25th Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMuIlin) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– I direct a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. The Prime Minister said, on 17th March last, that the Vernon report, other than the appendices, would be available at the beginning of this month and would be tabled after the Government had a chance to glance at it. Is the report now available? Will the Government see to it that sufficient copies of the report are made available, after it is tabled, for every senator and honorable member and other interested persons, so that it may be studied in detail before the commencement of the Budget sittings?
-I am not aware that the so-called Vernon report has yet been completed and submitted to the Government. However, I have taken note of the question and will discuss it with the Prime Minister.
– I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate: Has his attention been drawn to a question asked yesterday in another place by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie, Mr. Collard, relating to the Ord River scheme, in reply to which the Prime Minister asked the honorable member to postpone his question until today, when he would give an answer? Is the Leader of the Government in the Senate in a position to inform the Senate of the Prime Minister’s answer?
– I am not aware of the actual situation although I heard there was some expectation that the Prime Minister would have something to say on this matter today. I have not had time to substantiate that report. Should the Prime Minister make another statement in another place on this matter I will do my best to have it tabled in this House at the earliest opportunity.
– I wish to ask the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry a question. Will the Government investigate the high cost of fungicides and insecticides used in the market gardening industry, to ascertain whether any unwarranted additions to prices are charged as the result of the protection received from the high tariff rates on imported pest sprays?
– This matter has been the subject of questions directed to the Minister for Primary Industry over the past . 18 months or so. I am not at present in a position to give the honorable senator an answer to his question but will bring the matter under the notice of the Minister for Primary Industry and get a reply from him.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Defence. Is it clear that we are now engaged in war against North Vietnam? Is it intended formally to declare war against North Vietnam?
– The honorable senator is well aware of the situation. The Government has acceded to a request by the South Vietnamese Government that Australia should supply forces in a defensive role to resist aggression which was being waged inside South Vietnam. As to the declaration of war, the question does not arise at this time in these circumstances.
(Question No. 423.)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice -
– The Minister for Labour and National Service has supplied the following answers to the honorable senator’s questions -
Persons appointed as a result of the relaxed medical standards are entitled to retirement benefit under Provident Account conditions.
The physical fitness standards which are applied arc continually being examined in the light of experience and developments in medical knowledge and, wherever possible, are modified to widen the opportunity for physically handicapped persons to receive permanent appointment.
It is to be remembered too, that a number of officers, perhaps some years after appointment, suffer injuries or ill-health, but are continued in employment suitable to their capacity. The precise number of officers of this type is not known but is considered to be substantial.
(Question No. 428.)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– The Minister for Health has furnished the following reply to the honorable senator’s questions -
That the Australian Medical Association should encourage the use of official names in prescribing, subject to the inalienable right of doctors to indicate the manufacturer of the product they wish to prescribe and subject to the institution of adequate quality controls by the Government.
I would also inform the honorable senator that, in all official publications relating to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, my Department has placed emphasis on the generic or approved names of pharmaceutical benefits preparations.
(Question No. 452.)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice -
In what respects are Australian aborigines and/or Torres Strait islanders subject to disability or discrimination to which other Australian citizens are not subject under awards or industrial agreements made pursuant to Commonwealth legislation?
– The Minister for Labour and National Service has supplied the following answer -
A number of awards made pursuant to the Conciliation and Arbitration Act 1904-1964 exclude from some or all of their provisions certain categories of workers, including Aborigines. In particular, in the Federal Pastoral Industry Award 1956, Aborigines are excluded from the definition of “Station Hands” used for the purposes of the award; the Cattle Station Industry (Northern Territory) Award 1951 does not apply to Aborigines within the meaning of the Northern Territory Aboriginal Ordinance; the Aircraft Industry Award 1955 does not apply to “ Aborigines employed in the Northern Territory with the approval of the Native Affairs Branch of the Northern Territory
Administration”; and the Northern Territory Pearl Fishing Award 1955 does not apply to an employee whose wages and conditions are fixed by the Northern Territory Aboriginal Ordinance.
(Question No. 462.)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– The Minister for Health has furnished the following reply -
– I present the following paper -
Report of the Mission of the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development on the Economic Development of Papua and New Guinea.
I ask for leave to make a statement relating to this matter.
– There being no objection, leave is granted.
– Honorable senators will recall that the Government invited the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development to arrange for a mission of experts to undertake a comprehensive survey of the economy of Papua and New Guinea. A team of ten experts, including economists and specialists in agriculture, livestock, transport, education, health and other fields carried out the survey in 1963, and their 500 page report was presented to the Government in October last year. Printed copies of the report are expected to be received later this month. From the limited supply of advance mimeographed copies available at present, a number have been placed in the Parliamentary Library.
The Mission was asked to make a general review of the economic potentialities of Papua and New Guinea and to make recommendations to assist the Government in preparing a development programme designed to promote economic growth and raise standards of living. It was asked in particular to assess the resources of the Territory and the scope for their development, to suggest measures to expand the economy, to examine the effect of current economic, fiscal and administrative policies and measures on the development of the economy and to recommend in broad outline an appropriate allocation of resources likely to be available for investment.
The Government is greatly indebted to the Mission for its thorough review of the resources of the Territory and for its valuable analysis of the prospects for economic growth. The Report is based on a comprehensive study of the Papua and New Guinea economy and will be of great benefit to the Commonwealth Government in its consideration of future policies. The Mission has recommended a five year development programme which places major emphasis on stimulating the productive potential of the Territory and on advancing the native people through education, vocational training and the acceptance of greater responsibility. The Government endorses these objectives which are vital if the movement of the Territory’s two million people towards self-government is to be paralleled by steady progress towards economic self-dependence.
The Mission’s main proposals for increased production relate to the primary industries of the Territory. The specific programmes recommended envisage a doubling of total existing plantings of coconuts, cocoa, rubber and tea and a tenfold increase in cattle numbers to 300,000 within 10 years. A trebling of forestry production over five years is also envisaged. Export earnings from the production of the main agricultural commodities and forest products are expected to double within five years. Increases in production under the Mission’s programmes are to be achieved partly by investment from overseas and by expatriate settlers and partly by Papuan and New Guinea farmers. The Government accepts these programmes as a working basis for planning in the Territory. Numerous proposals and suggestions have been put forward by the Mission for the development of manufacturing industry, tourism, mining, power supplies, transport and communications. These are accepted by the Government as valuable guides for policy and action.
In the field of education the Government endorses the Mission’s view that expansion at the secondary, technical and higher levels deserves high priority so that increasing numbers of the native people can participate effectively in the economic advancement of the Territory. Education policy has been preparing the way for this for many years. The Government, along with the Mission, recognises that the rate of expansion of such activities as curative health services, primary education, public utilities and general government services, should be related to the capacity of the Territory’s population to contribute towards them. Tt also recognises the soundness of concentrating additional expenditures on increasing production from agriculture, livestock and forestry and on accelerating the advancement of the native people through training and education. In recent years a growing proportion of additional expenditure has been spent on these activities.
The Mission’s report expresses the view that the goal of economic self-dependence cannot be reached for at least several decades, even with the substantial economic growth which its production programmes envisage. It recognizes that there will need to be increasing aid from outside, primarily from Australia, in the form of skilled manpower and funds. At the same time, economic expansion will require the native people to play an increasingly important role in development. For example, people in the villages will be able to do much by cooperating in building rural primary schools, houses, medical aid posts and health centres. Moveover, economic development over the next few years will require a substantial increase in the number of administrative, professional, technical and managerial personnel, both in the Public Service and in private enterprise. Much is being done to accelerate the education and training of native people in the necessary skills. This process will take time and, meanwhile, to achieve the required progress in the immediate future there will need to be a concentrated effort in recruiting increased numbers of professional and technical personnel from Australia for service in the Territory. It is estimated that in addition to the present local and overseas strength of the Territory Public Service, to whose work the Territory already owes so much, about 2,000 more officers will be needed from outside the Territory, including about 500 qualified agricultural, livestock and forestry officers and 500 teachers for Administration secondary schools.
The International Bank Mission suggests that a service patterned on the British Voluntary Service Overseas scheme and the U.S. Peace Corps should be established to enlist people with special skills who wish to serve in the Territory for short terms. The Papua and New Guinea Administration in the normal course already offers employment for terms as short as two years and volunteers already work with the Christian missions in the Territory. However, the Government is examining the possibilities of the Mission’s suggestion in conjunction with a review of present arrangements and facilities for Australians to serve abroad in SouthEast Asian and other developing countries.
The task of economic expansion places a heavy responsibility on Australia to provide the bulk of the skilled people and the money that will be needed from outside the Territory. The Commonwealth grant to the Territory during the financial year ended 30th June 1965, is £28 million in a total Territory budget of about £45 million, and the Commonwealth Government recognises that the development of the economy now envisaged will involve increased Commonwealth financial assistance over the years immediately ahead. The Government will also give its full support for the provision of the necessary human and physical resources. It will also explore the possibilities of aid from international agencies.
The Government has accepted the Mission’s strong recommendation that developmental credit should be made readily available in the Territory to encourage rapid expansion of private enterprise and in particular to finance small scale native agriculturalists. The requirements in particular fields are being examined and specific proposals for a development credit organisation suited to Territory conditions will be drawn up for the Government’s consideration.
The Government has already done and is doing much to give effect to its policies directed to the accelerated development of the Territory. It has financed a rising level of Government investment. It has strengthened the Administration and has provided substantial tax incentives for pioneer industries. It has also announced a programme for university and higher technical education. Much has already been achieved in the very directions in which the Mission believes effort and expenditure should be concentrated. The Government looks forward confidently to further important advances - to new private investment from within and outside the Territory, to a rising tempo of activity by the Government and private enterprise, and to a rapidly growing participation by the native people.
Further advances of this kind are vital. The progress being achieved in the Territory in political development calls for a parallel move in the economic field. It is not the Government’s view that self-determination must wait until the Territory has a fully viable economy, but the present degree of economic dependence is extreme. If we had been hoping that the Mission’s study would show us a way of moving immediately towards reducing the gap to reasonable proportions, we would be disappointed. There is no escape from the reality that the only prospect of moving towards selfsufficiency in the longer term is to increase economic dependence in the short term. There is no needto over-stress the contradiction between these economic realities and talk of early political independence, but this contradiction does have a significance that must be faced.
The Government places a high value on this report of the Mission from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development. The report has been the subject of close and serious attention by the Government, and it will provide a constant reference in the Government’s consideration of economic policies in the Territory. The Government’s acceptance of the Mission’s programmes for increased production in the Territory as a working basis for planning does not mean that the Government is committing itself to a series of cut and dried programmes or that it necessarily accepts all the Mission’s views. Moreover, there will be no question of imposing decisions on the Territory without regard to the views of the people’s elected representatives, and as decisions are made on particular questions views expressed in the Territory House of Assembly on those questions will be taken into account. Regard will also be paid to the opinions of people and organisations directly interested in the economic development of Papua and New Guinea. It is the Commonwealth Government’s policy to encourage the rapid but sound expansion of the Territory economy on the basis of close and continuing partnership between Australia and the Territory. The Government is backing that expansion, but success will depend also on the strong support of people in the Territory, and Papuans and New Guineans will increasingly need to work for and accept responsibility for their own economic, social and political advancement.
I present the following paper -
Papua and New Guinea - Economic Development - Report of Mission from International Bank for Reconstruction and Development - Ministerial Statement, 5th May 1965 - and move -
That the Senate take note of the papers.
Debate (on motion by Senator McKenna) adjourned.
