22nd Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. A. M. McMullin) took the chair at 4 p.m., and read prayers.
– by leave - Leave of the Senate enables me to repeat in the actual words of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) a very important statement made by him this afternoon in another place. It is entitled “Egypt - Israel” and is as follows: -
As honorable members know, the latest reports are that there has been a “ cease fire “ in Egypt, consequent upon the announcement by the United Nations of an international force for use in the Suez Canal area. But it is still necessary to remind the House and the country of the true quality and consequences of recent events.
The free world has had clearly put to it in the last week or two a question, the answer to which will determine not only the future of the United Nations, but also the future of the world. Israel and Egypt became involved in operations of war. That what Israel did when it invaded Egypt was an act of aggression, few people would be concerned to deny. Yet, as I have previously pointed out in public statements, Israel had become painfully aware of the aggressive attitude of her neighbours and had, quite plainly, made up her mind that something should be done to correct a situation in which Israel’s existence should always be on a precarious tenure. She, therefore, sent her forces into Egypt. It was clear that if this invasion of Egypt proceeded, and Egypt defended herself, there would before long be a war conducted over and around the Suez Canal. If this local war had occurred in some other part of the world, it might have been isolated and either dealt with by the great nations or allowed to wear itself out. But the Suez Canal, as hundreds of millions of people in the world clearly understand, was and is one of the economic lifelines of the world.
We in Australia realize that the great bulk of our overseas trade, which is vital to our own economic existence, passes through it in one direction or the other. The Western European powers, including Great Britain, depend upon a free and open Suez Canal for the vital industrial ingredient, to wit, oil, of their own industrial life and employment. Under these circumstances, should the two great Suez Canal shipping powers, Great Britain and France, have stood aside and pretended that a war in the Suez Canal zone was no concern of theirs? They would have been bent on economic suicide if they had thought so, or said so, or acted so. What then were they to do? Were they to believe that the United Nations could and would promptly and efficiently deal with this matter, not only by words but by deeds? If they had done so, resolutions would have been passed but there is no reason to believe that anything would have happened; no more than there is reason to believe that a vetoed resolution of the United Nations will restrain the Soviet Union from its career of butchery in Hungary.
These two great powers, therefore, concluded that action was necessary if the Suez Canal was to be kept free and open and out of a zone of war. That is why Great Britain and France developed their military activities in the Middle East. They have, I believe, been well justified in the result. It is just because they took strong action that the United Nations itself has been galvanized into action. They made it perfectly clear that their object was and is to separate the belligerents, to get a peaceful settlement of disputes, and to preserve the canal. If, as a result of this, both Israel and Egypt have declared a “cease fire” and if the United Nations itself is prepared to put in an effective military force to replace the police action of Great Britain and France, we will all very willingly believe that practical action has been taken by the world organization. But at the same time, it must not be forgotten that there will always be the threat of conflict around the Suez Canal if the outstanding issues are not really settled. It must, therefore, not be thought that an international force will have exhausted its function when hostilities have ended. Indeed, these have already ended. It must continue itfunction until the outstanding questions between Israel and Egypt have been settled on a basis acceptable by both, and the future of the Sue? Canal as an international waterway, insulated from the politics of any one nation, has beeassured.
I think I might with propriety quote the words of the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom in the House of Commons on Tuesday evening -
During the night we received from the SecretaryGeneral of the United Nations a communication in which he informed us that both Israel and Egypt had accepted an unconditional cease fire
I should like to make one or two comment:, on the general situation. There have been and no doubt still are bitter differences upon this matter across the House.
I will lay down what I believe has been the result of the action we took with all its admitted attendant risks which I have never concealed. 1 believe that it has limited the area of conflict. If honorable members think that that is not a fair comment I should like them to consider whether, when hostilities broke out, any of them thought it passible that the other Arab countries would not have been all of them immediately involved in a war with Israel. I believe - in fact I am convinced - that it was only the knowledge of the presence of our forces which limited the conflict to that area. The fact that fighting has now stopped and that the Israeli acceptance oi the ten-mile limit has made it virtually certain as far as it can that the two parties shall not re-engage in conflict meanwhile is, I should have thought, also an achievement which all of us should reckon to be worth while.
Now I come to what is a more controversial but as time passes may perhaps become a more generally accepted statement of one of the results, namely that the action we took has been an essential condition for the attempted creation - which we hope will be successful - of a United Nations force to come into the canal zone itself. 1 as honorable members to look at the history of the Middle East in the post-war period and ask themselves if anything but this action would have brought the United Nations to take this step. I am absolutely sure it would not. After years of flickering war the stage can now be set - if the United Nations will put forward this force adequate for the task - for negotiations and for a real settlement of the problems of the Middle East.”
The concluding paragraph of my citation deals with two matters of outstanding importance. The first is that the United Nations force should be adequate for the task. This is significant. It would be rather a strange circumstance if the properly armed and equipped troops of the United Kingdom and France should be replaced by a force of no military consequence without adequate supply and backing. It should be an effective military force. At present, we in Australia do nol know whether it is desired that we should contribute to it. It is probably too soon for anybody to have worked out what its constitution is to be, how it is to be used, and in what particular respects individual nations should take part in it. AH I need say at present, on behalf of the Government, is that if the proposal is to constitute a military establishment which will facilitate the making of a permanent settlement in the Middle East, Australia will be not unwilling to make such quick practical contribution as it can.
The second point to be emphasized is that Sir Anthony Eden has pointed out the objective of a real settlement of the problems of the Middle East. This is a matter of major importance. If all that happened was that the British and French forces, having cleared the canal of physical obstructions, withdrew and were replaced by a United Nations force, and the charter of that force was merely to keep the peace for a limited time, leaving all outstanding questions concerning the canal and the relations between Egypt and Israel unsolved, our people might well ask what was the good of Anglo-French intervention. It is, therefore, essential to emphasize that the conflicts around Israel frontiers and the questions affecting the free passage of the canal cannot be solved by being ignored or postponed.
The people of Israel have a perfect right to know that their national integrity will be respected. Half the people of the world have a perfect right to know that a non-political control of the canal is guaranteed. Peace is not a mere matter of the cessation of hostilities; it can be founded only upon the sensible removal of differences. In the making of peace in the Middle East, cooperation with the United States will be essential. I am sure that, in spite of recent differences, such co-operation will be freely available. It is for reasons like these and for the general reasons which I set out in my statement to the House on 1st November, that we have supported the action of the United Kingdom and continue to support it.
Some casual but biased observers have suggested that we have merely “ toed the line “. This iS of course, nonsense. We have not, if I may say so, lacked the capacity for expressing our own views, though we have at all times expressed them as British people. But I would think badly of myself, and my colleagues would think badly of themselves, if we remained silent or neutral under circumstances in which the Government of the United Kingdom has been assailed for taking action which we regard as both practical and courageous. I think that already it is being realized more and more that taking a firm course on matters like the Egyptian conflict is not a means of provoking war but averting war.
I pass to a few other considerations which have been much in our minds in these very troubled days. A good deal of apprehensive talk has occurred about the differences which have been manifested over this Egyptian matter between some of the countries of Europe and some of the countries of Asia. In particular, honorable members will not have failed to notice that some of our Asian friends have protested strongly against Anglo-French action in Egypt but have had little or nothing to say about the murderous activities of the Soviet Union in Hungary. These are matters which it is considered wise politics never to mention. But a time comes when this rule should be broken. There could be no greater tragedy in the world than for it to become settled doctrine that the great nations of Asia and the great European and neo-European nations have conflicting interests, and that they must, therefore, accept conflict about them as inevitable. We in Australia do not believe that, in world matters, the interests of India must be in conflict with those of Australia or the interests of Asia in conflict with those of Europe. Statesmanship requires that we should all swiftly bring ourselves to an understanding that the world is one, and that ordinary human beings all around the world have similar interests and the same dignified and human ambitions.
Having said this, I would like to say to such people in other nations as may be willing to listen, that there are three aspects of the present Middle East crisis which deserve the urgent and earnest consideration of all men.
First, the freedom and integrity and peace of the Suez Canal are of just as much importance to the villager of Pakistan or India as to the ordinary citizen of Australia or the wage-earner of Great Britain or France. The freedom of the canal, therefore, has a universal quality, the significance of which is not altered by the pigment of the skin or the geographical locality of the canal users. If we are to settle these problems by lining ourselves up in favour of a European bloc or in favour of an Asian bloc, if actions taken by Egypt are to be regarded in Arab communities as good simply because Egypt is an Arab community, then the world will be committing itself to a dispute to which there can be no end except in bitterness and destruction. In dealing with such a matter, we must try to look objectively at the merits and at the common good of all; we will initiate the suicide of mankind if we substitute bigotry for judgment, or seek to revive racial hatred under the guise of instituting the brotherhood of man.
