25th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. Sir John McLeay) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– Order! I have to report that I have received the following communication from His Excellency the Governor-General -
Dear Mr. Speaker,
The Address from the Speaker and the Members of the House of Representatives on the occasion of the death of Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal has been laid before Her Majesty The Queen. 1 am commanded to convey to you, Mr. Speaker, and to the Members of the House Her Majesty’s heartfelt thanks. The Queen is deeply sensible of the expressions of sympathy by the elected representatives of her people throughout the Commonwealth of Australia at a time when Her Majesty and her family were suffering from a sad and unexpected loss.
– I preface a question addressed to the Treasurer by stating that finance for housing in Victoria is becoming almost impossible to obtain. As this situation is causing great concern to building associations, building societies and others, will he say, first, whether the tightening up by banks, insurance companies and other lending institutions is the result of his Government’s action and, secondly, whether he is aware that the drying up of housing funds could bring about uncertainty and unemployment in the industry? Is he also aware that it will prevent many young Australians from obtaining homes? Finally, will he examine the position with a view to preventing any disastrous period of instability in the building industry?
– The information in the possession of the honorable gentleman is very different from that supplied to me from the latest indicators on home building and on non-residential building. The latest figures which I saw showed home building maintained at well over 100,000 units a year and showed that nonresidential building had increased over the quarter by, I think, 30 per cent, above the corres- ponding period for the previous year. All the indications reaching me suggest that the building industry is under more pressure, perhaps, than any other section of economy.
– What about homes?
– I have already mentioned that the annual rate of construction of homes is one of the highest, if not the highest, in the history of this country. It has not been reported to me that there is any shortage of finance for that purpose, and the state of the building industry would hardly suggest that. I shall see whether there have been any more recent developments which have been in accord with the honorable gentleman’s statement. I will reply to him in more detail if I discover that to be so.
– I address a question to the Minister for National Development. How many weeks’ supply of oil is normally held in reserve in Australia for defence and civil requirements, based on present day usage?
– I understand that at the present moment there would be something like 10 weeks’ supply of fuel oil and a little more of automotive distillate. Perhaps it will be better if I give the honorable member the full figures later and show how they are made up.
– I ask the Prime Minister a question: Will he say whether the decision to commit Australian troops to Vietnam is related to Australia’s economic relationship with the United States of America? Were economic sanctions against Australia proposed by the United States as a means of forcing Australian troops into Vietnam, or did Australia offer troops to stave off the pressure of economic sanctions proposed by the United States?
- Mr. Speaker, by putting such an offensive question the honorable member does no more than to disclose the nature of his own mind.
– I address my question to the Minister for Territories. It has been reported that a local company “ is out of the bauxite battle”, and, no doubt, this statement refers to the leases still to be issued in the Gove Peninsula area. Can the Minister say why the local company has withdrawn its application or tender and when a decision will be made regarding the leases still to be finalised at Gove Peninsula?
– Only two applicants were involved in the Gove Peninsula leases and, as far as I know, they are still interested. As a matter of fact, representatives from both parties intend to meet me here in Canberra next week.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Social Services. Will the Minister agree that the age and invalid pension, of itself, could normally be expected to provide only a very sparse standard of living? Will the Minister promise that whilst helping to formulate proposals for the next Budget he will seriously ask himself how on earth an invalid man and his dependent wife can exist on £8 10s. a week, just £2 10s. more than is given to a single pensioner, or how an aged pensioner and his wife who has not turned 60 can exist on the one pension of £6 a week?
– Order! Will the honorable member direct his question.
– Will the Minister spare a special thought for the “ B “ class civilian widow aged between SO and 60, often with no opportunity or prospect of employment-
– Order! The honorable member is again commenting. He will resume his seat.
– I ask my question of the Minister for Primary Industry. Is the Minister aware of repeated reports indicating illegal trading in undersized crayfish on the Western Australian coast? Has the Minister information as to what extent these reports are correct? If they are correct, is the Minister in a position to take such action as is necessary to safeguard this important industry?
– I am aware of the reports that there are illegal operations concerning crayfish in Western Australia. Unfortunately, some of the reports are correct because there have been prosecutions against those who have offended. I am having discussions with the Minister for Fisheries in Western Australia on this matter. We are considering the matter of compulsory escape gaps in the cray pots so as to reduce the take of undersized crayfish. However, we will go into the matter further and see if we can come to some satisfactory conclusion.
– I direct my question to the Prime Minister. Has the Prime Minister furnished the Premiers of Western Australia and Queensland with particulars of the Cabinet’s decision on the Ord River project and other important projects in the north of Australia? If so, does the decision confirm earlier reports that consideration of those schemes has been deferred for at least 12 months? Finally, does the Prime Minister intend to make a statement to the House this week explaining the Government’s attitude towards the matters referred to and, if not, when does he intend to do so?
– I have before me a fairly full answer to that question, but I have not had time to check through it today. I would like to check it and see that it completely covers the ground about which the honorable member has inquired. If he will be good enough to repeat his question tomorrow, I will give him the appropriate answer.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Trade and Industry. Can he give the House any information concerning supplies of superphosphate for agricultural purposes in Victoria? Has his attention been directed to the fact that many people have been unable this year to obtain their regular supplies from the companies that usually supply them? Has the Minister any information that he can give the House about this matter? Will he seek from the companies concerned an assurance that they will take whatever action is necessary to see that in future seasons supplies are delivered on time?
– I am aware, of course, from personal experience, as all Victorian farmers are, that at the present time there is a very great shortage of superphosphate, due no doubt to the very high demand compared wilh previous seasons. I am advised that the production of superphosphate in Victoria for the last six months has been some 14 per cent, higher than the increased production of last year, but this appears to fall considerably short of the demand at the present part of the season. My advice is that two of the producing companies in Victoria are not accepting further orders at present, but that all the companies - three, 1 believe - that are producing superphosphate in that State expect to be able to fill their orders by the end of June. I have been advised that two of the companies do not propose to expand their works further next year, but that Imperial Chemical Industries of Australia and New Zealand Ltd. has begun a £4.5 million programme for the expansion of superphosphate production. The Government will watch the situation closely. To the extent that it may be desirable - I think some action probably will be desirable - we shall be prepared to undertake discussions with representatives of the producers of superphosphate so that the Government’s policy of encouraging, by payment of bounty, the use of this material will not be frustrated by shortage of supplies.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Air. I ask: In view of the fact that the Royal Australian Air Force is now equipped with modern transport aircraft, will he urge the Government to intimate to the House whether it is prepared to have flown home for burial in their native soil the bodies of all Australian servicemen killed in the Vietnam war?
– The general policy regarding the repatriation of personnel, either alive or dead, has always been laid down by the Government. It does not affect the position concerning the aircraft of the Royal Australian Air Force. Therefore, the matter is not within my responsibility.
– I address my question to the Minister for Territories. Can he say what progress has been made in the surveying of the border between the Territory of Papua and New Guinea and West Irian?
– The Australian Government came to agreement with the Indonesian Government on the procedures necessary for the demarcation of the border between West Irian and the Territory of Papua and New Guinea. So far, the necessary work has not been undertaken. According to the Indonesians, administrative problems have prevented active efforts from being made. However, I hope that in the near future our representations will achieve something.
– My question to the Minister for the Interior refers to a proposal to establish a service station on land that has always been regarded as being part of the grounds of the Griffith Primary School and about which some considerable public protest has been made. Realising that the Government, having sold the land, is not in a position to make an approach to the petrol company concerned, I ask the Minister: Does he know whether the purchaser, the Shell Company of Australia Ltd., has made any approach either to his Department or to the National Capital Development Commission seeking an alternative site for the establishment of the service station?
– As the honorable member knows, I met a deputation of citizens from the Griffith suburb on the siting of a service station near their local school. When I spoke to the deputation I said that I was not prepared to negotiate with the Shell company about relinquishing its lease, but I said that if the citizens liked to approach the Shell company they might do so. They asked the Shell company whether, if an alternative site were found, the company would accept it. The Shell company replied to the group of citizens saying that it would be prepared to consider an alternative site. The Griffith Progress Association then forwarded to me the letter from the Shell Company of Australia Ltd. I told the Association that I would ask the National
Capital Development Commission and the Department of the Interior to examine other proposed sites, but there has been no direct correspondence between the Shell Company of Australia Ltd. and my Department.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Primary Industry and refers to sales of wheat to mainland China. I ask: Is the wheat that we sell to mainland China that which is surplus after meeting the requirements of our traditional customers? If China did not buy from us, could she secure supplies elsewhere?
– Sales of wheat to our traditional customers have varied between 100 million bushels and 120 million bushels each year and have been constant at about that level, so I would say there have been no sales made to China at the expense of any of our traditional buyers. It is well known that surpluses of wheat are held in Canada and the United States of America, but that the United States has not been selling to China. There are surplus supplies available in other countries, so if it became necessary for China to buy wheat elsewhere it could do so.
– I direct my question to the Minister for the Navy who will be well aware that at the present time in Australia we have the U.S.S. “Vancouver”. Will the Minister give instructions to his experts to have an examination made of this vessel, if that is allowed, so that we may gain information? I remind the Minister that this vessel is of unusual design and that during the 1939-45 war Australia built up her own amphibious forces.
– I can assure the honorable member that the people most concerned about future ship construction are vitally interested and will use the opportunity to study the ship and to report back to the Naval Board on that study.
– I ask the Minister for the Army whether it is intended that he should, in the near future, make a statement spelling out any proposals that the Government may have for increasing our military forces, in view of our additional commitments in South East Asia.
– At the present time I have no knowledge of any such intention. However, this is a matter of government policy and I suggest that it is not appropriate to be discussed at question time.
– My question is directed to the Prime Minister. Has the Australian Government been informed of the nature of the recent talks between Mr. Ellsworth Bunker of the United States State Department and President Sukarno of Indonesia? In view of Mr. Bunker’s role in negotiating the withdrawal of the Netherlands from West New Guinea and the handover of that territory and. its people to Indonesia, is the right honorable gentleman able to assure the House that a new phase of appeasement is not to commence? Is the Prime Minister also able to say that the United States will not regard the defence of Malaysia as merely a sideshow?
– All I can say is that I know of no ambiguity in the American position in relation to Malaysia. I know that Mr. Bunker has been out on a mission, to see the leaders in the Government of Indonesia. He has had discussions with them. The result of those discussions, I think, must await his report to the President of the United States and whatever the President may then care to say. The honorable gentleman will appreciate that it is rather difficult to have definitive discussions with leaders who occasionally are guilty of a slight inconsistency. Does he follow me? Yes; well, that is it.
– I ask the Minister for Trade and Industry a question. On 1st April he stated that a Japanese shipping line had agreed to operate a service of 10 sailings during the next year from Australia to the west coast of South America. Is it intended that Fremantle shall be included in this service?
– Speaking from memory, I say that my understanding is that the original arrangements which were made for this subsidised shipping service did not include Fremantle. That was because experience had shown that for that particular trade there were not substantial cargoes to be lifted from Fremantle. I am not saying that there are not substantial quantities of cargo to be lifted from Fremantle, but that there were not substantial cargoes for these particular destinations. I have made it my business to have a study made of the import requirements of the countries served by this line and of the availability, in terms of quantities and seasons, ot those items able to be shipped out of Fremantle. If it appears that a case can be made for the ships to call at Fremantle, of course, the matter will be studied quite closely between the Department of Trade and Industry and the shipping company concerned. But at the present time my advice, which is not complete, does not indicate the likelihood of that happening in the near future.
– I ask the Prime Minister a question. The right honorable gentleman announced last Thursday night that the Government decided in principle some time ago that it would be willing to provide an infantry battalion for service in South Vietnam, if it received the necessary request from the Government of South Vietnam. I ask him when the Government received the request; whether the request was made under the South East Asia Treaty Organisation; and, if so, whether the Government has reported its measures to the Security Council.
– I thought I had been informed that the debate on this matter would be resumed this afternoon.
– Can you not find a better way than that of avoiding the question?
– So far from avoiding it-
– Can you not give information
– What side are you on?
– I am on the side of Australia, and it is time you were.
– All I can say is that I am looking forward to this debate, and when I take part in it, as I propose to, I will deal with all the matters raised by the honorable member for Werriwa.
– I address a question to the Minister for Air. By way of explanation, may I say that recently a charge was made-
– Mr. Speaker, I raise a point of order. In view of your ruling in regard to the honorable member for Barton-
– Order! No point of order arises.
– You have not heard it yet.
– Order! I will hear the question before I hear any point of order.
– But my point of order is on the initial statement which the honorable member for Moreton was going to make by way of explanation and which surely would be out of order in accordance with your ruling earlier this afternoon.
– Order! I call the honorable member for Moreton.
– I think the honorable member would talk under boiling water.
– I ask the Minister for Air: Was a charge made recently that Royal Australian Air Force air crews stationed at Amberley were improperly ferrying in butter from’ New Zealand? Is the honorable gentleman in a position to confirm what the honorable member for Oxley regrettably seemed anxious to conclude was true? Finally, can he indicate the facts of the matter? If there is no substance in the charge will he seek an early opportunity to inform the honorable member for Oxley that charges happily need evidence to support them?
– I gather from the newspapers that the honorable member for Oxley asked for a report on this matter, so I am glad that the honorable member for Moreton has given me a chance to deal with it. The honorable member for Oxley referred to large quantities of butter being smuggled into Australia through Amberley. Only one aircraft has come from New Zealand to Amberley since January and, as is the case with every Air Force aircraft coming into Australia, it was examined on its arrival by Customs officials. It had on board four boxes of butter.
– For the Wagga mess?