– by leave - Earlier today Senator Branson asked whether, if a statement in relation to the Ord River project were made in the other place by the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies), the statement would be made available to the Senate. I understand that such a statement has now been circulated. J shall read now the deferred answer given by the Prime Minister to a question asked of him in the other place. The text is as follows -
On 28th April, in answer to a question by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie, I undertook to make a statement about the Government’s decision on the request from the Western Australian Government for £30 million to assist with the completion of the Ord River irrigation project. T have since written to Mr. Brand, Premier of Western Australia, informing him of the Commonwealth’s decision to defer new financial decisions until detailed results over a much longer trial period are available.
The Commonwealth Government has given long and exhaustive consideration to all aspects of the scheme, including, of course, our own policy in respect of northern development and the desirability of maintaining continuity of development in the Kimberley area. Honorable members will recall that the Commonwealth has already provided financial assistance of £5 million towards construction of the Ord Diversion Dam and associated works.
The Ord River project is the largest irrigation proposal which has ever been contemplated in Northern Australia. It is located in one of the most remote areas in our continent, and the establishment of a relatively large permanent population in such an area is a matter of great importance. Despite the agricultural and engineering research work that has been undertaken over the years, the Government considers that more detailed information needs to be known about such issues as the profitability of cotton production, the ability of the farmer to control insect pests which apparently abound in the area, and the behaviour of these tropical soils after intensive production has been commenced.
Last year was the first season of commercial production, but only five farmers were involved. An average yield of 1,330 lbs. of seed cotton per acre was obtained although it had been confidently anticipated that a much higher yield would result. Although the Government appreciates the difficulties confronting farmers growing cotton for perhaps the first time, more particularly in such an area as the Ord, it would be most difficult for us to give a favorable decision committing the Government on the basis of this limited evidence. This season, twenty farmers are growing crops on the project and the results of these operations will throw more light on many of the questions which we consider are vital to our judgment of the future of the scheme.
In view of the many unknowns associated with the project at this stage the Government has taken the view that the wisest decision is to wait until more essential information comes to hand which can only be gained by further experience with the project.
I present the following paper -
Ord River Project - Ministerial Statement, 5th May 1965.
– I move -
That the Senate take note of the statement.
I ask for leave to make my remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Debate resumed from 4th May (vide page 558), on the following paper presented by Senator Paltridge -
Vietnam - Ministerial Statement, 29th April 1965.
And on the motion by Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin -
That the Senate take note of the paper.
– On Thursday last the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) made a brief statement in another place regarding Vietnam. He announced a proposal to despatch to that wartorn country a battalion of the Australian Regular Army. That statement was repeated here yesterday. The Opposition’s view of the matter was put by the Leader of the Federal Parliamentary Labour Party, Mr. Calwell, in another place yesterday when he announced the complete opposition of our party to that proposal for the many reasons which he gave.
On 25th March last in this place I addressed myself at very great length to the troublous position in South Vietnam and the adjoining area. I reviewed it, T thought, most extensively. I set out then what was the outlook of the Opposition in relation to Vietnam on 18th February this year. When 1 spoke on 25th March last the situation had changed as from 18th February in that there had been excursions from South Vietnam into North Vietnam and sundry bombings of North Vietnamese targets. We expressed concern that this escalation of the war might lead to a world holocaust. After speaking about the bombing, I said -
What we have to consider is this: If it fails-
That is, if the bombing fails to induce North Vietnam to stop the infiltration and the delivery of supplies to the Vietcong - and attacks on Vietnam are intensified to a point where they cause Chinese intervention and war wilh the United States of America, it will be the worst kind of world disaster, lt is going to be very difficult for anybody to determine exactly where thai flashpoint is - the point that might bring in Russian troops or Chinese troops and arms and extend the present situation into a world holocaust. That is a real danger. That is why we of the Australian Labour Party are so very concerned that our allies should move in that area with great caution and with great restraint.
Since I spoke on that occasion there has been a further lifting of the activity in relation to North Vietnam, there has been the participation of aircraft from the American Fleet, and there has been the landing of combat troops in large numbers in Vietnam. I refer to combat troops of the United States of America. Now, there is the development which has provoked this debate, namely that Australian troops are to join the combat forces of South Vietnam and the United States of America.
That decision runs counter to the view of the Australian Labour Party as to what should be done in Vietnam. At that stage the Labour Party pressed for the holding of negotiations. We hoped that the limited further activity of the United States of America might induce the North Vietnamese to cease whatever activity they were sponsoring in South Vietnam. Apparently, they have not stopped that activity. But the Opposition, when its members spoke in February and on the 25th March, wanted Australia to join those who were urging that the parties involved should go to the conference table and should accept the invitation of U Thant, the Secretary-General of the United Nations. We said that, even though the end result might be obscure, it was worthwhile trying to get them to the conference table.
Now, the projection of our forces into this conflict certainly takes us out of the role of any kind of mediator. Whereas, hitherto, there has been our moral support for the activity in South Vietnam, backed by the supply of some 100 military advisers and a limited number of Caribou aircraft, now the Australian nation is actively committed in combat in the area. As one of the combatants we are certainly out of the field of negotiators. We are one of the active participants in what is plainly war.
We are involving a battalion of some 800 men of the Australian Regular Army. The first objection of the Opposition is that it is dangerous to the survival of the security of this country that further Australian troops should be sent abroad. We are already committed in Malaysia to the extent of one battalion of the Australian Regular Army and, of course, it needs reinforcement and relief from time to time. This battalion is mainly now in Borneo. Most of our troops are concentrated in the north of Borneo. Apart from the battalion of the A.R.A. there are other combat units from Australia in the area as well. Recently, the Government indicated quite publicly that in supplying those troops for Borneo we were overstraining our resources and that it was not practicable to supply another battalion to Malaysia. Now, with quite dramatic suddenness, the Australian Government does commit one more battalion of our limited number of battalions to South Vietnam. That battalion, in turn, will need reinforcement and replacement as our men are killed, injured or become sick and in due course relief, no doubt, will have to be given to it.
Considering the complications for Australia immediately to our north - and I am thinking of the confrontation of Malaysia by Indonesia - I look with concern at the fact that Indonesia has repudiated one of the main terms of the agreement upon which she was given control of West New Guinea. This was that by 1969 an opportunity should be given to the native people of the area to determine in what direction their future should lie - whether with Indonesia, with Australia, or with their fellow New Guineans on the eastern side of New Guinea. That part of the agreement has been completely repudiated. In those two situations there are all the possibilities of trouble between Australia and Indonesia. I pray that those two situations do not develop but a government which does not have regard to the possibilities of trouble in that area, particularly when our own troops are confronting Indonesian infiltrators in Borneo, is not doing its duty to this country. If those who know something about military matters are accurate in indicating that for every battalion serving abroad another battalion at home is required for reinforcements, then we have committed the major portion of our front line army personnel to service abroad, leaving the home defences of this nation in a dangerously inadequate state.
Looking further at the position of our defences we find that the Government has for many years been deficient in its provision of modern and adequate defences. It was recently prodded into activity, but even the steps which it then took and which are now in train to an appreciable extent will not come to fruition for at least three years or, in some cases, for another five years. So we are at a point where we need immediately to build up our defences and where we will not be adequately equipped - according to the plans that the Government has in mind - for quite a number of years. Yet we are now sending abroad the major portion of our front line troops. We think that this is dangerous, in the present situation.
When the National Service Act was recently revived and amended in this Parliament and then action was commenced to conscript certain Australian youths into the armed forces we were told that after six months training they would be drafted into existing battalions of the Australian Regular Army; that they would not be kept together and trained as new battalions so that they could mature and work together. I believe very strongly that if battalions so composed have to move into the difficult terrain and the difficult circumstances in South Vietnam that will not be good for their morale. It will tend to undermine - I do not say destroy - their efficiency and effectiveness and it behoves the Government to tell the Parliament its view on that proposition. Will the conscripts be drafted, after six months training, into battalions that are abroad? Does the Government consider that the type of experience they will gain in their six months training will fit them, no matter how courageous or physically fit they are, for the rigours of the campaigns in the areas concerned?
We, of the Labour Party, think the Government has taken an entirely erroneous view of the nature of the war in Vietnam. Various expressions by the Government seem to indicate that it thinks the whole trouble is caused by the activities of the North Vietnamese; that North Vietnam is the mainspring and prime cause of the trouble, and that the action in South Vietnam is to resist that aggression. Nobody argues that North Vietnam has not had a finger in the pie. I think that the trouble began with the formation of the National Front for the Liberation of South Vietnam back in 1959. Whilst the North Vietnamese are undoubtedly interfering and are and have been providing key personnel and supplies to the Vietcong in South Vietnam, there is no doubt that there has been no major infiltration from North Vietnam. We were told for the first time quite recently that a battalion of regular North Vietnamese army personnel had been located and identified in South Vietnam. That is infiltration; it is a form of overt aggression. But at the same time it does not mean that the North Vietnamese are the mainspring of activity on the part of the Vietcong in South Vietnam. The truth is that the Vietcong, comprised almost wholly of South Vietnamese themselves, are dedicated Communists. There is quite a large number of them. We were told a year ago by the then Vietnamese Premier that they had 34,000 regulars in the field and the numbers undoubtedly have increased. The truth is that if the North Vietnamese ceased aggression of any kind tomorrow the problem in South Vietnam would still remain.
– What problem?
– The problem of the South Vietnamese who are opposed to Communism working against South Vietnamese who are dedicated to the cause of Communism. In effect, what is happening in that unfortunate country is civil war. The Communists who want political and economic change - and revolution if need be - are striving in a most dedicated way for those ends and the two sides are combined in their activity to destroy the Government of South Vietnam. And what a government it is. I point out that if the current activity caused the cessation of aggression from North Vietnam, the problems within the confines of South Vietnam would still remain. The civil war would go on. 1 invite the Minister who joins in this debate to say what is the Government’s thinking on that matter. At that point, will the Australian troops continue? Will they fight on the side of the government of the day - whether it is the one that now holds office or the one that may come into being tomorrow - solely because it is nonCommunist? Is the Government prepared to stand in the way of economic, political and social reforms in South Vietnam? Will Australian troops join in that activity or will they not? The Government must carry its thinking to the point of what will happen when North Vietnam is out of the conflict altogether.
I indicate straight away that it can be no solution to kill all the members of the Vietcong in South Vietnam. That will not solve the difficulty. After all, there is violent conflict of ideas in that unfortunate country and it is completely true that you cannot kill ideas with bullets, however wrong you may think they are. You are more likely to create martyrs and more dedicated people that way. The Government must carry its thinking to a point where it tells the Australian people just what it thinks of the internal solution in South Vietnam and what contribution its present action will make to the solution of that problem which seems likely to persist for a very long time.
The pursuit of the Communists into the jungles and swamps is most difficult. They have spies everywhere throughout the whole of South Vietnam. They can dissolve among the ordinary people - their countrymen - at will. They are exceedingly difficult to identify and even the most optimistic must envisage prolonged activity to resolve the conflict between the people of South Vietnam themselves. One must see that situation clearly to have any appreciation of the position in South Vietnam. We are told that we in Australia have been invited by the Government of South Vietnam to send troops.
– Which South Vietnamese Government?
– Whether one looks at the present Government of South Vietnam or the eight or nine which have preceded it, one knows that that government has not been elected by any section of the South Vietnamese people but has been appointed and removed by the military chiefs of that country. In other words, despite the fact that there have been bloodless coups, it has been a matter of military determination and then probably only by a junta of military chiefs.
– Would that absolve us from our S.E.A.T.O. obligations?