Secondly, the significance which we attach to great world events depends essentially upon our sense of proportion. Does anybody in Egypt or in Syria seriously believe that the active intervention of the Soviet Union in the Middle East would be, in the long run, to the benefit of Middle Eastern people? Would Egypt, so proud of having marched from “ colonialism “, seriously seek to defend its new freedom by submitting itself to the help and, therefore in due course, the tyranny of the worst “ colonialism “ in modern times? Are the people of Southern Asia, who have worked so long and so successfully for democratic self-government, prepared to lend their countenance to a most obvious attempt by totalitarian communism to divide the free countries so that, being divided, they may all become slaves?
Thirdly, I would have thought that the purpose of the United Nations was not to make great powers impotent and small powers truculent, but to reconcile the strength of great nations with the strength of an international organization; to use great power not for aggression but in support of resistance to tyranny; to build around the great peace-loving powers of the world an area of peace which would ultimately become a dominating area of peaceful strength in the world.
Does anybody suppose that an enfeebled Great Britain or an enfeebled France, or, in some circumstances, an enfeebled United States of America, could give to a world organization, the strength which alone can make that organization effective and save it from futility?
These are matters to be thought about and to be acted about. Great Britain and France rightly felt that if the Suez Canal and the vast traffic which passes through it were to be made unavailable, inaccessible, closed by a war between two minor powers, the time had come when it was necessary that there should be some assertion of the rights of the majority of the people of the world. By bitter experience they knew that with a certain veto in the Security Council, the whole pass might be lost unless definite action preceded debate. They, therefore, took definite action. I have said, and I repeat on behalf of the Government of this country and, as I believe, on behalf of the majority of the people of this country, that we agree with them. They have said, and said truly, that they have no desire to remain in perpetuity as a military garrison on the canal. That has in the past been tried and has been abandoned. But they have been immeasurably wise and courageous in taking steps which would not only anticipate but would, in some measure, compel the attention of the United Nations. I have no doubt that they will welcome relief from their task. But the marshalling of an international police force is not a matter of days or weeks. It requires organization, contribution and discipline. I believe that the United Kingdom and France have pursued their intervention not for territorial conquest, not for any purpose of domination, but to produce peace where the world needs peace; so that, when the United Nations produces an international body in this area, it will not have to tight its way in but will be in such a shape and in such a position that it may first keep the belligerents apart and then bring them together for a sensible and honest and permanent solution of their differences.
Perhaps the most impudent thing that has occurred of late is the self-righteous attitude adopted by the Soviet Union towards Anglo-French action in Egypt. Many of us had just begun to hope that the anti-Stalin movement in Russia heralded a new period in which the Soviet Union would begin to recognize the self-governing rights of other people, and would accordingly reduce the international tension in the world. This would, of course, have been of great significance if it had happened to be true.
In the modern world, the Soviet Union has made itself a great “ colonial “ power though it has never ceased to inveigh against “ colonialism “. How this propaganda on the Soviet side has succeeded is one of the mysteries of life. For example, Great Britain was the great “ colonial “ power of the nineteenth century. There is no evidence that her “ colonialism “ failed to improve the lot of her “ colonial “ people. But in this century, the whole progress of the old British colonial empire has been towards self-government. It has been made clear that “ colonial “ peoples were not to be kept in subjugation but that they were to be advanced into self-government as their capacity for self-government was developed. In the result, many countries which were once part of Great Britain’s “ colonial “ empire have become completely independent self-governing communities. Up to now, the proof is to be seen in Burma, in India, in Pakistan, in Ceylon. Before long there will no doubt be further proof in the cases of Malaya, Singapore and the Gold Coast countries, while the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland has been advancing rapidly towards a full self-governing status. In brief, the British procedure has been to promote dependent countries into self-government.
On the other hand, the Soviet Union, acting in relation to what we call its satellite countries, of whom the two who are most vividly in the public mind are Poland and Hungary, has pursued a line of policy designed to destroy selfgovernment and to reduce people from independence to “ colonial “ subservience.
It therefore comes as a shock to civilized onlookers to find that at the very moment when the Soviet Union has, by brute force and savage rapacity, been crushing the flame of independence in Hungary, with the loss of many thousands of lives, it should have the effrontery to pose as the defender of Egyptian liberty and to issue the wildest threats against the Western powers.
I feel bound to make one further set of observations. There has been much propaganda over recent days and weeks. For example, it has been repeatedly said from Cairo that the Anglo-French action in Egypt was the result of a prearrangement between Great Britain, France and Israel. This story was always fantastic, and particularly so to anybody familiar with the efforts made by Great Britain to avoid conflict between Jordan and Israel or Israel and Egypt. But the propaganda has gone on. There must be quite a few scores of millions of people to-day, particularly in Asian countries, who have been persuaded to believe that this allegation is true. For another example, it has been said by some that the action taken by Great Britain and France in delivering an ultimatum to Egypt and Israel and following it up by armed action encouraged the Soviet Union to make an attack upon the people of Hungary. This statement is monstrously untrue.
On Tuesday, 30th October, I made a statement In this House about Hungary, in the course of which I pointed out that the explosion in Hungary was touched off on 23rd October by the action of the police in firing into a peaceful demonstration of university students. From that moment events in Hungary moved rapidly. There were great loss of life and many other casualties. The whole matter became so intolerably acute that the Security Council held an emergency meeting on 28th October; a meeting at which ten members of the Security Council voted for a discussion and investigation of the matter but were frustrated by the Soviet veto, which was based upon the clearly invalid argument that what had happened in Hungary was a purely domestic affair.
It is quite clear that the events in Egypt were subsequent. Indeed, it was suggested in some quarters - which shows how hard it is to be right - that the invasion of Egyptian territory by Israel was designed to take advantage of preoccupations arising from the tragic events in Hungary! All I need say is that those who are always ready to criticize our friends and to justify our enemies cannot have it both ways. It is to me a melancholy fact that some people, admittedly a small minority of the Australian people, should have so exhausted their vocabularies in denunciation of the action taken by Great Britain and France, an action now proved to have produced good results, that they have left themselves with not enough words to denounce the brutal procedures of the Soviet Union in Hungary.
I have referred to some of these matters with some reluctance but only because I believe that in these great historic events the record should be kept straight. I have, indeed, another reason for this second exposition of what I believe to be the facts about Egypt. It is this. My colleagues and I believe and have repeatedly affirmed that the free future of the world depends primarily upon mutual understanding and co-operative action between the people of the United States and those of the British Commonwealth. This does not mean that either Great Britain or Australia, to take two instances, should simply subscribe to the American opinion of the moment. We have our own pride and independence and responsibilities. But the whole history of this century is so full of friendship between our two peoples, and the whole outlook of the United States has been compounded of such generosity and understanding that I believe that the more the position adopted by Great Britain on this crisis is understood by our American friends, the more they will come to understand that what has been sought is not war but the averting of war; not aggression but the effective settlement of disputes which could, if left to work themselves out, involve all the peaceloving people of the world in the kind of conflict which they all hope honorably to avoid.
There my statement was designed to end with a feeling of optimism. But this morning, there has been news on the wireless to the effect that the General Assembly has passed a resolution directing Great Britain and France to withdraw their forces fro Egypt forthwith. That appears to have been subsequently officially confirmed. At the moment - that is, when I prepared this statement - we have had no official advice of this decision nor, of course, have we had any opportunity to consult as to its significance. If the report is true - and it is true - its significance is not to be underestimated. But I would prefer to reserve any comment until we have means of knowing what interpretation will be given to the resolution or what the reactions to it of Great Britain and France will be. Even before this announcement, there were still great areas of doubt and uncertainty. For example, there are reports that the Government of Israel no longer accepts the armistice boundaries of some years ago as binding on it. There are statements that the Government of Egypt which was reported to have accepted a “ cease fire “ unconditionally now seeks to impose conditions on its acceptance. There are later unofficial reports that Egyptian attacks on British and French troops have not ceased.
There is still considerable vagueness about the International Force. Will it be called upon to conduct military operations against the Israelis if the Israelis persist in their present attitude, or against the Egyptians should they not honour the cease fire terms? But above all, the question now ls whether the Allied Forces can be seriously expected to leave at a time when the International Force does not even exist.