– Not this time. The butter was to be divided equally among all members of the squadron: It enabled them each to have half a pound. The aircraft was cleared by Customs. The total value of the butter was £27 10s. and the duty paid was £5 10s. Every member of the squadron was able to get exactly half a pound of butter for his own personal use for which he paid the equivalent of, I think, 3s. 3d. per lb.
– I ask a question of the Minister for the Army. As our troops have been committed in Borneo on behalf of Malaysia and, as proposed, they are to be committed in Vietnam, can he say whether there are sufficient personnel in the permanent forces for replacements for those units? If not, are the conscripted personnel to be used as replacements for those forces? If they are, can he assure the people of Australia that these personnel will be fully trained before they are sent overseas?
– As stated by the Prime Minister when he announced the introduction of the national service training scheme, national service trainees will be available for service in the Army in the same way as any other Regular soldier. Therefore, any national serviceman, after a minimum of six months’ training in Australia, who is posted to a unit which is made available for service overseas will go with that unit and serve overseas.
– The PostmasterGeneral will recall that when speaking on the debate on the statement relating to decimal currency and Post Office charges-
– I rise to a point of order. I suggest that the honorable member is giving information.
– Order! I will hear the question.
– The PostmasterGeneral will recall that the honorable member for Melbourne Ports was rather perplexed regarding the item “ Bees in Separate Bags “.
– Order! I think the honorable member had better cease his comment and get on with his question.
– I ask the PostmasterGeneral: Does this refer to the honey bee and, if so, as it obviously would not mean drones and probably not workers, does it refer to the queen bee? If so, are valuable queen bees sent through the post in bags?
– In the recent debate to which the honorable member referred, this question was raised by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports. In fact, this item does refer to the honey bee or garden bee, or whatever term we may use in relation to it. The regulation is that if these bees are carried in boxes approximately 12 inches by 6 inches by 4 inches the norma] postage rate of 5d. for the first 4 ounces and 3d. for each additional 4 ounces is charged. By special arrangement the Post Office will supply bags in which these boxes may be placed at an additional charge of 2s. for each bag leaving a single point of posting and going to a single point of receipt.
– My question is directed to the Prime Minister. I preface it by saying that the Minister for External Affairs, in answer to a question some weeks ago, informed this House that the Department of External Affairs was in daily contact with the Americans on the situation in Vietnam. In view of this statement I ask the Prime Minister whether the recent visit of the United States Presidential envoy to this country pressurised the Australian Government to the extent that it is now prepared te barter young Australian manhood for the continued inflow of American capital to this country?
– I am bound to say that if such an indecent question were asked in Hanoi or Peking I could understand it; that it should be raised in this
Parliament in order to besmirch an Australian Government elected by the Australian people entirely baffles me. As for the first part of the question, the visit of Mr. Cabot Lodge had nothing to do with this Government’s decision. We had made our decision in principle before Mr. Cabot Lodge arrived here.
– ls the Minister for Trade and Industry aware that firm contracts for the sale of at least 75,000 cases of oranges have been made with France by Victorian citrus growers? Does he know that difficulty is being experienced in securing shipping space for the export of these oranges? Will he confer with officers of his Department and also with the Minister for Shipping and Transport and use his own undoubted influence in an endeavour to secure appropriate shipping space?
– I am aware that through the enterprise of Australian growers and merchants a very satisfactory contract for the sale of a large quantity of Australian oranges to France has been concluded. I think it follows a smaller sale last year which turned out to be a happy experience for French importers. I am also aware that it now appears that there is extreme difficulty in finding space to ship these oranges under refrigerated conditions to France. My Department has been following up this matter as part of the service it gives, and trying to get shipping companies to make suitable arrangements for this trade to be carried through. I believe that the sale last year, followed by the order for some 75,000 cases this year, carries a prospect of a trade that might involve the export to France of half a million cases of oranges a year. This is certainly worth chasing and no effort will be spared in trying to obtain cargo space for this fruit. I do not think any question arises of transport along the Australian coast. If this is the situation, as I am pretty sure it is, there is no aspect of the matter which touches my colleague, the Minister for Shipping and Transport.
– I wish to ask the Prime Minister a question concerning the protracted delay in dealing with work value claims by Commonwealth public servants, lodged with the Public Service Arbitrator as far back as February 1963. I think the Prime Minister is aware that the Commonwealth Public Service Administrative and Clerical Officers Association and the Federated Clerks Union of Australia are perturbed at the procrastination of the Public Service Board over these longstanding claims, and that following a mass meeting of Commonwealth public servants the Prime Minister has been asked to intervene so that further delays may be avoided and the consideration of the claims speeded up.
– I venture to think that my friend is making me gallop a little on this matter. I saw the representatives of the Public Service organisation just before the weekend. I was extremely interested in what they had to say to me. I thought they presented their case very reasonably and fairly and in considerable detail. I have since sent the record of that discussion, together with my covering note, to the Chairman of the Public Service Board, whom I hope to see this week. I hope that I will be forgiven for not having seen him today.
– Will the Minister for Social Services recommend that the forthcoming Budget provide a better level of age, invalid and widows’ pensions than presently exists, particularly in view of the claim that Australia enjoys the fourth highest living standard in the world?
– I was glad to hear the honorable member say that Australia enjoys the fourth highest living standard in the world. This situation is due largely to the efforts of this Government. As a result of this situation, the Government has been able to apply the extremely generous pension and benefit rates that now exist. It is a coincidence that I have in my hands a paper which compares pension rates applicable when Labour was last in office with today’s rates, taking into account the movement in the consumer price index for the six capital cities since the September quarter 1949. In each case, taking as a base index the figure for September 1949, there has been an improvement of more than 100 per cent.
– But the cost of living has increased by more than 200 per cent.
– The figures take that fact into account.
– Is the Minister for the Army aware of the unrest that exists in the Army Design Establishment, Maribyrnong, which is in my electorate, owing to overtime payments being considerably delayed? Money due in respect of overtime worked is not being paid at the same time as the weekly or fortnightly wages. Is the Minister aware that many employees have threatened to resign because of these delays? Is he aware that the excuse given for the delays is shortage of staff at the Maribyrnong office? Will the Minister take steps to remedy the position?
– I was not aware of the situation referred to by the honorable member, but now that he has raised this matter I shall be only too glad to investigate it and to inform him of the results.
– I preface my question to the Minister for Social Services by reminding him that a few weeks ago I referred in the House to the tragic plight of Mrs. Arnold, a constituent of mine, who was suffering from cancer. Is the Minister aware that so far his Department has not given to this unfortunate Australian woman any financial assistance by way of a deserted wives’ pension or invalid pension? Is he aware also that Mrs. Arnold is an inmate of Royal Newcastle Hospital-
– Order! The honorable member may ask a question in order to elicit information, but he must not give information. The honorable member should ask his question.
– This woman has been given six weeks to live and is now in the Royal Newcastle Hospital suffering from cancer.
– I was not aware of the tragic developments in Mrs. Arnold’s case. I can tell the honorable member that some papers dealing with this matter were before me this morning. The honorable member should receive some information about it within the next 24 hours, when he will see the further developments that have transpired.
– I ask the Minister for Supply a question. When does the Department of Supply propose to vacate the unsightly, rat infested premises which it now occupies in Heffron Park, Maroubra, in the electorate of Kingsford-Smith? Does the Minister believe it is high time the park was handed back to the authorities as a playground for local school children? Is space in these grounds let by the Department to General Motors-Holden’s Pty. Ltd. for the storage of refrigerators and other goods and equipment?
– This question has been asked so often that I think I ought to refer the honorable gentleman to volumes of “ Hansard “ that have been issued over the years. He would be able to get his answer from them. It is true, of course, that we occupy certain of the buildings to which he has referred. Arrangements are being made for storage in other areas and this may allow us to vacate some of the buildings. However, I am sure the honorable gentleman will be pleased to know that we are in occupation of the buildings with the complete argreement of the owners.
– My question is directed to the Acting Minister for Immigration. Now that the Government has decided to deport Mr. Eugene Davies and his family from Darwin, where he had established a successful laundry business, will the Minister give the House the reasons for the Government’s decision, particularly as more than 1,500 residents in Darwin had signed a petition requesting the Government to allow Mr. Davies and his family to stay in Australia?
– Mr. Eugene Davies arrived here last year as a full fare migrant from Beirut. He has a record in a number of respects. In Britain, he had a series of convictions for various offences over the years. He has a long record as a confidence man and for fraudulent conversion. I would say without doubt that he is certainly, as the honorable member pointed out, a gentleman of some enterprise. His first wife divorced him for cruelty. He then spent some years in relationship with a de facto -wife, who bore him several children. Finally he brought to Australia a lady who was subsequently identified as a certain Miss Dooley, aged 18 years, who was a ward of the court in Britain and who disappeared in London from her father’s care the day before she was to attend at the Royal Courts of Justice in the Strand. Davies subsequently went through a form of marriage with this lady in Iran, where, as honorable members may know, wives are not necessarily confined to one, nor is the arrangement necessarily permanent. He subsequently came to Australia with this lady. He is a prohibited immigrant with a long criminal record. I would remind the House that Australia’s immigration laws are designed very largely for the protection of the citizens of Australia. In accordance with the policy laid down over many years, he, the lady concerned and the child left Fremantle on Saturday at government expense, bound for Britain.
This matter has been examined by the Minister for Immigration and I have since looked at the facts. I must say that any honorable member who looked at them would agree entirely with the decision we have reached. I mention the details requested because widespread publicity has been given to the case in the Press accompanied by a good deal of misrepresentation. In view of the record of this gentleman as a confidence trickster, it is not altogether surprising that many citizens of Darwin have also been deceived.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Health. Is there any foundation to the oft-quoted statement that there is a grave shortage of veterinary surgeons in Australia? If so, what are the prospects of overcoming the problem?
– This is not a matter that generally concerns me as the Commonwealth Minister for Health. It is more appropriately a matter for the Ministers of Health in the various States. However, as far as it does concern us in the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory, I will look at the problem and let the honorable member have a reply.
– My question is directed to the Postmaster-General. I refer to recent action by an American court against a company with world-wide ramifications for falsification of a demonstration of its product in a television advertisement. Can the Minister say whether there is any safeguard in Australia against such falsification? If so, will he outline what machinery we have to ensure the authenticity of television advertisements? If not, will he arrange for some such safeguards to be provided as protection for Australian television viewers and consumers?
– Advertisements on television have to comply with standards laid down by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board. I think also that the association of advertisers in Australia lays down a standard of conduct in relation to those who advertise through particular agencies.
– In accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1913-1960 I present the report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works relating to the following proposed work -
Construction of permanent barracks and depot accommodation for Australian Regular Army units at Broadmeadows, Victoria.
Ordered that the report be printed.
Debate resumed from 29th April (vide page 1062), on the following paper presented by Sir Robert Menzies -
Vietnam- Ministerial Statement 29th April 1965.
And on the motion by Mr. Hulme -
That the House take note of the paper.
Suspension of Standing Orders
Motion (by Mr. McMahon) - by leave - - agreed to -
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) and the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) each speaking without limitation of lime.
– The Government’s decision to send the First Battalion of the Australian Regular Army to Vietnam is, without question, one of the most significant events in the history of this Commonwealth. Why I believe this will be explained in the course of my speech. Therefore, it is a matter for regret that the Prime Minister’s announcement was made in the atmosphere that prevailed around the precincts of this Parliament last Thursday. When one recalls that even two hours before the Prime Minister rose to make his statement it was being said on his behalf that there was no certainty that any statement would be made at all, it can hardly be said that the Government’s handling of the matter was designed to inspire confidence or trust.
However, I do not wish to dwell on that unhappy episode. The matter before us is far too important to allow anything to obscure or confuse the basic issue before us. The over-riding issue which this Parliament has to deal with at all times is the nation’s security. AH our words, all our policies, all our actions, must be judged ultimately by this one crucial test: What best promotes our national security, what best guarantees our national survival? It is this test which the Labour Party has applied to the Government’s decision. We have, of course, asked ourselves other related questions, but basically the issue remains one of Australia’s security. Therefore, on behalf of all my colleagues of Her Majesty’s Opposition, I say that we oppose the Government’s decision to send 800 men to fight in Vietnam. We oppose it firmly and completely.
We regret the necessity that has come about. We regret that as a result of the Government’s action it has come about. It is not our desire, when servicemen are about to be sent to distant battlefields, and when war, cruel, costly and interminable, stares us in the face, that the nation should be divided. But it is the Government which has brought this tragic situation about and we will not shirk our responsibilities in stating the views we think serve Australia best. Our responsibility, like that of the Government, is great but, come what may, we will do our duty as we see it and know it to be towards the people of Australia and our children’s children. Therefore, I say, we oppose this decision firmly and completely.
We do not think it is a wise decision. We do not think it is a timely decision. We do not think it is a right decision. We do not think it will help the fight against Communism. On the contrary, we believe it will harm that fight in the long term. Wc do not believe’ it will promote the welfare of the people of Vietnam. On the contrary, we believe it will prolong and deepen the suffering of that unhappy people so that Australia’s very name may become a term of reproach among them. We do not believe that it represents a wise or even intelligent response to the challenge of Chinese power. On the contrary, we believe it mistakes entirely the nature of that power, and that it materially assists China in her subversive aims. Indeed, we cannot conceive a decision by this Government more likely to promote the long term interests of China in Asia and the Pacific. We of the Labour Party do not believe that this decision serves, or is consistent with, the immediate strategic interests of Australia. On the contrary, we believe that, by sending one quarter of our pitifully small effective military strength to distant Vietnam, this Government dangerously denudes Australia and its immediate strategic environs of effective defence power. Thus, for all these and other reasons, we believe we have no choice but to oppose this decision in the name of Australia and of Australia’s security.
