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Thursday, 5 March 1970

Mr WHITLAM (Werriwa) (Leader of the Opposition) - The Opposition wishes prosperity to the Film Development Corporation and to an Australian industry which will now open greater avenues for talented Australians. It is a modest enough beginning at this stage. The British Film Finance Corporation, which was introduced in 1948 by Mr Harold Wilson, was funded initially with £Stg5m. In 1963 the report of the Vincent Select Committee of the Senate, where the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) then sat, recommended support for an Australian film industry with an additional expenditure of $2m. It is timely for me to make yet again a plea for another long standing project in the field of the Arts. It is 4 years ago this month that Prime Minister Holt received the report of the National Art Gallery Committee of Inquiry. No steps have since been taken to establish the Australian National Gallery Trust Fund which it recommended. Although an architect for the gallery was appointed over a year ago, the members of the interim council recommended a year ago have not yet been appointed, nor has the director who was recommended in the middle of last year. This means that no plans can be made for the building, no bequests can be attracted for the collection and no house can be provided for the collection, such as it already is.

The Parliament meets again this week after the longest actual recess in its history. lt is a new Parliament. It has more new members than any Parliament since 1949 when, of course, the Parliament was nearly doubled. There has been a greater change in representation than in any Parliament in our history. The changes are the results of retirements, electoral redistribution and, above all, electoral retribution. This afternoon four recruits to the Parliament made their maiden speeches. Two of them are seasoned parliamentarians from the Legislative Assembly of New South Wales. Two are younger men of very great promise. Whatever our politics may be in this place we can all be proud of belonging to a body which attracts men of this capacity and with this dedication. I join those honourable members who have already spoken in congratulating them on their first speeches. We look forward to similarly fine contributions from them.

Forty-four per cent of honourable members on this side of the chamber were not in the last Parliament. Due to changes on this side, this is the best qualified Parliament to sit in this place in terms of academic qualifications, lay experience and public service. I have noticed that nothing stirs the personal resentment of honourable members opposite as much as the possession of qualifications by honourable members on this side. I have already noticed, for example, that the honourable member for St George (Mr Morrison) seems to have attracted that same sense of outrage that used to be reserved for the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson). I have no doubt that the honourable member for St George will thrive on such attentions just as the honourable member for Dawson did, to the great enhancement of his stature in the Parliament, in the country and in his electorate.

This longest recess in our history has been used in a variety of ways. The opportunity was taken - after the elections - to reject the joint request of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, the Australian Council of Salaried and Professional Associations and Public Service organisations for 4 weeks annual leave for public servants, thus completing the Prime Minister's sabotage of this proposal during the Prime Ministership of his predecessor. It was used to lift the 40-year-old ban on the export of merino rams, in defiance of a resolution of the Senate and in spite of undertakings given by the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr McEwen) during the election campaign to industry leaders that no further action would bc taken on the ban until further consultation with all sections of the wool industry. The post election period has been used to increase a whole range of fees and charges in areas where the Commonwealth can exercise responsibility - to increase university fees, which are three times what they were 10 years ago, and medical, hospital and pharmaceutical charges and local government rates and charges.

We may suppose that the Government's time and energy were consumed in the preparation of the document we are now debating. If so, it was an effort of resurrection rather than creation. The GovernorGeneral was obviously much more at home and much more at ease in delivering this, his second Address. Well he might have been. For a vast number of the proposals he was obliged to announce he had himself discussed, indeed approved, as a member of the Cabinet which he left nearly a year ago. Indeed, he had heard some of the proposals in Addresses by his precdecessors. Let us look at the legislative programme from this new look Government.

In 1968 the Governor-General's Address promised 'My Government' - that is the Gorton Government - 'will legislate to improve the scheme of Commonwealth employees compensation'. The present Speech says 'early legislation will be introduced to improve and extend the scheme of compensation'. In fact in November 1964 the then Treasurer, the late Harold Holt, promised to promptly consider Labor amendments. In May 1967 the former Treasurer, Mr McMahon, said:

The most exhaustive and detailed review of the Commonwealth Employees Compensation Act is now nearing completion and it is anticipated that the necessary amending legislation will be introduced in the Budget session.