We have just received messages that this problem is recognized in the speeches made in support of the Afro-Asian resolution to which I have just referred. Dr. Walker, our distinguished representative at the United Nations, has reported to us that several nations have said that in supporting this resolution they interpret it as meaning that they support a withdrawal of United Kingdom and French forces not immediately, and not so as to leave a vacuum but “ as soon as practicable having regard to the fact that it will take some time for the International Force to be established and reach the area “. Some used phrases such as “ as soon as possible “. Declarations along these lines have been made, we are told, by Canada. Turkey, Pakistan and Iran, and also, be it noted, by the United States. We have been told that the substance of Mr. Cabot Lodge’s statement last night to the Assembly on behalf of the United States of America was, first, that the United States believed that the withdrawal of United Kingdom and French forces should be phased with the introduction of the International Force; and secondly, that these operations should be carried out as soon as possible.
– by leave - On 26th September last, I made a statement in this chamber in the course of which I reviewed events relating to the difficulties in the Middle East, matters that followed the dramatic nationalization by Egypt of the Suez Canal itself. The Senate may recall that I then said that it was more by good luck than good management that we had avoided the calamity of a third world war. Another dramatic happening occurred on 29th October last - the invasion of Egypt by Israel. That set up a chain reaction with the most extraordinary rapidity that has involved in fighting not only Israel and Egypt but also the great countries of France and the United Kingdom, with two other great powers, Russia and America, shadowsparring on the sidelines of a conflict, the possible outcome of which is a third world war - a possibility that fills the world with horror and dismay, lt is a sad position to be in - to be discussing to-day that possibility and to be seeking remedies to prevent its becoming a reality.
One is faced at a time like this with the difficulty of ascertaining the facts. It has been well said that truth is the first casualty in war. When one endeavours to find from newspaper reports a really connected account of what is going on, one reads statements from both sides in direct conflict with each other and one is therefore in difficulty in forming a judgment. I ask the Senate to bear with with me for a moment or two while 1 rapidly review events from the time of the nationalization of the Suez Canal. I should like to do that before 1 pass any comments upon them.
On 26th July last, we had the nationalization decree of the Suez Canal. That was followed by economic sanctions against Egypt, imposed by Great Britain and France and, for a time, by the United States of America. That led, in turn,, to the mobilization of Egyptian forces, followed by the mobilization of British and French forces and their concentration in areas that were poised right on Egypt. All that happened in the very early days.
A statement was made by our own Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), when he first went to London from America, in which he said that the nationalization of the canal was wrong in every way, and must be resisted at all costs. I ask the Senate to note those words because I shall revert to them before long. Next came the meeting of 22 nations interested in the Suez Canal in a conference in London. A plan was evolved that was submitted to Colonel Nasser by a delegation led by our own Prime Minister.
This was rejected, as everybody knew it would be rejected, long before it was ever presented. A further conference in London followed at which, in effect, it was sought to take control of the canal out of the hands of Egypt, and vest it in a body of nations called the Canal Users Association.
On 24th September, belatedly, Great Britain and France referred this matter to the United Nations and by 13th October six main principles dealing with the situation in the Middle East had been evolved, and were unanimously agreed to by the United Nations. The task was to settle down and translate those six main principles into working arrangements to resolve difficulties over the Suez Canal.
The next event was the sudden mobilization by Israel - a mobilization that had been noted by Great Britain and France and, above all, by the United States of America. Those who followed these events will recall that President Eisenhower immediately communicated with Israel, asking urgent questions about the mobilization and its purpose, and begging Israel not to embark upon any aggressive action. Great Britain sent its own Ambassador into Israel, and he came away with the assurance that the mobilization was not directed against Jordan. I pause there, in this recital of facts, to say that that left as the only possibility that it was directed against Egypt. That means that at that time, about 28th October, Great Britain and France plainly knew what was about to happen. Right at that moment, President Eisenhower had convened a meeting of the French and United Kingdom representatives in New York to confer about this mobilization and, in actual fact, while a discussion was going on among the representatives of those three great nations, Israel struck and, on 29th October, invaded Egypt.
On the following day, 30th October last, an ultimatum was issued by both France and Great Britain in terms that are well known, calling upon the combatants, Egypt and Israel, to retire each to a distance 10 miles left and right respectively of the Suez Canal zone. On the following day the matter was referred by the United States to the Security Council where a United States resolution was carried and, ultimately, a resolution of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics was carried, condemning the threatened employment of force pursuant to the ultimatum, and calling for inaction between Israel and Egypt.
On 1st November - events were moving very quickly - the ultimatum not having been observed, Great Britain attacked Egypt with bombing raids. Four days later, it landed troops and moved into the canal zone. Since that date, the matter has been considered by both the Security Council and the General Assembly of the United Nations, and we see the sorry spectacle of Great Britain and France, in a hopeless minority so far as world opinion is concerned, being called upon, together with Israel, to desist from attacking Egypt, the nation against which Israel’s initial aggression had been immediately directed.
By the good grace of Canada - Australia having lost the initiative and the opportunity - that sister dominion moved successfully for the setting up of a peace force or a police force, whichever one prefers to call it, to hold the balance between the warring parties in Egypt and to replace the troops of Great Britain and France in that area. The important thing to note is that, even after that decision was made in the United Nations, Great Britain landed troops on Egyptian soil, thus defying the resolution so solidly supported by so many nations. In fact, it was opposed solely by Australia, New Zealand and Israel. There were several abstentions in the voting but the great bulk of the nations, in public, condemned what Israel had done, and also what Great Britain and France had done in defiance of the United Nations Charter and of the particular resolutions* that were then extant, and which had just been agreed to.
I regret to say that, on a consideration of the whole matter, it is clear that Great Britain and France intended to use force from the very beginning. On 10th August, the day that the Australian Prime Minister went to London and made his first statement on this matter, he said that the nationalization of the canal was to be resisted at all costs. That meant, carrying that statement to its logical conclusion, that resistance was to take the form of force, and if need be, of war. There was to be forcible opposition to nationalization of the canal, an action that was plainly within the legal competence of Egypt.
Next, eighteen nations met and put forward a proposal which they knew, in advance, would not be acceptable to Nasser and, as expected, it was rejected by Egypt out . of hand. Later on, in September, a further proposal for a canal users association was made. Honorable senators will remember that that proposal as expressed by the Prime Minister of Great Britain, Sir Anthony Eden, was that this association would collect fees, pay what it thought fit to Egypt, provide the pilots and see the ships through the canal, and that Egypt would be required to co-operate. “ Required “ was the word. He might as well have substituted the word “ compelled “, because that is what “ required “ meant in those circumstances. It was a clear declaration of an intention to use force unless control of the canal were internationalized with Egypt’s consent, and if its consent could not be obtained, then against the will of Egypt. The British Prime Minister’s statement that Egypt would be required to co-operate invited its immediate rejection by Egypt and that, indeed, took place.
It is claimed that what Great Britain and France hoped for from these proposals from the London conferences was that Egypt would reject them and then refuse to allow ships that had not dealt with its own authority to pass through the canal. This could be claimed as a breach of the 1888 convention, and would allow of action at international level, whether legally or by force, at the instance of Great Britain and France. There was a clear movement towards the application of force from the first day that this trouble started. Another indication in that direction was the withdrawal, about the middle of September, of non-Egyptian pilots from the canal. Nasser had indicated that he was prepared to cope with all the traffic that might seek to use the canal. He said that the canal would be kept open, and that Egypt would honour the 1888 convention in its strictest letter. There was nothing to indicate in any aspect that the canal would be blocked, yet in the middle of that position the canal company - which had been dispossessed - supported by Great Britain and France as evidently appeared at that time, called out for violence. What could have been the purpose of that other than to embarrass the use of the canal by shipping, so that Egypt would be put in the position of having refused access to the canal. That was met by Egypt calling on the world for pilots, and they came from all quarters, including
Russia, which country sent many pilots into an area in which up to that time it was not represented.
Then I come to the fact that the United Kingdom, and certainly France, had foreknowledge of Israel’s intention to attack. I am not arguing that they inspired the attack or conspired with Israel to bring about that result, but very clearly they knew that Israel was on the point of attacking, and the moment Israel attacked Great Britain was all ready to issue an ultimatum, together with France, and all ready when the ultimatum was not accepted, to move in with force - force that first took the form of air raids, and later physical landings on Egyptian soil. The ultimatum itself plainly showed that Great Britain and France were far less concerned with stopping hostilities between Israel and Egypt than with getting possession of the canal zone - an object they consistently aimed at with every action they took from 26th July onwards. Now by force they are, in effect, in possession of the canal zone, and in the speech to which we have just listened, right at the outset the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) claims that Great Britain and France were well justified in the result that has now been achieved.