I propose to show that the Government’s decision rests on three false assumptions: An erroneous view of the nature of the war in Vietnam; a failure to understand the nature of the Communist challenge; and a false notion as to the interests of America and her allies. No debate on the Government’s decision can proceed, or even begin, unless we make an attempt to understand the nature of the war in Vietnam. Indeed, this is the crux of the matter; for unless we understand the nature of the war, we cannot understand what Australia’s correct role in it should be.
The Government takes the grotesquely over-simplified position that this is a straightforward case of aggression from North Vietnam against an independent South Vietnam. In the Government’s view, such internal subversion as there may be in South Vietnam is directed and operated from the North; that is to say, the Communist insurgents - the Vietcong - are merely the agents of the North, recruited in the North, trained in the North, instructed by the North, supplied from the North and infiltrated from the North.
The Government then takes this theory a little further by cleverly pointing to the undoubted fact that just as Communist North Vietnam lies north of South Vietnam, so Communist China lies north of North Vietnam. Thus, according to this simplified, not to say simple, theory, everything falls into place and the whole operation becomes, in the Prime Minister’s words “ part of a thrust by Communist China between the Indian and Pacific Oceans”. And by this reasoning, the very map of Asia itself becomes a kind of conspiracy of geography against Australia. But is this picture of Chinese military aggression thrusting down inexorably through Indo China, Malaysia and Indonesia to Australia a true or realistic one? Does it state the true nature of the Chinese threat? Does it speak the truth of the actual situation in Vietnam? Does it tell the truth about the relation between China and North Vietnam? I believe it does not. I propose to show that it does not. If it is not true, then the Government is basing its entire policy on false premises, and I can imagine no greater threat to the security of this nation than that.
Let us first examine the case of South Vietnam itself. It is a gross and misleading over-simplification to depict this war in simple terms of military aggression from the North. That there has long been, and still is, aggression from the North and subversion inspired from the North, I do not for one moment deny. But the war in South Vietnam, the war to which we are sending this one battalion as a beginning in our commitment, is also a civil war and it is a guerrilla war. The great majority of the Vietcong are South Vietnamese. The object of the Vietcong in the war - this guerrilla war - is to avoid as far as possible direct entanglement with massed troops in order that by infiltration, subversion and terrorism, they may control villages, hamlets, outposts and small communities wherever these are most vulnerable. This, like all civil wars and all guerilla wars, has been accompanied by unusual savagery. This war has a savagery and a record of atrocities, with savage inhumanity dairy perpetrated by both sides, all of its own. We cannot condemn the atrocities of the one without condemning those of the other. We of the Labour Party abhor and condemn both, as we condemn all atrocities. I repeat: The war in South Vietnam is a civil war, aided and abetted by the North Vietnamese Government, but neither created nor principally maintained by it. To call it simply “ foreign aggression “ as the Prime Minister does, and as his colleagues do, is to misrepresent the facts and, thereby, confuse the issue with which we must ultimately come to terms.
The people of Vietnam may, therefore, be divided into three kinds: Those who support the present Government and are actively anti-Communist; those who are Communist and of whom the Vietcong are actively and openly engaged in subversion; and those who are indifferent. I have not the slightest doubt that the overwhelming majority of the ordinary people of Vietnam fall into the last category. They watch uncomprehendingly the ebb and flow of this frightful war around them, and as each day threatens some new horror, they become even more uncomprehending. And because this is so, our policy of creating a demo.catic anti-Communist South Vietnam has failed. That failure can possibly be reversed, but it cannot be reversed by military means alone. Ten years ago, antiCommunism was fairly strong in Vietnam. For some years, the late President Ngo Dinh Diem did represent and organise resistance against Communism. When he had support, he was brought here, feted, and seated in honour on the very floor of this chamber. When his regime, becoming increasingly corrupt and irrelevant to the needs of the people, lost that support, he was murdered. Not a word of regret, of sorrow or sympathy was said by members of the Australian Government in memory of him whom they once hailed as the saviour of his country, though, indeed some of the
Government extremist supporters outside this Parliament charged President Kennedy with having approved his murder, and Mr. Henry Cabot Lodge, among others, with actually planning it.
What support has the present Government, the eighth or ninth regime since the murder of Diem 18 months ago? It has no basis of popular support, lt presumably has the support of the Army, or the ruling junta of the Army. It will fall and be replaced when it loses the support of the ruling junta, or when that junta itself is replaced by another. That has happened eight or nine times in the past year and a half. The Americans have supported four of the governments of South Vietnam and have opposed the other four. There is not one jot or tittle of evidence to support the belief that is being sedulously fostered in this country that the local population cares one iota whether it happens again eight or nine times in the coming 18 months. The Government of South Vietnam does not base itself on popular support. Yet this is the Government at whose request, and in whose support, we are to commit a battalion of Australian fighting men. And we are told we are doing this in the name of the free and independent Government and people of South Vietnam. I do not believe it, and neither does anybody else who considers the matter with any degree of intelligence.
The Prime Minister points to increasing support from North Vietnam as being a totally new factor in the situation. I agree that the pace of North Vietnamese aggression - and that is the only term for it - has increased, though estimates as to its extent vary considerably. The Prime Minister speaks of 10,000 infiltrators last year. The American White Paper on the subject put the figure at 4,000-odd certain, and 3,000 more estimated - at the outside 7,300. And yet I am bound to say that the evidence of that White Paper does not seem to bear out its own assertions. The thesis of the White Paper was that the war in Vietnam could be fully explained in terms of Northern aggression. Yet the report of the International Control Commission, quoted in the White Paper, listed, as having been captured from the Vietcong between 1962 and 1964, three rifles of Chinese origin, 46 of Russian origin, 40 sub-machine guns and 26 rifles of Czech origin, and 26 weapons of all kinds of North Vietnamese origin. Other weapons are in proportion. All this for a force of some estimated 100,000 men who have waged war successfully for years against 500,000 troops.
Now this does not seem to me to support the theory that in past years the efforts of the Vietcong were mainly dependent on supplies from the North. And even if we accept the view that Northern support has substantially increased in recent months, it cannot lend any credence to the belief that the Vietcong effort will collapse if this new, increased support is cut off. The more the Government relies on the theory of increased Northern support, as a basis for its actions, the more difficulty it must have in explaining away the successes of the Vietcong in the past when, as it maintains, Northern support was comparatively small. If it believes that it is simply a question of aggression from the North, and that all will be solved when that aggression is stopped, then it is deluding itself, and is trying to delude the Australian people as well.
Against the background of these facts, we can judge the true significance of the Australian commitment. The Government will try, indeed it has already tried, to project a picture in which once the aggressive invaders from the North are halted, our men will be engaged in the exercise of picking off the Vietcong, themselves invaders from the North and stranded from their bases and isolated from their supplies. But it will not be like that at all. Our men will be fighting the largely indigenous Vietcong in their own home territory. They will be fighting in the midst of a largely indifferent, if not resentful, and frightened population. They will be fighting at the request of, and in support, and presumably, under the direction of an unstable, inefficient, partially corrupt military regime which lacks even the semblance of being, or becoming, democratically based. But, it will be said, even if this is true, that there are far larger considerationsChina must be stopped, the United States must not be humiliated in Asia. I agree wholeheartedly with both those propositions.
But this also I must say: Our present course is playing right into China’s hands, and our present policy will, if not changed, surely and inexorably lead to American humiliation in Asia. Communist China will use every means at her disposal to increase her power and influence. But her existing military machine is not well adapted to that objective. It is not so at this moment and it may not be so for the next ten years. Therefore, she chooses other means. Yet we have preferred to look at China mainly in terms of a military threat and thus have neglected to use other, far more effective weapons at our disposal, or, because of our p re-occupation with the military threat, we have used those weapons badly and clumsily. We talk about the lesson of Munich as if we had never learnt a single lesson since 1938.
Pre-occupied with the fear of a military Munich, we have suffered a score of moral Dunkirks. Pre-occupied with the military threat of Chinese Communism, we have channelled the great bulk of our aid to Asia towards military expenditure. Preoccupied with the idea of monolithic, imperialistic Communism, we have channelled our support to those military regimes which were loudest in their professions of anti-Communism, no matter how reactionary, unpopular or corrupt they may have been. Pre-occupied with fear of Communist revolution, we have supported and sought to support those who would prevent any sort of revolution, even when inevitable; and even when most needful. Pre-occupied with so-called Western interests, we have never successfully supported nationalism as the mighty force it is against Communism. We have supported nationalism only when it supported the West, and we have thereby pushed nationalism towards Communism. Pre-occupied with the universality of our own Christian beliefs, we have never tried to understand the power of the other great world religions against Communism.
Each of those pre-occupations has worked for our defeat in Vietnam, and is working for our defeat in Asia, Africa and South America. And herein lies one of the greatest dangers of the Government’s decision on large-scale military commitments. It blinds and obscures the real nature of the problem of Communist expansion. It lends support and encouragement to those who see the problem in purely military terms, and whose policies would, if ever adopted, lead to disaster. Here is the real risk of the world nuclear war feared by the Minister for External
Affairs (Mr. Hasluck). In his speech to the South East Asia Treaty Organisation yesterday he said the third world war could break out tomorrow in South Vietnam. If the idea of military containment is unsuccessful, as I believe it will surely prove in the long term, as it has already in the short term, it will contribute to that spirit of defeatism and impotence in the face of Communism. That is the greatest enemy we have to fear.
We are not impotent in the fight against Communism. We are not powerless against China, if we realise that the true nature of the threat from China is not military invasion but political subversion. And that threat, if we believe for one moment in our own professions, and in our own principles, we can fight and beat. But to exhaust our resources in the bottomless pit of jungle warfare, in a war in which we have not even defined our purpose honestly, or explained what we would accept as victory, is the very height of folly and the very depths of despair.
Humiliation for America could come in one of two ways - either by outright defeat, which is unlikely, or by her becoming interminably bogged down in the awful morass of this war, as France was for ten years. That situation would in turn lead to one of two things - withdrawal through despair, or all out war, through despair. Both these would be equally disastrous. What would be the objective of an all out war? It could only be the destruction of the North Vietnamese regime. And what would that create? It would create a vacuum. America can destroy the regime, but it cannot conquer and hold North Vietnam, and into that vacuum China would undoubtedly move. Thus, if that happened, we would have replaced a nationalistic communist regime - in a country with a thousand years history of hostility towards China - with actual Chinese occupation, and either we would have to accept this disaster or face the even greater disaster of all out war with China.
This is the terrible prospect which people like the Prime Minister of Britain, the SecretaryGeneral of the United Nations, the Prime Minister of Canada and Pope Paul have seen, and which they are trying to avert. They all are true friends of the United
States of America, and they do not want to see America humiliated. That is why they have called for negotiations - negotiations while the United States remains in a position of comparative strength, negotiations while she is in a position to influence terms. Yet at the very time when the great weight of Western opinion calls for a pause, Australia says there must be no pause for reflection, no pause for reconsideration. The role of Australia should have been to support the call for negotiations and help those who were working towards them. Nobody underestimates the difficulties and dangers of negotion. That is why we understood and sympathised with American efforts to secure a stronger base for negotiations.
By its decision, the Australian Government has withdrawn unilaterally from the ranks of the negotiators, if indeed it was ever concerned about them. Our contribution will be negligible, militarily. But we have reduced ourselves to impotence in the field of diplomacy. We should have been active in the field of diplomacy for a long time. But we have done nothing in that field of affairs. It is true that President Johnson’s cautious call for “ unconditional negotiations “ at Baltimore has been rejected by Hanoi and Peking. But if we accept the Prime Minister’s assurance that the decision to send a battalion to Vietnam was taken “several weeks ago “, then that rejection had nothing to do with the Government’s decision. For on the Prime Minister’s own claim, the decision was made before both the President’s offer and its rejection by the Communists.
This goes far to explain the Prime Minister’s abrupt and brutal denunciation of the principle of negotiations three weeks ago. It explains his elaborate attempts to refute the bishops. Australia’s aim should have been to help end the war, not to extend it. We have now lost all power to help end it. Instead, we have declared our intention to extend it, insofar as lies in our power. We have committed ourselves to the propositions that Communism can be defeated by military means alone and that it is the function of European troops to impose the will of the West upon Asia. These are dangerous, delusive and disastrous propositions. The Prime Minister pays lip service to President Johnson’s call for a massive aid programme, financed by all the industrialised nations, including the Union of Soviet Socialist Re publics. But it is clear that the right honorable gentleman’s real thinking, and that of his Government, run only along the narrow groove of a military response.
The despatch of a battalion of Australian troops to South Vietnam is the outcome of that thinking. By this decision, we set our face towards war as the correct means of opposing Communism, and declare against the social, economic and political revolution that alone can effectively combat Communism. The key to the future of IndoChina is the Mekong River delta and valley. The Communists understand this well. But imagine the thundering reply we could give to Communism if, under the auspices of the United Nations, we were to join in a vastly increased programme for the reclamation and development of the Mekong. The work has started, and it goes on, despite the war. But how much more could be done if we were really determined to turn our resources from war to peace. This surely is the key to the door of hope which President Johnson spoke of in his Baltimore speech. But this Government has closed the door and thrown away the key.
