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Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Transcript 1713


Photo of Holt, Harold

Holt, Harold

Period of Service: 26/01/1966 to 19/12/1967

More information about Holt, Harold on The National Archive website.

Release Date: 09/11/1967

Release Type: Speech

Transcript ID: 1713

S EN A TE E LE C TIO0N 1 96 7
Twelve months ago, you returned my Government
with a record majority in the house of Representatives. You
gave us warm and powerful support for reasons which seemed to
you to be vitally important important for Australia's securityimportant
for its economic welfare important for the security
and welfare of yourselves and your families.
The greatest issue before you was whether we
should desert our allies in time of conflict and this is what
we would be doing if we withdrew our forces from Viet Nam. This,
in effect, was what the Australian Labor Party proposed to you.
This, in basic English, is what it still proposes under its
new leadership. Wrapped up in this question last November
and now is what reliance would Australia be able to place on
its treaty arrangements with the United States arrangements
which mean so much to our security if we were to walk out
on the Americans in Viet Nam,~ That danger of a weakening of
our treaty arrangements remains while Labor persists with
its policy of withdrawal. At issue also last November and now is our
growing relationship with the free countries of Asia.
Several of these are contributing as we are to the
resistance in Viet Nam to communist aggression. They are
fearful that this expansion could imperil their security,
So are others not actively engaged, such as Malaysia,
Singapore, Laos and Taiwan. Not only is the security of all
these countries threatened, but also at risk are the bright
prospects revealing themselves for us all by increased trade
and growning co-operation for mutually helpful peaceful
purposes. These were aspects of Australia's external
position before you last November.
They are still before you, but importance has
been heightened. It has been heightened by the British
announcement, made since the last election of plans for a
phased withdrawal of forces from the Malasia/ Singapore area,
But external policy was only one issue,
vital though you rightly believed it to be. You were also

conscious that under the sound and stable government we had
given, Australia was making remarkable economic progress.
Indeed, only one industrialised country Japan can point
to a higher rate of increase in its national product over
the last five years. That progress, and the prosperity
which accompanies it continue. You had good reason to believe
then as you have now that the fanciful doctrinaire
economic and social policies put forward by the Labor Party would
endanger this steady progress. They would certainly involve
an astronomic increase in government expenditures.
In the coming Senate election, many less
important issues will be argued before you by our opponents.
Attempts will be made by them to distract you from issues
fundamental to the nation's welbi But you refused to be
diverted last November. Since then, the Labor Party has gone
through a process of face-lifting. It has tried to project
a more attractive image under a new and younger leadership.
But all the evidence proves that the basic policies remain
unchanged. The gulf between the views of the Government
and those of the Opposition on external and domestic matters
remains as wide as ever.
This particular campaign produces another major
issue, Although the Government enjoys a record
majority in the House of Representatives, it is in a minority
in the Senate, You may wonder why this is so. The immediate
reason is the death last year of two Liberal Senators, but
the Senate is always close to an even division, because its
members are elected by proportional representation, while
the Members of the House of Representatives are elected as
a direct consequence of the choice of individual electors..
In the coming election, therefore, you are not
electing a government, you are electing thirty Senators
five from each of the six States. I hope you will see to it
that the majority of them will be government Senators!
I say this for the plain reason, which you will
readily understand, that if government is to be effective, the
Government of the day should be able to count on majority
support in both Houses of Parliament,
You rejected the policies of those Labor Senators
who oppose us in the Senate today.
Are we to be able to get on with the country's
business and carry out the mandate you gave us twelve months
ago, or are we to continue a situation where a combination
of Senators whose policies you have I repeat rejected,
whether from the ALP, the DLP or as Independents, can take
the business out of the Government's hands whenever they
choose? To give the final say to those you rejected
so decisively twelve months ago, would be, I think you will
agree, both absurd and an abandonment of democratic principle.
The official platform of the ALP says it will
abolish the Senate. But, under its new leadership, the ALP