– No. I shall say a word or two about S.E.A.T.O. obligations before I conclude. One must question whether what has happened, or is happening, in South Vietnam is the type of thing that was contemplated in the South East Asia Collective Defence Treaty. It is not a situation in which there is overt aggression, as in the case of Korea where there was open and active aggression - open for the world to see. Australia joined readily - our party concurred in the Government’s action - in resisting that overt aggression. The situation in South Vietnam is not like the position in Malaysia; it is entirely different.
– The honorable senator cannot deny that there is overt activity in South Vietnam.
– I have already acknowledged that there is activity on the part of North Vietnam which could be described as aggression. Whether it is the type of aggression that should invoke the might of S.E.A.T.O. is a matter to be determined. I say to the honorable senator that there is doubt about whether the provisions of the South East Asia Collective Defence Treaty apply in this particular case.
– Apparently the United Kingdom, France, and quite a number of other countries do not regard them as being applicable.
– Senator Kennelly is quite right in saying that many of the signatories to the Treaty do not regard themselves as being under an obligation to provide forces, and as far as I know the request for assistance has never been put to Australia on the basis that she is bound under the Treaty to supply forces.
Perhaps at this stage I should refer to what the Minister for External Affairs (Mr.
Hasluck) had to say in London only yesterday. The following report appears in the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ of today’s date -
Australia told her S.E.A.T.O. allies today that military strength and action alone would not solve the problem o£ Communist aggression in South East Asia.
The people of South East Asia also have to be convinced that the defeat of Communism would mean a better life for them.
I repeat that Mr. Hasluck spoke in that strain while addressing a S.E.A.T.O. Ministerial Council meeting in London as late as yesterday. The report continues -
He said the people’s confidence could best be achieved by extensive economic, educational and other developmental schemes through organisations such as N.A.T.O. “ We have better to offer than Communism “, Mr. Hasluck said. “ We can give these people a better standard of living and freedom.”
Australia’s overriding objective in S.E.A.T.O. was to curtail the spread of Communism and to this extent China was the “ real problem “. “ We cannot win by military strength and action alone. “ We must show that victory against Communism means a better life while defeat means a poorer life.”
I would agree with every word that has been attributed to the Minister for External Affairs on this occasion. There was a time when he predicted military action as the only possible approach. We took him up on that point and I am glad to learn that he has been converted to the viewpoint of the Australian Labour Party. But it does not appear that that line of thought has permeated among the other members of the Government. They are concerned at this moment only with military purposes and achievements. As the Minister acknowledges, they alone are not the solution. The possession of atomic weapons, or the beginning of atomic power, by China and its certain possession by Russia, certainly cause us to halt before we push active developments in Vietnam to a point where we might bring nuclear war, not only upon ourselves, but upon the whole world.
We cannot deny that we are in South Vietnam at the invitation of a government that has no democratic base whatever. We are there at the invitation of a government that might be removed next week and that might ask us to take out our troops. It is a most insecure base and it is astonishing that the Australian Government has taken a step so fateful and important to this country at the request of a government that depends for its existence upon the whim of a junta of military chiefs in South Vietnam. We are certainly on insecure ground in acting upon an invitation of that kind. What happens if the next government immediately after we reach Vietnam asks us to take out our troops? Do we ignore that government and stay there, or do we obey its behest to take our troops back home?
It is quite certain that if the bombing is continued to a point where North Vietnam is defeated and beaten to its knees - and perhaps destroyed - America cannot stay there forever. Nor can we. It is quite certain that foreign troops ultimately would have to move out. Who, if we did nov out, would move in? Nobody else’ but Communist China, to which the Vietnamese people have been opposed down through the centuries. The result would be a Communist government in North Vietnam. Those opposed to Chinese Communism would be replaced by a world Communist power - China. A vacuum could not remain there. There is no point in going on until North Vietnam is beaten to its knees, because this area will then be filled by China and South Vietnam will still have the problem of civil war on its hands. There is no escaping it. It is an exceedingly difficult position and it is equally difficult to determine what is the best thing to do.
Two points are completely clear: In common with those assisting South Vietnam, we should be prepared to move with very great restraint and caution. The other point is that we should be using every power and piece of influence that the Government possesses to induce a cessation of hostilities and a solution that could lead to peace and security for South Vietnam and to honorable withdrawal by the United States of America. Undoubtedly that would involve the establishment of some kind of peacekeeping force. That should be established by the United Nations.
It is in contemplation in the United Nations Charter that that type of thing could be done. It is a tragedy for the world that the United Nations at the moment is not functioning as it should function, but that does not prevent us from endeavouring to achieve the two purposes that I have stated - peace and security in South Vietnam and honorable withdrawal by the forces from outside Vietnam which are already there and which it is proposed to send there. The Government, quite obviously from the way it has spoken regards China as a real threat to Australia. It regards the activity between North Vietnam and South Vietnam as a Chinese thrust down through the Malayan Peninsula and ultimately to Australia. It may be that there is a threat from China. Let us accept that there is, but also let us analyse how immediate it is.
Here is a country with an enormous number of people, an enormous number of soldiers and armed military personnel, but completely deficient in shipping and in armaments and, one might say, sadly lacking in industrial potential. That latter is a position that might be rectified but it will take years. We have seen what happened with Russia, when its industries on its western border were wiped out in the fighting with Germany - completely erased. In that area were 10 million people under the age of 30. What did Russia do? With its industries all gone, it moved away from its vulnerable European border behind the Ural Mountains and started to build its industries afresh. It took the Russians 15 to 20 years to develop impetus and they have made a most rapid technological and industrial approach in the intervening years. That is the type of thing that cannot be done overnight, in months, or in a year or two. In the case of China, with its great needs, it may well take longer. So, from the viewpoint of the things that make for efficient prosecution of war - industrial potential and assurance of lines of communication - I would say that there was no real impetus in a threat from China at the moment. China itself, apart from its excursion into Tibet and its threat to India, has not started major wars. It proceeds by subversion, but it would be difficult for the Government to indicate in relation to South Vietnam how China has interfered there to any appreciable extent. If the Government regards China as the real body to be stopped, whose expansion must be prevented - and we of the Opposition would certainly join with it in that - I should like the Minister to say what evidence there is that China itself has supplied arms or personnel to South Vietnam. If the Government can not point to that, quite obviously it is wrong in pointing to the Chinese threat as the reason for sending our troops to South Vietnam.
Who is going to pretend that America, with all its might, needs 800 of our personnel? America, one might say, has almost unlimited personnel. It has a colossal power that it has not even begun to exert ;n South Vietnam, and it is fortunate that it has not done so. America could well do without our 800 troops. I do not believe that America wants them because of the unquestionable value of a contribution that they might make militarily. The Americans have probably concurred in the going of Australian troops. They might even have inspired the invitation, but that would be rather for propaganda value, to indicate that this was not an American activity alone. This does not arise out of the need of the United States for assistance. I think that we can all safely say that. We can say, further, that the contribution that 800 men will make, no matter how good or how well armed they are, will be in the whole context of the war there relatively insignificant. I suggest that had our Government considered the defences of this country and the need to safeguard our own home frontiers, in addition to our commitments in several directions to the north, it would recognise the fact that we were overstretched to supply .these personnel and that it would not be safe to do it. The Government could have been brought to the viewpoint that it was far better not merely for us in Australia but also for the Americans themselves and for the world at large that we, the one European community in this area, should stand free of active combat in Asia. There is opportunity for misunderstanding, for hatreds and fears and resentments that will be generated by active participation, and that might have results for generations between us and the rest of Asia. We think it is bad propaganda. We do not think it is good for the allied cause that Australia should be in there in active combat.
We have declared - and the Opposition has concurred in it - our moral support for America. We have concurred in the sending of advisers and in the sending of Caribou transports. We have concurred in the provision of aid of various kinds and we have paid tribute to the United States, of America for the extraordinary part that it has played in upholding countries all around the world, not merely with arms but also with financial aid of the most massive proportions that history has ever seen. No country has done so much and given so much aid to so many other countries in the history of the world. We acknowledge the part that the United States has played, but we consider that our best role and our best contribution is to do what we have been doing up to date. We gave America our complete moral support. It got that from both sides of the Parliament. There is no need, from the viewpoint of giving moral support, to supply a battalion from our very inadequate and sketchy forces.
We put the viewpoint that what has happened is a diplomatic calamity for this country. We should have been joining with other partners in the South East Asia Treaty Organisation, such as the United Kingdom and France, with such persons as U Thant, and with Canada, in trying to get the parties together to find a solution. Something was achieved in this area at the Geneva Conference in 1954. It is worth trying that again. Anything is better than war and all the bitterness that flows from it. We throw our lot in with those who today, behind the scenes and in the open, are using their influence to bring to an end the hostilities in South Vietnam, to bring peace and security to that troubled area, and to end the discomfiture of the United States in a situation in which, whilst it cannot afford to lose and be humiliated, it certainly cannot see a possibility of winning to a point where all the obstruction to any government in South Vietnam is wiped out. The truth is that so far as economic, social and political matters are concerned, there is need tor a violent change in that country, and we should be concerned about having that put in train just as soon as it can possibly be achieved.
Only quite recently the Prime Minister rejected quite violently suggestions that there should be negotiations in this matter. He was certainly confounded a few days later when President Johnson announced that he was ready to negotiate at any time at all and without conditions of any kind. Now there have been formal rejections of that offer. That does not prevent a continuance of efforts to bring about a conference and this is where the main effort should be made. This is the field in which, I believe, a country such as Australia, remaining aloof from active hostilities, could have exerted a tremendous influence.
My leader, Mr. Calwell, directed attention to the extraordinary position taken up by this Government which claims, on the one hand, that by fighting in Vietnam ii is opposing the onward march of Communist China while, on the other hand, it is sponsoring the sale to Communist China of vast quantities of strategic materials - materials such as wool, wheat and steel that contribute to the furtherance of war as well as supplying ordinary human needs. I hope that in the course of this debate some honorable senator on the Government side will reconcile the military and practical wisdom of trading with China for cash or reward in materials of such significant importance from a military aspect, while at the same time committing the lives of Australian youth to stopping the onrush of Communist China. That is something the Government should face and comment upon. I do not understand why it has taken up those two seemingly opposed positions. I am sure there are many others in the Australian community who want to hear from the Government on that aspect.
I acknowledge that we in this country are heavily dependent upon the United States of America for our security, even for our survival, in this part of the world. From time to time I have paid tribute in this place to America’s generosity and to the part that she has played in helping us and other countries. But when we do not see eye to eye with the United States, our friend and ally, in a particular activity such as the one under way now, is there any reason why we should not firmly express our opinion? I believe that an opinion along the lines that I have indicated today, expressed clearly and forcefully, would have been accepted readily by the United States of America, which would have seen the wisdom of leaving us to run free, as a scout in and out of Asia, rather than have our immediate active involvement. We of the Opposition regret this and think that it is a colossal error on the part of Australia, our country.
I make my next comment with some diffidence: I think that the timing of the announcement of the decision to send troops into South Vietnam was bad. I regret that it was made when it was made. It supplied powerful propaganda to the people opposed to us. In the newspapers on the one day - Friday last - there appeared the announcement of the decision to send troops to South Vietnam, and a report from Washington of the seeming success of our Treasurer, Mr. Harold Holt, in persuading the United States Administration to exempt Australia from the rigour of the restrictions on capital outflow from the United States to Australia.
– The honorable senator surely does not believe that story.
– No. I do not suggest that element did obtrude, but it is a most powerful propaganda point for our opponents.