I cannot refrain from making an observation about Australia’s trade with China. It is obvious that the Government’s decision, and particularly the grounds upon which the Government justifies its decision, raise in a particularly acute form the moral issue connected with this trade. The Government justifies its action on the ground of Chinese expansionist aggression. And yet this same Government is willing to continue and expand trade in strategic materials with China. We are selling wheat, wool and steel to China. The wheat is used to feed the armies of China. The wool is used to clothe the armies of China. The steel is used to equip the armies of China. Yet the Government which is willing to encourage this trade is the same Government which now sends Australian troops, in the words of the Prime Minister, to prevent “ the downward thrust of China “. The Government may be able to square its conscience on this matter, but this is logically and morally impossible.
Finally, there is the question of Australia’s immediate strategic concern. It is only a few weeks since both the Prime Minister and the Minister for External Affairs spoke of the need for priorities, and they both made it plain that our first priority was the defence of Malaysia. A short time ago, the Government informed the United Kingdom and the Malaysian Governments that it was not possible to spare another battalion from our already strained resources. Now they have found a battalion for service in Vietnam. Thus, our troops are involved on several fronts. We are the only country in the world fighting on two fronts in South East Asia. America is committed to Vietnam. Britain is committed to Malaysia. Australia, with its limited resources, with its meagre defences, has obligations in Vietnam, Malaya, Borneo and New Guinea. The commitments are apparently without end, in size and in number.
How long will it be before we are drawing upon our conscript youth to service these growing and endless requirements? Does the Government now say that conscripts will not be sent? If so, has it completely forgotten what it said about conscription last year? The basis of that decision was that the new conscripts would be completely integrated in the Regular Army. The voluntary system was brought abruptly to an end. If the Government now says that conscripts will not be sent, this means that the 1st Battalion is never to be reinforced, replaced or replenished. If this is not so, then the Government must have a new policy on the use of conscripts - a policy not yet announced. Or, if it has not changed its policy, the Government means that the 1st Battalion is not to be reinforced, replaced or replenished from the resources of the existing Regular Army. Which is it to be? There is now a commitment of 800. As the war drags on, who is to say that this will not rise to 8,000, and that these will not be drawn from our voteless, conscripted 20 year olds? And where are the troops from America’s other allies? It is plain that Britain, Canada, France, Germany and Japan, for example, do not see things with the clear-cut precision of the Australian Government.
I cannot close without addressing a word directly to our fighting men who are now by this decision, committed to the chances of war: Our hearts and prayers are with you. Our minds and reason cannot support those who have made the decision to send you to this war, and we shall do our best to have that decision reversed. But we shall do our duty to the utmost in supporting you to do your duty. In terms of everything that an army in the field requires, we shall never deny you the aid and support that it is your right to expect in the service of your country. To the members of the Government, I say only this: If, by the process of misrepresentation of our motives, in which you are so expert, you try to further divide this nation for political purposes, yours will be a dreadful responsibility, and you will have taken a course which you will live to regret.
And may I, through you, Mr. Speaker, address this message to the members of my own Party - my colleagues here in this Parliament, and that vast band of Labour men and women outside: The course we have agreed to take today is fraught with difficulty. I cannot promise you that easy popularity can be bought in times like these; nor are we looking for it. We are doing our duty as we see it. When the drums beat and the trumpets sound, the voice of reason and right can be heard in the land only with difficulty. But if we are to have the courage of our convictions, then we must do our best to make that voice heard. I offer you the probability that you will be traduced, that your motives will be misrepresented, that your patriotism will be impugned, that your courage will be called into question. But I also offer you the sure and certain knowledge that we will be vindicated; that generations to come will record with gratitude that when a reckless Government wilfully endangered the security of this nation, the voice of the Australian Labour Party was heard, strong and clear, on the side of sanity and in the cause of humanity, and in the interests of Australia’s security.
Let me sum up. We believe that America must not be humiliated and must not be forced to withdraw. But we are convinced that sooner or later the dispute in Vietnam must be settled through the councils of the United Nations. If it is necessary to back with a peace force the authority of the United Nations, we would support Australian participation to the hilt. But we believe that the military involvement in the present form decided on by the Australian Government represents a threat to Australia’s standing in Asia, to our power for good in Asia and above all to the security of this nation.
– Mr. Speaker, I have listened to the speech of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) with acute depression. It seemed to me to demonstrate an approach to these great and vital problems that I would hardly have expected to hear described in this place. Indeed, he summed it all up in the second last paragraph of his speech. May I remind the House that he said -
Let me sum up. We believe that America must not be humiliated and must not be forced to withdraw.
Having said that by way of summary, he has said that in the clear view of his party America should be required to go it alone with no assistance from us. That, really, is a pretty neat, short summary of the speech that he has made. I will come back to it because there are a few things that should be put straight on the record, if they need to be put straight.
The first thing that I want to mention, as briefly as may be, is the grievance with which he began. It is quite true that he did not elaborate it today. I am supposed to have concealed from the Leader of the Opposition and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) the fact that I was going to make a statement on Thursday night. He did not say much about it today but has been very vocal about it in other places; so there is a widespread belief entertained by some people who are apparently willing to believe anything that this was, for some low cunning political reason, concealed from them and that I sprang it on Thursday at 8 o’clock. I just want to say something about that because it will be useful for honorable members to become aware of the basis of discussions between governments, because these allegations display a woeful ignorance of how things are done between governments and between nations. The announcement of the provision of fighting forces by us for South Vietnam was not one that could be made without a great deal of preparatory discussion, not only on the military level but also on the political level where the last responsible decisions have to be made. It has to be remembered that Australia has commitments as a member of the South East Asia Treaty Organisation and that one of the protocol nations under S.E.A.T.O. is South Vietnam. We have commitments in respect of Malaysia which have been fully stated and debated in this House. We have joint interests with the United States of America and with New Zealand under the Security Treaty between Australia, New Zealand and the United States of America, and we have, of course, a responsibility for the defence of Australia, including Papua and New Guinea. So we have a variety of responsibilities, each of them importing some contingency that may or may not arise.
I had some exchanges with President Johnson towards the end of last year in which the possibility of increased military activity was envisaged and in the course of which we agreed that there should be, at a suitable time, discussions on the military level. These took place, in fact, in March and the result of the talks was available to us early in April. We made our formal decision in principle on 7th April, that decision being that we would be willing to provide a battalion, should it be requested and should all the circumstances render its employment useful, fitting in with the general pattern of what was being done. So it was a decision in principle. But that was not the end of the matter. Before an actual decision could be announced, discussions had to occur with the various governments with which we are associated and, in particular, with the Government of the United Kingdom, the Government of the United States and the Government of South Vietnam. A great number of broad details had to be considered and certain more detailed arrangements made at the government level.
Very properly, I wanted to have all these matters quite clearly established before making any announcement to the House. I need not elaborate. All of us who are familiar with this kind of international discussion will realise that not one of us is entirely his own master in respect of the timetable. Statements have to be synchronised very frequently in one country and another, and any statement made would need to be made with the concurrence of South Vietnam, as the nation requesting our help, with the United States, with whose troops ours would be associated in South Vietnam, and with the United Kingdom, which has accepted great responsibilities in relation to Malaysia where we have already made a substantial contribution. So we have the three governments.
When on Wednesday of last week a story about the battalion broke in sections of the Press, I felt a great deal of embarrassment because the time had not quite arrived when I could feel that our relevant discussions had concluded. On Wednesday a rumour was circulated that I would be making a statement on Thursday night and that that statement would relate to the provision of an Australian battalion. At that time I literally did not know whether I could be ready by Thursday night. The Leader of the Opposition inquired at my office on Thursday morning at a time when I was heavily engaged on a matter of some urgency. He said he would like to know what was happening. That was a very reasonable request, I thought. He said that he had plans to go to Sydney in connection with the election campaign and could hardly change them. He added that he thought that any statement might be made or could be made on Tuesday night, that is, tonight. After this had been conveyed to me, the Leader of the Opposition was told that it was possible that I would be making a statement on Thursday night but that it was not certain and that when I knew definitely I would let him know. He was told that if I found myself in a position to make a statement I would hope to be in a position to give him the text of it by 5.30 p.m. I follow these rules, if I may say so, very strictly. At 4.45 p.m. the Leader of the Opposition inquired again as to whether there were any further developments as he and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition were about to leave for Sydney. He was told that it was still not certain that I would be in a position to make a statement - it was possible, even probable, but not yet certain. The Leader of the Opposition said that he was leaving the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean) in charge and asked if I would let the honorable member for Melbourne Ports know of any further development. This I agreed to do. I think the Leader of the Opposition would agree that that is a straightforward narrative of what occurred.
The final international messages which I thought I should have before making a statement arrived at something after 5.30 p.m. and I then decided that I would make the statement at 8 o’clock. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports, who was leading the Opposition in the absence of the Leader, was informed of this as soon as possible and was told that the text would be available to him at 7 o’clock, and this was done. The result of all this was that when I made my statement I was in a position to do so with the approval of the President of the United States, the Prime Minister of Great Britain and the Prime Minister of South Vietnam. I will not need to say to honorable members that, in view of the spread of newspaper headlines on this matter, I simply could not defer my statement until today, without acute embarrassment to myself and to the other governments concerned. Clearly, I could not have made my statement over the weekend because it is in this Parliament that such a statement ought to be made. This Parliament is entitled to hear all of these matters direct and to have the opportunity of debating them. Therefore, the choice was to make the statement on Thursday or to let all the rumours flourish, to let the news go on breaking all around the world and then come along today and make the statement.
– How did tha
Press get the news?
– I wish I knew, but I do not. The Press certainly did not get it from me or from the Government. For all those reasons I made the statement. The notion that either the Leader of the Opposition or the Deputy Leader of the Opposition was deceived or that something was concealed from them is really shown to be completely without foundation. Each of them knew that if I did make a statement it would be related to this question, because the dogs were barking it around the premises. The newspaper stories had made that quite clear. Perhaps I have mixed up two notions in saying that. Notwithstanding these circumstances, the two honorable gentlemen opposite left the House - no doubt for very good political reasons - and they were competently represented by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports who had a copy of the statement and heard it. Therefore, the grievance to which the Leader of the Opposition made a faint reference at the beginning of his speech, is without foundation.
I now turn, as he did, to the merits of this matter. Where does the Labour Party stand? I have been asking myself this question for some time. We heard the answer today. The Labour Party is against us on the merits. This is a clear cut issue of whether or not we should provide forces in South Vietnam. The Opposition says “ You should not do it”, for a variety of reasons which I invite honorable members to study and to understand, if they can. I turn to the merits for three reasons. One is to establish the rightness of our position under all the circumstances that exist. I do not propose to repeat what I said in my statement to the House on Thursday, because I dealt with the substance of the matter and the merits of the case on that occasion. But I do want, once more, to remind the House that, when the 1954 Geneva Agreements had been entered into and they were reported in statements to the House, I myself made a statement relating to this matter right here. I said that the Government of Australia would view aggression in violation of the Indo-China settlement as a threat to international peace and security. That was a perfectly explicit statement. It is because we believe that there has been a breach of international law and a violation of the Charter of the United Nations that we have, in relation to the present matter, notified the President of the Security Council of our decision, adding these words -
This decision has been made at the request of the Government of the Republic of Vietnam and it is in accordance with Australia’s international obligations.
That is the formal ground on which we stand. But this is not a matter that lends itself to decision with reference to formalities only. Therefore, it is necessary to continue an examination of the merits of the matter. I must say that the Leader of the Opposition rather puzzled me because in the course of his speech - he was courteous enough to give me a copy of it when he came into the House - he made two statements of really splendid simplicity. One was -
That there has long been, and still is, aggression from the North and subversion inspired by the North, I do not for one moment deny.
Here is a proposition of fact which I thought would represent common ground on both sides of the House. I am very glad to have it stated by the Leader of the Opposition. I have said it in my statement and on other occasions. That there is aggression from the Communist North is not dented, and that there is subversion from within, fostered by the Communists of the North, is not denied now by the Leader of the Opposition. I have heard it denied in a sense, but it was not denied today. This is a very significant fact. It describes the origin of the whole of this business in which we find ourselves involved.
A little later in his speech the Leader of the Opposition made another statement which I will read. He said - 1 agree that the pace of North Vietnamese aggression - and that is the only term for it - has increased, though estimates as to its extent vary considerably.
So, here is the admission that while all this is going on the pace of aggression from the North, the pace of the positive action by the Communist North, has increased. That is the state of affairs - it is now common ground between the Government and the Opposition - in which we have had to consider whether we should withdraw from the scene, whether we should make our contribution by words, whether we should leave the United States to go it alone, or whether we should, with all our partnerships and involvements and all our risks in this part of the world, determine that we will play our part, although it may be a small one, in positive action. Broadly, that is what we have done and why we have done it.
I do not understand how my friend, the Leader of the Opposition, can delude himself on this matter. He used some fine words, some rather emotional words, towards the end of his speech. But does he really believe that Australia should walk out on this matter? This is the question. Does he really believe that the United States of America, of whose actions he has approved and reapproved, ought to be allowed to continue to carry this burden and that we, as one of the S.E.A.T.O. powers, with South Vietnam requesting our help, should say: “Sorry; there is nothing we can do about it “? This is a very serious position, I venture to say, for the Leader of the Opposition to get into. It certainly is not a position that we want to get into.
It is in the continuing interest of this country - to put it on no higher ground than that - to be regarded and to remain as a valued ally of the United States, which is, in this part of the world, our own most powerful ally. I would hate to be the head of a government which had to say to the United States on an occasion like this: “ Sorry; we can do nothing about it. We will help you with debate in the United Nations. We will offer some fine words and some good sentiments. But, as for practical action, no; that is for you. American soldiers from the Middle West can go and fight and die in South Vietnam, but that is not for us “. I think that is a disastrous proposition for any opposition to put forward.
