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Tuesday, 27 March 1973
Page: 740

Mr GARLAND (Curtin) - I think it is appropriate - in any case this is the first opportunity since the last sitting week of the House - to review the first 100 days of this Government's existence. Who would have thought that in that short period there would have been such a dismal performance in the interests of the country and such bad behaviour as well. Let me commence by reading what I think is a very telling letter that was published in the 'Australian' newspaper. It states:

Now being the anniversary of the Labor Government's first 100 days in office, I think it an apt time for a progressive analysis. In matters which concern me personally ( I'm 24 years old, single), I find little reason for rejoicing. I'm finding it far more expensive to live (food prices have risen astronomically), I had a long weekend ruined because of a petrol strike and I've been coerced into joining a union (fees $25). Besides this, I read that because of its vast spending spree (aid to North Vietnam, jobs for the boys, pay rises for MPs), the Government will probably be forced to increase taxation in the coming Budget. Guess who'll be paying? But apart from all this, the Labor Government, in my books, has made one serious blunder - freeing draft resisters. To me and thousands of other national servicemen who did what we were asked to do this came as a personal affront. It is a stigma now deeply branded into the hide of the Labor Government- and deeply embedded in the minds of the voters.

I want to commence by saying that this Government has by its behaviour lost the confidence of nations around the world. I refer particularly to our relations with the United States. Intemperate, insulting statements have been made by Ministers about our friend. They have been suited to street corner debate rather than being statements that one could properly expect to come from Australian ministers of State. That was an apt description given by the 'Sydney Morning Herald*. We are used to it here but it deeply insulted President Nixon and his government. ANZUS is our primary defence treaty and anyone who damages it in any way damages Australia's national interests. Under the heading of confidence, what has been done to the Government's reputation and this country's reputation in respect of the United States bases in this country? Let us be certain, the left wing of the Labor Party is still very much opposed to the attitude the Government has taken, and we have not heard the end of that yet. Damage has been done to Australia's reputation in financial matters in respect of the long term commitments entered into by the mining companies around the world.

Damage has been done to the reputation of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation, which other countries and our friends are entitled to rely on when they give Australia help in military intelligence. What the Prime Minister has done as Minister for Foreign Affairs has been not only a mishandling of principles; the fact is that in the way things have been done the very style has been wrong. It has induced a lack of confidence in this country. The character of his international dealings has been such that we have lost the trust of our friends. Many Ministers of his Government make statements apparently without reference to him. Indeed the Prime Minister himself has admitted that there has ben a lack of consultation on questions regarding the currency and in foreign affairs where a number of Ministers have expressed themselves in harsh terms. The Prime Minister has said in a number of speeches that Australia would have a new way and yet he has not spelt out what that new way will be and so it is obvious that the United States of America, Britain and our Asian neighbours should have severe doubts about what our new policies will be - in other words, a breakdown in confidence without any counter-balancing advantage to our national interests. I quote part of an editorial in the 'Sydney Morning Herald' of 22nd March 1973. I allude to the style of the Prime Minister. The article read:

Mr Whitlamchose a strange time and place - a private dinner in Canberra last night in honour of the Yugoslav Prime Minister, Mr Bijedic - to attack the previous Federal Government for its complacency over Croatian terrorist activities in Australia. Most people would have thought that Parliament was the proper place for such comments. . . .

The article later stated:

The main thing to emerge from his remarks last night was his firm support for Senator Murphy's highly publicised confrontation with the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation in Melbourne last Friday. Until the Canberra dinner he had been almost completely silent on the matter, but now he has not only backed the Senator (and his posse of Commonwealth police) but has forecast a- major restructuring of ASIO. Whether this, last night, was a matter of passionate interest to Mr Bijedic must remain a matter for conjecture. Locally, however, there are still plenty of unanswered questions.

This is again damage without advantage. The Prime Minister took with some glee the decision with the Treasurer (Mr Crean) to make a unilateral revaluation of the Australian currency. He later admitted under questioning that there had been no consultations with the Minister for Overseas Trade and Minister for Secondary Industry (Dr J. F. Cairns) and the Minister for Primary Industry (Senator Wriedt). No consultation took place. Why not? Does he not trust them or do they not trust him? Surely to heaven these men who have responsibilities on behalf of important sectors of the Australian economy and Australian people have a right to be heard. The future of many Australians is involved.