They have gone into the zone, the United Nations has moved and is about to set up a peace or police force, and there is a possibility now of a resolution from the United Nations on the many problems that afflict the Middle East. We of the Opposition flatly contest the statement that the action was justified. We say that going in in the first place was in breach of the United Nations Charter. No nation to-day has a right to threaten war or wage war, except in the two circumstances contemplated by the Charter, the first being when it is authorized by the United Nations to go in, the second being that if a nation is attacked it may defend itself.
The great upholders of those principles, the great co-founders of the United Nations that affirms these principles, were the very nations involved - France and Great Britain, with the United States of America. It is tragic to see them so clearly in breach of these principles. If it were right for Great Britain and France to enter Egypt under those circumstances, equally it was right for any other country in the United Nations, particularly any country that is interested in the continued use of the Suez’ Canal, to have gone in. In other words, if it was right for Great Britain and France to go in, it was right for Australia and New Zealand to combine and go in; and you must carry that logically to the point that if it was right for them, then it was right for Russia and the United States to go in. That very proposal was recently put by Russia to the United States; that is, that the two of them should combine to halt the fighting between Israel and Egypt and to drive Great Britain and France out. The answer given by the United States, of course, was that it was unthinkable that that should take place. Yet it is the unthinkable, in the mind of America, that Great Britain and France have performed in going in themselves.
Let us examine the statement that Great Britain and France are well justified in the result. In the first place, the matter is nowhere near ended yet. Russia, I fear, has not said its last word. It has made threats that it scarcely troubled to veil when it indicated that it would move into the Middle East - where obviously it wants to go - and that it would move in to oust Great Britain and France. There was also the scarcely veiled threat that Russia would drop rocket bombs on London - and other parts of Great Britain. They are real threats made- from Russia. Can one be happy about that position.
– But we do not yield to threats.
– The threats were made, and that is the unhappy position in the world to-day. It is a provocative position, and it is a situation that might yet develop into action. That is all that I wish to say, except to point out all the horror that is implicit in that. I ask the Senate can anybody be satisfied with the position pre.cipated by Great Britain and France, in which there was no consultation in the first place, no consultation at all with members of what we used to call the British Commonwealth and now call the Commonwealth of Nations. Great Britain completely bypassed the members of the Commonwealth. There was no consultation with America about the issue of an ultimatum and the entry upon Egyptian territory. There was not only discourtesy in that matter, but absolute deceit in respect of America, which at that very moment was conferring with the representatives of France, Great Britain and the Commonwealth of Nations on the threat that appeared to be posed from Israel - absolute deceit of a wonderful ally, a deceit that has angered America and that has prejudiced relations. Is any honorable senator happy about that result? Is that one of the results that the Government claims was justified? Is anybody in Australia happy over the fact that the Commonwealth of Nations is split down the middle on this issue, that Great Britain stands virtually alone, with her only active supporters in Australia and New Zealand?
– We are very happy that Australia is standing where it is standing.
– We shall discuss that later. It is a sorry spectacle to see others voting against Great Britain in the United Nations and to see still others abstaining from supporting Great Britain, and a sad and sorry spectacle that the Commonwealth of Nations should be so riven on so vital an issue. Is the Government happy about the fact that there are threats from New Delhi that India will leave the Commonwealth of Nations altogether, and that other partners of the Commonwealth may leave? Are they happy over the fact that the canal, the continued use of which as a waterway they went in to protect, is blocked with eight or nine ships and a devastated bridge? It will take a minimum of three months to restore it to a navigable state. Is that one of the situations in which Great Britain and France were well justified in the result?
– The position could be much worse.
– There was no threat to the canal; it was left open. There was no threat to the passage of international shipping through the canal, as Great Britain knew, too. Is Great Britain happy over the fact that its pipelines in Syria have been destroyed, and that its oil installations there have also been destroyed; that Saudi Arabia, the greatest exporter of oil in the world, has broken off relations with France and Great Britain, and refuses toload British and French tankers with oil that is completely vital to the world - above all to Europe, including Great Britain and
France? There is no mention of these matters in the Prime Minister’s speech, for the good reason that it is a speech of apology for an action in which, quite obviously, he now sees the faults.
Reference has been made to Hungary and I want to comment on that. Hungary, of course, is in travail. It began, as the Prime Minister said, on 23rd October as a riot by students. By 31st October the Russians were withdrawing. While I am on that topic, I should like to advert to the following report in the Melbourne “Herald”, of 31st October:-
That would be 30th October -
The Soviet Government said to-night it was prepared to review the position of Russian troops in Hungary, Poland and Rumania.
In a special statement broadcast by Moscow Radio, the Government said it also was willing -
To withdraw Red Army troops from Budapest as soon as the Hungarians wished, and
To start talks at once with the Hungarian Government on the general position of Soviet troops in Hungary.
The statement said Russia alone could not decide the question of Soviet troops in the East European Communist countries.
Later Mr. Nagy said the Russians had begun to pull out of the city this afternoon.
The Hungarian Defence Minister, Mr. Karoly Janza, said that all Soviet troops would be out of Budapest by to-morrow.
Other reports from Budapest confirmed that the withdrawal had started.
On the next day, Great Britain and France issued their ultimatum, and on the following day attacked Egypt. What was the result? On 4th November, Russia moved back to butcher the Hungarians; and I am saying that there is some degree of responsibility on France and Great Britain for that happening. Russia’s original move out of Budapest may have been a perfectly wretched piece of deceit, knowing that they would return, but it is significant to notice those dates; they cannot be escaped. Itis unquestionable that Russia was moving out.
Despite the Prime Minister’s statement that no Asian nation supported Hungary or Poland, it is perfectly certain that red China did. The Prime Minister completely overlooked that in his speech. I refer to the “ Sydney Morning Herald “, of 3rd November, which was onlylast Saturday. on the front page of which the following report appears: -
Communist China last night officially approved the struggle for democracy and independence in Hungary and Poland.
An official statement broadcast by Peking Radio endorsed the Soviet declaration on Tuesday about relations with other Communist states.
It said some workers had been wrong to neglect the “ principle of equality between big States and small States “.
It classed as “ entirely in order “-
Note that -
Polish and Hungarian demands “for the strengthening of democracy, independence and equality, and the elevation of the people’s material well-being “.
There was support from the Communist area itself, from the greatest power outside Russia with Communist control, upholding the people of Hungary and Poland. That lends colour to my suggestion that the move out of Hungary on 30th October was a genuine move. One can readily understand how Russia might be influenced by the consideration, no doubt among others, that nations of the calibre of Great Britain and France, in breach of the United Nations Charter, had gone into Egypt. It realized that those nations were not in the strong position they were in before to take Russia to task for its intervention in Hungary - a brutal intervention - and massacre of the Hungarian people. I repeat that our own allies in Great Britain and France must accept some share of responsibility, despite what the Prime Minister says, for what has happened to the people of Hungary.
– It could be; I am not denying that. I say there is evidence of the genuineness of the withdrawal on many counts; and there is certainly the return and the massacre of the Hungarians, which words cannot too strongly condemn. The Australian Labour party, in its continued and unremitting support of the United Nations, upholds the resolution of 4th November, so strongly approved by the United Nations by 50 votes to 8 - only the Soviet group voted against it and there were fifteen abstentions - when it called upon the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics to desist forthwith from all armed attack on the people of Hungary, to cease the introduction of additional armed forces into the country, and, above all, to withdraw all its forces without delay from Hungarian terrilory.
– Would the Opposition support the sending of a police force?
– Indeed yes; the Labour party would unquestionably, without hesitation, support the sending of a police force there, at the call of the United Nations. The people are being literally murdered, butchered, and suppressed, in defiance of all the principles of humanity, the principles of the United Nations, and all the things that the Labour party itself stands for.
– By the Russian barbarians.
– As far as I or any other member of the Labour party is concerned, the honorable senator could not use words strong enough in condemnation of Russia’s behaviour in Hungary. We join with the United Nations in condemning it, as we condemn the entry of France and Great Britain into Egypt, with all the consequences that flow from that.