– Whom precisely does the honorable senator regard as our opponents?
– I am speaking particularly of the Communist powers. I am speaking of the North Vietnamese and those associated with them. After all is said and done, the Government can blame only itself because it has put the most powerful piece of propaganda into the hands of people who may wish to use it - the charge that the Australian Government has traded bodies for dollars. It is a simple proposition. It is most unfortunate that on the one day those two matters came into juxtaposition because an edifice of propaganda can be built upon them. One would have thought that a Government looking realistically at the situation would have realised that the fight in the world today is for the minds of men and women. That is the real fight today - Communism against antiCommunism. How easily can the minds of people be captured? How easily can they be made to follow a thought such as the one that has been expressed? What damage can such a thought do?
– Particularly when the message is spread, as the honorable senator is spreading it now while at the same time claiming that he does not believe it.
– The message has been spread completely. I have indicated that I do not believe it.
– Then why mention it?
– Because it has been mentioned in every newspaper in Australia. There would not be a person in Aus tralia who can hear who has not heard it; there would not be a person in Australia who can read who has not read it. To ignore it would be stupid. To draw it out into the light of day and repudiate it is far better. I invite the Government to be very firm in its repudiation of that particular message. The juxtaposition of the two events on the one day is one of the most unfortunate happenings. It shows how blind the Government is to the real conflict in the world - the fight to capture the minds of men either for or against the cause of Communism. We have been put in an entirely false light by the Government’s timing of its announcement.
I should like to raise a few questions which I hope some member of the Government will answer. The Government ought to tell the nation what is intended as the role of the Australian force in Vietnam. Is it to be a force which will guard bases and the important air strips that are used for military aircraft and the rest? Or is it to pursue the Vietcong into the jungles and swamps in various areas? We should know the answers to those questions. They would not give away any strategic information.
We are entitled to know also who will be in command of the Australian force. Will its commanding officer be able to veto any undertaking which he thinks may be unwise or impractical? Or, once committed, will the Australians be bound to obey the direction of the commander to whom they are committed? There should be no hesitation in making plain to the nation just where our troops will be committed, whether they will be committed to the South Vietnamese forces or to the American forces and, in either case, what right the Australian commander will have to veto a particular activity that may be presented to him.
– What right did we have in the Second World War when our forces were commanded by others?
– There is such a right in relation to our force at present in Malaysia. I hope that the Government has given some consideration to these aspects. I believe that the Australian people are entitled to replies to the questions that I am now posing. In the light of what I have said, it behoves the Government to try to give to the people of this country some clear picture of where it hopes to finish with this activity in Vietnam. At what end is it aiming? Assuming that they knock out North Vietnam, what then? What will be the role of our troops in South Vietnam? Are they to remain there until all differences between all sections of the Vietnamese people are settled? Above all, it behoves the Government to say what solution it sees to the problem. Is there any alternative in the Government’s view to continuing for more and more decades the unfortunate cruel war and the disfigurement by brutal atrocities on both sides of the people in Vietnam? Is that to continue for more decades and are our troops to be committed there for those decades? I do not expect the Government to be able to see through the whole mass of events in that area. But at least when it commits Australian troops to the area it should know at what it is aiming and where it hopes to come out iri the end struggle. We in the Parliament and all the Australian people are entitled to be told.
putting what are presumably the views of the Australian Labour Party on a question of great national importance and which may well increase in importance as the months go by. I have always felt that the Labour Party in its approach to this problem has had yawning gaps in its appreciation of the position in South East Asia. It stubbornly refuses to see the situation in South East Asia as flowing from an aggressive expansion generated by the forces of Communism and carried out by revolution, subversion and armed attack.
I believe that the great weakness in the general, approach of the Labour Party to this problem is its refusal to see the real enemy and the real motivation of what is happening in South Vietnam today and in other South East Asian countries. Senator McKenna today exacerbated that weakness. He said that he wanted me to show him where Communist China is aggressive and where it has military capability. I hope as I proceed with my speech that I will be able to do that, at least to the satisfaction of objective minded people.
Senator McKenna further showed how little the Labour Party understands the situation by referring to the position in South Vietnam as, in effect, a civil war. The Labour Party does not understand the nature of the problem with which we are confronted. He said that Red China has no military capability of any effect. He invited us, almost lightheartedly, honorable senators will recall, to accept the situation in which Communist China carried out its raids into India at the end of 1962. It is interesting to. remember the extent of those raids. The Chinese launched simultaneous attacks against India from Tibet in the regions of Ladakh, a part of Kashmir and the north-eastern frontier agency of India. These attacks were well prepared and took by surprise the Indian forces guarding the frontier.
Upwards of 100,000 troops, well armed with modern weapons, were involved in these operations against India, including troops in supporting positions. To reach India they had to approach across the Himalayan passes. That involved the use of most modern and effective transport. But in spite of this, they quickly overran thousands of square miles of Indian territory and reached to within a few miles of the plains of Assam. This is a Communist country which is unprepared for military adventures. If we believe the Leader of the Opposition, this is a country which has no military capacity. The facts which he asks us to accept - which he has the cheek to ask us to accept - are that on this occasion the Communist Chinese showed a capacity which was indeed quite remarkable and which impressed the military authorities of the world, even if it failed to impress him.
I turn from peace loving, pacifist India to examine what is happening by virtue of Communist activity in other parts of Asia. What is happening today in Thailand? The Communist Chinese have made no secret of their intention to overthrow by subversion the Thai Government. I shall refer to what is happening in Thailand. An organisation calling itself the Thailand Patriotic Front has been established for purposes of subversion. Its programme of action, which calls for the overthrow of what it terms the Fascist Thai Government, is being broadcast by Chinese radio stations and Radio Hanoi and is reproduced in Chinese news agencies. The Patriotic
Front declares that Thailand has been reduced to a new type of colony and that the struggle to drive the United States imperialists out of Thailand is mounting vigorously. Representatives of the Front have been publicly received, welcomed and officially entertained in Peking. It is no wonder that the Thai Foreign Minister said yesterday at the current meeting of the South East Asia Treaty Organisation -
May i add how heartening it is to all of us the decision of the Government of Australia to send a contingent of Australian forces into South Vietnam. As we meet here today, i hope none of us will fail to realise how crucial the struggle in Vietnam is and that the outcome will transcend the borders of thai country and is bound to affect not only South East’ Asia but the entire free world.
– So we are really at war?
– The Minister said at question time that we were at war.
– I said nothing of the sort. Honorable senators opposite should look at “ Hansard “. Senator Kennelly does not understand what is said. I ask the Senate to recall what happened in Malaya and Malaysia, how long the emergency lasted there and with what difficulty the Communist insurgents were removed. Those insurgents still exist. Marauding bands of Communists, Peking orientated, still exist between Thailand and Malaysia, hoping that circumstances will develop which will enable their movements to be renewed. During my own recent trip to Thailand the activities of one of these marauding bands of Communists, Peking orientated, was causing-
– It is a pity they did not pop you off.
– Order! The honorable senator will withdraw that remark.
– I will withdraw it, Mr. President. I. was only being facetious.
– Order! The honorable Senator should not be facetious in such circumstances.
– As I said, these Communists are active in this area that lies on the border of Malaysia and Thailand and are a continuing source of worry and concern to the Government of Thailand in the north east area of that country. In Laos the North Vietnamese Army, 200,000 strong and supported from Peking, is sup porting action by the Communist Pathet Lao in Laos. Is there one thing that I have said which is not correct? In Sarawak the clandestine Communist organisation, Peking orientated, is receiving support and assistance from Peking.
– ls the Minister sure that some of those are not the Moscow-
– I specifically said Peking.
– I just wanted to make sure.
– That is all right. The honorable senator should do his best to follow the argument. I have mentioned these things to indicate that any approach to the problem of South Vietnam which does not take into account the wide nature of the activities of aggressive Communism in this area is not an assessment that is worthwhile, yet this is the kind of assessment we have heard this afternoon from the Leader of the Opposition.
Before leaving the subject I want to say something about what the Labour Opposition is prepared to refer to as a civil war. Even the most cursory glance at the origin and record of the Vietcong reveals that the situation in South Vietnam is no mere civil war. The Vietcong, the military arm of the so-called National Liberation Front in South Vietnam, is the recognised and admitted instrument of the North Vietnamese Communist Party. Overall direction of the movement is the responsibility of the central committee of the North Vietnamese Communists - the Lao Dong Party itself. In North Vietnam the Lao Dong Party has created, in defiance of all the traditions of the Vietnamese people, the most rigidly controlled Communist State outside Communist China itself. The rule of fear has been imposed through the well known police system, reinforced by the largest standing army in Asia outside of Communist China. This is the system which the Vietcong is trying to impose upon the South Vietnamese. One of the means which they have used in the past in an effort to appeal to the peasantry of South Vietnam is the promise of their brand of economic and social reform and of social justice. But what, in fact, have these meant to the millions of Vietnamese in North Vietnam? It has meant the collectivisation, not the redistribution of the ownership of land. It has meant rigid rationing and not an abundance of food and materials. It has meant summary justice in accordance with the interests of the Communist Party and not justice based upon the rule of law. This is reflected at present in the not insignificant desertion rate among Vietcong infiltrators of northern origin who are seizing the opportunity of infiltration to leave North Vietnam permanently. The fact is that in South Vietnam successive governments have so far been hampered severely in achieving economic and social reforms although programmes for so doing do exist. Indeed, they have been partially implemented for large scale land reforms, the re-organisation of rice marketing procedures and general social improvements. That these schemes have not been completely carried out is not due to the lack of will to do so but to the lack of means in the face of the continued and increasing pressure of the Vietcong who have consistently assassinated or terrorised the provincial officials and village leaders who have attempted to implement the programme. School teachers have been a particular target. In 1964 alone, 436 South Vietnam hamlet chiefs and other Government officials were executed by the Vietcong and 1,131 were kidnapped.
Now I want to refer to the intervention of the North. The Leader of the Opposition had something to say about the lack of effect of this intervention. The intervention of the North, supported by Communist China, is becoming heavier and heavier. Since 1959 there have been up to 40,000 infiltrators from North Vietnam. For 1964 we have confirmation that between 5,000 and 8,000 personnel infiltrated and, because of the time lag between the actual infiltration and confirmation, the number is likely to be at least 10,000. The evidence suggests that approximately 75 to 80 per cent, of those who infiltrated during 1964 were born in North Vietnam. The infiltrators during 1964 and the early months of 1965 are thus different from previous infiltrators who were drawn from a pool of approximately 90,000 natives of South Vietnam who went north when the country was divided ten years ago.
I want to say something about military supplies because this was mentioned by the Leader of the Opposition. The great bulk of military supplies and requirements of the Vietcong is increasingly coming from outside South Vietnam.
– Will the Minister give us his informant?
Senator PALTRIDGE__ Yes. This is information which has been collected and collated in Vietnam.
– By whom?
– By people qualified to collect this information. 1 will re.er to official publications in a little while. As I said, the great bulk of military supplies is increasingly coming from outside South Vietnam. Vietcong main force units have been for some time, and continue to be, equipped and trained with the latest Chinese Communist weapons. In February 1965, a month or two ago, a North Vietnamese vessel especially constructed in Communist China was sunk off the South Vietnam coast. It was carrying a cargo of mainly Communist Chinese weapons, sufficient to supply 3,000 men. An appraisal of a weapons cache discovered near where the vessel was sunk indicated that most of the weapons and ammunition contained in it were of Communist Chinese or Czechoslovakian manufacture except for a small number of Soviet carbines. A count of the equipment showed the following items of Chinese origin: 1500 stick grenades, 500 lbs. of T.N.T., 2,000 rounds of 82mm. mortar ammunition, 500 hand grenades, 500 rounds of 56mm. recoilless rifle ammunition, 1500 rounds of 75mm. recoilless rifle ammunition, 2 heavy machine guns, 2,000 Mauser rifles, 1,000 sub-machine guns and 15 light machine-guns. This was the result of the sinking of one ship and the discovery of one cache. I want to tell Senator Kennelly, who is interrupting, that when in Saigon recently, I had an opportunity to visit the military museum where I saw many weapons, captured from the Vietcong and bearing the marks of origin in Communist China, Russia or Czechoslovakia.