I do not want to prolong this speech. The whole essence of this matter seems to me to be clear. The Leader of the Opposition may be right; perhaps I oversimplify it. I am a great believer, when it comes to determining international obligations, in simplifying a proposition so that it stands out stark and clear and so that we all know what it is we are deciding, what we are debating, and what we are to do about it. From things that have been said one would think that this decision by the Government was not entirely consistent with statements repeatedly made by us in this House. Indeed, an attempt has been made here and there to suggest that this decision came rather as a surprise, a little bit out of the blue. May I remind the House - I am sure the Leader of the Opposition needs no reminding - that this approach of ours has been stated repeatedly in this place and from this table.
I have just quoted what was said after the Geneva Agreements were entered into. Without labouring the matter, everybody knows that announcements have been made from time to time about sending military instructors to South Vietnam. The number has grown from a small 30 to a substantial 100 - very substantial, considering our own requirements in this field. We have provided aircraft: Caribou aircraft have gone there. We have provided a substantia] amount of economic aid. We have supplied much appreciated groups of people of a military order, and equipment of a military order - not large in numbers, but very significant from their moral effects not only on the problem itself but on the opinion and feeling of the United States of America. Therefore, it is idle to say that this is something new and that we have a new approach. The Minister for External Affairs (Mr.
Hasluck) made an extraordinarily able statement in this House comparatively recently in which he outlined the whole of our policies in these matters in the clearest possible terms. I have, in my own fashion, though not as well, tried to say very much the same kind of thing. I do not think anybody has any ambiguity in his mind as to where we stand. Certainly nobody in the American Administration has any; certainly nobody in the United Kingdom Government has any; certainly none of our friends and allies in these various places have any. Why should there be any existing in this place? It has all been completely clear.
And now the Leader of the Opposition criticises. I would say to him that he had better look at himself, at his colleagues and at his Party. He has really, of course, disclosed their approach. He has not, I am happy to say, got down to the level of one or two of his supporters by suggesting that this was an indecent bargain for dollars, which I thought was a monstrosity of a proposal and which, as I have said, reveals only the murky recesses of the minds of the people who make it. The Leader of the Opposition has not said this: He would not dream for a moment of saying it. But he has put his case in the curious, evasive and defeatist terms to which we have listened today. I say defeatist, inactive. He says in effect: “ Kind hearts are more than coronets. Do not let us have actual forces used to repel force - to repel open Communist attack, to repel Communist aggression and subversion from the Vietcong. No, do not let us use force to meet force, because that is wrong.”
I noticed that the Labour Party - I suppose it is permissible to describe it in that phrase - issued a policy statement not long ago, on 1 8th February. I have been enriched with a copy of it and it has one or two interesting things to say. It states -
In its statement to the Security Council on February 7th, reporting the air strikes against military installations in the south of North Vietnam, America insisted that its object in South Vietnam, while resisting aggression, is to achieve a peaceful settlement maintained by the presence of international peacekeeping machinery and that it would nol allow the situation to be changed by terror and violence.
Then it goes on -
This statement of American purposes is unexceptionable.
The Australian Labour Party starts by saying: “ Yes, that is right. You say this is what you are doing. This is the object of the exercise. You are going to repel the aggressors. You are going to attack their lines of communication. You are going to do everything you can to produce stability and get rid of civil war in South Vietnam “. Then it says: “ It is all right if the Americans do it, but it is no good to us. God made the United States our protectors and we ought to leave it to the United States “.
Now Sir, this is a matter which, I venture to say, is unarguable, but the last point that the Leader of the Opposition undertook to make was that in South Vietnam there was a poor government - a corrupt government. This word “corrupt” comes trippingly to the tongue. Every government of this kind is “corrupt” or it is “Fascist”. I know of no evidence that the Quat Government in South Vietnam is corrupt. I certainly have had no evidence that the government of Ngo Dinh Diem was corrupt. I thought he was a brave and honest little man, and a patriot. But to say, “ They are corrupt. They do not have ordinary elections in South Vietnam “, what sort of nonsense is this? On the honorable gentleman’s own showing, South Vietnam is torn apart, torn to pieces, by the activities of the Vietcong in all their little pockets around the country. In those circumstances there cannot be the peaceable processes of election, there cannot be what we call a democratic self governing system if people are in that position.
Why are they in that position? It is through no fault of their own, and no-one suggests it is. They are in that position because the Communists have set about two tasks. One is to make life intolerable for the South Vietnamese along their northern frontier and to cross over thousands of people to help the Communist forces, and the other is to maintain a system of Communist subversion which is designed to overthrow, by force, the Government of South Vietnam and to substitute for it a government which will never be elected by the people but which will be a simple Communist dictatorship corresponding to that of Ho Chi Minh in North Vietnam.
Therefore, I venture to say there is a good deal of humbug in talking of South Vietnam as though it were exposed to criticism because of the manifold difficulties it has had in securing stability, just as there is more than a shade of humbug in saying that what we ought to be doing is getting on with the work in the Mekong Valley. I ask members opposite to get on with it; to go along pretending that there is no fighting going on - pretending that the Vietcong are not there and pretending that there is no North Vietnam. Really, Sir, this is the height of absurdity. 1 recognised the somewhat pathetic note in the honorable member’s speech when he turned to his own people and said, metaphorically and literally: “ We will be unpopular but we will stick to it. You must remember that we are ready to suffer in an unpopular cause”. All I can say is that I wish he were willing to suffer in a good cause of his own, because I have not the slightest doubt that on the merits not only we in Australia, but also all those governments and people with whom we are associated in this tremendously important exercise which is so significant for the security of our own country, are on the side of the great majority. If I may end on a horribly political note, it is a good thing occasionally to be in a big majority.
.- The issue that divides the Government and the Opposition in this debate is a moral one. It is the issue of whether we are right in despatching troops to a country 7,000 miles away on the ground that the interests of our own people or the people of that other country are at stake. That is the question on which the decision will eventually have to be made.
The debate we are commencing this afternoon is one that will go on for a long time in this country. It is a debate that will determine the relationships between the Australian people and the peoples of Asia for possibly a century or two. The question involved in this debate will be decided on the facts; it will be decided on the facts considered in relation to the moral issue involved. The moral issue involved is whether the Government’s course of action is right, proper and justified, whether in respect of the interests of the people in Vietnam or in respect of the interests of the people in Australia. We have a right to defend ourselves if we are attacked. We have a right to come to the aid of other people if questions of self determination are involved.
Those are the matters with which we must be concerned.
The Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) began his speech by referring to what he called a faint reference by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) to the fact that on Thursday he, the Leader of the Opposition, was not told whether the Prime Minister was going to make a statement on Thursday night or whether he was not. The Prime Minister took exactly 12 minutes to deal with that faint reference. He took 12 minutes to deal with it because he knew he had been lacking in courtesy to the Leader of the Opposition on Thursday. It would have been quite possible for the right honorable gentleman to make some kind of explanation to the Leader of the Opposition on Thursday along the lines of the explanation he has made here this afternoon, but no, the Prime Minister failed to do so. He brushed aside the inquiries made by and on behalf of the Leader of the Opposition. He showed a lack of ordinary courtesy to the Leader of the Opposition, just as he has displayed a similar lack of courtesy to the honorable gentleman and to other honorable members on this side of the House on more than one previous occasion. The Prime Minister took 12 minutes to explain to the nation this afternoon his lack of courtesy. 1 said that this matter involved a moral issue to be determined in the light of the facts and the circumstances. We are being told that we are justified in sending Australian troops to Vietnam and that there is justification for American troops to be there. I remind the House that the country concerned is many thousands of miles from the homeland of the men sent there both from the United States of America and from Australia. When you have to justify sending your troops 6,000 or 7,000 miles you have a difficult task if you try to do so on the ground of self defence. If you are attacked at home you have a good case for justifying retaliation in self defence. But when you are sending your troops on an expeditionary adventure 6^000 or 7,000 miles a heavy burden rests upon you to justify doing so on the ground of self defence.
– Does the honorable member think American troops should be there?
– The case put for the United States when it extended the war into North Vietnam was stated in a document which I have before me now. It was published by the United States Department of State and is called “Aggression from the North “. This document was brought into the House by the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Hasluck). I still have to see evidence that any other member on the Government side of the House has even read the document, let alone analysed it.
The evidence of aggression produced at that time consisted of two things. First, there was the report of the International Control Commission established under the Geneva agreement because of many complaints that had been made of interference by North Vietnam with South Vietnam and also many complaints of interference by the South with the North. The complaints by the North against the South were far more frequent. Most of the complaints on both sides were neither proved nor disproved, and the Commission was unable to make a decision about them. The Commission did find, however, that both sides had frequently broken the Geneva Agreement. On 15th February this year came the case for aggression from the North made out by the United Nations in the document to which I have referred.
The Prime Minister said that when he spoke on this question the other day he considered the matter in substance and in detail. The right honorable gentleman has never at any stage considered the substance of the case concerning aggression at all. He has never given his attention to any of the details, examined them or submitted them to this House. At all times he has merely made assertions that there is aggression from the North. He has at no time endeavoured to demonstrate that this is a fact. Now it remains for us to examine the question once more. We must give careful attention to the facts, because it is on the facts that we will have to determine the merits of one side or other of this moral issue that divides the House and divides the nation.
The case for aggression from the North consists of three parts, the infiltration of men from North Vietnam, the supply of arms and equipment from the North, and the overall control by the North of the revolutionary forces in the South. The document gives the number of men who it is alleged have moved from the North to the South since 19S9. The International Control Commission and the report more or less agree in respect of the total. It is said that 19,550 men had come from the North to the South in the space of six years. These were the number of confirmed movements from the North to the South.
There are two matters we must keep in mind when we consider this. North Vietnam and South Vietnam are two parts of the same country. People move quite frequently in normal circumstances between the two parts of the country. It is as if New South Wales and Victoria had been one country which it was decided to divide at the Murray River. Obviously there would be a lot of people coming and going over that border as a matter of normality. The second point is that in 1955, at the end of the French occupation, fighting in Vietnam came to an end. Ninety thousand men and women went from the South to the North because they did not like the prospect of the government in the South. Similarly, many thousands of people moved from the North to the South for like reasons. Many of the 90.000 men and women who went to the North later came back to the South, and this had nothing to do with the civil war that was going on there.
– You’re kidding!
– Even the report itself - and I refer this to honorable members opposite who are interjecting and who, I am sure, never looked at this document until recently - says at page 3 -
To some the level of infiltration from the North may seem modest in comparison with the total size of the Armed Forces of the Republic of Vietnam.
Of course it is modest in comparison with the total size of the forces. It is not true to say, as the Government says, that everything that has happened in the South has been dependent on what has happened in the North. The facts show quite clearly that 90 per cent, of what has happened in the South has been caused by people living in the South and has not been the result of aggression from the North.
If there had been aggression from the North one would have expected that weapons used by insurgents from the North would have been captured in the South from time to time.. Weapons have been captured in this way, but I ask the Minister who will follow me in this debate to consider the insignificance of the number of weapons of foreign manufacture captured and to explain why the number is so small if aggression from the North is as strong as the Prime Minister says it is. These figures are taken from the details given in the concluding pages of the document to which I have referred, “Aggression from the North”. First I will deal with weapons of Chinese origin. In 1962 there were 4 rifles captured, in 1963 there were 18 and in 1964 there were 91, giving a total to 13th February 1965 of 113 weapons that had, in the space of four years, come from China and had been discovered in South Vietnam.
– Captured in South Vietnam. If China was practising aggression would it not have sent in < more than 113 weapons that should have been captured in the South in that space of time? In the case of weapons of Soviet Union origin there were 1 rifle discovered in 1962, 69 in 1963 and 518 in 1964, giving a total of 588. In the case of Czechoslovakia there were 3 weapons in 1962, 62 in 1963 and 114 in 1964, making a total of 179 to the end of 1964. As to East German weapons, there were only five, which were captured in 1964. If there had been aggression from North Vietnam we would have expected that weapons manufactured in North Vietnam would have come into the South in larger numbers and been captured in larger numbers. But 16 were captured in 1962 and 10 in 1963 - a total of 26 in the years we are examining. In 1964 three unspecified weapons were captured. So the total in 1962 was 24 weapons; 163 in 1963 and 728 in 1964 - a total in the four years of 914. If it was not possible to discover in South Vietnam more than 914 weapons in that four year period, then I say that the evidence of aggression to which the Prime Minister has pointed is vastly and irresponsibly exaggerated. In addition to the weapons to which I have referred, it is reported that between 1962 and 1964 there were 15,100 weapons captured from the Vietcong. In other words, weapons captured from the North represent only a small fraction of the total weapons captured from the Vietcong. This is a measure of the contribution of the North by way of weapons to the fight in the South.
When we come to the third aspect of aggression we find that it is claimed that the northern government and its army were in control in the south. But the only evidence which the documents give us in relation to this matter is the repetition of revolutionary slogans such as -
Our Army, that of the North, is an instrument of the class struggle in carrying out our two strategic tasks - to establish socialism in the North and get rid of American imperialism in the South.
If the army of the North did no more than supply those few weapons to which I have referred it was doing very little to give effect to its revolutionary slogan. Honorable members opposite and the people of Australia must not begin to confuse these highly inflated revolutionary slogans .that from time to time come from revolutionary parties with statements of fact. Only one class of person exaggerates more the revolutionary statements made by a party of that kind, and that is its opponents. They both agree in exaggerating these things out of all proportion. There is no evidence of any particular activity on the part of the North to spur on the movement in the South. The evidence is quite the reverse. From time to time the South states that it is in a difficult situation and that practically nothing has been done to assist it. From time to time the South states: “ We know what to do and we need assistance “. From time to time the North states: “ You have to be pretty careful or you may run into a great deal of opposition “. The evidence tends to show that the North has been endeavouring to slow down what has occurred in the South.