Where has Australia been landed? We have provoked Afro-Asian hatred, which we have been seeking to curb down the years. We have spent money on Colombo plans. I ask whether anybody in this country is happy about the fact that, as a result of Australia’s support of this action in breach of the United Nations Charter, the Indonesians will not service the aircraft of Australia, Great Britain or France? Is that ;i happy position for Australia? Is that the type of feeling we have been trying to build up during the last six years? We have been spending millions of pounds per annum in build friendship with nations that are afflicted with a most aggressive nationalism and which are very sensitive about it. We have been trying to woo them. I refer to countries like India, Pakistan, Ceylon. Burma, Malaya, Indonesia, and the Philippines, all of which have gone completely beyond the control of colonial powers and are seeking to assert themselves, and which are our neighbours in the Pacific. Their hatred has been stirred up universally, not only against Great Britain, France and Israel, but also against Australia and New Zealand. I should .say that this Government has rendered a very grave disservice to ‘.his country in not looking al our own position.
Unquestionably, Great Britain looks at its position; it is concerned about its own survival. The British Prime Minister, in his recent nation-wide broadcast, indicated most clearly what troubled Great Britain. He has indicated that three-fourths of the oil required by Great Britain comes from the Middle East and that without it there would be a lowering of standards, unemployment and starvation. He pointed out that Great Britains’ survival as a nation depended upon oil; and that is what the real fight is about in the Middle East, if the truth were told. Unquestionably, that is true. Let us nol blame Great Britain for being concerned about its own survival; that is its first duty. All I am saying to the Australian Government is that its first duty is to see to the survival of Australia. Even Great Britain itself does not pretend that it is holding us up in the Pacific. Time was when it was a vast power in this area, when it was physically in control of the countries that are now the sole arbiters of their own destinies. But it no longer is a vast power, I say to the honorable senator who interjects. In any travail and trouble in this area, we must unquestionably look to America before Great Britain. Back in 1938, Great Britain made the position very clear. When world conflict seemed imminent, its Prime Minister said - I am not purporting to quote his exact words - that, in the coming conflict, some of the far-flung outposts of the Empire might be lost. He said that that would not matter as long as Britain won and survived, because we might be able to get them back afterwards. Australia was one of the farflung outposts of the Empire. However good and justifiable that might have been as the view of the United Kingdom, it certainly is not one that an Australian government should take with ease. And I would say that any Australian government’s duty is, plainly, to protect this country, to remember that we are in the Pacific, that we have Asian and African neighbours, and that the future of this country lies in the maintenance of the status quo in the Pacific. This Government’s first duty, which it appears to have forgotten, is to remember that very fact.
I say again that I believe that our own Prime Minister has been substantially responsible for what Great Britain has committed itself to. The very minute he landed on British soil after the nationalization of the canal, he announced that that nationalization had to be resisted at all costs. There can be no doubt that he expressed that view when he attended meetings of the British Cabinet. He is very persuasive in staling any viewpoint that he likes to adopt. lt is completely clear, also, that that is what was in his mind when he came back to Australia, because, on 25th September, he said in the House of Representatives that the time came when you had to ignore the United Nations and apply force; it is on that proposition that we cross swords with the Government. We say that there are no instances, other than the two contemplated by the United Nations, in which the application of force is justifiable.
One of the saddest things in the whole field, from the viewpoint of Labour and the Opposition, is that Great Britain, before the world, has fallen from its pedestal. This is the first time since 1945 that Great Britain has used the veto in its own favour in the proceedings of the United Nations. Alone it has fallen from the pinnacle it held as the champion of justice and peace, and the upholder of the high principles of the United Nations, and it has become a nation not only disregarding the principles of the United Nations, but, in fact, defying them. As Dr. Evatt pointed out to-day, the resolution at the instance of the Afro-Asian group, which was carried by a vote of 65 to one in the General Assembly, with Israel the only absentee, and twelve abstentions, called upon Israel to go back to its boundaries, and upon Great Britain and France to get out of Egypt. There is a condemnation.
– After their troops had been replaced by an international police force.
– As the AttorneyGeneral (Senator O’sullivan) has said, in repeating the statement of the Prime Minister, there is confusion on that point. I heard the news myself, and that point, apparently, is not clear. It is clear that some nations - only a few of them have been mentioned - have placed their own interpretation on what “ get out “ means. It is a point which, as far as both the Government and I are concerned, unquestionably needs to be clarified. The tragedy of it all is that, apart from the loss of moral leader* ship, which was complained of by Mr. Hugh Gaitskell, the Labour leader in Great
Britain, there is the threat to the future of the United Nations that is poised by that complete disregard of its principles and its tenets. It appears that the high principles of the United Nations are regarded as merely so many words, once a nation thinks its vital interests are at stake. As yet, Great Britain’s vital interests are not at stake. The real fear of Great Britain and France is, of course, that other nations in the Arab sphere may be encouraged by Egypt’s nationalization of the canal to take over the oil wells and the pipe lines. I should say that Great Britain moved in determinedly a full naked force, in a pattern of defiance in keeping with the first pattern of nationalization of the canal, to get the canal back for the international users - back under international control as a warning to the other States that force would be used against them if they attempted the nationalization of oil. That was plainly, for anybody who thinks, what was in the minds of Great Britain and France, and it has driven them on from one step to another.
I repeat, that the Prime Minister, when he spoke the other night, made that completely clear. I say further, that I do not blame the British people. The condemnation by Labour - by this side - of the action of the British Government is not directed at the British people. It does not mean any lowering of regard or affection for Great Britain or support on all the counts on which we have hitherto afforded it. It is directed at a Government that has been completely wrong and in error.
– In other words, it is entirely political.
– At least, I can say to Senator Spooner that I have developed a theme completely away from politics. He is the one who is, of course, projecting politics into the discussion. I firmly believe that not only is the great majority of the nations of the world opposed to Great Britain and France in this position, and not only is the great majority of the newspapers of Great Britain opposed to what the British Government has done, but also that if a poll were taken to-day, it would be found that the great bulk of British people themselves condemn what their Government has done and has committed them to, and for the predicament that now confronts them.
– You hope so.
– I believe so. I want to refer, in conclusion, to what the Prime Minister said regarding the sending of troops in response to the call by the United Nations. The right honorable gentleman said -
At present, we in Australia do not know whether it is desired that we should contribute to it.
He was referring, of course, to the proposed international police force. I controvert that because, on a Canadian resolution, the Secretary-General of the United Nations was authorized by that body to approach the nations and ask them to contribute to such a force - all except the great powers. Australia is one of those to whom the general invitation is extended. Let me quote further from the Prime Minister’s words He went on to say - lt is probably loo soon for anybody to have worked out what its constitution is to be, how it is to be used, and in what particular respects individual nations should take part in it. All I need say at present, on behalf of the Government, is that if the proposal is to constitute a military establishment which will facilitate the making of a permanent settlement in the Middle East, Australia will be not unwilling to make such quick practical contribution as it can.
I have never heard anything from the lips of the Prime Minister - nor have I read of it - so tentative and so conditional.
– And so weak!
– Yes, as I am reminded, so weak. After all is said and done, you either support the United Nations or you do no’t. I announce Labour’s stand in this matter without hesitation: Labour believes that we should not wait to be asked, that we ought now to offer as strong a force as we can command. I am not saying that it would be acceptable to the United Nations, because Australia-
– Because we would be rebuffed!
– We have a duty to the United Nations to offer a peace force or a police force of this type. Australia, as a signatory, and hitherto a great upholder of the United Nations, should be first in the field; we should not wait to be asked, as the Prime Minister suggests. We should offer a contribution now, and its strength should be as great as Australia can really afford to make it. It is the view of the Labour party that that is the only way to preserve peace. This Government is showing by its weak, vacillating approach to the matter, that it has not got its heart in the United Nations or the United Nations Charter.
– It does not believe in it.
– It plainly does not believe in it. Let the Government demonstrate that it does. A call has been made to the nations at large, including Australia, to send a contribution to a peace, or police, force in the Middle East. Australia does not have to wait to be asked. If the Government will move in that matter, we of the Opposition will support it to the hilt.
We regret it is necessary to say the things I have said to-day - we really do. We regret to see Great Britain as number one on the debit side in the United Nations. We regret to see the plight into which its Government has precipitated it, where it is condemned by the nations of the world. I conclude by saying that we do not want to see Australia dragged into more difficulty than this Government has already dragged it.
– by leave - I do not wish to traverse the points for and against that have been dealt with by the Attorney-General (Senator O’sullivan) and the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna). I do not think the present time is opportune to engage in a debate on this matter because the position is so fluid and is changing from day to day. I point out that during two world wars Australian troops have fought to keep open the Suez Canal. It is important to remember that fact. When Great Britain was driven from the canal, if one likes to put it that way, what was the result so far as Egypt was concerned? Great Britain’s influence in Egypt, now controlled by Nasser, is being replaced by the Soviet’s influence. We know that is so.