So much, then, for Senator McKenna’s statement that this is a civil war. It is no civil war. It is a war in which the Communists from the north are exercising their highly developed techniques of the Trojan horse and the fifth column and putting into South Vietnam men and equipment not only to overthrow the Government of South Vietnam but also to imprison forever the South Vietnamese people. I have read with great interest what was said in another place by the Leader of the Australian Labour Party, Mr. Calwell, and I will refer to it before I sit down. Interestingly enough, in February the Leader of the Labour Party declared himself and his party to be in agreement with the policy being pursued by the Americans in South Vietnam.
– At that time.
– I am glad the honorable senator has reminded me of that, because that was after the start of the big American bombing raids across the border into North Vietnam and after the first movement of United States formations into South Vietnam. The Leader of the Labour Party went on to suggest that all would be beautiful and wonderful if something were done to assist the people of South Vietnam, economically and socially. All I want to say in that respect is that if there is anything from which South Vietnam does not suffer today it is lack of moral support. Many countries are willing and able to give moral support. No fewer than 33 other countries are providing assistance to the South Vietnamese. It is so much clap-trap for the Opposition to say, in this situation, where economic and social aid are available to the South Vietnamese, that a continuation of this kind of aid will solve the problem. It will not.
At this point in their history the South Vietnamese people are intent upon developing their country and improving their own living standards. This is what they want, in common with most other people in the world. Left alone to mind their own business, this is what they would be proceeding to do. But what has happened? Communist subversion has prevented them from doing this. The Vietcong, armed, aided and abetted by the North Vietnamese, is carrying out a campaign against the civilian population of South Vietnam. As good and as high as the intentions of the South Vietnamese are, they are prevented from getting on with the development of their farms and cities and with the lifting of their living standards. They are prevented from doing these things by the Vietcong. They are in the situation of a farmer who wants nothing more than to develop his own farm, but a fire breaks out on his boundary fence - in this case the fire is inside the boundary - so that for the time being he has to drop his plans for developing the farm while he puts out the fire. South Vietnam, proceeding with its development, has attracted the support of one of the greatest democracies that the world has ever known - the United States of America.
The Opposition never gets tired of advancing the theory that there should be negotiation in Vietnam. This idea is lovely. But negotiation is a beautiful dream. We are told that we should do what U Thant wants us to do or what someone else wants us to do; that everyone should get around the negotiation table. I have never heard the Opposition say who will represent North Vietnam or the Communist powers at the negotiations, because they resolutely refuse to negotiate. When honorable senators opposite say that negotiations should occur I ask them: “With whom?”. With whom should the negotiations be held? Or is it the intention of the Labour Party, as it is obviously the intention of the North Vietnamese, that if the South Vietnamese voluntarily agree to quit themselves of all the assistance they are getting, then at that time the North Vietnamese and the Chinese Communists will graciously come along and negotiate with the South Vietnamese? The proposition is simply this: The South Vietnamese are being asked by the Australian Labour Party and the Communist North Vietnamese to negotiate themselves out of the only position where they have any strength with which to negotiate. Of course the South Vietnamese and our American allies are not prepared to do that.
– Does the Minister criticise President Johnson?
– I will talk about him in a minute, because he has made some remarkable contributions towards a settlement of the situation in Vietnam. In his now famous Baltimore address President Johnson asked, rhetorically -
Why are we in Vietnam? Why are these realities our concern? Why are we in South Vietnam?
His answer was -
We are there because we have a promise to keep. Since 1954 every American President has offered support to the people of South Vietnam. We have helped to build, and we have helped to defend. Thus, over many years, we have made a national pledge to help South Vietnam defend its independence. And I intend to keep that promise.
To dishonour that pledge - to abandon this small and brave nation to its enemies - and to the terror that must follow - would be an unforgivable wrong.
We are also there to strengthen world order. Around the globe - from Berlin to Thailand - are people whose well-being rests in part on the belief that they can count on us if they are attacked. To leave Vietnam to its fate would shake the confidence of ali these people in the value of an American commitment and in the value of America’s word. The result would be increased unrest and instability, and even war.
We are also there because there are great stakes in the balance. Let no one think for a moment that retreat from Vietnam would bring an end to conflict. The battle would be renewed in one country and then another. The central lesson of our time is that the appetite of aggression is never satisfied. To withdraw from one battlefield means only to prepare for the next. We must stay in South East Asia - as we did in Europe - in the words of the Bible: “ Hitherto shall thou come, but no further “.
These are words we should all take to heart. This is the leader of a great democratic nation speaking of and in sympathy with a country that finds itself under actual military attack by the Communists. President Johnson has said on behalf of the American people and for the benefit of the free world: “ This is where it stops. This far and no further.” That is why the vast majority of Australians agree that by putting our flag alongside the American flag we are doing something for the freedom of the world. ft is in the Australian tradition to do this. Europe is a long long way away; yet, in a generation, because someone else’s liberty was at stake, Australia supplied troops twice to suppress an aggressor. When freedom was in jeopardy, Australia assisted in the Berlin air lift. Now when freedom is attacked so much closer to our own country and with the stimulus of so much more national peril Australia has said: “ We will take up our obligations. We will stop aggression. We will not permit aggression to go forward.” The Americans do this because it is right and I believe we are acting for the same reason - not merely because we have an interest at stake but because it is the right thing to do.
Before I sit down I want to make particular reference to one or two questions which were asked by the Leader of the
Opposition. The honorable senator expressed some concern about the deployment of Australian troops. I want to make it clear to the honorable senator that if he had taken notice of the statements of the Prime Minister he would have learned that our decision to commit an Australian battalion to South Vietnam was made only after the fullest consultation not only with our own military advisers to ensure the soundness of the project as a military operation, but also with our allies. When the Prime Minister was able to make an announcement on Thursday night, he did so knowing that it was with the approval of the United Kingdom, the United States of America and South Vietnam.
– Did the Minister say the Prime Minister made the announcement with the approval of the United Kingdom?
– It is in the
Prime Minister’s speech. I might add that it would be inconsistent with the Australian pattern of conduct in this part of the world not to support economic aid as the Leader of the Opposition seemed to suggest. As is well known, we have continued to give aid to many Asian countries, including South Vietnam, over a long period of years. When the Prime Minister made his statement he made it perfectly clear that he, on behalf of the Government and the people of Australia, welcomed the offer made by President Johnson for economic and social aid to the extent of $1,000 million. The Prime Minister went on to say that we will continue our support of this type of activity.
I was disappointed - and I say so quite bluntly to the Leader of the Opposition - that he should have referred to the coincidence in timing of the announcement made by the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) in the United States balance of payments and the announcement of the commitment of an Australian battalion for Vietnam. I go further and say that it was completely out of character with the general behaviour and conduct of the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate. I put it plainly to him that it does no good to say that he does not believe something and then to go on to talk about it for five minutes. If the Leader of the Opposition does not believe there is any connection between the Treasurer’s announcement and the committal of a battalion to Vietnam - and I think he does not believe it - he would have been better advised to have said nothing about it. But if there is any lingering doubt in the mind of anyone that this is a diggers for dollars arrangement, let me give it the lie direct. This is the most contemptible charge that could have issued from anyone.
The Leader of the Opposition asked a number of questions about the role and the location of the Australian battalion which is to go to Vietnam. The honorable senator will appreciate my difficulty in this connection. However, 1 should like him to understand that the general pattern of the conduct of the war in Vietnam will follow the line that the Vietnamese Army itself will look after the pacification programme to which he referred. The other troops are in Vietnam for other purposes, some of which he mentioned, but they will not be employed in pacification tasks. The Leader of the Opposition asked for information of the chain of command. The Australian battalion is under the command of an Australian colonel. This battalion will form part of an American brigade but as is normal in operations of this kind waged since the Second World War, there will be available to the Australian commander access to the Australian Government when he feels that his troops are being unnecessarily or unduly placed in danger. 1 conclude on the note that I believe that our obligations under the S.E.A.T.O. and A.N.Z.U.S. pacts are real obligations. From those two treaties we derive great benefits both in the long run and in the short run. They give to us allies who would be valued by any country. But we must accept the fact that we do not get this sort of association for nothing. We have obligations and we must make our contributions. In the case of Vietnam, we have to make another appropriate contribution for the maintenance of peace in this particular area and for the development of peace generally.
Much has been said about the Americans. It is my personal belief, as it is the belief of the Government of which I am a member, that the task the Americans have undertaken in Vietnam and South East Asia generally, is a task which they accept as one of the factors in world leadership. Their duties and obligations extend to every part of the world. As I see history developing in the years to come, I believe that Australia New Zealand and the United States of America might have a rendezvous with destiny. In this part of the world, these three democratic nations together will set the standards on which the peoples of this area may live in peace and ever increasing security.
.- Mr. President, I was a bit disappointed with the Minister for Defence (Senator Paltridge). I thought that he would not have spent 20 minutes in reading statements without at least telling us who made them. When a person quotes statements in this place, one expects him to back them up by saying who made them. If I were allowed to get away with it, I myself could go outside and write a statement and come back here and read it. Of course, as a rule I would not be allowed to get away with it. When Senator Wright is here - that is, when we are not dealing with amendments that are returned from another place - he likes to know who has made the statements from which one quotes.
The main point made by the Minister was that we in Australia have certain obligations. He did not mention under what treaty we have those obligations. If - the Minister was implying that we have obligations under the South East Asia Collective Defence Treaty, he did not say anything about France, New Zealand, Pakistan, the Philippines, the United Kingdom or Thailand having such obligations. Surely he does not suggest that those obligations are cast upon us by the Treaty I have just mentioned. The Minister may have implied that, but he certainly did not take his statement to its logical conclusion.
I regret that, when the Minister for Defence read from the script he had before him, he did not give us any indication where it came from. He referred to the number of people who have come from North Vietnam into South Vietnam over a number of years. I am not agreeing that they did so for any illegal purpose. However, the few figures that I was able to write down as he spoke did not impress me in the same way as they seemed to impress the Minister who suggested that they, and they alone, were the cause of all the trouble that exists in South Vietnam.
What is the position in which this country finds itself today and, indeed, in which it has found itself for the last 30 or 40 ye;irs? South Vietnam has been engaged in war with the Japanese and the French. Some of its people are now engaged in war amongst themselves and in war in which the people from North Vietnam are playing a part. Is it any wonder that over the years there has been a growing sense of nationalism and a growing desire to improve the standard of living of the country? However much 1 may disagree with the people of North Vietnam, I was amused to hear the Minister say that the presence of North Vietnamese in South Vietnam was the cause of the farms not being developed as they should be and of the cities not being built as the South Vietnamese would want them to be built. I have before me certain figures; I shall indicate their source. I propose to quote these figures, which were obtained from the United Nations Year Book for 1963, to show just *“n»’ backward South Vietnam is and how dreadful is its standard of living when it is compared with that of our own country and of other countries.
Vietnam is and how dreadful is its standard Vietnam?