The right honourable gentleman was referring to the Budget of 1967. For the second time a Governor-General's Speech has promised to effect the recommendations of the Melville Committee on the portability of superannuation. The report was received by the Prime Minister in the month he took office. Public servants are presumably to regard it as a great favour that the new arrangements are to apply ail the way back to 1st January this year.

We have now been promised legislation to implement one of the 30 recommendations of Mr Justice Manning's bills of exchange report of May 1964. In May 1967 the former Attorney-General told me: 'I am making every effort to have the proposed new Cheques Bill introduced in the next sittings'. He was referring to the Budget session of 1967. In February last year he told me: 'The final draft is nearly completed'. Yet now in 1970 we are to have only one of the 30 recommendations implemented.

The Governor-General promises an Institute of Criminology 'after further consultation with the Stales'. In the ministerial statement last May of the present Minister of Education and Science (Mr N. H. Bowen), when he was AttorneyGeneral, he said: "The Commonwealth and the States have now reached agreement'. Such is progress.

We are told that there is to be a uniform code of discipline for the Services. Sir Allen Fairhall promised it in November 1965 'at the earliest practicable date'. In October 1968 he promised the legislation for the next session; that is 2 years ago. There are two other specific defence proposals. We are told that investigation into the cost of a causeway in Cockburn Sound has begun; one may hope that this study will be considered with greater despatch than the feasibility study promised by Prime Minister Holt in August 1966 and received in January 1968. We are told that the development of Learmonth airfield will shortly start; this was promised by Sir Robert Menzies in November 1964 but no new works were ever carried out.

There will he a Bill to approve the construction of a standard gauge rail line linking Port Pirie and Adelaide; in fact the Parliament passed such an Act in 1949. There will be a Bill to establish the Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation; this was announced by the last Minister for National Development in September 1967. There will be a grant towards the cost of the irrigation project in the Bundaberg region; the proposal was put forward by the Queensland Government in 1966. There will be television stations in 38 remote areas; they were announced by the PostmasterGeneral 6 months ago.

Yesterday we learnt that the Government is still hoping to iron out the difficulties it is having in reconstructing Australian dairy farms. The previous Governor-General announced such proposals both in February 1967 and in March 1968. They follow from the report of Sir Mortimer McCarthy's Dairy Industry Committee of Inquiry which was constituted in July 1959 and reported in August 1960.

There will be legislation forthwith to establish an Institute of Marine Science. When this proposal was first advanced by Senator Dittmer in September 1963 and by Senator Murphy in May 1964, the Prime Minister, then Minister-in-Charge of Com monwealth Activities in Education and Research, asserted that the proposal had no high priority, tie again brushed the subject aside when Senator Murphy raised it again in May 1965. As recently as November 1968 he again captiously dismissed it when it was advanced by one of his own followers in this House. Also in November 1968 the Continental Shelf (Living Natural Resources) Bill was passed and a companion Bill on non-living natural resources was promised. The first Bill has not yet been brought into force and the second Bill has not yet been introduced.

A proposal to make members of credit unions eligible for the homes savings grant was voted down by every Government member when the Australian Labor Party proposed it in 1964 and 1965. However, this evening the Minister for the Navy (Mr Killen), who launched the amending legislation in this place, made it clear that the concession is a nullity. The proposal to raise the limit on the home value by $2,500, which was promised by the Prime Minister to operate from 27th October last, could have been introduced, debated and passed on the 1-day sitting of 25th November. Tt requires a 1-line amendment.

There are other matters which have been in previous Governor-General's Speeches but which are not in this. What has happened to the proposal for a Commonwealth Superior Court? On 22nd January 1963 the Solicitor-General announced that the Cabinet had authorised Attorney-General Barwick to design a new Federal Court. Sir Garfield Barwick wrote an extended article on the proposal for the initial issue of the Australian National University Federal Law Review in June 1964. In May 1967 Attorney-General Bowen - there seems to have been a hiatus under AttorneyGeneral Snedden - made a ministerial statement outlining the proposals. In March 1968 the former Governor-General stated:

My Government will prepare legislation for creation of a Commonwealth Superior Court to relieve pressure on the High Court.

In November 1968 Attorney-General Bowen gave a second reading of the Commonwealth Superior Court Bill. The Bill lapsed with the dissolution of the last Parliament. The present Governor-General's Speech makes no reference to the proposal. What has happened today?