During 1955, the Soviet countries provided the Egyptians with arms, fighter aircraft, including M.I.G’s., artillery and so on. They have been providing those things with the one end in view, of spreading their sphere of influence through the Middle East into Africa. The Soviet can see in Nasser a man who will play its part. In common with Great Britain and the United States of America, Soviet Russia has its eves on the great oil-fields of the Middle East, and from a tactical point of view once it could control those oil-fields Great Britain and France, as a fighting machine and an opposition to the Soviet regime, would be of no value. Those two nations depend on these oil wells to keep their machinery going. That is an important thing to remember.
We need to ask ourselves why Israel moved at the time it did. What was its objective? Israel had put up with a certain amount of aggression in the form of commando raids along its borders. We appreciate that fact. Israel realized that it had to move when it did because Egypt was being armed by Soviet Russia with the latest fighter aircraft, artillery, tanks, and so on. Why were these things being given to Egypt? Russia realized that the only country it had to defeat was Israel, so its objective, of course, was to wipe out the Israeli nation. If we believe that that is the best thing that could happen in the Middle East, let us say so and allow Russia to achieve that objective.
However, before Egypt became too strong, Israel saw its opportunity to move and it was not very long before it drove the Egyptians back to and across the canal. Honorable senators may ask why the British and French forces should move in. It was absolutely essential that they should do so because Israel’s attack on the Egyptians would very soon have brought about war in the Middle East. All the other Arab countries would have moved against Israel with the result that the canal could have been totally destroyed instead of being blocked, as at present, by a few ships. Israel would not have minded if the canal had been totally destroyed in view of all it has endured during the last four years. It has not been allowed to use the canal although the United Nations has ordered Egypt to open the canal to Israeli ships. No notice whatsoever has been taken by Egypt of the orders given by the Security Council. So, Israel had nothing to lose at all by the destruction of the canal, and if Great Britain and France had not moved to take police action, which I believe they honestly intended ot take, we would have witnessed the complete destruction of the canal.
The Suez Canal is vital from the point of view of Australia, from the point of view of workers in Australia and England. and: from the point of view of the; survival of the British Commonwealth, of Nations. If Great Britain and, France, cannot obtain oil from the Middle East, then, as a fighting machine they are finished. ‘
– They could not maintain their navies, or fly their aircraft.
– That is correct. So, Great. Britain and. France moved in to safeguard, the canal. The Leader of the Opposition mentioned that they had thought of this a long time ago and had their troops ready to move. Have not they been ready for years in that area, to cope with any situation? British forces have been alerted in Cyprus for a considerable time, since Great Britain moved out of Egypt. If a fighting machine is in existence it can, as a matter of fact, be put into operation in a matter of days. Great Britain had a little time to put it into operation; first, it bombed Egyptian airfields, thus giving it plenty of time in which to get landing forces ready.
I notice also that Great Britain and France entered Egypt on the basis of the tripartite declaration between England, France and the United States of America. The Leader of. the Opposition mentioned that Great Britain and France acted with deceit so far as America is concerned. I do not believe that for one minute. American polling-day was very close and America did not show its hand; but to say that the intervention came as a surprise to the United States rather amazes me in view of the fact that a week or a fortnight before any action was taken, America had ordered its nationals to leave Egypt. I do not think the action came as any surprise whatsoever to the United States. Of course, because of the proximity of polling-day, the United States could not give any definite undertaking; but to my way of thinking it will show in the future that it is right behind the action taken by the British and the French. Why did the Israelis move? Why did the British take action, as I think it was their duty to do, and what will be the result? For years we have had windy verbiage from the United Nations. Now at last we are seeing some action by that organization. It is showing its teeth a little. It is a pity it did not do so long ago.
– They are only milk teeth.
– That is true at present . We have forced the issue in the Middle East and the United Nations will move in now and take over. We can overcome the difficulties in the Middle East by placing an international force in the canal zone. A force of sufficient strength controlled by the United Nations will stop the continual bickering between Israel and the surrounding countries. We could stop any wars there at their inception. I think that we should remain there because the canal should bc internationalized so that all ships of the world may use it freely. If we stay there long enough, Great Britain could even vacate Cyprus, so long as the area concerned remained under the control of the United Nations. The way is now open for the United Nations to place a police force in the canal zone and I believe that conditions in the Middle East will soon become quiet.
We should cast our eyes, not on theMiddle East, but on Hungary. That is the danger point. In Hungary, we are observing the tragedy of a suppressed people. The revolution in Hungary arose from the very soil. It was a spontaneous expression of the Hungarian’s desire for freedom. It had its roots in every little village and hamlet. Nobody in this chamber could name one of the leaders of the rebellion in Hungary because it is a people’s rebellion. Certainly the university students were prime movers in launching the uprising, but all university students must be the sons and daughters of peasants or workers. Therefore, it is certain that the revolution sprang from the people. If the United Nations can send a police force into the restricted Suez Canal zone, it can also send a police force into Hungary. I suggest that the Government should ask the United Nations through its representatives at the head-quarters of the organization to do that.
The Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) has stated that the Opposition will support a police force going into the canal zone. I agree, but I do not think that we should wait to be asked. We should be prepared to send a police force there at once, irrespective of any rebuffs that we might expect. I foresee one danger, however. There could be trouble when a United Nations’ police force arrives in the canal zone because the British might refuse to get out. Then we would have Australian forces under the United Nations fighting against the British. That might be in the Government’s mind and therefore it is waiting until it is asked to contribute a contingent to the United Nations police force.
The point I wish to emphasize is that the Middle East position is resolving itself satisfactorily, and we should now direct our attention to the revolution in Hungary. We should ensure that the tyranny of Russia in Hungary is overcome. It is said that such action might lead to war, but the Hungarians - men, women and children - who are dying in thousands, are in a war. I was amazed when the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate said that the Russians would not have crushed the Hungarians if the British and French had not entered into the canal zone.
– Does Senator Cole believe that?
– I believe that the statement of the Leader of the Opposition was foolish. On 31st October, the Russians were withdrawing. From what point? They were withdrawing from Budapest.
– To re-form.
– That is all. They were not withdrawing out of the country but out of Budapest. That was the sensible action for them to take because Budapest was the centre of the revolution, and they could only contain it by withdrawing outside the city and surrounding it. In four days they were back with fifteen divisions of tanks: that is, about 4,000 tanks.
– And it is not possible to get fifteen divisions in five minutes.
– As Senator Wordsworth has said, it is not possible to get fifteen divisions of tanks unless the move is premeditated. The Russians allowed events to take their course. They wanted to see where the revolutionary forces were. Now the Hungarians are being cut to pieces by Russian artillery. They are being crushed under the Russian heel. Therefore we should prevail upon the Government to send a police force of the United Nations into Hungary, even if it causes heartburning in many places. It is time that we really stood for the freedom about which we boast. We can do so by helping the Hungarians in their hour of trial. The Anti-Communist Labour party believes that the action taken in the Middle East was in the best interests of Australia and the world at large.
– by leave - The statement I wish to present to the Senate was made this afternoon by the Minister for Defence (Sir Philip McBride) in the House of Representatives after the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) had spoken in that chamber on the crisis in the Middle East. The statement is as follows: -
The latest information from Hungary suggests that the rebels are still resisting the Soviet forces and that fighting is especially fierce in Budapest. This situation prevails in spite of the declaration of neutrality by the Hungarian Government on 1st November and action in the General Assembly of the United Nations condemning the use of Soviet military force to suppress fundamental rights of the Hungarian people specifically guaranteed by the Soviet Government in the Hungarian peace treaty, and calling on the Soviet Government to withdraw all its forces and cease intervening in Hungary’s internal affairs.
May I briefly outline the sequence of recent events in Hungary, particularly as far as the entry of Soviet troops arc concerned. On 30th October, the Soviet Government issued a declaration about its relations with other Communist countries. This declaration admitted serious shortcomings in economic conditions in Hungary and went on to make two very important points as far as Soviet troops in Hungary were concerned. The first point was that Soviet troops had entered Hungary at the request of the Hungarian Government. The second point was that the Soviet Government had instructed its Military Command to withdraw its troops from Budapest - I quote the declaration - “ as soon as this is recognized by the Hungarian Government to be necessary “. The declaration said that this decision had been taken because it was considered that the further presence of Soviet troops in Hungary, and again, I quote the words of the declaration, “ could serve as a cause of an even greater deterioration of the situation “.
