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Thursday, 21 March 1968


Mr LEE (Lalor) - When I entered this Parliament 15 months ago I hardly thought that I would hear from a member of the Australian Labor Party's front bench a speech as negative in approach as the one that we have just heard from the honourable member for Cunningham (Mr Connor). For the first 20 minutes we listened to a tirade of abuse of Ministers. We listened to a lot of rot. We wasted our time. I wonder why he did not give us something constructive. He might have given us a rundown on the people on the Labor Party's front bench.

Tonight I wish to speak for a few minutes about Indonesia. But before I do that let me say that there has been much criticism, particularly from the other side of the House, in relation to the drought in Australia. Anybody would think that the Government had brought the drought into being; that the Government had stopped the rain. Only today it was announced that the Commonwealth Government, through the Australian Wheat Board, would assist primary producers by providing wheat on terms and that the Victorian Government would provide a subsidy on wheat. Also today the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) announced that a further Sim would be spent on assistance to people in declared drought areas. I am very thankful that this action has been taken.

Let me pass from the prophets of doom to the aid that Australia is to give to overseas countries. To me, one of the most pleasing features of the Governor-General's Speech is the mention of the doubling of our aid to Indonesia. Recently the honourable member for Bowman (Dr Gibbs) returned from overseas with some first hand knowledge of conditions in some of the poorer countries. He has spoken about overseas economic aid. I should like to follow up what he said. I am concerned that he found that schemes carried out under United Nations agencies are expensive and uneconomic. If this is so it follows that Australian contributions to these funds are not being used as effectively as they should be. It seems that Australian contributions might well be diverted to a needy country which is close to our shores. Such a country, of course, is Indonesia.

It has been announced that Australia has promised to double its aid to Indonesia, but I think that we should try to ensure that such aid is put to good use. Millions of dollars have already flowed into that country and to what effect? Let us see what has occurred in Indonesia since the Second World War. Australia was sympathetic to Indonesia's claims for independence, but subsequent events might well call into question the wisdom of abandoning Dutch rule so soon. Independence was conceded. What was to be next? Under a militant government came the claim for sovereignty over West New Guinea. This claim met with success. Confrontation with Malaysia was the next issue. The cost of these expansionist policies was crippling to the Indonesian economy. Fortunately for the people of Indonesia and South East Asia generally there was a radical change of government, and recently some effort has been made to correct the economic situation. But despite good intention these efforts have met with only limited success. I propose to quote from the 'Far Eastern Economic Review' dated 15 February this year. The writer is speaking of mild demonstrations that occurred early in the year in Djakarta and Bandung. He states:

These demonstrations have much deeper roots than mere youthful vandalism and, basically, they are completely justified. The economic conditions for the common man have deteriorated to a level not previously experienced. It must be said that the Government has proved itself unable to provide basic commodities at reasonable prices, a much emphasised point since the overthrow of Sukarno. The Suharto Government certainly did not create the preconditions of such a mess. They were inherited from Sukarno. But it has failed to bring relief on the most sensitive of all issues - rice, a key problem economically as well as politically. There have been appeasing statements by the Government, meaningless proclamations of the parties, high sounding resolutions of Parliament - but that is all.

Since independence Indonesia has received aid from many countries of various political colourings. Today its debts are reported to stand at approximately $US3,000m, about one-third of which is owed to the Soviet Union for the purchase of modern arms during Indonesia's disagreement with Holland on the West New Guinea issue. That figure of $US3,000m does not include the direct grants and gifts which Indonesia has received from countries such as Australia.

To Australia's credit, we have maintained a consistent policy of economic assistance over the years - even through the difficult days of confrontation. But there are many problems facing Indonesia before it can become stable and prosperous. Unfortunately the enormous aid programme has not benefited Indonesia as a whole, but it has undoubtedly made a certain group of people rich beyond measure. Some of the people responsible for economic crimes have been arrested, but many of their counterparts are still at large today. There is no doubt that in the present new order there are people who were involved in corruption during the old order. Many people are not unaware that under General Suharto corruption is still prevalent and that people involved in corruption far outnumber the clean ones. Let me quote again from the 'Far Eastern Economic Review'. The report reads:

The Government has also failed to convince the public that the anti-corruption drive is ;.n full swing. The prevailing opinion is still that the sharks are spared and only small fry are caught in the nets.