has used its representation there, regimented by the vote of
the full Caucus, to thwart the democratically elected majority
in the House of Representatives. A typical instance was its
action in holding up for six months the improvements proposed
by the Government to the Aged Persons Homes Scheme.
The Government has two years of its three-year
term to run, but the numbers remain against us in the Senate.
Unless you resolve this situation favourably for the Government,
Australia faces a period of political uncertainty and confusion.
Effective government is impossible unless we can carry out the
policies and programmes you have endorsed. And this becomes
the more necessary in what is clearly a very difficult period
ahead when you consider the international scene.
The broad question you have to decide is whether
you give the Government the means to do its job in the firm,
speedy, decisive way you would wish it to perform.
In the course of the campaign, I shall be telling
you in more detail what we have done at home and abroad since
you elected us for a three-year term last November. I said then
that what we promised we would perform and, indeed, that we would
be doing more than we promised.
This has been done, and more than we promised
has been done and we shall continue to do more as opportunity
offers. We set speedily about the task of giving effect
to our policy undertakings. As soon as the new parliament met,
we busied ourselves putting our promises on to the Statute Book,
We went a stage further in liberalising the means
test. We gave further help to the disabled by the Sheltered
Employment Assistance Bill. We doubled the amount annually
available for science facilities in independent schools. We
established a Commonwealth Ministry of Education and Science.
We made it possible for more young people to
benefit from the Homes Savings Grants Scheme. At the time of
this further liberalisation, some 77,000 young couples had
received home savings grants totalling over thirty-four-and-ahalf
million dollars to assist them to own and establish a
home. We have given effect to our promise to provide an
additional $ 50 million for beef roads.
We have broken new ground in a number of directions
not mentioned last November.
Here is the picture, without going into detail:
In the area of Social Welfare: we have extended
child endowment; we have given social service benefits to the
mentally retarded; we have moved to assist deserted wives; we
have done more to lift the tax burden on elderly people; and
we have worked out a scheme to assist pensioners who need
hearing aids. These may seem small in the national picture,

but each of them meets a special need.
I should add that, following the referendum,
I have set up an Office of Aboriginal Affairs in my own
Department. In the area of National Development, since
last November's election, we have introduced legislation to
cover the new discovery of off-shore oil, which will encourage
investment and iron out problems between the Commonwealth and
the States. In this field of development just to show you
what constantly goes on we have helped Tasmania with the
Gordon River Project and assisted the South Australian gas
pipeline project. We have announced substantial financial
help for the Ord River project in Western Australia and the
Nogoa Dam project in Queensland,
Emergency assistance is constant five States
have been helped with their drought, bushfire and flood
emergencies. I emphasise, however, that I shall not be
outlining a new three-year programme when we still have two
years to run under our presend mandate, We should all be quite
clear about this. The Labor Party may tell you what it would
do if it were in government. But it is not in government, and
is not making a bid for government at this time. You will
remember its spokesmen saying recently that this was not the
time to challenge the Government decisively not even in the
Senate, We were told then that the Labor Party is not yet
ready, but that it will be ready in 1969. We shall be ready
also'.. But what you are to resolve at this moment is whether
the Government you have chosen is to have a majority support
in the Senate in the interests of effective government.
You have much to preserve,. Through the long
period of Liberal leadership, the progress of the Australian
economy has been sure and steady-Our political and economic
stability have greatly promoted our development and our standing
in the eyes of others. We enjoy one of the highest standards
of living in the world. No free industrialised country can
point to as high a level of employment, so consistently
sustained, over a long period of years.
A bigger percentage of Australians own, or are
in process of acquiring, their own homes than exists in any
other part of the world. In the availability of motor vehicles
to the population, we rank second only to the United States.
We are devoting a bigger proportion of our Gross National
Product to investment than any country other than Japan. Over
our period of office, we have increased the provision in the
Butget for social welfare from $ 185 million to $ 1,071 million,
We have increased the provision for defence from $ 108 million
to $ 1,118 million. Even when allowance is made for the increase
in population and changes in the value of money, these facts
confirm spectacular progress. Just think of the diversity of
this great continent, the nature and tempo of its development. __ 7

