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Thursday, 20 June 1946

Mr WHITE (Balaclava) . - T refer to the present farcical position in regard to Australia's External Affairs Department, and in particular to the perambulations of the Minister (Dr. Evatt), who is rushing about the world to the neglect of affairs at home. A fortnight ago a Labour member of the Victorian Parliament, Mr. McKeon, M.L.A., said that our Minister for External Affairs was interfering in the affairs of Spain, although he had no mandate from Australia or anywhere elsa to do so. He added that if the Minister attended to matters nearer to Australia he would be doing more good. That was one Labour man speaking of another, and I heartily endorse what he said. We have a Resident Minister in London who should be able to attend any conference that it is necessary to attend in that part of the world, leaving our' Minister for External Affairs to attend to matters nearer home. For instance, the situation with regard to Dutch ships in Australian ports is scandalous. As the result of it .our relations with the Dutch have deteriorated. It has upset the good-neighbour feeling which was of long standing, and which survived ' right through the war. I have received many communications from ex-prisoners of war who were associated with the Dutch, and who now state that they are ashamed that such things are allowed to go on. One letter, which I received from an officer who was a prisoner in Java, contains the- following passage : - >

A great many ex-prisoners of war - I would say a :large majority - who have returned from Malaya and the Far East, feel very deeply the shame and ingratitude of the Government in allowing Dutch ships to be victimized by ignorant, 'misguided workmen led by. disloyal Communists.

In that paragraph he has summed up the whole situation. Another ex-prisoner pf war, Captain L. Orr, wrote an article which was published in the MelbourneHerald, 'and in it he referred to the deterioration of relations between Australia and the Netherlands Government. He begins with this sentence -

We Australians, who endured Changi prison conditions with Dutch troops, are sad about the turn- of events which seems to be driving a wedge between our two countries.

The writer refers to the formation of an Australian-Dutch association to foster comradeship and good relations after the war, and he speaks of the disillusionment of its members. He says -

When the war was drawing to a close, three members of the Australian Imperial Force approached the Dutch commanding officer with the idea of forming a society to promote closer political, cultural and commercial ties between our two countries, and thus was born the Australia-Netherlands East Indies Society . . . What a disillusionment. The Government had repatriated us . promptly, the people of Australia were magnificent in their interest and good feeling, but something was wrong with our country.

Let us remember that Dutch affairs are their own affairs. There is certainly a revolt against Dutch rule in the East Indies, and it has been encouraged by the action of certain persons in this country.

Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.

Mr WHITE - Before dinner I had stated how farcical it is that our foreign policy should be left to one

Minister who is perambulating around the world, shuttling between Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States of America, and who, in the words of another Labour man, the member for Richmond in the Victorian Parliament, has no mandate from Australia or anywhere else to take up the attitude he is taking to-day. There are many problems in Australia to which the Minister might devote his attention. This treatment of the Dutch ships in Australian ports is disreputable to this country, which has been an ally of the Dutch. The Government has weakly abdicated to a handful of Communists who decide our foreign policy. The Minister should be immediately recalled from New York and told to go to Java to settle this matter. Instead of rebuking the Dutch Minister, as he did to-day, the Prime Minister (Mr. Chiefly) should be grateful that that gentleman has not said more about this tragic affair. What is the position regarding these ships? For seven or eight months Dutch ships have been tied up in Australia as the result of the machinations of a handful of Indonesian Communists and their sympathizers in this country who decide our foreign policy, and have done so since the time of the last Fremantle by-election. The honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) will remember that during the war it was intended to bring to Australia a number of Dutch troops, that complete arrangements had been made for their reception, but that, for some reason or other, the proposal was abandoned and no explanation has since been given as to the reasons, for its abandonment; No doubt orders were given by the pressure groups which dominate the Government that they were not to come here. So, a nation that took our. troops to Milne Bay for- a land action which, above all, first decided the course of the war, and prevented the onward march of the Japanese towards Australia; a nation whose homeland the Nazis ravaged, whose women and children suffered as greatly as those of any other nation, and' whose colonies were overrun and their people subjected to the full rigors of war, is insulted by unionists who, throughout the war skulked in this country and knew nothing of its horrors. This is the treatment .meted out to a great ally, with which, through the mother country, we have been on friendly terms for centuries, and with which we have enjoyed friendly trade relations to our mutual advantage. We should not allow that good .will to be disrupted in this way. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) mentioned the case of the Dutch destroyer Piet Hein. Had that been a Japanese vessel the treatment meted out to it could not have been more scandalous. Indeed, Japanese ships sent to Australia for the repatriation of prisoners of war have been victualled and serviced without any sign of hostility on the part of the waterside workers; but when a Dutch ship which met with an accident off the Australian coast seeks succour it is sent from Melbourne to Fremantle and back again only to be refused service at our ports. The Minister for the Navy (Mr. Makin) said that there was no room in our docks for it. That statement is thrown back in the Minister's teeth by the owners of docks in Melbourne who have indicated that they had the facilities to handle it. The ship was then moved to Sydney. The Prime Minister said that he did not know why. Is the honorable gentleman aware that the ship has now gone on to New Zealand in the hope that it will receive friendly treatment there? Two weeks ago the Tasman, a Dutch ship named after the famous navigator who explored the southern waters of Australia 100 years before Captain Cook first touched upon the Australian coast, .put in at Melbourne, but the gentlemen on the waterfront declared it black and would not load it. Finally, it was loaded by Dutch children and Dutch evacuees anxious to return to Holland or to go back to their homes in the Netherlands' East Indies. This sorry state of affairs was brought about because Australian workmen had to obey the behest of the Commissars . who ordered them not to touch the . ship. When the ship- was finally loaded our people refused to take it out of the Yarra, and it had to negotiate the passage into the open' sea . without assistance. I referred earlier to statements made by a former Australian prisoner of war, a medical officer, who