What about China? China is only 500 miles away from Vietnam, yet not one Chinese has been discovered in South Vietnam during these times and only 113 weapons from China have been discovered. If this is an example of Chinese aggression and the threat that exists to Australia, there is not much aggression and there is not much threat in it. If the moral issue that is to be determined in this debate is to be determined at all, it is to be determined on these facts. In my opinion, the facts on which the Prime Minister justifies his action have not been proved. My opinion in this matter is shared by a number of other people. Recently Professor Hans Morgenthau, consultant to the United States State Department and the United States Defence Department, described this document to which I have been referring as a dismal failure. He said -
The discrepancy between its assertions and the factual evidence adduced to support them borders on the grotesque. The document is most disturbing in that it provides a particularly glaring instance of the tendency to conduct foreign and defence policy not on their own merits but as exercises in public relations.
What we have had from the Prime Minister this afternoon has not been a careful factual examination of the situation facing this nation at a time of enormous responsibility. The right honorable gentleman, instead, conducted an exercise in public relations - an exercise in the use of the glib and slick word, which he thinks can continue to deceive the people as it has done in the past.
If we look at the situation and the facts with the responsibility that is due from all of us, I suggest that what is happening in South Vietnam and other places in Asia is not something which, like an avalanche, is flowing full of Asian aggression and Communism towards Australia. That is not the correct interpretation of what is happening. In that sense there is not a threat to Australia. The present situation does not compare with the situation in relation to Japan in the 1940s when, within about 17 days, Japan was able to sink, 5,300 miles from Tokyo, two of the largest capital ships in the world. We do not face today an expeditionary force of the kind we faced in those years. We face today a situation which, in each country, has a tendency to turn round and round in itself in the process of change, due to the force of vigour and terror that is in those places. This is an inevitable condition that comes out of decades of poverty and suppression. That is the inevitable condition that flows from the lives of those people. There is nothing that can be done by military force, the exercise of public relations or the glibly spoken word of the Prime Minister in this Parliament, to stop those things happening. These changes will go on because the people cannot live in their present circumstances. If we look with a sense of responsibility at the facts we will see that it is not as a result of aggression from the North that these things are happening but because of the conditions under which the people are living. I suggest we will find that each of those things is mainly and significantly indigenous. A great deal depends on the economic and political conditions in the area concerned. Substantially, the same situation would exist if there were no Communist countries to the north seeking to control it and to express revolutionary slogans about it. Manpower and arms from the North have been no more than marginal and have been less than could have been expected in the circumstances. The revolutionary process of which I am speaking is slow, not fast. There is no bushfire of revolution. Laos, Cambodia, Thailand and other countries have been undergoing this process of change for half a century or more. The astonishing thing is that the poverty and suppression that exist in these countries have provoked so little feeling in the past. All the evidence shows clearly that this process cannot be stopped by military repression. Once military methods are adopted, rapid escalation, with terror, bombing and casualties, is inevitable. Use of these methods and the overpowering atmosphere of anti-Communism mean that not even the slightest Teal political or economic changes are possible. Without these changes the situation cannot be stabilised and in the circumstances no alternative to Communism can be found. Use of military methods means that the war will escalate and nothing finally will stop it. That is the choice we must face today.
With respect to these processes of change that are going on in Asia, South America, Africa and elsewhere, the first thing to realise is that they are not directed at Australia. Those involved in them do not sit up at night thinking of Australia and how they might come to this country for all the good things that are here. For them, Australia is not the pot of gold at the foot of the rainbow. They probably think of Australia only when we deport some coloured person under our immigration policy or when we send troops to Vietnam or elsewhere. They think of their own country and their situation. Their situation has never related to Australia and hardly ever to the country next door. The difficulties facing them in these revolutions are enormous. They struggle hard for a better life. It is not a pushover. They have no time to take part in any thinking about what happens in this country. Their minds are filled with their own problems. I submit that the method we have tried to adopt for 25 years in Vietnam has now proved to be a failure. It is not enough simply to think in terms of the general and glib assertions of aggression that the Prime Minister makes in these circumstances. We must look closely at the facts.
Mr. DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr. Failes).Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- This afternoon the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) spoke about the frightened people of Vietnam and said they were giving very little support to the fighting in this area and that a great deal of apathy was being shown. I think one of the reasons why there are frightened people in this area and why in certain circumstances people have been apathetic is that in recent times the West has shown a lack of appreciation of the situation in this region. Some of the countries in this area have at times thought that if they made a stand against Communism, if they showed a certain amount of determination against the Chinese Communists, they would be left by the West to fight alone. That is why I think this gesture by Australia of sending 800 troops to South Vietnam goes far beyond the numerical strength of a battalion. Here is concrete evidence that Australia is determined to stand firm by its commitments to this area and that we, with other countries of the Western world, will honour our agreement.
The Leader of the Opposition suggested that a peace keeping force be sent to the area by the United Nations. I would remind him that when the United Nations engaged in the conflict in Korea, the Australian Labour Party did nothing to support it. One might say that Labour evaded its responsibility, as it has in so many other instances. The Leader of the Opposition and the honorable member for Yarra (Dr. 3. F. Cairns) spoke about negotiations. Both of them spoke about the conditions in these South East Asian countries and said that we should negotiate, that we should assist these countries financially and that the ultimate answer does not lie in military action. This is perfectly true. The Governments of Australia and the United States of America would not say that the ultimate answer was in the field of arms. Everyone knows that the ultimate answer is economic assistance to this area. This was shown by the President of the United States when a short time ago he made the magnificent offer of economic assistance to the people of this area. But the military aspect is necessary at this given moment. We must hold the position. It was aggression from North Vietnam that created the situation in the first place. The Leader of the Opposition said that we were trying to impose the will of the West in Asia. Who moved troops down? Who came from the North into the South? It was an act of aggression by the Vietcong that created the situation in South Vietnam as we know it today.
The honorable member for Yarra made a remarkable statement. He said that 90 per cent, of the happenings in South Vietnam are the responsibility of the South. Sir, if one says that the South resisted aggression and because of that these things happened, one might say that the statement is correct, but that is the only way it could be said to be correct. If we follow the statement of the honorable member for Yarra to its logical conclusion, it must mean that the people of South Vietnam practically on their own have been able to resist the combined forces of a corrupt, as he would infer, South Vietnam Government and of the United States of America. If the honorable member went to such countries as Laos and Cambodia he would see supplies coming down from China. He would see that the North is giving assistance and support to these areas. I wonder whether these countries would agree with the statement of the honorable member for Yarra that no support is coming to South Vietnam from the North or, if there is, the support is negligible.
The honorable member for Yarra said that Governments of our persuasion are inclined to exaggerate, that only parties such as those that form this Government would exaggerate the dangers of Communism and the occurrences in this area to try to justify the action that we are taking. I should like to quote the following words -
When we discuss international affairs we must necessarily say a great deal about restoring or keeping the peace. This involves frequent mention of the necessity to resist aggression and to keep up our defences.
This gentleman is referring to the situation in Vietnam. He continued -
For a time both parts continued to endeavour to put themselves in order and make economic and social progress. Those possibilities remained open until, in 1959, there was a call from the Government of North Vietnam for an intensification of the Viet Cong activities in the south and for full-scale guerrilla warfare against the Government of South Vietnam. Not only did the northern government call for that, they then proceeded to help it with more weapons and military advice, as was made clear by the majority report of the International Control Commission in 1962. Faced with that situation, South Vietnam appealed to the United States for help and the United States responded. lt would further be an admission that what is in fact the aggression from the North had succeeded.
I assure the House that that event would bs regarded with profound alarm by all the nonCommunist countries in that part of the world. I have noticed this among the very many letters which T have received about this matter and which my honorable friend and honorable members opposite have sent to me from their constituents that, although many of those letters ask urgently and naturally that Her Majesty’s Government should do everything possible to get a peaceful solution, very few indeed ask for the complete and unconditional withdrawal of the United States forces.
More recently President Johnson has expressed the matter thus: “ It is, and will remain, the policy of the United States to furnish assistance to support South Vietnam for as long as is required to bring Communist aggression and terrorism under control. The military actions of the United States will be such, and only such, as serve that purpose at the lowest possible cost in human life to our allies, to our own men, and to our adversaries too.”
This gentleman added -
I do not feel that that can be regarded as the language of a man or a nation eager to engage a reckless escalation of the conflict.
Those words were spoken by the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs in the United Kingdom, Mr. Michael Stewart. Surely the honorable member for Yarra would not say that Mr. Michael Stewart is a member of a party of our persuasion or of our kind of thinking. To my mind, those words alone show the fallacy of the argument of the honorable member for Yarra in this instance and, as in everything else, shows the fallacy of the argument that he has put on any occasion in this House in relation to this situation.
What is the situation in this area at this given moment? There has been aggression against South Vietnam by the Vietcong forces. This has been supported by Communist forces and by Communist China. Sir, 1 would remind the House of a situation that developed in Korea. Not very long ago, I was speaking to a pilot of the Royal Australian Air Force, who had been engaged in the hostilities in Korea. He said that one of the most frustrating experiences they had had was to be in flight in Korea and see Communist aircraft take off from the other side of the Yalu River, obtain height, make their attack, return over the Yalu River and be in perfect safety, because the United Nations forces were not able to follow them over the river and attack them. If wc allowed this to occur in Vietnam, how could we ever hope to be able to control the situation? If we allowed an enemy force to come over the border and attack South Vietnam without striking back, without hitting at its supply lines and without making a determined effort to hit back where it would be most effective, we would simply be asking for defeat in this area. Frankly, therefore, those who talk about the escalation of this war are talking about something of which they know nothing because in the circumstances the United States is taking steps to see that the war is brought to a conclusion in a shorter space of time than would be the case if we were not to take this action.
The British Government in an official statement only recently said -
The British Government have consistently expressed understanding and support for American action in the necessary defence of South Vietnam. They welcomed President Johnson’s Baltimore speech offering unconditional negotiations, and they have defended the American position against unfounded criticism, for example, during Mr. Stewarts visit to Prague and on many other occasions.
The Australian Government is expressing its support for the United States, for the free people of South Vietnam and the free people of Asia by saying in effect: “ Here is a concrete expression of our support.” As the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) himself said: “ Could we say to the people of the United States that we were prepared to stand by and see their troops in action and their people being killed for what is after all an area in which we are vitally interested?” We are vitally involved. Could we say to these people that we supported them without sending our men to give a practical expression of our support in this area?
I spoke earlier about economic aid. We are giving economic aid to this area and we will continue to do so. The great work in the Mekong Valley is a concrete expression of what we are prepared to do to assist. I repeat, Sir, that we have to look at the totality of the situation. We have to look at Taiwan, Malaysia, Laos and Cambodia. Can we express our support for the freedom of these countries by words alone? 1 say that in the totality of the situation we must express it in more than words. I quoted in this House not so long ago Denis Warner, one of our outstanding correspondents in South East Asia. He said that the American action had brought a heartening to the spirit of the people of this area who felt that they were not to be left alone, that they were not going to be left in the air, as it were. They realised that if they made a stand and did their part they would receive support from the West. The presence of the men of the battalion that is to be sent to South Vietnam will be an inspiration and encouragement to the people in this area. The sending of the troops will be a concrete expression of our willingness to continue involvement in this area.
I wish to quote the words of Dean Rusk, who said -
Let us be clear about what is involved today in South East Asia. We are not involved in empty phrases or conceptions which ride upon the clouds. We are talking about the vital national interest of the United States and the peace of the Pacific. We are talking about the appetite for aggression … we are talking about the safety of nations with whom we are allied - and the integrity of the American commitment.
Might I say in this House in support of the action of the Government in sending this battalion into Vietnam that we are not talking about a conception which rides upon the clouds; we are talking about the vital national interest of Australia, about the appetite of aggression, about the safety of nations and, surely, about the integrity of the Australian commitment. I believe that this action of the Commonwealth Government will receive the approval of the people of Australia, who want to see peace and freedom in this area but appreciate and realise that if that peace is to come we must also be prepared to make a sacrifice so it may come. A call was made to this country by the Government of the Republic of Vietnam for assistance from Australian troops. We have answered that call, lt would have been to our shame and the shame of Australia if we had not done so.
There is one thing further I want to say. 1 get tired of hearing it said that the members of the Government want war and are not interested in peace. It has been said that the Government is prepared to talk about peace and commit others to war. and is not really interested in peace and security. Sir, at this moment we are faced by an aggressor. The only way to defeat an aggressor is to show a determination to match his aggression. This country has shown its spirit in times past. When the action against aggression has been won we can fulfil our promise to give these people a higher standard of living and a better way of life. This will be done after we meet our commitment in honour and integrity in the situation in which we find ourselves at this moment.
.- The honorable member for Lyne (Mr. Lucock) chided the members of the Opposition about their attitude in the past in relation to Korea. Let me say at the outset that if we were sending troops to fight under the banner of the United Nations the Opposition would wholeheartedly support such action; but we are a bit taken aback by this committing of Australian troops to fight on foreign soil without any declaration of war. They are not to fight under the banner of the United Nations but are being sent, as has been said, at the request of the Government of South Vietnam. That is laughable. There is not a member of this Parliament who would be prepared to say that there is a stable government in South Vietnam.
