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Tuesday, 12 November 1974
Page: 2242

The CHAIRMAN -Any item in the report of Estimates Committee B is open for debate.

Senator CARRICK -I draw the attention of the Committee of the Whole to the report of Senate Estimates Committee B as it relates to the Department of Foreign Affairs. I draw attention to a number of matters. Firstly, honourable senators will note that the Committee reported that it was not entirely satisfied with the quality of the information made available to it by the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Senator Willesee) and the officers present at that Committee hearing. As a member of Estimates Committee B I say that personally I found the Department lacking in the ability to give information. That information should have been forthcoming. It is important in the future that officers of sufficient status and with particular specialties should be available to participate in the Committee hearings so that honourable senators can obtain the information they require. I stress that point. Secondly, honourable senators will note that the Committee's report draws attention to the fact that there was virtually a complete lack of information in some specialist sections, including the ones outlined in the report. It says:

Firstly, there were no officers present from the International Organisations Division of the Department and therefore the Committee was unable to obtain satisfactory replies to questions relating, in particular, to Australia's activities at the United Nations and its participation in the various agencies of the United Nations.

It is of great importance for the Senate to examine those matters and the Committee found item after item on which it could get no explanation at all. Thirdly, in regard to the new agency to handle foreign aid, my impression is that here we have a new authority, enormously proliferating, with its functions not clear, and an authority which could easily get out of hand in terms of Parkinson 'slaw.

Having said that I would like to direct my attention to those items that relate to foreign aid in the present crisis and to what I regard as the most important issue which has confronted this world since World War II. That is the crisis in food, starvation and disease throughout the world. I direct my attention to this matter in the hope of getting a response from the Minister specifically in relation to the food conference in Rome. I had hoped that there would have been detailed statements made by now to this Parliament so that Australia would have a knowledge of the circumstances as the Australian Government saw them, of the submissions made by the Australian Government and of the commitments agreed to by the Australian Government. As I understand it, the situation is that with the growth of population, particularly in the Third World, together with drought and the lack of technology there is likely to be starvation, disease and death of an order not known before in human history and a disaster at least equivalent to World War II.

It has been estimated that as many as 30 million people could die in the coming year from starvation and disease. In the face of that there was assembled in Rome a committee to which Australia was invited and on which Australia participated. We have not had, as a Parliament or as a nation, any statement by way of either background or explanation of commitments from the Government or the Minister. The news that comes to us is that the attempt to commit the countries of the world to supplying food, money and the various specialist requirements was virtually a partial failure, and the Minister can correct this information if it is wrong. As I understand it, the total amount of food for which commitments were given is less than one-tenth what might be required to avoid disaster. For example, I believe that the huge nations- Russia and China- made no formal or specific commitments. Our only knowledge of what Australia has done is gleaned from the media, and this has not been corrected. That knowledge, stated accurately, runs this way: That Canada having made a commitment, the Australian Minister present had to consult by telephone his Prime Minister in Australia to determine what might be Australia's commitment at what I describe as the most important conference in the world since World War II. I understand that what happened is that we decided to match Canada on a per capita basis. If the events are not as stated the information has not been corrected.

It seems to me- and, I am sure, to the people of Australia- quite intolerable that Australia would go to such a conference without a prepared submission and without facts and figures being made available to the people of Australia as to the diagnosis of the world situation, and without a complete and specific recommendation from Cabinet as to Australia's commitment, not just in terms of a gross figure of money- and even that was not done- but in specific terms as to foodstuffs and direct help. Much is made of other perils to the world but the simple fact is that we in a country blessed by many resources and a relatively small population in comparison with foodstuffs produced, and also with high technology, have an absolute responsibility to other countries, a responsibility not to be measured by whether we match Canada or some other country in sheer humane terms and by our ability to give. Our help should not be measured simply in terms of foodstuffs. I have been in my time in many under-privileged countries and I speak not from theory about the experience of starvation, near starvation and the disease that comes from the absence of carbohydrates, proteins and, particularly, vitamins. I have seen the real horror of death and disease from beriberi, from starvation and from the various disasters that flow from malnutrition.

It seems to me that what we have done is not a fraction of what we should do and the fact that Australia has not been told what is being done is extraordinary. One would have thought that the Minister would have come back home to set targets for production, targets for diversion, targets for reconstruction of the whole of our commitments, targets for the supply of drugs, medicines and vitamins, targets for the supply of protein concentrates and, above everything, targets for the number of skilled people to be made available to these areas because far more important than carting food and carbohydrates to these countries would be sending hundreds of people with technical experience to enter as quickly as possible into agrarian pursuits in these countries and to assist in overcoming the ravages of drought and underproduction. More important than food would be fertilisers and those things which go basically to helping these countries produce from within.