– Just wait a minute. We shall see what the figures reveal. The standard of living in Vietnam is as low as almost anywhere else in the world. The value of the annual per capita production is only 68 dollars, whereas in India it is 73 dollars, in Formosa 121 dollars, in Malaya 207 dollars, in Japan 1,232 dollars, in Australia 1,843 dollars and in the United States of America 2,691 dollars. In other words, those figures reveal that the value of the per capita production of the Vietnamese is less than one twenty-fifth of that of the Australians. As much as I deplore the infiltration of North Vietnamese into South Vietnam, let not the Minister for Defence or anybody else come here and say that that is why the people of South Vietnam live in the state of degredation that those figures reveal.
I have said in this place time and time again that, while people are compelled to live in such conditions, it will not be necessary to import people with Communist beliefs from other countries to indoctrinate them; they will simply adopt such beliefs themselves. The greatest proof of what I have just said is to be found in our own country. How many votes do the Communists get at elections in Australia? When one recalls that there are 44 million voters in Australia, the number of votes obtained by the Communists is infinitesimal. The reason for that is that the people of Australia enjoy a good standard of living. When people enjoy a good standard of living, there is no desire to embrace an ism, whether it be of the right or the left. The trouble that exists in countries like South Vietnam is caused by insufficient food, a lack of decent housing and insufficient clothing. If you read the history of the growth of Communism in any country in which it has flourished, you will note that it has flourished for that reason. And it cannot be put down with guns.
The Minister for Defence said that he was in South Vietnam only a few months ago. I have no quarrel with him over that. He could not tell the Senate when a democratic election of a government of South Vietnam was held. He could tell the Senate, as I could, that about eight governments have been in power there in the last 18 months. It all depends who has the numbers in the military junta. As soon as some member of the Army thinks that he can gain the numbers, the same old story is repeated. He becomes Prime Minister.
I read a report of a statement by a highly placed American. The report appeared in the Melbourne “ Herald “ but I regret that I cannot at the moment recall his name. He is alleged to have said that if we could settle the internal differences of that unhappy country, we would go a long way towards solving the other very serious troubles that confront Vietnam today. It is true that the trouble in Vietnam started as a civil war. Nobody has ever argued against the statement that the South Vietnamese have been supplied with war materials from North Vietnam. They have been so supplied, but the facts are that when governments allow those circumstances to exist, one can expect that people will rise against that situation and accept support from wherever they can get it.
– Is the honorable senator suggesting that the Government of North Vietnam is superior to that of South Vietnam?
– I am not suggesting anything at all. The honorable senator can rise and make his speech in his own way when his time comes. The difference between the Government and the Opposition today is this: Government supporters believe that there is a gigantic Communist invasion of South Vietnam and that is the beginning and end of it. Members of the Opposition believe that the trouble commenced as a civil war. Undoubtedly those engaged in the conflict are being supplied with implements of war by North Vietnam, but the trouble started as an attempt to gain decent living conditions. After the horse is out of the stable it is not of much use to close the stable door. Unless the wealthy nations of the world - and in that category I include Australia, taking into consideration our population - are prepared, not to wait until trouble commences, but to try to help these people, trouble will commence elsewhere. Listening to the Minister speaking about “ Corns “, I thought that there might already be one under my desk. When he started to read, I became a little uneasy. The Minister did not offer a proper solution. Government supporters say that the position will be improved by sending 800 of our troops to Vietnam. Surely to goodness they do not believe that those troops will achieve anything there from a military point of view. According to what 1 have read, there are nearly 500,000 South Vietnamese and American troops operating in Vietnam. Can any honorable senator tell me what will be the military achievements of the 800 troops we are to send?
I have heard it said by honorable senators on both sides of this chamber that we are part of Asia; that we have to look to Asia and be friends with the Asians, if possible; that we have to trade with Asia. We do not like China. Oh, no! But we like to sell our wheat to China because nobody else wants to buy it and if we do not we might have a lot of wheat left over. We want to sell our wool to China so* that we do not have a carry over. What is more, we want to sell steel to China. I said to Government supporters: “ I thought you were not selling to China any materials that could be used for war purposes”. After three or four weeks, or more, during which time I was pressing for an answer, I was first told that there was a list of certain materials that could not be exported. Then I was told that there was not a list, but there was a committee. I was not told who were the members of the Committee. However, the fact is that we are selling wheat, wool and steel to China. Now the Minister implies that the guns and other materials of war are coming from China to North Vietnam and then into South Vietnam. It is possible that if there were a way to find out where the steel used in their manufacture originated, we might find that a certain amount of it came from Australia. Would not that be a most amusing situation? We thump our chests and say: “ Those terrible people “. But so long as they pay us the price we ask, we are happy to sell to them.
The Opposition believes that the troops we are to send to Vietnam will achieve nothing from a military point of view. Surely honorable senators opposite do not believe, in view of the numbers of troops alleged to be there at present, that by sending 800 Australian troops we will cause a miraculous solution to be found to the troubles besetting that unfortunate country. I do not believe that anyone, even with a great deal of military experience, would be prepared to say that. I ask the Government what it expects to gain from sending our troops into a war 7,000 miles away. I do not want to be told that if we do not send our troops we will be letting somebody down. We are under no treaty obligations to send our troops to Vietnam. If we are, we have a lot of mates who should also send troops there. If we want to send our troops away we should remember that one of our kith and kin not far to the north of us seems to be in a. bit of trouble at the moment. I refer to Malaysia. If we have troops to burn - and I do not think we have - it would not be a bad idea to help Malaysia. It would not be a bad idea to do that in the hope that if we get into trouble - let us hope that we will not, but one can never forsee the future - someone may help us. The Minister was most annoyed at the suggestion - these are his words - that we would barter diggers for dollars. But what is one to judge from the Australian Broadcasting Commission’s news report that Mr. Holt had said that there was a strong desire to help Australia and that he believed that changes would be made to help the Australian position? The report went on to state -
Mr. Holt said the decision by the Commonwealth Government to undertake still further substantial commitments in defending South East Asia had been useful in crystallising opinion in the Johnson Administration.
Those are not my words; they are Mr. Holt’s. The words “ bartering diggers for dollars” are not my words but the words of the Minister. Let Mr. Holt explain what he meant. First, did he say it? No doubt, someone in his office would have heard it. He has had ample opportunity to say whether that was a true report. Is it any wonder that the Minister for Defence - not I - used the words “ bartering diggers for dollars “?
– He did not say that.
– Yes, he did.
– He was repeating what the honorable senator’s leader had said.
– Cod forbid that anyone would think that my leader would say anything like that. Even Senator Henty knows that that could not be true. It would be different if the Minister had said that I had said it. Possibly, I might have, but I did not. The Minister used the phrase “ diggers for dollars “.
– The honorable senator’s own leader said that.
– Answer what I have said about Mr, Holt’s remarks, and I shall listen. What does the Government intend to do with the conscripts? When the legislation was before us, we were told that they would have six months training and then be drafted into the battalions. That is what the Government said last year. I admit that it changes its mind pretty often in many things. But what is the position in this respect? Let us at least be honest. The 800 men will have to be reinforced. That is the normal procedure, and it will be particularly so in that climate.
– Does the honorable senator object to that?
– I am asking honorable senators opposite to tell us whether the Government is going to send the conscripts over. That is all.
– The Minister for the Army said it yesterday.
– But let us have it here. We shall get a double-barrelled answer on it. Does the Government believe that we can win there? Everything that one reads suggests that this will end in a stalemate. I do not want to see the Americans humiliated, any more than does anyone else. If there is an organisation in which I personally am very disappointed, it is the United Nations. It has not played the part that I would have desired. If the Labour Party had been asked to agree to men going to South Vietnam as part of a United Nations unit to secure peace while negotiations were going on, there would have been no trouble over it. Sooner or later they have to get round the table. Let us hope that it is sooner.
– That is exactly what is involved in this.
– The mightiest military force in the world, according to what the United States tells us, is in the area now. The Americans are our friends. Did they ask us to send our 800 men?
– I have my own opinion. I think so.
– I read all the reports and I understand that Mr. Cabot Lodge is alleged to have said that he did not ask for them. According to what one hears about the precincts of this building and according to what the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) said yesterday, this decision was made three or four weeks ago. Did this Government then have a request from the South Vietnam Government upon which it pins so much faith? At least I give this Government the credit that the people elected it and that it has a right to be in office. I should like to know how many people voted for the South Vietnamese Government about which this Government is so anxious. Did the Government agree to send the troops before it got a request to send them?
– I wonder how many people will vote if the Communists get in.
– As much as the Minister might try, he cannot pin the “ Corns “ on me.
– I have never tried.
– It is not that the Minister would not try. The fact is that he cannot pin them on me. If the “ Corns “ ruled where the South Vietnamese Government rules today, the same number of people - nil - would vote for the Government. No one votes for it now, much as I abhor the thought of that. In another place when the Prime Minister was asked whether he was opposed to negotiations, he said -
What I was directing myself to on each of these occasions was a suggestion, about which some people have been quite vocal, that the’ United
States, instead of fighting, should negotiate - negotiate with an enemy which has violated its obligations in relation to a cease fires-, negotiate with a country that has ignored its international obligations; and negotiate with people who will keep on shooting when the Americans have stopped shooting. That seems to me to be a fantasy, and if I am the only Prime Minister left to denounce it, 1 denounce it.
But President Johnson has said that he wants to talk. It would be rather foolish to claim here that the way will be open for negotiations only when the Americans get out of Vietnam. I do not believe that for a moment, but in order to get peace I would love to see sufficient United Nations troops go into Vietnam and to hear the United Nations say. “ We will conduct negotiations, and in the meantime both sides will stop fighting and remain where they are “.
– Poor old dreamer.
– That is all right. The Prime Minister is sending 800 men who, he must admit, cannot help one iota in the military campaign.
– Yes they can.
– But there are over half a million there now, if the honorable senator cares to count them.
– Do not talk nonsense.
– It is all right for the honorable senator to say that, but there are over half a million South Vietnamese and American soldiers there now, and we are sending 800.
– If they are not worth anything why is the honorable senator getting so hot under the collar?
– Because I do not think they should be sent there. I am quite honest about that. I believe that we are part of Asia but I think the worst thing we can do for the safety of Australia is to become embroiled in Asian affairs to this extent.
– Another dream.
– That is all right. What about all the other countries? What has Great Britain done? Great Britain is as much a party to this treaty as we are.
– Of course she is not committed in Malaysia, is she?
– Yes, that is true, but the honorable senator should compare Great Britain’s population with ours. Does the honorable senator mean that a country which is committed elsewhere has the right to break a treaty to which she is a party? Does he believe that such a country should not be required to live up to a treaty? What about France? What about our sister dominion which has 25 engineers in Vietnam? What about the Philippines? How many men has she in Vietnam?
– It would be quite all right for Britain to send troops there, would it?
– I say she would be very foolish if she did. Our aim ought to be to use our best endeavours -
– Which we are doing.
– Can the honorable senator show me any report of our representative at the United Nations having once opened his mouth in support of talks on Vietnam?
– Talks between whom?
– Between the warring factions. I ask the honorable senator now: When did our representative at the United Nations speak in support of talks? All that the Australian Government wants to do is to beat the drum. The Australian Government is different from Lester Pearson’s Government in Canada, lt is different from De Gaulle’s Government in France and it is different from the governments of a number of other leading nations in the world. I regret that the Australian Government is not helping this country one iota. I do not think its action will have any influence on the position. I do not believe that it is in the best interests of this nation to send troops to Vietnam. Our best endeavours should be bent towards one purpose and one purpose alone. We should strive with everything we have to put an end to this war with talks rather than allow the war to drag on, because in the end there will be talks.