The position undoubtedly is that the Government is taking this action, if perhaps not at the request of the Americans then at least with the political object of currying favour in some circles in the United States. The honorable member for Lyne mentioned that there were a lot of frightened people in South Vietnam. There are a lot of frightened people in Australia today who are frightened for a good reason. This after noon the Minister for Air (Mr. Howson), in reply to a question from the honorable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes), said that we had only sufficient petrol in Australia for 10 weeks should an emergency arise. That is a pretty serious position. Are not the people of Australia entitled to be a bit concerned - never mind about South Vietnam - when the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Hasluck) says in London that Asia is a world war threat. A Press report stated -
The risk of a world war starting today was more immediate in South East Asia than in any other continent, the Australian Minister for External Affairs, Mr. Paul Hasluck, said today.
I would hope that throughout the length and breadth of Australia we would all be very concerned about the action of the Australian Government in committing a battalion to Vietnam. In September 1939 the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) - the same gentleman who spoke today - announced to the Australian people that the nation was at war with Germany. It was a solemn pronouncement. Probably next to that in importance in the score of international affairs is the announcement by the right honorable gentleman in April 1965 that he has committed a battalion of Australian troops to Vietnam. As I have said, they do not go under the flag of the United Nations, and they go without any declaration of war. We are committing them to fight in Vietnam because of an alliance with a government which has very little standing. We turn our backs on diplomacy. Perhaps we have never been very skilled at diplomacy. Perhaps we have shown our lack of diplomacy by our actions over the last few years. For instance, one need only remind honorable members of New Guinea and the fact that we played no active part in trying to condition Washington and London to the dangers of Indonesia taking over West Irian. We played no active diplomatic part then.
What have we done to try to find a solution to this problem? Up till now, Australia’s voice has been respected as being at least the voice of a power that was not a colonial power - as not being the voice of one of the imperialist nations of the old world. We have been recognised up till now as being somewhat different from the United Kingdom and the United States of America. We were recognised as a nation that could talk to the member countries in Asia. But today, by taking up the sword and by going into battle we have turned our backs on diplomacy and decided to fight.
It may be that Australia is suffering from a lack of diplomats. I think that perhaps the time has arrived when it would be a good thing for the Minister for External Affairs and the officers of the Department of External Affairs to have a talk with the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr. McEwen) and the officers of his Department who have shown us how to negotiate. They are doing a very good job in selling our wheat and wool to Communist China. They are doing a good job in selling wheat and wool to a country that we do not recognise. They can sit down, talk to and negotiate with the representatives of that country. They sell to them goods that could well be worn by the soldiers who will be shooting down our own boys. For instance, the wool that they sell to these people could be made into uniforms to equip the North Vietnamese or Chinese who shoot down the Australians whom we are sending over there. The officers of the Department of Trade and Industry are doing a good job! They know how to negotiate. It is about time that the Department of External Affairs and the Minister for External Affairs recognised that there is somebody to negotiate with. It is about time they got on with the job.
– Whom are they to negotiate with?
– I recognise that it is not an easy problem, but the officers of the Department of Trade know to whom to talk in China and to whom to sell goods there. Therefore, we have a starting off point there. This afternoon, the Prime Minister chided those people who criticised the visit of the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) to America and stated that he had been successful in his negotiations with the Government of the United States of America in obtaining relief on the economic front, I say to the Prime Minister and to all honorable members of this House that the people of Australia can be pardoned for being suspicious and for thinking that a deal was made, because of the timing of this action. We all know that some have used the expression: “ Diggers for dollars.” As I came into the House, a fellow said to me: “ It is bullion for bodies.” I say that anyone in this nation can be pardoned for having such thoughts because, before the Treasurer left these shores, he was warning us of the consequences to the economy of this country should he not succeed in his mission. The Minister for Housing (Mr. Bury), who is sitting at the table, also pointed out at that time that the signs visible then were similar to those which we saw just prior to the great depression of the 1930’s. We sent the Treasurer to the United States of America and, suddenly, he was very satisfied. Then, suddenly, without any warning, Australian troops were committed to aiding America in Vietnam. Maybe it is a coincidence, but those who say: “ Dollars for bodies,” can be pardoned for using such an expression.
We are told that 800 men are going to Vietnam. We started off with about 8. Then the number jumped to 80. Now it has risen to 800. What will happen when they are engaged in warfare in this area? It could easily happen that we shall lose half a battalion of men. We shall have to find men to take their places. I appreciate the Government’s problem. It is not an easy one. But we are not helping Australia or Australia’s future by rushing in and saying: “ We are going in with this battalion “.
When did this sudden deterioration take place in South Vietnam? Why, recently, the Right Honorable Patrick Gordon Walker visited the countries of that part of Asia and said that he was agreeably surprised at the position there, that things were not as bad as he had thought, and that we were making some progress. It has been generally acknowledged that over the last two months, since America stepped up the conflict, the tide has been turning. Therefore, when did this sudden deterioration take place which led the Government of South Vietnam to ask for assistance from Australia?
– Why has not New Zealand responded?
– The honorable member for Barton (Mr. Reynolds) asks why New Zealand has not responded. I am one of those weird characters who can think only of Australia. I think of Australia first. I think that, first of all, we have to see whether we have in this nation the defence forces necessary both to protect Australia if the need should arise and to fulfil our commitments elsewhere. At the present time the United Kingdom Government, with all its forces, is committed to looking after things in Malaysia. There can be no doubt that we are also committed to Malaysia. In Malaysia we know where we stand. There we are fighting with a member nation of the Commonwealth. We agree that a stand has to be taken there. We agree that membership of the Commonwealth means something.
But the position is somewhat different in Vietnam. The United States of America is bearing the brunt of the fight there, and I suppose we are obliged to assist them to some extent. But we cannot do much. What do these 800 men mean to Vietnam? What do they mean in terms of cold, hard numbers as a fighting unit? If they were wiped out tomorrow, it would not mean a snap of the fingers in the struggle in Vietnam. But it does mean that our voice - a voice that could be used to try to negotiate in South East Asia - is stifled.
– I disagree with the honorable member. I think that by our action we are indicating that we prefer to fight and to kill - that we prefer the field of battle to the field of diplomacy. I only hope that it is not too late to halt the drift that is taking place. There is little doubt that Australia is drifting into what is now, perhaps, a minor war; but, as the Minister for External Affairs has stated it is one which could turn into a world war. We are drifting into it as a nation, without doing anything to stop the drift. We have taken no action other than to take up the sword. 1 would sincerely hope that the Government has second thoughts about committing this force to Vietnam.
Let me make it clear that the Opposition has no argument with the Americans. But America’s position is a very different position from ours - different in every way. I would say that the United States is not insisting in any way on our finding manpower for that part of the globe. I feel that America would be very proud if we showed that we were more serious in this matter by building up - as we should have done long ago - a far better defence force for the protection of Australia in order to cover our commit ments to protect New Guinea should the time arise. At the present time we are hopeless. The Menzies’ Government has brought this country to such a state of affairs that we have almost had to say: “All right, if big brother says it, we will do it. If it means that you will help us by providing the dough to keep our economy on an even keel we will play along; we will give you some men so that, politically, you will satisfy some of your critics on the home front. You will satisfy Senator Wayne Morse and others because you will be able to say that America is not the only country fighting in South Vietnam; Australia has committed forces as well.”
The Prime Minister, at the outset, made some play on the the fact that the Opposition was critical of the uncertainty about whether he would make a statement last Thursday or not. It might be worthwhile, before resuming my seat, to mention that this announcement by the Prime Minister was a follow-up to the visit of Mr. Cabot Lodge from the Government of the United States a few days ago. On that occasion, the Prime Minister, by his scheming, prevented that gentleman from discussing foreign affairs with the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell), although the Prime Minister and Mr. Lodge must have discussed the fact that the Government intended to commit Australian men to Vietnam. Why did the Prime Minister not do the right thing and arrange for Mr. Lodge to confer with the Leader of the Opposition? The Opposition has been treated scandalously in regard to this important matter of defence - the committing of men overseas. But that is nothing to what the Government is doing to the people of Australia. The Government ignores them completely.
If the need to send our men overseas is so great why does not some responsible Minister stand in his place and tell us when the position became so acute and so dangerous that the Government is now prepared to commit part of our small defence force to the battlefields of Vietnam? Why does not some Minister rise and say whether or not it intends to send conscripts overseas without waiting for them to undergo a reasonable period of training and reach an acceptable degree of efficiency. Will no Minister give an assurance on this point?
The Opposition knows that it has adopted an unpopular line. As the Leader of the Opposition has stated, we will be called all sorts of names. But we believe it is our duty to alert the people of Australia to the fact that this Government is slowly but surely letting us drift into war. I say again that I hope that the Minister for External Affaire will take a leaf out of the book of the Minister for Trade and Industry, learn how to negotiate and learn not only to trade with Communist China but to bring us to peace with China.
.- This afternoon we have at last come to the point which we have all waited for, and which the people of Australia have watted for since the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) made his statement in this House on Thursday night on the Government’s decision to send troops to South Vietnam. This afternoon we have been treated to something we have never seen before - the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) having to turn to members of his own Party and having to read out to them a diatribe on how the decision they had made stinks and how, even though it stinks and 50 per cent, of his followers do not support it, he must ask for loyalty for the cause as a whole. The more I listened to the statement made by the Leader of the Opposition the more T wondered who had written it; the more 1 wondered whether it had indeed come from some foreign part. When we look at honorable members such as the honorable member for Lang (Mr. Stewart), the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Cope) and the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Benson), the decent legitimate Labour men who never get a go in this Parliament, 1 think we have a pretty fair idea of what happened in the Labour caucus this morning. Perhaps the Melbourne “ Herald “ tonight gives us some revelation. lt is known by all honorable members that the Australian Labour Party cannot have a party meeting without somebody beefing about it. This is what the “ Herald “ says -
Earlier today Dr. Cairns (Labour, Victoria) circulated to Cauous members a long document on Vietnam.
This gives us a pretty fair indication of who is winning on the other side in respect of foreign affairs policy. It is common knowledge that the policy of the Communist Party within Australia, and in all parts of the world where the Communist Party is operating, is to force the Americans out of Asia and South East Asia, to force them home and into isolation and to leave those areas for the Communist advancement down from mainland China. 1 suggest that the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly), who now no doubt will give us one of his merry, quippish, puckish speeches on a matter which is of great seriousness to Australia, will endeavour to say that there is no similarity with this Communist policy I have mentioned—
– A point of order. Might I remind the honorable member for La Trobe that I do not intend to speak - today.
– There is no substance in the point of order.
– No doubt there will be a few comics getting up in this debate so I will keep it as hurtless as possible. On Friday, when we returned to Victoria, we were met, naturally, by representatives of the Press and the television stations. They wanted to ask, as they had a right to do, what individual members of Parliament felt about the Government’s decision. Supporters of the Government were interviewed and gave their opinions. But the Press Secretary to the Leader of the Opposition answered on behalf of the Opposition and, according to the statement made over television, members of the Labour Party had been instructed not to speak until Tuesday. I have no doubt that the Opposition was looking for the 36 men and had to get a decision from them. All 1 can say is that in view of what has been put forward by certain honorable members opposite at question time and in subsequent statements this afternoon, I have nothing but contempt for the Opposition, both those who speak and those who will not speak. I would suggest that the people of Australia also take that view.
Let us go to what the honorable member for Yarra (Dr. J. F. Cairns) said this afternoon. He spoke of the booklet “ Aggression From the North “. He said that nobody had studied it. He said he had gone through it but had not been able to find anything which said in any force that there was aggression from North Vietnam. He read this extract from page 3 -
To some the level of infiltration from the North may seem modest in comparison with the total size of the Armed Forces of the Republic of Vietnam.
There he conveniently stopped - he is an expert at this - but the statement goes on -
But one-for-one calculations are totally misleading in the kind of warfare going on in Vietnam. First, a high proportion of infiltrators from the North are well-trained officers, cadres, and specialists. Second, it has long been realized that in guerrilla combat the burdens of defence are vastly heavier than those of attack. In Malaya, the Philippines, and elsewhere a ratio of at least 10-to-l in favour of the forces of order was required to meet successfully the threat of the guerrillas hit-and-run tactics.
Why did not the honorable member for Yarra read that out? Furthermore, he stated that there was no threat; there was nothing to be concerned about in South Vietnam. At page 62 of that booklet, one can read of the number of head men, doctors, nurses, teachers and community leaders who have been murdered, wounded and kidnapped in the various villages and districts in 1964. In January there were 154, in February 163, in March 164, and so it goes on at that rate of between 150 and 200 a month. Does the honorable member for Yarra, in his righteousness, consider that this is something which we should ignore?
The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) talked of negotiation and of how there was no threat from Communist China. He said there was no suggestion that we in Australia were threatened. I can only suggest, Mr. Speaker, that there should be displayed in this House a map of Asia, including particularly South East Asia, and that honorable members opposite should study it and realise where South Vietnam is. I believe that at present they do not realise where it is situated or that its distance from Australia is equivalent to the distance between Perth and Brisbane. Furthermore, every member of the Australian public should study the map of Asia and South East Asia. We are told by honorable members opposite that there is no threat. Let them tell this to the people of Thailand. Let them tell it to the people of Burma, of India, of Tibet and of all the other countries in Asia and South East Asia where people are living in fear today.
The honorable member for Yarra said that we should negotiate. The honorable and gallant member for Kingston (Mr. Galvin) has just suggested with some fervour that the United Nations could conduct negotiations. Let me remind honorable members opposite of the negotiation efforts to date. There was President Johnson’s offer, in a speech at Johns Hopkins University, on 7th April 1965, of unconditional discussions. The Peking “People’s Daily” gave the Chinese reply by stating that this statement by President Johnson “signifies the bankruptcy of the war blackmail that has been carried on right to the present by United States imperialism “ etc. There was then the rejection of U Thant’s suggested visit to Peking. Let the honorable member for Kingston put on his glasses and read the editorial in the Peking “People’s Daily” relating to the proposal by the SecretaryGeneral of the United Nations to visit Peking. The Chinese Government refused to allow him to make the visit. The editorial in the “ People’s Daily “ stated -
The Vietnam question has nothing to do with the United Nations.