Two days after this declaration was made, that is to say, on 1st November, the Prime Minister of Hungary, Mr. Nagy, made a dramatic announcement. He said he had protested to the Soviet Ambassador against the entry of further Soviet troops and demanded their immediate withdrawal. He repudiated the Warsaw Pact, declared Hungary’s neutrality and appealed to the United Nations to defend that neutrality. He also said that the Soviet Ambassador had promised to obtain an immediate reply to his request for the withdrawal of Soviet troops. One would have thought, in view of the declaration of the Soviet Government on 30th October, that there could only be one reply to Nagy’s démarche. The Soviet Government had clearly said it had issued instructions that its troops would be withdrawn from Budapest “ as soon as this is recognized by the Hungarian Government to be necessary “. The Hungarian Prime Minister clearly indicated that he wanted the troops withdrawn. As honorable members know, the Soviet reply was to send in more troops, and set up a puppet government under the leadership of Janos Kadar, the First Secretary of the Hungarian Communist party. Kadar has said he will consider the withdrawal of Soviet troops from Hungary when what he called “ order “ has been restored.
In the United Nations quick action was taken on Nagy’s declaration of neutrality and appeal for assistance in upholding it. The matter was already before the Security Council where the Soviet representative maintained that the situation was of no international concern, lt was then taken to the General Assembly where the Soviet Union has no veto. The General Assembly quickly adopted a resolution which only the Soviet bloc opposed. The resolution noted the Soviet declaration of 30th October professing non-intervention in the internal affairs of other States, and the appeals of the Hungarian Government for assistance, lt condemned the use of Soviet force and then called upon the Soviet Government to cease intervening in Hungary and withdraw ils forces. It also requested the Secretary-General to send observers to Hungary to report on the situation and invited all members of the United Nations to contribute to the relief of distress in Hungary. The answer to the Soviet Government to this resolution has been to send further troops into Hungary and seal ils frontiers.
What is happening in Hungary reveals starkly the realities of Soviet policy. The Hungarian people have met with immense sufferings as a result of aggression on the part of the Soviet Union. It is still not possible to give accurate figures of the casualties, but there are reports that there are between 10,000 and 15,000 people killed and as many as 50,000 wounded; there are already 15,000 refugees who have crossed the border into Austria in order to avoid certain massacre at the hands of the Russian troops.
So much for the unhappy narrative of the past few weeks. Let me now make one or two general observations. Firstly, there is a tendency in some quarters to bring forward the proposition that the Anglo-French action in Egypt is to be discussed on the same plane as the Soviet subjugation of the Hungarian people. This proposition is without validity. There is no need to labour this. The purposes of Anglo-French measures in Egypt have been clear, namely, to separate the combatants and to safeguard the Suez Canal, in which they have essential rights established by treaty and which is of vital interest to the world’s economy. In the application of the measures they have taken the British and French forces have been at pains to protect non-combatants, their targets have been military targets, and there has been no interference whatsoever in Egyptian political life. The United Kingdom and France have agreed to a cease fire and they have accepted the view of the United Nations that a United Nations force should take over from them with all speed. On the other hand, the Soviet has entered Hungary without any legitimate basis whatsoever; ils targets have been mainly civilian targets; it has temporarily destroyed the political fabric of the Hungarian people; il has ignored the views of the United Nations; and it shows no disposition whatsoever to withdraw and leave the Hungarians to develop their own future.
Secondly, there is a lesson to be drawn from the Soviet’s unwillingness to tolerate independence and freedom in other countries. The doctrinal basis of Soviet policy postulates the’ eventual supremacy of communism, but the application of that doctrine has been curbed by the strength of other countries to resist it. Nevertheless, in countries which are within reach of Soviet armed might, the application of Soviet influence has been given full play. Hungary is the latest example, or should one say, Hungary has for the second time in ten years suffered the full impact of Soviet interference. It is ironical that the Soviet should be able lo practice a policy of subjugation by armed might while, at the same time, assuring the countries of Asia that it supports the five principles of freedom and non-interference which underlie the social philosophy of these peoples.
Thirdly, no provocation by the Western democracies lies behind, or can be said to have promoted, the Soviet domination of Hungary. Before the Soviet intervention, the West left no doubt that it welcomed the resurgence of liberal principles in Eastern Europe. But it took no step which the Soviet Union could truthfully interpret as foreign intervention, either against itself or against the countries of eastern Europe. Finally, it is abundantly clear that Hungary represents no threat to the Soviet Union unless we say that the expression by a people of its natural urge towards freedom and democracy represents a threat to the Soviet Union. If that is the position, few countries can rest easy.
The Government is exploring at this time ways and means of speeding material relief to alleviate in some degree the tragic personal suffering, distress and destitution which these gallant people are suffering.
in his condemnation of Russia in that sphere, and that we of the Opposition will support any action that the United Nations may take to bring relief to the people of Hungary.
– by leave - I simply desire to say that the Hungarian people have been the recipients of many expressions of sympathy from all quarters of the globe in the suffering that they are now enduring. But none of that sympathy will be of real assistance to the Hungarian people unless it is accompanied by material help. Therefore, I hope that the Australian Government will do all that it can to push forward the proposition that at the earliest possible moment an international force shall be sent by the United Nations to the assistance of the people of Hungary. Pending action in that direction,, I ask the Government to make a contribution for the provision of Red Cross supplies and food for the Hungarian people. I realize that at the present time supplies of. this kind are being held up at the Austrian border, but I believe that the opportunity may come, later, for the Red Cross to send them on to their destination.
If, eventually, nothing can be done to help and save the Hungarian people, thousands of them, as refugees, will be outside the borders of their country andI ask the Government to do all that it can, through the Department of Immigration, to provide a home in Australia for as many as possible of them.
Assent to the following bills reported: -
Supplementary Appropriation Bill 1955-56.
Supplementary Appropriation (Works and Services) Bill 1955-56
Mount Stromlo Observatory Bill 1956. international Wheat Agreement Bill 1956.
Loan (War Service Land Settlement) Bill 1956.
Loans Securities Bill 1956.
asked the Minister representing the Minister acting for the Minister for Trade, upon notice -
– The Minister acting for the Minister for Trade has advised me as follows: -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Territories, upon notice -
– The following reply has been supplied by the Minister for Territories: -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice -
– The Minister for Labour and National Service has supplied the following information: -
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The following reply has been furnished by the Prime Minister: -
asked the Minister for Customs and Excise, upon notice -
– I now furnish the following answers to the honorable senator’s questions: -
– On 26th October, Senator Wedgwood asked the following question: -
I shall direct my question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate, as the subject-matter concerns both the Department of External Affairs and the Treasury. Is it a fact that the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization is not permitted to have its capital works undertaken by private enterprise? If this is so, will the Minister investigate the desirability of seeking competitive tenders from private contractors before any future building projects are commenced?
The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, in common with all other Commonwealth governmental authorities, makes use of the Commonwealth Department of Works as its constructing authority. It is the general policy of that department to obtain competitive prices by inviting public tenders for the execution of capital works and services. This policy is only departed from in special circumstances.
Message received from the House of Representatives intimating that it had agreed to the amendments made by the Senate in this bill.
Message received from the House of Representatives intimating that it had agreed to the appointment of a joint committee on Canberra and the Australian Capital Territory in the following terms: -
That a joint committee be appointed to -
examine and report on all proposals for modifications or variations of the plan of lay-out of the City of Canberra and its environs published in the “ Commonwealth of Australia Gazette “, on the nineteenth day of November, 1925, as previously modified or varied, which are referred to the committee by the Minister for the Interior; and
examine and report on such other matters relating to the Australian Capital Territory as may be referred to the committee by the Minister for the Interior.
That the committee consist of two members of the House of Representatives appointed by the Prime Minister, two members of the House of Representatives appointed by the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives, three senators appointed by the Leader of the Government in the Senate and two senators appointed by the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate.
That every appointment of a member of the committee be forthwith notified in writing to the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives.
That the committee elect as chairman of the committee one of the members appointed by the Leader of the Government in the Senate.
That the chairman of the committee may, from time to time, appoint another member of the committee to be the deputy chairman of the committee, and that the member so appointed act as chairman of the committee at any time when the chairman is not present at a meeting of the committee.
That the committee have power to appoint sub-committees consisting of three or more of its members and to refer to such a sub-committee any matter which the committee is empowered to examine.