Such is the product of Cabinet's combined efforts during the longest recess in the Parliament's history - this legislative blockbuster, as it was heralded. I do not want to build these aspects of the Address out of proportion. I cannot follow the Prime Minister into every pigeon-hole. I am prepared to give the Government the benefit of the doubt. The fact that so many proposals contained in this programme have been delayed 20 years or 10 years, or 8 or 5 or 2 years, or the fact that many of them have been contained in previous Speeches from the throne is not necessarily proof that they will receive no better fate this time. Still less is it an argument against the merit of any of the particular proposals. It is, however, an indication of the nature of Liberal promises and Liberal performance and this brings me to the really crucial criticism. For this very reliance on resurrected or rejected proposals underlies the essential nature of the Governor-General's Speech. It fails utterly as a document for the seventies. It charts no new course. It strikes out on no new lines. Where is the promised identification and rectification of the issues of the last campaign, the issues on which the people spoke so clearly last October?

Education - ignored almost entirely; in the health field - a wilful stubbornness in propping and patching up at vast additional expense an unjust and inadequate scheme; the literally vital matter of hospitals ignored; cities ignored utterly; in a passage which acknowledges the growing burden of State debts, the far more onerous burdens on local government and semi-government authorities altogether disregarded; total nonrecognition of the intolerable burdens of land costs and interest rates on home buyers; the critical need for long term restructuring of our primary industries is by-passed; nothing of the sense of urgency about aboriginals which the national disgrace and the national mandate of 1967 alike demand; refusal to acknowledge that in New Guinea our international reputation is absolutely at stake.

These are specific issues, all of them of great importance to all Australians as individuals and as citizens. What we do on each of these matters will go a long way to determining what sort of community and nation we are to become. Beyond even that, there has to be some attempt to define a national objective; there has to be a statement about the sort of life we wish our people to enjoy - those who have been born here, those who have come here and those who will come here. The GovernorGeneral's Address acknowledges the economic bonanza we have hit upon through the great mineral discoveries. It acknowledges the economic advantages that will accrue from technological advances. No attempt at all is made to answer the fundamental question: What do we do with these advantages? To what extent and by what means can all Australians share in these advantages?

There is to be created, largely by the process of resurrection and refurbishing I have described, a flurry of legislation to simulate the illusion of energetic government; but such a process does not mean purposeful government, presiding over a nation with a coherent set of purposes and goals, either at home or abroad. On this side we believe there is one clear goal that this national Parliament should set for itself, which should define and motivate each specific action we take: It is the goal of equality. The true quality of our national life will be principally determined by the way in which and the rate at which we advance towards true equality. It is this that gives meaning to our possession of prosperity. If I interpret the history of this country and the character of our countrymen correctly, it is this search which alone can give any worthwhile, enduring meaning to our fortuitous possession of this most fortunate, peaceful and privileged continent in this most turbulent and deprived region of the world.

Yet this Address, this programme for the first Parliament of the seventies, ignores or opposes this objective wherever it states an intention in an area of policy which could promote it. The clearest indication of this is in three of the most important domestic items in the Address: The proposals on taxation will presumably be central to this year's Budget; Commonwealth-State financial relations will dominate discussions in seven parliaments in this year when a new financial agreement has to be framed; and the health proposals form far and away the most important legislation in this session.

The Governor-General's Address repeats in even vaguer terms the vague promise of the Prime Minister to reduce taxation, made last election. His undertaking is, in the terms of his policy speech:

To reduce personal income tax, over the 3 year period beginning with the next Budget, that at the end of that time we will be providing relief, to lower and middle income earners, ot the order of $200m as compared with me amounts which would be payable by them under the present income tax structure.

By the 1972 Budget, Commonwealth revenue will be not less than $1 2,000m. The promise is to collect only $11, 800m rather than $ 1 2,000m. As to the beneficiaries of this generous forbearance, the Prime Minister defined middle income earners as those on up to $16,000. By no classification can people on $16,000 a year be described as middle income earners. In no country in the world, except apparently Australia, would or could they be so described. Barely 20,000 of 5 million taxpayers in 1968 earned $16,000 or more. Indeed, there were only 64,000 earning $10,000 or more.

But the taxation issue at the last election was not merely about the weight of the taxation burden; it was really about the incidence of taxation. By comparable world standards, higher income earners and companies are not highly taxed; but by such standards, our lower and middle earners - the genuine modest and middle earners, not the $16,000 a year men - are among the highest taxed in the world. This has happened by the simple device of leaving the tax schedules unchanged since 1954. Inflation, and wage increases to keep pace with it, have done the rest.

The honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean) has exposed and explained what has been happening every year since 1958. Low and modest income earners have simply been inflated into higher tax brackets; their incomes remain low or modest, but they pay tax set for an income which was worth half as much again in 1954. Given the resources and requirements of a modern society, we shall all be paying more tax in 3 years' time. In this situation, it is not at all to the point to talk of reducing the total tax burden by $200m in 3 years' time. It is a wonderfully unverifiable undertaking. What is required is a redistribution of the tax burden - in short, more equality in sharing it.

Last week, in humiliating the Liberal Premiers, the Liberal Prime Minister heavily deployed the argument that income tax is an essential, indeed the essential, weapon in the armoury of economic management. In fact income tax is only marginally important in that sense; if they succumbed to that argument, the Liberal Premiers deserve the humiliation and contempt they got. The income tax is a crucially important instrument - but for political, social and national reasons. It is the principal instrument available to a government to redistribute wealth. Properly applied, it is the fairest means of raising significant revenue.

In the Australian federal context, it is of fundamental importance not only as an equaliser between persons but as between States. This is the true meaning of uniform taxation. This was the true meaning and design of its introduction by the Curtin Government in 1942. It was designed to ensure equality of sacrifice among Australians wherever they lived, for the purposes of prosecuting the war. And while the need of our society is no longer -to ration scarcity or share sacrifice but to share abundance and equalise prosperity, the objective and means remain- the same.- This is the real reason why the Commonwealth cannot contemplate, more importantly why Australians would not- tolerate, disposal of any. of the fair and equal revenue raising means which the Commonwealth -now -has, and which it alone now has. It is a question of justice and the rights of all Australians, lt is not a question of power; it is a question of equality among Australians wherever they happen to live. The tragedy of last week's fiasco was the total failure of any of the Liberal and Country Party leaders, State or Federal, to come to grips with any question of justice or equality or need as between Australians or between the States.

This is most clearly shown by the Prime Minister's acceptance of responsibility to collect the receipts tax on behalf of the States. The Governor-General's Speech goes much further than the Government's earlier promise to collect this tax until June this year. The Federal Liberal Government now presumably intends that the receipts tax should become a permanent fixture of its remaining Budgets. The important thing about this tax is not its constitutional validity, but its unfairness and inefficiency.

In Victoria, it is grossly unfair. It is true that the present Federal Government is directly responsible for this tax. In 1967 the former Treasurer, now Minister for External Affairs (Mr McMahon), encouraged, rather urged, the States to follow the Western Australian example and impose it.

Mr McMahon - Who said I did that?

Mr WHITLAM - Sir Francis Nicklin is my authority for it, and he has said it again and again. He refused to implement it in Queensland. But he disclosed the advice which the former Treasurer pressed on to the other States, which was to follow the Western Australian receipts tax which was introduced 3 years ago. Only a week before the High Court judgment, the present Treasurer (Mr Bury) nominated the receipts tax as the most appropriate growth tax for the States, and even suggested that it could be used to raise $800m rather than a mere $80m a year. So there is no doubt that the Federal Government bears moral responsibility for the imposition of the receipts tax in the first place; this gives it now a responsibility to provide the States with the amount which the tax would have raised. But there is no responsibility to perpetuate that particular tax, in that particular form. The consequence of the Commonwealth's present undertaking is that a tax, unfair in its incidence, complex in its application, inefficient and costly in its administration, will continue indefinitely. There is no evidence that the Government offered or thought of any substitute.

What, in particular, are to be the consequences for Queensland and Victoria? Any Commonwealth tax must be uniform between the States. The Constitution prohibits discrimination in taxation matters between them. Queensland levies a receipts duty of 2c in every $100; the other States levy lc in every $10. So the Queensland rate will have to be increased by 400% to equalise with the other States. Victoria imposes the tax on wages and salaries. It happens to be the one perfectly valid application of the tax. But in a statement by the Prime Minister in June 1968, he correctly described it as 'doubly objectionable'. It would be inconceivable for the Commonwealth now to impose this 'doubly objectionable' Victorian impost in the other States; yet what method is proposed to recompense Victoria for the loss of this source of revenue - certainly valid, but to the Prime Minister 'doubly objectionable'?