I suggest that the Leader of the Opposition and the honorable member for Yarra should endeavour to get to Peking and see what they can do there instead of wasting their talents here. We then come to the rejection of the 17 nation appeal of 1st April 1965. On this matter, the Peking “People’s Daily “, in an editorial, declared -
On this “appeal”, the Vietnam News Agency has been authorised to state that the four points laid down by Pham Van Dong, of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam on 8th April constituted the basis for the soundest political settlement of the Vietnam problem.
Next was the rejection of the proposed visit by Mr. Patrick Gordon Walker, followed by the rejection of the Indian President’s proposal for a cease fire. Then there was the rejection of the proposal for a conference on Cambodia. Are honorable members opposite unaware of these things, or is their association with certain elements preventing them from being honest in this House?
The attitude of China towards the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics no doubt represents heart’s balm to Opposition members, because they want to be sure who will win. A publisher’s note to the fifth volume of the
Chinese text of the Khrushchev Statements, which is dated 28th April 196S, states -
However much they collaborate, the Soviet Union and United States can never stamp out the just struggle of the great Vietnamese people . . .
That is what the garbled statements on negotiation made by Opposition members this afternoon have meant.
Let us now look at what is happening in the world today. First, we have the situation in South Vietnam. We have without doubt substantial evidence obtained not only by ourselves but also by the United States that there has been infiltration. Why have honorable members opposite not raised this issue? It was said that the Canadian Government had said that we should not be in South Vietnam and, indeed, that we should negotiate, seemingly on any conditions. In the booklet entitled “ Viet Nam since the 1954 Geneva Agreements”, at page 47, there appear some excerpts from a statement made by Mr. H. C. Green, Canadian Minister for External Affairs, on 21st June 1962. The document contains this passage) -
The Canadian Government fully endorses the conclusions of the International Commission. It considers that the report establishes beyond any reasonable doubt that North Viet Nam has engaged, for a number of years and with rising intensity in 1960 and 1961, in subversive activities of an aggressive nature directed against South Viet Nam.
The document goes on at some length to state in considerable detail exactly what had happened. There is also a letter from the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, which, at that time, provided one of the co-chairmen of the Geneva Conference on lndo-China, to the Soviet Premier, stating that evidence had been given, and accepted and verified, that North Vietnam had been sending cadres of troops, as well as ammunition and war material to South Vietnam, and had been conducting subversion there. In this letter, the British Prime Minister suggested that the International Control Commission take action. Are these things unknown to the honorable member for Yarra and the Leader of the Opposition?
– To which document is the honorable member referring?
– This publication is entitled Vietnam since the 1954 Geneva Agreements “. It contains selected documents on the situation in Vietnam. Let us now look at some of the reports of the International Control Commission. These are available for all honorable members to read, but honorable members opposite have not read them. They have been content to listen to the honorable member for Yarra, who presented his brief to their caucus at 12 noon today. The Australian Labour Party, only at 12 noon today, decided the attitude that it would take in this debate, which was due to begin at 3.15 p.m. In a report received via Vietnam - No. 3 of 1955 - at page 21, it is stated that more than 800,000 persons who wanted to change the zone of their residence had succeeded in moving from North Vietnam to South Vietnam. The House will recall that the honorable member for Yarra said that 100,000 people had become fed up with living in the south and wanted to move to the Utopia in the north. But he did not mention that more than 800,000 had moved from the north to the south. As I understand it, they were mainly people who earlier supported the religious faith supported by some honorable members opposite and who, in my opinion, are now prepared to deny these people that religious faith.
In report No. 1 of 1962, it was stated that, while the International Control Commission continued to function in a difficult atmosphere, on 9th September 1961 there had been received from the liaison mission of the Republic of Vietnam a communication reporting further atrocities. Let honorable members opposite read that report and give us their comments later in the debate. Let them read report No. 1 of 1965 and give us their comments on it. As appears at page 12, that report states that the Commission, in a special report, directed attention to the fact that armed and unarmed personnel, arms, munitions and other supplies had been sent from the zone in the north to the zone in the south. The document proceeds at some length with these details. Let us now come to 13th February 1965 - right up to date. If honorable members opposite do not know where these documents are, I remind them that this material is to be found in the Parliamentary Library. I suggest that, if they cannot read it themselves, they get somebody who can read it to tell them what is in it The material includes a report by the Canadian representative on the International
Commission for Supervision and Control io Vietnam.
– Read it to us.
– I shall endeavour to read some of it, but I have not time to read all of it. With the concurrence of the House, I should like to incorporate it in “ Hansard “.
– I thank the honorable member for his display of generosity and nobility. This report states -
The Canadian Delegation considers it necessary to append a minority statement to the foregoing majority report.
The Canadian Delegation agrees that the situation in Vietnam continues to be dangerously unstable, and events since February 7 in North and South Vietnam have provided a dramatic demonstration of this continuing condition.
I have to omit a paragraph here, Mr. Speaker. If the document were incorporated in “ Hansard “, Opposition members would be able to read it there. The report goes on -
In reporting on the events in North and South Vietnam since February 7, the Canadian Delegation, therefore, deems it necessary to set these events in their proper perspective. In the view of the Canadian Delegation, they do not stem from any essentially new factors in the situation in Vietnam, nor can they be seen in isolation; rather, they are dramatic manifestations of a continuing instability which has, as its most important cause, . . . largely covert policies by North Vietnam directed against South Vietnam.
I suggest that the honorable member for Grayndler read the rest of this report.
We have heard that the Australian Labour Party speaks with one voice. May I read several short excerpts from a speech made by a noble and distinguished Labour senator. On 1st April last, in the debate on the statement on international affairs made by the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Hasluck), Senator Willesee, referring to what the Minister had said, stated -
He said that Australia was fighting for its very survival. I thought then that if somebody was sub-editing that speech, that would be the heading rather than being tucked away in a paragraph.
In his opinion, that consideration seemed to be more important than the fact that Australia was fighting for its survival. Later in his speech, the senator said -
It is true that many columnists in America - there seem to be myriads of them and they con- tradict themselves from day to day - say that there will be a withdrawal, but never, so far as I have been able to learn, has there been such a suggestion by any authority. In a situation such as this, particularly if you consider the events just before and just after the last war, surrender and appeasement are completely impossible and unthinkable.
Let me say further that if the honorable member for Yarra and some other honorable members opposite had been in South East Asia and if they had the courage to go to South Vietnam they would have found people there who had been fighting a war for many years. Indeed, the only thing that is supporting them now is that people from other countries are prepared to go and play their part with them in protection of the way of life that they wish.
I am not saying that everything in South Vietnam is right - it is not - but I am not, as I presume honorable members opposite are, condoning subversion, attack and intimidation to take away from the people the right to resist. What would the people of Thailand think if we withdrew from South Vietnam? What would the people of Burma and India think? What would Indonesia think? I suggest that in that situation Indonesia would know that we are all words and wind, particularly if it listened to the other side. But we, a population of 11 million people, are prepared to go and play our part in the preservation of freedom. If we got out of Vietnam, would we believe that we would go to the aid of Thailand? Would the Thais believe it? Indeed, would the people of Australia believe it?
Let me end by saying that the failure to grasp the nettle that we now have could cost the children now living their lives or their nationality. The guilty men would be, not the small band of fanatical Communists or their dupes in Australia but the great numbers who are guilty by default and who, like the unwilling wedding guests, excused themselves because they had more interesting things to do. What is happening in South East Asia is what happened in Europe. Let the honorable member for Grayndler tick off on his fingers the countries that are no longer - Estonia, Rumania, Hungary, Lithuania, Albania, Czechslovak^ and others. They can be listed off one by one. Each of those countries was picked off one by one, and every one of them was subverted from within before it was picked off. If ever there was a need for the people of Australia to know where the Australian Labour Party stood it is at this moment in Australia’s history. It is time that the Government and the Opposition, perhaps, looked at the question of security internally in Australia, because we are now in a situation similar to that which prevailed at the beginning of the last war where the enemy that we may have to fight will be a pro-Communist enemy. We remember what happened when Russia was on the side of the Germans. We know that we are all receiving letters from the Communist unions - the Seamen’s Union of Australia; the Communist front throughout Australia - and that they are infiltrating the minds of young people. If we and all the people of Australia do not take concern as to what is happening, not only outside but also inside, the time left to us to make this an Australian nation may be very short indeed. I have no lack of confidence in the Australian people.
– Will the honorable member enlist?
– I do have a lack of confidence in the honorable member for Hunter and a small section of the Opposition who, in my opinion, are likely, intentionally or otherwise, to sell this country out.
– Mr. Speaker, the honorable member for La Trobe made a statement that some honorable members on this side of the House would sell this country out. That remark is personally objectionable to me and to the honorable members concerned and I ask that it be withdrawn.
– Order! The honorable member for La Trobe made a comprehen sive statement. It did not refer to the honorable member individually.
– He named some honorable members.
– Any member who was named has the right to object.
– The honorable member for La Trobe made a similar reference to me. I interpreted his remark as grossly insulting and I ask that it be withdrawn.
– Order! If the honorable member for La Trobe made a personal reference to the honorable member for Hunter on these lines he must withdraw that charge.
– I certainly cannot afford to be thrown out. I withdraw the statement.
– Order! I must ask the honorable member to withdraw unconditionally, with no bargaining.
– I withdraw the remark.
– Mr. Speaker, I should like your ruling on whether it is in order for an honorable member on this side of the House or on the other side of the House to make general statements that honorable members on the opposite side of the House to him are, for example, warmongers or Fascists.
– There is no substance in the point of order; it is a hypothetical question.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Duthie) adjourned.
House adjourned at 5.36 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated -
y asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is as follows -
The honorable member’s questions refer, out of context, to a few light-hearted remarks, partly reported, made by me at a function, which I understood to be private, to celebrate the opening of the Canadian Chancery. I do not propose, therefore, to provide a substantive reply to it.
y asked the Minister for the Inferior, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s, questions is as follows -
The estimated population of the Australian Capital Territory at 31st December 1964 was 84,686. The National Capital Development Commission has carried out detailed studies which indicate a population of 132,000 in 1970. Beyond this point no precise assessments are available owing to the possible variations in the assumptions on which these population projections are made. However, a simple projection of current population growth trends points to the possibility of the 250,000 level being reached shortly after 1980 and the half million round about the turn of the century.
on asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Has the Premier of New South Wales renewed his request that the Commonwealth should make a grant to hasten the upgrading of the Parkes-Broken Hill line to coincide with tho standardisation of the Broken Hill-Port Pirie line?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows -
m asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
s asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -
What action has been taken by the Commonwealth and die States to launch a campaign, as envisaged by the Prime Minister in his answer on 11th March 1964, to a question asked by the honorable member for Kingston, to publicise the health hazards of smoking?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows -
The Government believes that it would be very desirable if measures were taken to educate young people in particular regarding the relationship between smoking and lung cancer, with a view to discouraging them from acquiring the smoking habit.
The honorable member will realise, however, that responsibility for the formulation and implementation of any such programme of health education rests primarily with the State Governments.
Hie Commonwealth Government has already indicated to the Slate Governments that it would be pleased to extend to them any assistance it can appropriately give, within the area of its own responsibilities, in a health education and publicity programme of this nature. However, until such a programme is devised and agreed upon by the State Governments, there is no action which the Commonwealth Government can appropriately take in this connection.
b asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is a follows -
The question of four weeks annual recreation leave is the subject of discussions between the Australian Council of Trade Unions and the High Council of Commonwealth Public Service Organisations and the Public Service Board, which has the matter under active consideration.
Television. (Question No. 952.)
y asked the Postmaster-General,
Upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable members questions is as follows -
Complaints concerning objectionable material in programmes televised by commercial television stations have’ averaged about two per month except in the case of one programme where some 70 letters addressed to either myself or the Board were received. Most of the letters were critical of the programme, but a number of the letters were of a laudatory nature. Each complaint has been examined by the Board and, where considered necessary, has been taken, up with the management of the station concerned.
I do not propose to make public the names and addresses of persons or organisations who write either to myself or the Australian Broadcasting Control Board on matters of this kind.
y asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
Is it proposed to provide for full voting rights for persons under 21 years of age who are conscripted for military service under recent amendments of the Defence Act? If not, why not?
– The question involves Government policy and I have no information to offer.
y asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: - 1 and 2.
3 and 4. The Board does not make any check of the number of viewers of the various programmes.
y asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows -
y asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows - 1. (a) No figures have been maintained by the organisers of the appeal in respect of the sums collected in each capital city.
The total for Australia including Papua-New Guinea was £2,139,786.
y asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows - 1. (a) The contributions made to the Winston Churchill Memorial Fund by the respective State Governments were -
The Commonwealth Government contributed £100,000. In addition, the Commonwealth contributed £5,000 in respect of each of the Territories of the Australian Capital Territory, the Northern Territory and Papua-New Guinea, plus £5,000 towards the organising expenses of the Appeal, making a total contribution of £120,000.
y asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows -
The answer to this question is provided in the answer to Question No. 46 which is included in “Hansard” today.
n asked the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice -
– The Minister for Civil Aviation has supplied the following information.
The position is practically unchanged since a similar question was asked on September 9th 1964. Final information should be received shortly.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 4 May 1965, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1965/19650504_reps_25_hor46/>.