Government should give aid not only to private schools or for libraries and so on but for the development of government schools in expanding outer electorates and the inner city electorates. I am no longer able to argue that State governments are responsible for government schools and therefore aid is being given to private schools in the main - and I agree with the dual education system. It is not good to go to a school in my electorate, whether it be a high school or other type of school, and see a glorious library fully stocked with magnificent publications and then go to a small government primary school and find too many children in the forms, insufficient conveniences and inadequate facilities such as playing fields. 1 feel that the Premiers have to some extent made it difficult for us members of Parliament who were prepared to argue for a direct grant to these schools so as to bring them up to private school standards. The Premiers have accepted the proposition put forward by the Prime Minister so we can hardly say that we do not think it is sufficient. I hope that before long there will be in this House a debate on CommonwealthState relations and that these matters will be discussed by the whole Parliament. As I said before, and as has been mentioned by the honourable member for Bradfield in conversation outside this House, sometimes it appears that decisions are made and stated by the Executive outside Parliament without reference to Parliament and members learn of them by reading about them in the newspapers. It is wrong that we as members of Parliament should learn these things from the newspapers. These policies should be announced in the Parliament so that honourable members as representatives of the people of Australia can query the Executive there and then as to its intentions and its reasons, not 3 months later when the policy has been fixed and we as members of Parliament come into this House and find there is nothing that we can do about it.

In conclusion 1 want to say that 1 have been in this Parliament for 10 years. When I came here I said that I was proud to be here. I am proud to be here today. I have seen some great, honest and courageous men in this place, but I feel that democracy will work and continue only as long as there are people who are prepared to query occasionally a decision of the Executive and stand up in this House and say: 'I represent the people, not just a party or a power combine.' I would like to think that in the future the rights of individuals will be important, that small things will be important. In the past, when I have raised some matter, some have said: 'Oh, it is only one person, let's fix it up later. It doesn't matter about him.' If this Parliament does not concern itself occasionally with the rights of individuals then ultimately individuals in Australia may not count. I apologise for the way in which I have moved from bough to bough in my speech but I mean the things I have said. If I do not remain in this Parliament 1 will have enjoyed being here; I hope, however, I will be here in future Parliaments, and I am afraid I will continue to be reasonably independent, but that will be my responsibility.

Debate (on motion by Mr Whitlam) adjourned.







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