We saw, too, the setting up by this Prime Minister of a 2-man government - Australia's first 2-man government. Many decisions were made by that Goverment, most of them unjustified as to their urgency. Why were there only 2 Ministers and not 4 - including the 2 leaders from the Senate? That, surely, was a calculated snub of the Leader of the Senate, Senator Murphy, as was pointed out by Mr Max Walsh of the 'Financial Review' in an article on 5th January. That use of dic- tatorial power, albeit for a short period, is un-Australian and should never be repeated in the history of this country.

We have had coming up, particularly in the last few says, the question of the establishment of an Omega station in Australia. I was interested to hear the Minister for Defence (Mr Barnard), who has 5 portfolios - a regular Pooh-Bah in Australian politics. He shuffled around in answer to the question I asked him but he ended up supporting the view that the Omega Station will be no defence hazard. I take this opportunity of putting on the record, because the Prime Minister places such importance on the transcript of his Press conferences - indeed there is evidence he regards them as official documents, but I do not have time to deal with that aspect now - his answers to questions addressed to him at the Press conference on 13th March. The record of that conference includes the following:

Q.: Mr Whitlam, until 101 days ago when Labor was in Opposition, Labor members spoke frequently about the defence significance of Omega. I remember Mr Barnard giving a learned exposition on how it could be used by nuclear submarines. Now when we contact Mr Barnard's office we are told that it is purely a matter for Mr Jones.

PRIME MINISTER: That's right.

Q.: When we talk to Mr Jones, we are told he doesn't want to talk about it. Will you tell us what your Government's attitude is to Omega - what's going to happen about it, and do you expect any problems within the Party over this?

PRIME MINISTER: It is a matter for Mr Jones and his Department. There are no submissions from him on the subject.

Q.: Is it of defence significance, Sir?

PRIME MINISTER: I would believe it would have some defence significance. But I frankly don't know enough about it.

This, in spite of his comments before the election. The Prime Minister continued:

I'm leaving it to him to brief me. But, as rational men, you will know that there are very few navigational aids which don't have some defence significance.

Q.: Mr Barnard in the past has been quite outspoken about lt. You don't feel that if perhaps, as the expert in what's now the Cabinet, he should be consulted on this?

PRIME MINISTER: He has responsibilities in defence matters. This is primarily, as far as I concern myself with it, a navigational matter.

Q.: You agree with the previous government?

PRIME MINISTER: As far as I know, this is primarily, a navigational matter. It will be taken up by Mr Jones if it is taken up at all.

Minister about Omega. After the decision last weekend in Melbourne, of which we are aware, I hope that this comment made by the Prime Minister receives the widest publicity in order to see whether he renegues on his previous decision. I have been talking about the lack of trust which people have been encouraged to have in this Government.

I refer briefly to some other issues, including the fiasco of the Government's dealing with the troops in Singapore. The Opposition rightly moved to censure the Government in this matter and moved the motion which, as close observers noted, the Prime Minister did not attempt to answer directly. Indeed he connived with the Leader of the House (Mr Daly), who is sitting at the table, to gag the debate after 3 speakers on the ground that there would be plenty of time for people to express their opposition during the AddressinReply debate. But, of course, the Leader of the House gagged that debate when 16 Liberal speakers alone wished to make contributions to the proceedings of this House. So much for the contradiction by the Prime Minister. In that debate - I think this is of particular importance - he admitted, and no evidence can be better than personal admission, having given a secret briefing to certain journalists involving matters which were highly classified.

Reviewing again the performance of this Government, the Cabinet's mutual admiration society wore off around about the end of last month. We remember the decision made about the export of merino rams when the Government decided to allow 30 merino rams to be exported and the Prime Minister - this is another piece of evidence - tried at a Press conference to hide the breach of Australian Labor Party's policy in consequence. I would say that that is evidence of his desire to fool the journalists and the people, yet this is a Prime Minister who claims to favour open government.