Supply Bill[20 June, 1946.] (No. 1) 1946-47. 1679 had attended Dutch and Australian prisoners in Changi prison. This gentleman said that he could have found sufficient men among the sick returned prisoners in hospital in Australia to load this ship, men who would have been glad to do so in token of their appreciation of the kindness of the Dutch people. However, if certain men in Sydney, who are the enemies of this country and of the British Empire, say that a thing may not be done, it is not done, and no working man may disobey their orders. I read of another statement made by a prisoner in Changi prison, in which he spoke highly of the friendly relations that existed between the Dutch and Australians in captivity there, and expressed the hope that some day we may be able to repay their courtesy. With what bitterness and disappointment must these men observe the behaviour of this Government. The trouble in Java is a matter for the Dutch people themselves. It is not solely a: Javanese problem, because portions of the East Indies such as . Ambon and Timor, are favorable to the Dutch regime. The present political trouble in Java has been largely promoted by the Japanese, and the action of the waterside workers of Australia has encouraged and incited the worst elements among the Javanese to ruthless violence and all kinds of lawlessness. I ask the Prime Minister is it not a fact that the present so-called. Indonesian Prime Minister, M. Sjahrir, has stated that he hopes all ships might sail from Australia and bring to the Javanese people the medicines and foodstuffs that they so sorely need. Is it not also a fact that M. Sjahrir indicated that he proposed to ask the Australian waterside workers to load the ships? This matter has already gone too far and it should be adjusted promptly by the Prime Minister standing up to the trouble makers and taking such action as will ensure the swift departure of these ships. I appeal to the right honorable gentleman not to continue to leave in the hands of one Minister this most important matter of foreign affairs policy. No matter how well informed the present Minister for External Affairs may be, it would surely be better for us to have that continuity of foreign affairs policy which prevails in the United Kingdom where the present Minister for Foreign Affairs is carrying out a policy very much in line with that adopted by his predecessor, Mr. Eden. It is regretable that in Australia this important matter should be left to the whim of one individual who, according to the press, is now prepared to break off diplomatic relations with Spain. I trust that the Prime Minister will recall the Minister and ask him to direct his energies towards the solution of the problems that confront this country in its relations with its near neighbours in the Pacific, and to take such action as will ensure that these Dutch ships are permitted to sail without further delay. Through the reprehensible actions of irresponsible people in this connexion we have already lost trade worth some millions of pounds, and we have jeopardized the continuance of our friendly relations with a great and noble ally.

I propose now to deal briefly with the manufacture of aircraft in Australia. Recently, I ascertained, by, reply to a question, that the Government is expending over £9,000,000 in the building of 61 Lincoln bombers. The Lincoln is an improved Lancaster built specially to carry the 10-ton bombs used in the latter part of the war. To-day there are hundreds of Lancasters, Halifaxes and other types of bomber aircraft in Great Britain that could be obtained by Australia for the asking. In Australia itself we have hundreds of Liberators, and any one going along the Geelong-road will see hundreds of aircraft out in the open, like so much junk, many of them of the Liberator class, which are suitable for transport and daylight bombing. Yet, to-day the Government is expending this enormous sum of money on the manufacture of one type of bomber. The Lancaster, the Halifax, in fact all of the bombers used during the war, are already obsolete. The House need not rely on my word for that fact; it is common knowledge to every one in the Royal Australian Air Force and needs no corroboration. In his forthright and challenging hook Winged Peace, Air Marshal W. A. Bishop, Y.C., D.S.O., M.C., D.F.C., Canadian ace of the Air Force during 1680 Supply. Bill [REPRE SENT ATIVE S. ] (No.1946-47. the 1914-18 war, had this to say upon the subject -

Already, the DC4's,Lancasters, Liberators, Mosquitoes and Flying Fortresses are obsolete: They were rendered obsolete by the jet planes flying over Europe, and the rockets fired into. England. Though it will take time to produce jet and rocket craft on the scale required, the tact remains that they have presented mankind with the most terrifying problem in history.