Essentially, what has been created is a phony crisis. Except in terms of the internal affairs of the Liberal Party, there is no CommonwealthState crisis. There is a crisis in school finance; there is a crisis in hospitals finance; there is a crisis in city finance. And these three great items - schools, hospitals and cities - together form the most crushing burdens, not only on the State Budgets, but on the resources of civic and semigovernment authorities. It is the failure of the national Government to accept proper responsibility for schools, hospitals and cities that has created the impasse in what is always referred to as Commonwealth-State financial relations, but which should be referred to as Commonwealth-State-Civic finances and functions.

The States would not have needed to raise the receipts tax if the Commonwealth had accepted a proper measure of responsibility for schools, and had established the machinery of a schools commission to inquire into and report on the needs of schools of all kinds and at all levels. There would have been no need for the recipts tax if the national Government had established a hospitals commission to assist in the modernisation and regionalisation of hospitals. There would have been no need for the receipts tax if the national Government had accepted at least as much responsibility for civic finances and functions - in land acquirement, in welfare, in culture, in transport, in pollution - as national governments in any comparable country, in either federal or unitary systems, already do and have done for decades past.

The Governor-General's Address gives formal sanction to the Prime Minister's undertaking to assume part of the States' debts - 'say up to a billion' as he put it. Neither Federal nor State Liberals have ever acknowledged the equally great and far more rapidly growing burdens of local and semi-government authorities, or have given these authorities adequate access to national financial resources. In the year before last the revenues, including net revenue of business enterprises, of local government and semi-governmental authorities was 80% of the revenues of the States.

Three years ago - and that is the last year for which the former Treasurer could give me figures - the debts of local government and semi-governmental authorities were already 75% of the debts of the States; their annual interest liability was 85% of that of the States; their capital repayments each year were half as large again as those of the States.

Local government authorities are compelled by the Australian Loan Council - without whose approval they cannot borrow - to devote between one-quarter and onefifth of their rates to servicing their debts; they are compelled by State laws to pay between one-fifth and one-sixth of their rates to road, lighting, fire, planning and similar authorities. I have given the latest position, but looking over the developments of the last 15 years and longer, one can see how the trend in every case is working against local government authorities and semi-governmental authorities. Sure, the States are unable to finance the functions which the Commonwealth has allowed them to exercise unaided, but still more local government and semi-governmental authorities are in that position due to the combined indifference of the Liberals, Commonwealth and State.

The consequence is great and growing inequalities between areas within our cities. The inequalities between suburbs today are greater than they ever were between States. Generations ago the Commonwealth provided machinery to reduce these inequalities between the States - and the Commonwealth Grants Commission has been operating for well over a generation. That machinery should now be applied to reducing inequalities between regions, and within regions, of which the most notable and most populous are our great cities and provincial centres.

Yet all these great matters - matters fundamental to the quality and equality of the life of all Australians - were treated last week merely as a question of the philisophy of Liberalism. The conscience of the Liberal Party is irrelevant to the needs of the people of Australia. The people themselves rightly believe that arguments about centralism and States rights are irrelevant to their needs. It is not a question of sovereignty, but common-sense. If the Liberals, State and Federal, cannot create the machinery for continuing consultation and commonsense co-operation between Federal and State leaders, governments and instrumentalities, then they will soon have to make way for those who can, and indeed for those who already do consult and co-operate.

The health proposals provide the clearest example of all of how this Government is dedicated to propping up privilege and perpetuating inequality.

I shall not now canvass the ground so ably, but necessarily briefly, covered by the member for Oxley (Mr Hayden) yesterday; but this much must be said: For the sake of a word, for sheer doctrinaire determination to preserve the existing system, the people of Australia, as taxpayers and contributors, are being compelled to provide an extra $54m to provide lower benefits for patients than the alternative proposals put forward by my party would provide at no extra cost and for a lower contribution for the vast majority. Further, and worse, the lower and modest income earner will continue to pay more than the wealthiest. The essence of the Liberal scheme is that the Commonwealth benefit to which all taxpayers contribute can only be obtained by those taxpayers able to contribute to a private fund, and that all contributors, irrespective of their income, must pay the same fees with the rider that the richer one is, the greater the entitlement to tax concessions. The essence of the Labor scheme is that every Australian shall be automatically a beneficiary, and that his contribution shall be determined only by his ability to pay, and his treatment shall be determined only by his need; we determine his ability to pay by the best available means - his family's taxable income, and we determine his needs and those of his family by the judgment of the doctor of his own choice. The Minister for Health devoted four columns of Hansard of his statement to a philosophical defence of what he called the 'voluntary' principle. He defends as 'voluntary' a scheme which compels every taxpayer to join a private scheme in order to receive benefits for which he pays taxes.