You would need to travel thousands of miles to understand fully
what is happening. The growth of new towns and new ports in
response to the exploitation of fantastic mineral discoveries
is one exciting part of the picture.
Changes in the past have not only been remarkable
in themselves. They are pointers to the kind of future we want
and for which we plan. We can be confident of this future if
we are given peace, and if we can maintain a continuing
partnership between Government and Industry in a free enterprise
system. We must also think in terms of priorities.
Defence ranks high in our national priorities. This year we are
provising $ 1,118 million, an increase of eighteen per cent over
last year. Five years ago our defence bill was $ 428 million,
nearly $ 700 million less than the estimate for this year. We
have achieved this expansion without serious distortion or
disruption of the domestic economy. It is a high price to pay,
but security is never bought cheaply. And we are firmly
convinced that our domestic programme, the education and health
of our people, our responsibility to the very young and to the
very old all of these things depend upon our security as
a relatively small nation in a large and dangerous part of the
world. Our opponents depict the Government and its
supporters as people who have little concern for those in need
of help whether aged, invalid or disabled, or younger people
having a need for education or, as they marry, a need for
housing. Our record of performance over our period of
Government since you rejected Labor in 1949 gives the lie to that
line of propaganda. Let's follow the figures. The vote for
social welfare in the last Budget introduced by a Labor
Government, provided a total of One hundred and eighty-five
million dollars. Our Budget for this year provides One
thousand and seventy-one million.
Not only has the total provision grown enormously,
but the percentage of the total budget we devote to social
welfare is a higher percentage than in the last Labor Budget.
What is more, this increase in amount and percentage has been
achieved despite the increased provision we have made for
national defence from the low figure of One hundred and four
million dollars in Labor's last Budget to One thousand one
hundred and eighteen million dollars this year.
We have greatly widened the eligibility for
assistance to the aged and invalid. The education of the
young, the provision of housing, the care of the sick and
disabled have led us to introduce many new benefits not in
existence when we came to office. Let me name a few of them:
the provision of pharmaceutical and
medical benefits generally;

the special schemes in these fields for
o the assistance given to provide homes for
the aged;
grants to universities;
the other new policy measures in the
education field which have produced an
increase in Commonwealth provisions for
education from less than Eighteen million
dollars in Labor's last budget to One
hundred and ninety-four million dollars
this year,
All these measures illustrate a concern that the
wealth of a prospering community should contribute to the wellbeing
of people in real need,
These spectacular increases would not have been
possible unless we had succeeded by our policies in developing
and enlarging our economy,
I would like to tell you now a little about our
thinking and hopes in one or two areas of policy which concern
us all,~ The first is education. The sincerity of our
belief that education is important to every Australian and vital
to the nation is, I suggest, proved by our record. We now have
a Ministry of Education and Science. This year, the provision
for education in our budget increased by thirty-five per cent
over that of last year. Large though the growth of the education
vote has been over recent years, this does not prevent us looking
at targets for tomorrow,~ I know my colleague, the Minister for
Education and Science, would like to help children of preschool
age who are put at a disadvantage because of a bad home
environment. At the other end of the scale, he wants to help
talented youngsters who at present cannot pay their way through
universities. He feels, also, that the success of our scheme to
provide science laboratories and equipment invites us now to
look at the Humanities, to the school libraries,
I mention this background of thinking to let
you know we regard policy-making as a continuing process, not
merely as an electioneering device every three years.
Let me give you another illustration, We have
always said, and I repeat the undertaking, that we will continue
to improve our national health scheme. In many parts of the
world, our scheme is regarded as a model., But no plan meets

all human needs, We know we have not yet properly covered
the emergency of long illness. There is anxiety about this,
particularly in old people. Here then is another area of
genuine human need which will take a high priority in our
thinking, What we can do is, of course, governed by
what we have. Money can't be plucked out of the air. But we
do plan constantly to make further progress towards our social
objectives, I come back now to the issue of national security
on which you voted decisively for my Government a year ago.
Let me re-state our foreign policy aims in
relation to South-East Asia of whiL_': Vietnam is a signifcant
part. Our military commitment in South Vietnam arises out of
our larger and long-term assessment of the security of South-East
Asia and our belief that the new nations that have come into
being there should be allowed to survive as independent
communities. We believe this in their interests and in ours.
When we committed ourselves to the defence of
South Vietnam, we did so in the belief that the fact of aggression
in South Vietnam was real, as was the threat of its expansion
through other parts of South-East Asia, We have no cause to
alter our assessment, We believedthen, and we still believe,
that a successful communist takeover of any of the directlyaffected
nations would not only be disastrous to the peoples
of those countries, but would weaken, and in time destroy, the
capacity of other nations of South-East Asia to maintain their
own independence. We share the view of the Government of the
United States and of the governments of the free countries of
South-East Asia and the Pacific that the transfer of the area to
communist control, either by subversion or aggression, would
doom the peoples of the area to domination and servitude.
Who can deny that the unchecked advance of
communist subversion and aggression in South-East Asia would be
a threat to our own national interests? Our powerful ally,
the United States, has assessed that it would be a threat to its
national interests. For us, in our geographical and strategic
position, the threat would be very much greater,
But there is a more positive and constructive
side to our policies. The new nations of South-East Asia,
although beset by difficult political and economic challenges,
are real national entities with commendable purposes and a
vision for their future progress which is worth backing. Their
chances must fail unless external aggression and subversion
are held at bay. Already the other free nations of the area
have benefited from allied intervention in South Vietnam. They
have been able to go ahead with economic development and there
is today more genuine co-operation for peaceful, constructive
purposes than these countries have ever previously known.
These are the bedrock reasons for our policy
and our commitment.