This is a very great problem and one that is difficult to eradicate.

I do not want to be too critical of another country, but I do want to point out that if Australia is to give aid to Indonesia it is essential that we know where that aid is going. In Indonesia today wages are extremely low. Public servants and members of the armed forces generally get much lower salaries than are paid to employees of private firms, overseas companies or foreign embassies. Let me give some examples. An Indonesian Army colonel recently stated that for his services in the Army he received monthly 1,200 rupiahs, plus a rent free house, uniforms, a rice ration and the use of a motor car. When asked how long the money lasted the colonel said that it lasted for only 2 days. I wonder how a colonel in the Australian Army would get on if he received only enough pay to last 2 day's pay a month. What would he do to make up the balance? We can only surmise what the Indonesian colonel has to do to feed himself and his family for the remaining 28 days of the month. And yet in Indonesia it is reported that members of the armed forces own a number of beautiful sedan cars, good homes and other good things. How do they manage to get them? Many public servants need at least ten times their salary in order to live. What do they do to cover the deficiencies? These people appear to be prisoners of the economic conditions. An Indonesian Government doctor is reported to be paid 1,500 rupiahs, a month. In addition he receives 60 litres of rice. The money is sufficient for only 3 days, but fortunately he and other doctors are allowed to practice privately in the evenings.

So much for the past. What of the future? The new Indonesian Government faces a lot of difficulties, but it seems to me, on good advice, that one of the steps that should be taken by the Indonesian Government is a reform of the wage structure so as to put enough purchasing power in the hands of the consumers. When this has been done severe punishment should be meted out to those guilty of corruption, without regard for rank, position or family relationship. There is no doubt that wage reforms and the accompanying monetary reforms cannot be sustained unless developmental work is undertaken at the same time. This is where Australia can help. There is no doubt also that the time has not arrived for the present Government of Indonesia to be too ambitious in its developmental projects. Friends of mine have lived in Indonesia and it seems to us that the Indonesian Government should concentrate its energies in the immediate future on the development of basic and light industries.

For this, Indonesia will need, and should be given, aid. This again is where Australia can help. Above all we must see that our aid does not leave any loopholes for corruption.

If in past years the aid was simply given in the form of money, which can go to the wrong coffers, and goods, which can be sold for the benefit of the rich, the Australian Government should stipulate that any money now given must be used only to purchase certain things necessary for specified developmental work. The Australian Government must insist also that Australian administrators and experts be used to supervise projects in order to see that the work is properly done. This will discourage any undesirable action, such as pilfering. At the same time Australia must help to train Indonesian technicians and administrators - a job which has already commenced.

It is no secret that Indonesia lacks skilled and qualified personnel, who are indispensable in modern society. Factories and plantations which were taken over by the Sukarno regime did not get proper maintenance as distinct from proper administration. The lesson of the buses given by the Australian Government to Indonesia a few years ago under the Colombo Plan, which were allowed to run without proper maintenance until they broke down, should make us acutely aware of the necessity of lending Australian technicians to Indonesia and of helping to train the Indonesians.

I hope that I have not been too critical of another country. I do not wish to be destructive in my comments, but if Australia is to increase her aid to our friends across the Timor Sea we must see that such assistance reaches a destination where it will be effective. So much money has gone already and appears to have been ploughed into the wrong hands that we must ever be watchful. Sound administration and a lot of planning are essential in order to see that this aid reaches the right quarters. We have increased our aid to $1 2.7m for the year. This is good, but when one learns that Canberra is to have a new hospital, which alone will cost $17m, one wonders whether we really are so generous after all. Most of the money that has been allocated to Indonesia will be set aside for credits within Australia for the purchase of food and other goods. This will be good for both countries. Only SI. 25m is earmarked for specific projects, which Australia itself will undertake, and $750,000 for schemes for bringing students here and sending experts to Indonesia. It seems a pity that only $2m is being spent on capital works and the training of the people, while % 10.7m has to be spent on more immediate needs, such as food, no matter bow necessary that may be.