He says the essence of the principle is that contributions must be clearly separated from tax payments. Yet in the same speech he announced - I applaud the announcement - that the Government will accept the recommendation of Mr Justice Nimmo's Committee to facilitate automatic deduction of contributions from wages and salaries. The Government's intention is that the vast majority of wage and salary earners will undergo automatic deductions; and we are asked to believe that there is a great difference in principle and in effect between a deduction made by an employer at the instance of the Government in its role as the proposed Health Insurance Commission, and a deduction made by an employer at the instance of the Government in its role as the Taxation Branch. The difference in principle is trivial; it is limited to the difference in an entry on the pay slip. The difference in practice will be quite considerable; because almost every employee will be paying from 10c to 30c a week more under the new scheme than he would be under the alternative proposal.

In one proposal of this GovernorGeneral's Address, and one only, do we find some recognition of the concept of equality - not, certainly, the equality between Australians, but at least equality of Australians in their own country as against foreign investors. At least I take it that this is the concept behind the proposal for an Industry Development Corporation - the McEwen Bank.

Mr Cope - It went through unanimously.

Mr WHITLAM - The new Treasurer seemed to fumble the arguments for it when he was asked a question without notice about it. I welcome the proposal in principle, if with provisos. I could hardly do otherwise as I have been prompting the Deputy Prime Minister since 1967 when the Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party put this embryo in a 'state of suspended animation', and more particularly as I promised it in my own policy speech last October. I was the only Party Leader in that election who promised it. My main proviso would be that the corporation should be capable of dovetailing into the other methods of direct government intervention which I outlined in that speech. I have used ENI and IRI in Italy, as models. These corporations, of which the IDC will be an Australian forerunner, have been used benevolently and fruitfully by democratic socialist governments in Italy.

Lest I make the blood of honourable members opposite run cold, I will refer rather to the Canadian model - the proposed Canada Development Corporation, to be established this year. The Corporation is being sponsored by the Canadian Finance Minister, Mr Edgar Benson. It originated in the report of the Canadian Privy Council Office Task Force on Foreign Ownership and Structure of Canadian Industry. It is to have the same objectives as the IDC as proposed by the Deputy Prime Minister, and as proposed by me as one of a three point plan for direct government participation in the development, ownership and processing of Australian resources. According to the report, 'the Canada Development Corporation will be created as a large holding company with entrepreneurial and management functions, to assume a leadership role in Canada's business and financial community'. Further, 'it would have the capacity to draw on the expenditure of the financial community and to provide a focal point for the mobilisation of entrepreneurial capital'. The report points out - and I want to make it clear I had never read this when I was making the same point last year about the IDC - 'Its size and quasi-public character would enable it to make a unique contribution in organising the consortia of investors, domestic and foreign, thereby carrying out large projects beyond the capacity of a single institution and throughout maintaining a clear Canadian presence*. Further, the report says the CDC should be permitted and encouraged to be active in all sections of the economy. And, as the report states so excellently and succinctly, without limiting the generality of its operations, it should specifically be active in the area of resource development and the rationalisation of Canadian industry'.

As to the present proposal, we can so far identify its nature and purpose only by the series of negatives in which the Prime Minister has purported to say what it will not do and what it will not be; what it will not appear to do; what it will not appear to be; what, according to his understanding - and all it can be is his understanding at this stage - it will not do and what it will not be. As the Prime Minister says, we must await the 'fine print' - but fine print in an Act of Parliament is not immutable. This is not the law of the Medes and Persians. It can, after all, be amended by Parliament. At this stage. I can only say that I watched its conception with interest; I deplored the attempted abortion; I rejoice in the official birth enunciation by the Governor-General; I shall gladly act as midwife, and stand as godfather; but above all, in time to come, I will happily adopt this infant and ensure that its growth into lusty manhood is not impeded by any inhibitions about its dubious paternity. In short, under a Labor Government, the IDC will be used for the democratic socialist purposes I outlined in my policy speech, and the Act which establishes this Corporation will be amended by us to secure those purposes.