Jet. propulsion, the use of gas turbines, and rockets have gone beyond the experimental stage. It is merely the application of a common engineering, principle, Newton's third law of motion that action and re-action are equal in amount but opposite in direction. The ordinary skyrocket has now developed into a weapon of tremendous power and. range. This is the opinion of a leading aeronautical engineer, the chief engineer of the Lockheed Corporation -

Though we may never want to go 100,000 miles an hour or fly 100 miles above the earth, I soberly believe that we shall some day do both if we need or desire to. And the plane in which we shall do it will be a rocket ship.

Three years ago I told the Government, when it set up a plant costing nearly £1,000,000 to manufacture Rolls Royce engines that engines of the type contemplated were obsolete. My prediction was true. Now, with a flourish, the Government tells us that it is building Lincoln aircraft. One Lincoln plane has been flying in Australia in connexion with loan publicity, but it was not built in Australia; it was imported from England, dismantled, and reassembled. We are building Lincolns, but none will be produced before perhaps next year, when, according to all reliable authorities, the planes will be obsolete. You ask the alternative. Let us realize that if war comes again, and God forbid it, it will not be bombers capable of carrying 10-ton bombs that will be used, but light jet-propelled aircraft, which are already capable of more than 600 miles an hour, and. will be infinitely faster, that will fly through the stratosphere, equipped with pressure cabins and carrying atomic bombs. Australia, too; will be capable of being hit from enormous distances by rocket bombs, quite apart from aircraft attacks, which will be made only for the sake of more precision. I counsel the Govern ment to give a little mores thought to the defence of Australia. The money that it is wasting on the Lincoln bomber project conies, from taxes paid by the people, not from thin air: It should use their money for a better purpose than the addition of more junk to that possessed to-day by the disintegrated Royal Australian Alt" Force'. In passing, I must emphasize the disintegration that has taken place in that once splendid force; which is now described as an " interim force "'. It is one that does not encourage the best young men to join it.

I am glad that the Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lazzarini) is here, for he has produced a prototype prefabricated metal house.


Mr WHITE - But the department has. In the Government's aircraft factories, enormous numbers of skilled men are working on the production of obsolete aircraft. Their work is a. credit to them. They are so efficient that they could build aircraft of any type. But the question is, how can we best spend our money, use our men, money and material ? The Bristol Aircraft Company of Great Britain, which produced the Beaufighter and other fine aircraft during the war, has turned very largely to the construction of p re-fabricated houses in an effort to meet Great Britain's housing problem. Australia, too, stands in great need of houses. We could mass-produce prefabricated houses with the men, money and materials that are being wasted on bombers. All that is necessary on the aircraft side is that the Government should keep up to date in methods of jet propulsion by keeping a nucleus constructional staff and by sending experts to Great Britain and the United States of America to keep abreast of progress. The production of houses would be to the greater good of the greater number. Another more profitable use to which the skilled labour that is being wasted on the manufacture of obsolete aircraft could be put is in the manufacture of agricultural implements, the shortage of which in Australia is acute. Europe is starving and the spoils of war for Great Britain are a smaller ration of food than its people suffered 'during the six .war years. We should 'be seeking greater production of food in order that we might alleviate #heir plight. A fatal mistake was made by the 'Government when it restricted primary production. It now has the opportunity and the responsibility to make amends by increasing it and sending food post-haste to the Mother Country, so that our kinsmen might enjoy a diet approaching the comparative luxury of our own. Yet we have the spectacle of ships that could carry food lying idle in Australian' ports- because of industrial turmoil, and of money being wasted on aircraft that will never be used but will soon be sold as junk, perhaps as cheaply as Moth aircraft were sold .recently at auction in Tasmania where people were able to buy them for as little as £25 each. I repeat that light, speedy jet-propelled aircraft what Ave shall need, not flying arks. Two things I emphasize: first, that our relations "with the Dutch must be settled on a better plane, and second, that the whole aircraft production project must be overhauled with a view to ensuring better use of labour and a reduction of wasteful expenditure.

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