.- There is, I think, only one part of Senator Kennelly’s speech with which I agree - that a lot of the trouble in South East Asia and, in fact, in the world today is due to the failure of the United Nations to act as a peace keeping force throughout the world. This position has arisen very largely because little more than lip service has been given to the United Nations by the nations which comprise it. Be that as it may, we have to accept the position as it exists.
Our attitude of mind towards what has been done by the Commonwealth Government in this matter depends on our perspective and the way in which we view the situation in South East Asia. I am one of those who believe that having regard to the future security of this country the Government, by its actions, took just about the only course that it could take. I believe it was entirely necessary for Australia to be associated with the United States of America, the only country on earth which can afford us adequate protection against what I believe to be the Communist drive down through South East Asia.
Senator McKenna said that we should have given only moral support to what the United States is doing in South Vietnam. But only a few minutes after making that statement he said that we in Australia depend upon the United States for our survival. If that is so, and if when the testing time came for Australia the United States were to give us only moral support, just where would we stand? There are people who very often attempt to deal with awkward facts by pretending that they do not exist, by arguing that they do not exist or by trying to write them down. We heard Senator McKenna, in particular, attempting to write down the aggressive potentiality of Communist China. That was effectively crushed, I think, by the Minister for Defence (Senator Paltridge) who followed him in the debate. I, in common with the other honorable senators, receive communications from people from time to time. They always attempt to ignore the aggression committed by the North Vietnamese, aided and abetted by the Communist Chinese, against the people of South Vietnam. They try to make out that it does not exist. lt was said today that the situation in Vietnam is in effect a civil war, and because it is a civil war we, along with other people perhaps, should not interfere. If that attitude were adopted in respect of every example of Communist aggression, the Communist movement throughout the world, with its dedication to world conquest, would go from triumph to triumph. Whenever the Communists attempted to take over a country, it would be argued that it was only a civil war. Even if they came to the shores of this country, there are fools in the Com monwealth who would take the side of the invader because he supported an “ ism “ to which they were particularly partial.
Much has been said about South Vietnam. I was very interested to read a publication that was issued by the American State Department. There are two volumes of the publication. The second volume gives documented evidence relating to North Vietnamese soldiers who had been captured in South Vietnam. Photographs are given and there is a verbatim account of the interrogation to which they were subjected. It seemed to me to be perfectly plain. But leaving that aside, in the beginning of the publication there are extracts from speeches by members of various Communist organisations and by Communist leaders in North Vietnam and Communist China, including Ho Chi Minh. The resolutions which have been passed by the Communist congresses deal with what these people propose to do regarding South Vietnam. There are so many extracts in the publication that I will not attempt to read all of them, but one of the resolutions refers to the intention “ to liberate South Vietnam from the ruling yoke of the United States “, and it emphasises again and again that the slogan to be adopted must be that North Vietnam is the revolutionary base for the whole of the country. The Communists have not sought in any way to disguise their intentions. They have been perfectly frank and clear.
Senator Kennelly referred to production figures in South Vietnam. This publication also deals with that matter. It states, and it is undoubtedly true, that in 1955 when the Republic of South Vietnam came into being its economy was a shambles, but because of outside aid and because of the versatility of the people, rapid reconstruction took place. The output of the people was inincreased. There were tremendous reconstructive efforts all over the country. The position that exists between South Vietnam and North Vietnam resembles the position that exists in Europe today between East Germany and West Germany. The British Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, a Labour man not partial to honorable senators on this side of the chamber, politically at least, made this statement -
For a time both parts continued to endeavour to put themselves in order and make economic and social progress. Those possibilities remained open until, in 1959, there was a call from the Government of North Vietnam for an intensification of the Vietcong activities in the south and for full-scale guerrilla warfare against the Government of South Vietnam. Not only did the northern government call for that, they then proceeded to help it wilh more weapons and military advice, as was made clear by the majority report of the International Control Commission in 1962.
Sitting suspended from 5.46 till 8 p.m.
– Mr. Deputy President, I was saying before the suspension of the sitting that there had been real progress in South Vietnam after it secured its independence. Official figures bear that out. Productivity had risen and the condition of the people had improved until, in 1959, according to the International Control Commission, the order went forth from North Vietnam that activities against the Government of South Vietnam were to be stepped up and that guerrilla warfare was to be introduced in a country which lends itself admirably to it. One of the results of that order was that hundreds of schools were closed because the school teachers were murdered. Public officials of all kinds were similarly treated, more especially the public health officials, in an attempt to bring governmental services to a halt. Transport was dislocated. Under the conditions that were brought about by the activities of the Vietcong it was difficult to imagine just how the lot of the people could be improved, how there could be any progress, and how there could be any election of a popular government as we know elections in this country. Undoubtedly, the aim and object of the Vietcong activities was to bring the country to such a pass that governmental activities and all progress would be brought to a standstill.
I heard the honorable member for Yarra (Dr. J. F. Cairns) discussing this matter on television. He said that no money should be spent on military aid to South Vietnam whatsoever but that it should be channelled into means of improving the standard of living of the people. At the time he said this I thought: “ Well, if a man’s house was on fire he would not think of ordering a wall to wall carpet. The first thing he would do would be to attempt to put the fire out and then he would repair the damage.” Of course, that is the position in South Vietnam and the object of the Vietcong activities which undoubtedly have been poised from and are based on North Vietnam is as I have stated it.
The case put up by the Opposition falls into three categories: First, the Opposition writes down the aggressive tendencies of Red China. Secondly, the Opposition minimises the potential for aggression of Red China. Thirdly, it designates this trouble in South Vietnam as more in the nature of a civil war. Before the suspension of the sitting, Senator Kennelly said that Australia’s contribution towards the armed forces in South Vietnam was so small that it was not worth bothering about. He chided the Government for some time on that aspect and on the intervention of Australia in the conflict. If that had been the spirit which animated this country in the last two World Wars no expeditionary forces would have left Australia. We could have said quite easily that Australia had such a small population and our potential was so small that we could contribute little in the aggregate. We could have left it to our allies and stayed out of it. Honorable senators should remember the last war and the desperate message which was sent to this same United States of America to come and help us when we were threatened right here on our own territory. We felt that we were unable to stem the invader. It is to the credit of Australia that that attitude has not prevailed in the past; that we in Australia have been prepared to pull our weight and not to stay at home and leave it all to our allies. That seems to me to be the attitude of the Opposition to what is happening in South Vietnam today.
The Opposition’s case has fallen into those three categories. When we consider it, that is just precisely the way that the Opposition would attack this matter of South Vietnam. The Opposition cannot think of any other way in which to attack it but the trouble is that the attack is not convincing. If ever a power on earth has proclaimed far and wide over a long period its intention of aggression it is Red China. Its leaders have on all occasions stated their intention of spreading their doctrine throughout South East Asia. In point of fact that is the main cause of the split between Red China and the Communist leaders in Moscow. Red
China says that Moscow is not aggressive enough. This incursion into South Vietnam is posed from North Vietnam, aided, abetted and supported by Red China. As the Minister for Defence (Senator Paltridge) said this afternoon, notice has been served on Thailand. When trouble breaks out in Thailand, if it does, surely it will be in the category of a civil war. The Opposition says that the trouble in South Vietnam is more in the nature of a civil war and that Australia should have no part in it. It is correct, I think, that Thailand is next on the list. Undoubtedly this same trouble will break out in that country and it will develop very largely in the nature of a civil war. Is the Opposition going to use the same argument then and say: “ Oh no, we cannot do anything about this; it is a civil war”? Undoubtedly those who promote the trouble will be aided, organised and supplied from Red China, through its satellites. If Thailand falls to the Red tide then what? Surely, Laos and Cambodia could then be written off.
– Also Burma.
– Yes. I think you could write that off. And then what? There is the whole of South East Asia gone. Are the Communists going to stop short of Australia? No, they will keep on coming. I say this because of the policy pursued by Red China, and for no other reason. Then what are we going to do about it? Are we going to send a message for assistance to the United States of America after we have allowed the U.S.A., as it were, to stew in its own juice in South Vietnam? Is that what we want? 1 do not think there is any doubt whatever that the pattern is clear. I have said before that one thing that can be said about the Communists is that they have never sought to disguise their intentions. In fact, they have said quite frankly and plainly what they propose to do. Are we going to allow them to continue? Are we, who - do not forget this - are to be the ultimate goal of this line of attack going to do nothing about it? Are we going to walk out on our ally and leave her to bear the brunt? Is it not better to try to stem this thing at its source, before it gains so much momentum that it will be almost impossible to stop? That is the position as it appears to me.
I do not think there is any doubt that the appetite of the Communist powers is insati able. There is no limit to it. World conquest is their avowed objective; they are dedicated to subjugating the whole of the world. Only the blind could fail to see that, because it has been so constantly put before us. It has been clear for 20 years and to refuse to see it reminds me of what the late Sir Winston Churchill said about the neutral nations in 1938 and 1939. He said that they gaped and chattered and proclaimed their neutrality on every possible occasion until, one by one, they fell into Hitler’s maw.
– Should we attack Red China immediately, in your opinion?
– I think the attack launched by Red China should certainly be stemmed. There is no doubt whatever about the truth of the contention of the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) that the trouble in South Vietnam is part and parcel of a Communist drive down through South East Asia. We have been confronted with so much overwhelming evidence of this that I repeat that only the blind would fail to accept it. However that may be, T am one of those who do not fear for the free world so long as its heart is sound. But one is filled with concern when one sees the attitude of mind of some people, not only in this country but also in the United States of America. We, in Australia, believe in freedom of expression and, of course, the people to whom I have referred are entitled to express their views. But when one reads statements and resolutions by people who are supposed to be educated - I refer particularly to resolutions carried in my own State by a body calling itself the Australian Council of Churches and, previously, by sundry bishops - one wonders whether they do not understand that there can be no peace with Communism because it will not have peace.
There can be no peace with Communism unless it is confronted with a force equal or superior to its own. There can be no negotiation with Communism, except from a position of strength. As a case in point, ex-President Harry Truman has told us that by the time the Potsdam Conference was held in Berlin every agreement entered into at Yalta had been broken by the Communists and they were in process at that time of breaking the very agreements they were signing at Potsdam, making the whole thing a farce. Yet there are people, including some ministers of religion, who believe that we should supinely acquiesce and accept the eventual domination of this evil thing which would sweep away the traditions that British people have built up over the centuries - traditions that have made us the free-est and most prosperous community on earth. If that attitude of mind is widespread within the free world, I despair. But I do not think it is. 1 believe that the average thinking Australian realises just what is involved in the condition of affairs that exists in South East Asia today.
Week by week Indonesia is working more than ever in cohesion with Peking. When Sukarno goes, then what? Will Indonesia be a Communist state? According to today’s Press a British Minister told the South East Asia Treaty Organisation conference that the Indonesians were referring to Australia as South Irian. There is a real danger of the whole of South East Asia becoming a Communist bloc with all the aggressive Communist tendencies. More than that, the Communists are completely dedicated to aggression and anyone who thinks we should shirk our responsibility to help in stemming this tide is going to be very sadly disillusioned. I support what the Government has done and I repeat what I said at the outset: Under all the conditions that exist the Government could not do other than what it has done, having regard to the eventual safety of this country. Unfortunately, there are still thoughtful people in Australia who do not understand the position.