I have spoken of matters in the GovernorGeneral's Address which concern in one way or another the great question of equality at home. Of the very worst inequality of all there is no mention in the address. We are informed without further comment that the armed forces will increase from 83,794 last year to 86,500 by June. We are asked to forget that most of this increase will have been procured by a conscription which has never been justified to the Australian people as something necessary and inevitable, much less desirable. Yesterday, the Prime Minister said that it was irrelevant that the Gates Commission had recommended to the President of the United States that the compulsory draft in that country be ended, and had reported that the Australian Government could have raised its army requirements by better conditions and improved benefits. Among the things that are very relevant is that the Gates Commission - a foreign commission - should have been the first and only body to make any analysis or undertake any research whatsoever of the Australian situation about recruitment requirements or possibilities.

The whole case for conscription in Australia rests on a single simple assertion by Sir Robert Menzies in 1964 that it was impossible to raise men in the required numbers in a full employment economy. This assertion has never been officially queried or analysed. Sir Robert's two successors have followed him in making no effort to raise or retain recruits by treating the Army as an essential occupation and providing rates, conditions, opportunities and postservice benefits accordingly. The Government refuses to contemplate even the suggestion that the initial volunteer period might be reduced to 2 years, though the present Min- ister for Defence (Mr Malcolm Fraser) throws out the suggestion that the period of service for conscripts might be reduced to 18 months.

This reduction in the length of conscript service may occur, as we are told, 'after Vietnam'. When and what is 'after Vietnam'? The Government now puts into the mouth of the Governor-General the words:

Should the future situation permit a further substantial withdrawal of troops . . . some Australian troops will be included, at some stage, in the numbers scheduled for such withdrawal.

Let me repeat those words - 'Some Australian troops will be included, at some stage in the numbers scheduled for such withdrawal'. In such words, and in such a fashion, do we decree that men shall still be sent to die - not for a cause, not for a reason, not for a crusade, not for wives or families or country, but so that 'some' may be 'scheduled for such withdrawal' at 'some stage'. And in such a fashion, with such calm objectivity, did Haig consecrate his butchered hecatombs.

We are told, in this Address: 'My Government believes that aggression must be seen to be unsuccessful . . .'. It is incredible that a Prime Minister, at this time, after the experience of the past 3 years, should write these lines, or oblige the Head of State to utter them in reference to Vietnam, on the very day that the Prime Minister of Laos appeals for the Geneva Conference to reconvene to protect his country from overt aggression from North Vietnam. To justify itself, to hide the total failure of its policy in Vietnam and in this region, this Government, and in particular its leader, clings to its original disastrous myth about the nature of the war in South Vietnam, and the needs and nature of the continuing conflict in the whole of the old French colonial territories.

This Government never had any purpose in Vietnam other than to keep the United States involved militarily on the ground in Asia. It has sought to achieve this end by prolonging the war. In particular since 1967, every Australian endeavour has been used to impede or sabotage any American initiative designed to end the war, err to resist any American effort to modify the war by obtaining and maintaining negotiations. At any time during 1967 or 1968 it would have been possible to secure the negotiations which did in fact begin at the end of 1968. The incalculable price of that delay was the political destruction of a great President, the disintegration of the world's greatest political party and the near disruption of American society. But if negotiations had begun in 1967 or early 1968 it would have been possible to extend them as a basis for the settlement in all the old French colonial territories.

The object of such negotiations would have been neutralisation - and it was an objective quite capable of achievement right up to 1968. In the years from 1965 to 1968, anybody on this side who suggested neutralisation of the region as an objective was denounced and derided by honourable members opposite. Today, nobody expects that we can get so much. Only yesterday, the Minister for External Affairs declared that Laos proved the domino theory. I was under the impression all these years that the domino theory would not operate as long as North Vietnam was 'taught that aggression did not pay'. If the Government believed that, it would be far more perturbed and angry about what North Vietnam is doing in Laos than about anything that has ever happened in South Vietnam.