The course of the immediate conflict in South
Vietnam does not alter the fundamental reasons for our policies.
But I have re-stated them here, because it is for you to weigh
them against the newest policy decisions of the Australian
Labor Party, It is clear from the decisions taken by the
Federal Conference of the ALP at Adelaide, that the Party has,
in substance, the same policy on Australia's military presence
in Vietnam that it had at the general election last year. The
United States is given an unacceptable ultimatum, But if it
is not accepted, Labor says that Australian troops will be
withdrawn. A Labor Government would scrap the foreign
policy which the Australian people Dverwhelmingly endorsed a
year ago. It would, for all practical military purposes, turn
its back on South Vietnam, and reduce our American alliance to
a meaningless set of pious words.
The issue is not whether we want peace in Vietnam.
We all want peace in Vietnam. The issue is whether an
Australian foreign policy, which attaches immense importance
to the American alliance and to the independence of the free
countries of South-East Asia, is to be preserved or destroyed,
So the Senate election, among other things, is
an opportunity for the Australian people to say again where they
stand in relation to their own vital national interests., This
is, I repeat, even more important than at the time of the
House of Representatives election a year ago. Since then the
intentions of Britain east of Suez have been made known.
While you are making your assessments about our
position internationally you should take into account the
British Government's decision to make a phased, but total,
military withdrawal from the mainland of South-East Asia by
the mid-seventies. Australia, its allies, and its friends will,
as a consequence, be engaged in close and far-reaching consultations.
I put it to you that we must, in these circumstances,
have in office a government with a consistent and intelligible
foreign policy a government which can work in close
co-operation with allies who see the needs of the area much as
we do. I mention, in particular, our American allies.
I was sharply reminded of the Labor Party's
isolationism in foreign affairs when I attended the opening of
the United States Naval Communication Station at North West
Cape as recently as September 16. Here was tangible, exciting
proof of the reality of our ANZUS Treaty with the United Statesa
dramatic example of the " effictive self-help and mutual aid"
described in Article 11 of the Treaty.
But have you forgotten that if the Labor Party
had been in power in 1963 there would have been no North West
Cape Station? When the United States Naval Communication
Station Agreement Bill was before Parliament, the Labor Party
produced an amendment designed to deny to the United States
sole control of the station. The Labor Party served notice of
impossible terms on the United States. When defeated on this,

the Labor Party moved that the third reading of the Bill should
be postponed for six months-This, in plain language, was an
attempt to kill the Bill,
But today we don't hear any apology from the Labor
Party for its wrong thinking in 1963, Instead we find a
perpetuation of the folly in Labor's present attitude to our
obligations under the American alliance. But there is nothing
new about the Labor Party's dangerous isolationism in foreign
policy. It emerges all along the line, It is a danger signal
a warning we should all take note of
So I say again that the issues of national
security are still paramount-Let me put it to you in the
simplest terms: The security of this country depends very
largely upon how far we can have South-East Asian countries
kept out of the hands of the communists. If -these countries did
fall to communism, we in Australia would be a very exposed and,
in terms of trade and area co-operation, a much more isolated and
restricted nation.. That's the heart of the political argument in this
country, We believe -and the majority of Australians shared
our belief a year ago -that the external policies of the Labor
Party are to put it bluntly -suicidal,
So I ask you to take this Senate campaign very
seriously. It so happens that the Labor Party's leaders in the
Senate enjoy the support of the Party masters outside
Parliament who would weaken the alliances which are the keystone
of our security. All that we have worked for and built up
over the years could be quickly and disastrously undermined if
the voice of the Labor Party's policy-makers became the voice
of Australia, As I said earlier, political instability and
uncertainty are inevitable when a government with a big majority
in the House of Representatives is in a minority in the Senate.
We want that position resolved in the interests of effective
government. But we also hope that you will record a positive
Senate vote for the Government as a reaffirmation of what you
said a year ago. What we plan for the well-being of Australians
and the development of our country must not be put at risk,
I put it as high as that with confidence,
because I don't think the Australian people change their minds
from day to day on basic questions of national security and
survival nor, for that matter, on basic questions of their
country's economic strength and their own welfare.

Transcript 1713