I am sure that we could do a good deal more for Indonesia, particularly in the field of capital works, such as planning and building factories, roads, telephone exchanges, dams and power stations, and in training the people to maintain and to operate these facilities. This is important because in the past it seems that the Indonesian people have been inclined to let things go. Indonesia is a country rich in natural resources. Why could not Australia recruit a team of young Australians who would be willing to offer their services sacrificially for, say, a term of two years? Young graduates, technicians and tradesmen could work as a team under older dedicated people, on specific projects. These teams could be backed by the knowhow of the Department of National Development and the Department of Works and they could be put in to complete specified projects in co-operation with the Indonesians. Would this not appeal to the imagination of Australian youth? Voluntary private schemes of a smaller nature have caught the imagination of Australians. Many have gone to New Guinea and northern Australia in working parties. Why not a Government sponsored scheme for Indonesia?

Perhaps I could suggest a model aid programme. Imagine that the Government, after discussions with the Indonesian authorities and the necessary feasibility studies, were to decide to allocate a certain amount of money as aid in the building of meat canning factories. An outstanding executive from the industry in Australia would need to be chosen to supervise the work, and a team would have to be sent to plan and to build the factories. Cannery managers would be required, technicians to look after the machinery and foremen to supervise the work. After training, a group of young Australians could go along to work with the Indonesians in the factories.

The aim, of course, would be to integrate the Indonesians into the organisation as soon as possible. Eventually they would take over most of the jobs in the factories.

In conjunction with the overseas aid programme, I call for opportunities for young people to channel their enthusiasm and energy into fruitful work of goodwill. For want of better things to do, some young people are tearing about the suburbs and the country towns at weekends in old cars, many getting into trouble with the police, because we, the more conservative people in the community, have not provided them with something useful to do. Certainly, we have provided high wages, high-powered cars-


Mr James - They are swift hearses.


Mr LEE - That is true. I think they have too much spare time. Many do not know what to do with themselves in their spare time and they ride around in these swift hearses. Every weekend many teenagers are killed on the roads. Those young people in their late teens between the time when they leave school and when they marry, could be encouraged to do what I am suggesting. That is the time when they could give some period of their lives in sacrificial service for their country, perhaps as an alternative to service in the Army if they are conscientious objectors to the national service scheme. Indonesia, New Guinea and Australia all need a new pioneering spirit. Let these young people loose on a worthy project and they will not fail us. There would be nothing more fascinating nor more rewarding than building something for some of our needy neighbours.

I do not subscribe to the statement that our efforts are mean and amateurish. I think that we come second to France, as one member mentioned today, in our overseas aid programme. A great deal has been achieved. It is all very well for the Leader of the Opposition to throw stones from a great distance at the work that the Government has been doing. Wherever there has been a need, the Government has tried to be of assistance. I could mention Papua and New Guinea, which is our own special responsibility, Colombo Plan Aid, South East Asia Treaty Organisation economic assistance, assistance in Africa, in the Indus Basin and in Laos. Mention might be made of the South Pacific Technical Assistance Programme, disaster relief and emergency food for India, as well as very generous contributions to the International Development Association, the United National Relief and Works Agency for Palestine refugees, the World Food Programme, International Red Cross, and the United Nations Children's Fund. On top of all these we should remember the special work carried on by Community Aid Abroad and the Freedom from Hunger organisation. These are private enterprise functions and it is good that the community at large has joined in these projects. Last year the Freedom from Hunger organisation organised another appeal, the major new project being to combat malnutrition in Indonesia. 'Give aid for self-help' was the slogan for the 1967 appeal. While cries for immediate help cannot go unanswered, the solution to the economic problems of these countries lies in massive development which will provide food, jobs and overseas balances for these countries. We must help win the battle against starvation and want.

I ask the Government, despite all the pressures for financial help from within Australia and despite its huge defence programme, to press on with its help for the underprivileged, the undernourished and the starving peoples of the world, with particular emphasis on Indonesia, our nearest neighbour. With its petroleum, coal, iron and nickel deposits, its rubber and spices and tropical products, it is a potentially rich country. It is just beginning to struggle out of great economic difficulties. Disregarding New Guinea, Indonesia is our nearest neighbour. I think specialised projects under strict control is the best form of assistance that we can give, and that young Australians who have become increasingly mobile on the world scene should be given the opportunity of taking part in this programme.







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