The real question is: How can we help them within their countries to produce the food and the necessities to keep them alive? We have had no response at all from the Government to this question. Nothing has been said to us except in a rather begrudging way in the Press that we will match Canada, and we guess that this decision was made in a telephone conversation. That is nothing at all to be proud of. What I want to stress is that quite apart from the problems of Australia's economy, Cabinet should give urgent and thorough consideration to how Australia as a leader can give help. We are very proud to race around the Third World and recognise Russia's sovereignty over the Baltic States to win a few votes to try to get the Presidency of the United Nations. We are very proud to go to China and prove to the Third World that we have an interest in it, but if we really have an interest in the Third World it ought not to be measured by whether we get votes for the Presidency of the United Nations. It ought to be measured in terms of whether we will give, and give till it hurts, and send help, and send help till it hurts. This is the real test of whether tins country is talking for sheer propaganda purposes to try to get the numbers at the United Nations or whether it really wants to help.

Senator Mulvihill - You do not want us to have our own foreign affairs policy. You want us to be a stooge for America like you were.

Senator CARRICK - Here is the real test. One would not expect that Senator Mulvihill would have heard what I have been saying. I am talking about the hundreds of millions of people of the Third World who are dying of starvation. All the Government is doing is talking. It is doing nothing else. Today we have seen a classic diversion by the Minister in charge of the House and now there is another classic. I want to get back to what I was saying. Does any Government supporter in the Senate say that -

Senator McAuliffe - You are a phoney.

THE CHAIRMAN (Senator WebsterOrder! Senator McAuliffe, I ask you to withdraw that remark about the honourable senator.

Senator McAuliffe - Well I will say -

The CHAIRMAN - The honourable senator will withdraw the remark unreservedly.

Senator McAuliffe - I will replace it by saying that he is a millionaire in words and a bankrupt in ideas.

The CHAIRMAN - You will replace it by nothing. You will withdraw the remark.

Senator McAuliffe - On what grounds, Mr Chairman?

Senator Sir Magnus Cormack - Mr Chairman,may I intrude? The Standing Orders are quite clear in regard to this matter. When the Chairman of Committees or the presiding officer stands in his place every senator shall resume his seat. Senator McAuliffe refuses to resume his seat and is standing defying you. I ask all honourable senators, including the honourable senator concerned, to obey the Standing Orders.

Senator Wriedt - May I speak to the point of order? What Senator Sir Magnus Cormack has said is quite true but it also is customary to allow a senator who is asked by the Chair to withdraw a remark an opportunity at least to say a word or two. With respect, I suggest that Senator McAuliffe is not getting any opportunity to say anything.

The CHAIRMAN - Senator McAuliffe,you will please withdraw your remark.

Senator McAuliffe - May I be given the protection that a senator is entitled to under the Standing Orders? Mr Chairman, with respect, why am I being asked to withdraw the remark?

What remark is offensive? What is the reason for asking for my withdrawal?

The CHAIRMAN - If the honourable senator will resume his seat I shall read the standing order to him. Standing order 418 states:

No Senator shall use offensive words against either House of Parliament or any Member of such House . . .

The standing order goes on to state: all imputations of improper motives and all personal reflections on Members shall be considered highly disorderly.

I rule that your comment was highly disorderly and I ask you to withdraw it.

Senator McAuliffe - I withdraw it.

The CHAIRMAN - Thank you. I call Senator Carrick.

Senator Button - You were telling us about your contribution to Vietnam, I believe

Senator CARRICK - I would be happy on any occasion to talk of contributions to Vietnam. I, for one, have lived among those people. Unlike almost everybody in this Senate, I have lived among the Vietnamese. I have seen their struggles. I have a very great admiration and affection for them, unlike those who from a distance see darkly. Talking of the previous Government's contribution to foreign aid, it was, with the exception of France, the highest per capita in the world. Therefore, when I am called a phoney I find it a title of honour. Having seen at first hand, and having been at first hand part ofthe people who starved and died from diseases, I make this emphatic plea to the Government: As a matter of urgency, in Cabinet, will the Government recommit its whole aid and then make a statement to the Senate and to the Parliament on what the position is and what our contributions will be, not only in foods but in drugs and in men and women who can go there and by their technology give leadership out of this world disaster?

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