I come to the question of the recognition of China. I do not disagree in principle with that recognition but the point is at what price was it given. The Prime Minister has been most evasive and uncommunicative in answering questions on that matter. However every person who lives in the real world knows that when anyone is making an agreement with somebody he does not give away his position and promise that he will make that agreement in advance because a recognition involves a number of points given and points accepted - a number of conditions. It has never been satisfactorily answered by the Prime Minister or by his Government as to what conditions Australia gave in receipt of normalising diplomatic relations. We were told that we had to give up all contact with Taiwan-

Mr O'Keefe - And $80m of trade.

Mr GARLAND - And $80m of trade as my colleague says, and I am pleased to call the honourable member my colleague. But let me point out that the United States which has made an accommodation with the People's Republic of China - that is, Peking - has retained an accommodation with Taiwan. Tt has de facto relations with the People's Republic of China but each has liaison officers with full relations with Taiwan. Canada simply found a formula of noting the position of the People's Republic of China in Taiwan and retained a neutral position. Why could not Australia have done that? Why did we give away so much? The point is that the Prime Minister's method of dealing is not in Australia's interest.' He barges in. He has done the same in New Guinea over the last few years and it remains still to be seen whether the- policy that he has advocated turns out to be really in the interests, of either Papua New Guinea or Australia.

I come to the lack of economic, responsibility of this Government with, overspending meaning a deficit building-up, I would predict, to at least $ 1,000m in this fiscal year. The Minister for Labour (Mr Clyde Cameron) and the Prime Minister are now eating their words relating to the economy on the predictions they made before the election about the level of unemployment as it would be today. The Government has, as a part of that economic overspending, increased to 35 the number of Government departments in Canberra. I will quote a small extract from the 'Sunday Independent' of 7th January. The article is entitled 'Government Jobs to Cost us $35 Million'. It reads:

The Australian taxpayer will be hit with a $35m backlash from the Federal Labor Party's new-look Government.

Creation of 16 new departments has sparked a scramble by public servants for plum jobs, many carrying wages above $16,000 a year. '

The $35m cost estimate is considered conservative.

Under the new Labor Government there are 37 ministries, 10 more than under the McMahon Government.

The Prime Minister, of course, occupies 2 of these positions. He is the Minister for Foreign

Affairs as well as Prime Minister. How can a man properly carry out the high offices of Prime Minister of Australia and Minister for Foreign Affairs of Australia? It is impossible. Anybody who has occupied either of those offices in recent times knows of the enormous work load and the enormous responsibility. I am not worried about the work load on the Prime Minister. I am worried that he cannot do it properly in the interests of the Australian people. But he is trying. There are hundreds of cables received on foreign affairs alone in this country and they need to be read if our policy and interests are to be maintained. But in his role as the great diplomat to which my colleague the honourable member for Kennedy referred he - and he is most ambitious in this field - has in the short time he has occupied that office insulted the President of the United States - there can bc no doubt about that; he has set his people to undercut a senior Minister of the Malaysian Government - a friend of ours; he has made disparaging remarks about the Government of Thailand, for which he has been chastised. What sort of record is that? Educated people, thinking people, rely on the movements and attitudes of Australia or any other country over a period. They expect us to be stable and to treat our friends as friends and not just rush off in some direction with a halfbaked scheme or to make lightheartedly some jibe or insult. That is no way to pursue the interests of Australia or indeed to further world peace.

I come now to the Minister for Defence (Mr Barnard) who is also Minister for the Navy, Minister for the Army, Minister for Air and Minister for Supply. I regret that I will not have time to list all these matters. But the Minister for Defence occupies 5 portfolios. How ridiculous can you be? What a silly position he found himself in with the departure of his former Press secretary. The position was, I think as cogently as it can be stated, that one minute the Press secretary resigned and the next minute the Minister for Defence said to him: 'No, do not resign next week, go now'. And then he said: 'But I don't know the reason why he left'. We have not heard the full story on this. I conclude by reading paragraph 14 of the minute obtained from the Secretary of the Defence Department and tabled in this House by the Minister and which I believe will repay careful study. It reads:

If the failure to inform you -

That is the Minister - that I had had your decision actually disseminated has misled you into believing that nothing had been conveyed to Mr Lloyd, I must apologise. I took it for granted, perhaps wrongly, that you would understand that your decision had to be conveyed to people for practical reasons associated with the seating arrangements and the like.

There is a whole depth of meaning in that which repays study to us all. I will not go on in detail now.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Dr Jenkins)Order!The honourable member's time has expired.

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