The same Minister for External Affairs who, as Treasurer, said in 1968 that the Liberal Party believed in 'resisting aggression everywhere in the world wherever it occurred', the same Minister who has always denied our contention that the war in Vietnam is essentially a civil war, now brings in a prepared statement which says that the Laos conflict now is as vital to our interests as Vietnam was supposed to be in 1965 - and for exactly the same reasons.

Will these Bourbons never learn? There is one real hope for Laos. It is that the negotiations on Vietnam should be once again taken seriously and urgently, and raised to negotiation for a settlement of the whole region. This Government has persistently downgraded these negotiations ever since it failed to prevent them. To the extent that its shortsightedness, not unmixed with a certain malevolence, has influenced the situation, this Government bears a real responsibility for what is now happening in Laos. Tt is true that the world does not hold us responsible for the Vietnam disaster although I believe history will show our responsibility and culpability to be greater than now appears. But the world does hold us, and rightly holds us, fully responsible for what we do in New Guinea.

The Governor-General's Address, like all official statements on New Guinea, implies that the question of self-government and independence for New Guinea can be settled without reference to any nations other than Australia and New Guinea. The plain fact is that Australia would not have been permitted to remain in New Guinea as trustee had she not promised to prepare New Guinea for independence. Two months ago. the governments of 112 nations in the United Nations, including our great and powerful allies, called on Australia to transfer full executive and legislative powers to elected New Guineans. The Address repeats the trite and meaningless formula that the timing of self-government and independence is to be based solely on the wishes of the people of New Guinea.

The fact is that all the important steps Australia has taken in the political development of New Guinea have been basically decisions made in Canberra, not in Konedobu. The very changes announced in the Speech itself are decisions of that kind. The honourable member for Fremantle (Mr Beazley) verv accurately pointed out yesterday that the people of New Guinea, including its political leaders, are suffering verv grievously by confusion deliberately spread bv expatriates, including officials, as to the real meaning of terms like self-government and independence. Invariably one finds that men who will at first express doubt as to their readiness for self-government wi'l nonetheless agree with local control of every item forming the structure of government. In other words they want selfgovernment and they want it now.

The member for Fremantle, the member for Oxley and I found throughout the Territory that one of our greatest difficulties was to reassure the people, even members of the House of Assembly, that neither selfgovernment nor independence meant the end of Australian aid. This false notion is deliberately fostered by some expatriates, again including some officials. The greatest single step towards the political education of New Guineans this Parliament itself could advance would be to make a formal declaration that Australian aid and Australian assistance will continue after independence. My Party would support such a declaration if initiated by the present Government and will introduce it when it becomes the government.

New Guinea is a country where it is particularly difficult to get at the truth. The Prime Minister, on receiving two authentic telegrams from planters and a spurious telegram from the Gazelle Peninsula Council, instantly replied that the Government believes the Council is acceptable to the majority of the Tolai people and described the Mataungan Association as extremists. Two months before, after a painstaking hearing and in a painstaking judgment, the magistrate who was mentioned in question time this morning had commented:

Since military and other aircraft brought into this little town more armed police than the Canadian authorities are reported to have sent to protect their largest city, Montreal, with its population of 2 millions . . . and since a police helicopter had been waking their babies as it sought out the Mataungan people, the speculation very naturally was as to the kind of people these Mataungan people are.

The learned magistrate concluded: ' . . . there is no evidence that the Mataungan Association is against anything except the Multi-racial Council'. He found as follows: (i have) the very heavy duty of publicly announcing that it is my considered opinion that the Mufti-racial Council elections of early 1969 should have been cancelled.

Mr Gorton - Was this before the assaults or after?

Mr WHITLAM - It was in the determination of that and other cases, 2 months before you rushed in to make your first comment ever on New Guinea. The Rabaul police operations cost a million dollars. A referendum would have cost $2,000; a referendum was rejected on the grounds of cost.

The situation in the Gazelle represents a fundamental breakdown in racial partnership. But such problems are inherent in the unnatural situation Australia and Australians find themselves in in New Guinea. There can be no true partnership between a ruler and the ruled. There is not one aspect of the many sided task we have to do in New Guinea - in defence, in development, in commerce, in welfare, in education - in which the value of the Australian contribution will not be enhanced when we cease also to be rulers. Only then can there be a partnership on that basis of equality which acknowledges the full manhood and dignity of each. And in this sense, what we have to do here at home, what we have to do in New Guinea, reaches for that same great goal - equality.

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