That the committee have power to send for persons, papers and records and to sit during any recess or any adjournment of the Parliament and during the sittings of either House of the Parliament.
That the committee have leave to report from time to time and that any member of the committee have power to add a protest or dissent to any report.
That five members of the committee, including the chairman or deputy chairman, constitute a quorum of the committee, and two members of a sub-committee constitute a quorum of the subcommittee.
That in matters of procedure the chairman or deputy chairman presiding at the meeting have a deliberative vote, and in the event of an equality of voting, have a casting vote, and that, in other matters, the chairman or deputy chairman have a deliberative vote only.
That the foregoing provisions of this resolution, so far as they are inconsistent with the Standing Orders, have effect notwithstanding anything contained in the Standing Orders.
That a message be sent to the Senate acquainting it of this resolution and requesting that it concur and take action accordingly.
Motion (by Senator Henty) - by leave - proposed -
That the Senate concurs in the resolution transmitted to the Senate from the House of Representatives with reference to the appointment of a joint committee to examine and report on certain matters relating to the Australian Capital Territory.
That the provisions of that resolution, so far as they are inconsistent with the Standing Orders, have effect notwithstanding anything contained in the Standing Orders.
That the foregoing resolutions be communicated to the House of Representatives by message.
– I wish to speak briefly to the motion because, when this matter was first considered, I moved that there should be a committee consisting of senators alone. However, the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory (Mr. J. R. Fraser) moved in another place that there should be a committee consisting only of members of the House of Representatives. The joint committee now proposed represents a very happy agreement between the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Fairhall), the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory and myself. It is not exactly the committee that I desired, but I think it will be a very good one. The fact that it is set up under ministerial patron- age, and that it is not accepted as a committee that is intended to thwart the will of the Government but rather to implement it, augurs well for its success. Its powers may possibly grow, but even as they are the committee can act under them as the eyes and ears both of the Senate and of the other House, and this will enable the Parliament to assist in the development of Canberra.
I wish to thank the Cabinet, the Minister and the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) for the great help that I have received from them in having this committee appointed, and for all the efforts in which my colleagues have assisted towards making Canberra a truly national capital.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Senator O’Sullivan) - by leave - agreed to -
That leave of absence be granted to every member of the Senate from the termination of the sitting this day to the day on which the Senate next meets.
Motion (by Senator O’Sullivan) agreed to -
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn till a day and hour to be fixed by the President, which time of meeting shall be notified to each senator by telegram or letter.
– I move -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
In case the Senate should not meet again before Christmas,I avail myself of this opportunity of extending to you, Mr. President, the congratulations and best wishes of the Senate upon another year of splendid service rendered to the Parliament in general, and to the Senate in particular. Honorable senators have all benefited by the elegance, efficiency and impartiality with which you have presided over the Senate chamber, and we have enjoyed, also, your hospitality outside the Senate chamber. I am sure that I express the feelings of all honorable senators in conveying to you our best wishes for a very happy and restful period until we meet again.
I offer my thanks and appreciation to my colleagues for their unfailing support. I know that it has not always been very convenient for them to be here, and owing to the short numbers on the Government side the demand on attendance has been very rugged and drastic. I thank those who have responded so loyally and cheerfully.
My congratulations and good wishes go also to the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna). He has not always made my life here any easier or happier, but I think he could have made it much more unhappy. That applies also to his deputy (Senator Kennelly), and those who sit with him. The Leader and member of the Anti-Communist Labour party (Senators Cole and McManus) do not form a huge section of the Senate, but they play an extremely important part in its deliberations. I extend to them my best wishes.
I have before me a long list of officebearers and officials of the Senate, and although I may not mention every one they may rest assured that they are included in my good wishes. The Whips on both sides of the House play an important part. Sometimes we think that the Opposition Whip (Senator Critchley) is too efficient, but we know that the Government Whip (Senator Annabelle Rankin) could not be more efficient. We axe fortunate in having perhaps the most efficient Whip with which any party could be blessed.
To the Clerk of the Senate and his assistant clerks, the Parliamentary Draftsman and his staff, Mr. Monro and Mr. Thom, the Government Printer and the “ Hansard “ reporters I extend my appreciation and good wishes. I include also the press, who sometimes report us but more often do not. It is said that, “They also serve who sit and wait”. Members of the press certainly sit, but they do not always write. I suppose they receive their pay all the same. Perhaps, in the future, we may read in the press more accurate and somewhat enlarged accounts of Senate proceedings. Of course, we should not like to be reported in the press as fully and faithfully as the “ Hansard “ staff renders our speeches. We appreciate the work of the chamber attendants, all the other attendants, the refreshment-room staff and all the members of the staffs of Parliament House who have served the Senate and its members so faithfully and well. To all of them I extend, on my own behalf and on behalf of my colleagues, our best wishes for Christmas and the New Year.
– I join with the Attorney-General (Senator O’sullivan) in extending to you, Mr. President, all the good wishes which he has so ably and eloquently expressed. Perhaps I might be pardoned if I say that my first thought on this occasion is for my colleagues on this side of the Senate who have been afflicted with very serious illness, and who have been unable to attend the sittings of the Senate in recent months. My first wish is that they may recover completely - for their own good and for the Government’s ill. I should also like to pay tribute to Senator Amour who, with great courage, despite constant pain, has been in his place in this chamber on all relevant occasions for many many months. I extend to all my other colleagues my thanks for their co-operation, and for the way in which they have borne with me from time to time. I express to the Attorney-General, who is the Leader of the Government in the Senate, and to all Ministers here, my thanks for such cooperation as they have been able to extend to me. I have reciprocated by extending to them such co-operation as I felt able to convey.
To the Clerk of the Senate and his officers I extend every good wish. I must say that we are particularly fortunate in our Clerk and his officers, and in the attendants and others who support them so admirably in their duties in this place. I should like to say a word about Senator Henty, the newly appointed Minister for Customs and Excise. I was not present when his appointment was announced and I therefore take this opportunity of saying how warmly [ congratulate him on winning that high honour which carries great responsibility for himself and which reflects credit upon Tasmania as a whole. I welcome the news of his appointment, and it was a matter of sincere regret to me that I was not present to express my good wishes at the time of his appointment. I now wish to remedy that situation. To the officers of “ Hansard “, who probably have to put up with more dffiiculties in their duties than anybody else, I extend my congratulations and good wishes for a well-earned recess. I extend the same good wishes to all honorable senators on the Government side, and I trust that they may come back renewed in strength and better able to bear the blows that we of the Opposition intend to inflict upon them.
– In the absence of Senator Cole, on behalf of the Anti-Communist Labour party I desire to thank you, Mr. President, for your kindness and courtesy during the year, and also to endorse the good wishes to all honorable senators and to the parliamentary staffs extended by the Attorney-General (Senator O’sullivan) and the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna).
– The members of the Australian Country party in the Senate join with the members of the Liberal party in extending good wishes to you, Mr. President, and the staff of the Senate, as well as to “ Hansard “, the members of the press and all others who have helped us in carrying on the business of the Senate. I also join in extending good wishes and seasonal greetings to honorable senators on both sides of the chamber.
Senator GRANT (New South Wales) representing the Postmaster-General a question about the announcing of news by the Australian Broadcasting Commission and the Macquarie Network. I asked that the headlines be repeated at the end of each news broadcast. That was done for some time, but I have noticed that within the last few days announcers, after they have finished the news broadcast, have not said, “ Here again are the headlines “. I hope that the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral will make representations to the Postmaster-General to the effect that the British Broadcasting Corporation’s practice should be followed and the headline news given again at the conclusion of all news broadcasts. If that were done it would be a great advantage to many people who were not able to listen to the first, and usually the most important part of a broadcast.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. A. M. McMulIin). - I thank the leaders of all parties in the Senate for their kind references to me. The smooth operation of the Senate is brought about by the work done generally by the Senate staff, and we have good reason to thank that staff for the way in which they have helped us through our labours of the year. They are all most efficient officers. Senator O’sullivan has mentioned the officers, of whom we see so much in our work here; but there are others whom we do not see and about whom we do not hear much. They work in various parts of Parliament House, including the boiler-rooms, where they are engaged in keeping up steam to keep us warm in the winter. We are grateful to all those people because they all help to keep the Parliament in operation. Mr. Speaker and I have in mind to recognize the work that they do throughout the year, because they play just as important a part in the operation of the services of Parliament House as those of whom we see so much while we are engaged in our particular duties in this chamber.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 6.4 p.m. till a day and hour to be fixed by the President.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 8 November 1956, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1956/19561108_senate_22_s9/>.