– Senator Lillico has put the whole thing in its right perspective. As Senator McKenna conceded earlier in the debate, throughout the world today there is a fight for the minds of men. Many people cannot see that the struggle in South East Asia is one in which the Communist north is trying to capture the minds of men. I thought Senator McKenna made rather heavy weather of the very difficult role that he had to play. I often think that to be trained as a lawyer must be an excellent grounding for a politician because men so trained always seem to be able to bring forward quite substantial arguments even though they are not expressing their own convictions.
I believe that quite a number of the Australian Labour Party members have not a full conviction that what the Government is doing is wrong. I have heard them say many times that the front line of Australia’s defence can be found in South East Asia. That is what the whole of this argument hinges upon - where is the front line of Australia’s defence? That is, of course, if you accept that we will be under attack and that there is an aggressive move southward towards Australia. I believe that 95 per cent, of Australians believe that there is an aggressive move towards Australia. I believe also that within the borders of Australia there is an incipient fifth column that has to be brought out into the light.
I am rather pleased that the Government is following now the policies that were espoused by the Democratic Labour Party three or four years ago to overcome the aggressive move towards Australia. It is acting a little late, however. If the policies that have now been adopted by the Americans - and which we advocated four years ago - had been followed at that time, we would not have been in this position today. The strength that has been opposing the, American forces today would not have been in the present position if the course we advocated had been adopted. The Democratic Labour Party advocated the disruption of the supply routes and the Ho Chi Minh trail. Everybody said that that would be aggression and could not be done. So those responsible held off for four years. They are active now but they would not have needed the men and equipment now being utilised and the lives of civilians and soldiers would not have been lost if our words had been heeded four years ago.
This applies also to Australia. As a nation, we seem to be frightened of our responsibilities in this area. We were frightened of them in relation to West Irian. I am pleased that the Government at this late stage is taking a definite stand. We in Australia have a great land that needs development. It could become a tremendous country in 40, 50 or 60 years if we are allowed to function in our own way; but unless we can get a unanimous feeling within Australia to defend it so that we may develop it, I am afraid that we will not have an opportunity to develop it as we wish. I appeal to all parties to forget the political aspects of this matter and to put all they have into forming a defence line stretching right through Malaysia, Thailand and South Vietnam so that we will not be in the horrifying position of defending our own country on our own shores. Our great ally, the United States of America, is assisting us with all her tremendous resources and manpower and we must grasp the opportunity to form a strong defence line.
Yet 1 heard honorable senators ask today: “ Why should we send our soldiers to Vietnam to be killed?” Why is the United States sending her troops to Vietnam? She is not in immediate danger; we are. Yet people are saying that we should not send our men to defend Vietnam. People speak of the blood that is likely to be spilled. Maybe soldiers will be killed. One or two Australians have been killed in Vietnam already. But the chances of our troops being killed in this area probably will be comparable with the chances one takes when going for a drive in a motor car in Sydney or Melbourne any weekend. Now is the time to grasp our opportunity. Our men are not going to Vietnam for dollars but for our own protection.
The Government showed common sense in grasping this opportunity to maintain American interest in this part of the world. The Americans could quite easily withdraw. If they did, it would not affect the defence of the United States of America. We are only on the outer fringe of American defence and could easily be dropped. The United States could turn to her inner defence lines taking in the Hawaiian Islands. So we have to grasp this opportunity. It should not be said that because we are sending only a battalion of 800 men, the help we are offering is insignificant. It is not. The morale of our fighting forces has been noted throughout the wars of this century. We did not have such a great number of men at El Alamein but their exploits are still talked about.
Some have said that because we are sending men it will stop us from negotiating. There is no such thing as negotiation with Communist countries. There is an appearance of negotiation but it is only an appearance so that they can weaken their opponents and develop their own strength in other ways. Communism, in various guises, has set out to rule the world. While there are people who are stupid enough to adopt Communist ideas and while others, under various names, are prepared to support them, Communism will gradually overcome the world. Some people want that, of course, including quite a number in Australia. But the great majority of people do not want it. They must wake up to themselves.
We are told that the position in South Vietnam is not very good for our side, shall we call it. Many people are saying that we cannot win in these areas and that therefore we should not send our troops to them. I do not believe that. I believe that we will win in South Vietnam. I believe that the United States has decided that she will win and that that is why she is pouring in troops.
– They are determined to win.
– They are determined to win. They can win, and they will win. As I said a moment ago, it is suggested that we cannot win and that therefore we should not send troops there. To say that is to adopt a defeatist attitude. I should like to see the people of Australia wholly behind the Government in the policy it is now following. Still more will have to be done. By sending a battalion to South Vietnam we are not weakening the defences of Australia, as was stated today. Rather are we strengthening the defences of Australia, because in doing so we have beside us a very great ally. If we were attacked on another flank, we would not have to rely on the few men who are available in Australia but would have the help of an ally who would pour in troops to help defend this country.
I am hoping that the Australian Labour Party will change its attitude on this matter. Let members of the Labour Party forget that they constitute the Opposition and that therefore they must say something in opposition to what the Government is doing. Why must Opposition senators take up these shibboleths that we hear and trot them forward? In doing so they are only doing what Communists within Australia and outside the country want them to do. The Labour Party is much bigger than that. Members of the Labour Party attend meetings of peace councils and that sort of thing but they are not doing anything realistic. I note that a notice headed “ Stop the War in Vietnam “ has been issued in which people are invited to attend a meeting in Melbourne on Saturday next. It invites those interested to assemble at the American Embassy. From there they will march to the Punt Road Methodist Church hall, where I presume they will talk about peace and make a nuisance of themselves. The notice states -
Prominent speakers include Dr. J. F. Cairns, M.H.R.
– More power to him.
– That is what I would expect from the honorable senator. The chairman of the meeting, of course, will be the Rev. A. M. Dickie. The meeting is sponsored by the Australian and New Zealand Congress for International Cooperation and Disarmament. We know that that was classified not so long ago as being a real Communist front.
– By the honorable senator and the Government.
– Not only by my party and the Government, but by many other people as well. Naturally, I would expect you to be a member of it.
– I am, with many thousands of others.
– That sort of thing has to be stopped if we want to save this country. The Labour Party is big enough to stand on its own feet and not be used as an instrument of Communist propaganda. All the arguments that have been brought forward today in opposition to the sending of troops to South Vietnam could have been read in the “ Guardian “ or the “ Tribune “ last week. Let those who advanced such arguments get away from the idea that they will do much good.
There is one matter in relation to which it is time that the Liberal Party became a little more realistic. I refer to trade with Red China. The Government has stated that China is the aggressor, that she is sweeping down towards Australia, and that Australia could be destroyed if she is not stopped. I do not know how the Government can reconcile such statements with the help that is given to private enterprise to trade with a country which will overwhelm us if it is not defeated. It is time that the Government took a very stern look at trade with Red China.
– Is the honorable senator referring to wheat?
– I do not care whether it is trade in wheat or anything else. One does not trade with one’s enemy.
– Is it not adopting a Christian attitude to help to feed starving millions?
Senaor COLE. - No, it is not adopting a Christian attitude, because the wheat is not needed.
Sentaor Marriott. - Does the honorable senator want them to die?
– It takes about 117 million tons a year to feed those people. We send them a very small fraction of the quantity of food that they need and most of that is used for re-exportation to other countries; it is not used to feed their own people.
– The wheat is being re-exported?
– Has the honorable senator any proof of that?
– If the honorable senator is too lazy to read about this sort of thing, he will continue to make foolish remarks. He talks about feeding the multitudes. Perhaps we are feeding them. What we are doing is feeding their Army with our wheat and clothing their Army with our wool. The uniforms worn by the combatants in the Tibetan war were made from our wool. The Government is doing the strong thing but it has to go further. It must stop trading with Red China. That trading will stop automatically in a few years if the trend continues and unless the American policy becomes much stronger. I am hoping that it will. We are standing in a very dangerous position, but we do not have to occupy that position. It has been said that Red China does not have the ships to allow her troops to sweep down into this country, but it is not the Red Chinese who will come. Australia will be invaded by the countries dominated by Red China, when the time is ripe. It is not necessary to look too far to our north to discover Indonesia with a population of 80 million to 100 million people living in a small area. That country could provide sufficient forces for the invasion of Australia under a Communist regime.
Honorable senators know as well as I do that Indonesia could quite easily become a Communist country when certain things happen. As Senator Lillico said, Australia has been referred to as South Irian in Indonesia. Indonesia already has taken West Irian and it seems that it could quite easily move towards obtaining East Irian. In the thinking of the Indonesians, Australia is South Irian.
We are in such a dangerous position that we must take steps at once to ensure that when the threat increases we can cope with it. lt is vital that we become essential to American defence planning. The United States will not do great things for us just because the Americans believe we are not a bad lot of people. They will take every step to safeguard themselves and we must make ourselves absolutely essential to their defence. At present, we are essential to the outer perimeter of their defence structure. By moving to help them in South Vietnam we are making ourselves more essential so that when our testing time comes we will have support from the United States. I am pleased to see that the Government is carrying out the policies advocated by my party three or four years ago. I hope that it will continue in that direction and, as quickly as possible, stop our trading with Red China.
– I have listened to a very interesting speech by Senator Cole on behalf of the Democratic Labour Party in which, as its leader, he gave the reasons why his party supports the Government’s proposal to send a battalion of troops to South Vietnam, at the request of its Prime Minister, to help that country in its time of peril. I am amazed that we do not have the full co-operation of members of the Opposition. If ever a study has been made of the world position, it has been done today by thinking people, including Australians. Today, Communist China is using its satellites in North Vietnam and in other places. It has publicly stated that its one aim is to gain complete control of the world and that in doing so it is prepared to enter an all out war and incur losses of 3 million to 4 million of its people.
Honorable senators on this side of the chamber believe that we should not allow the various countries fighting Communism throughout the world to fall, one by one, without giving them our assistance. If we do not help the South Vietnamese defend themselves against the infiltration of the Vietcong from Communist North Vietnam, South Vietnam will be overrun and we will quickly see the Communists gain control of the whole of the landed area of South East Asia, including Thailand and Cambodia. When that result is achieved, probably the Communists will help Indonesia to crush Malaysia. The next step will be for the Indonesians to cross the West Irian border and possibly fight our own people in East New Guinea. As the aims of the Communists are a matter of record, it is our duty as a nation to heed the request of the Government of South Vietnam for assistance. As a result of that request the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) last Thursday evening at 8 o’clock made the important statement which was repeated in the Senate last Tuesday. In his statement, the Prime Minister points out that the Government has pursued its policy of help to South East Asia for some time. We have made financial gifts to assist the development of South Vietnam. That development will not be completed if we do not come to the assistance of South Vietnam. North Vietnam, through the assistance of Communist China, will gain complete control of South Vietnam. .
In his speech today, the Minister for Defence (Senator Paltridge) covered the problems and the developments of Communist China. According to the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator McKenna) Communist China is reputed not to have a lot of equipment. Yet it was able to equip 100,000 troops to cross the border of India; it was able to equip large numbers of troops to defeat Tibet. So we have a picture of what the Communist movement is doing in Asia. We, as a Government, are anxious to stop aggression and infiltration by the North Vietnamese. We learn that America at this moment has in the vicinity of 30,000 troops in South Vietnam in an endeavour to stop the aggression by the North Vietnam Government against South Vietnam.
We look with horror at the terrible time that the whole of South East Asia has gone through in the past 20 years. Looking at history we see that Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia were the three countries that formed Indo China. Over 100 years ago the French established missionaries in the area. They did not quite follow the pattern that was set up by the Spaniards and the Portuguese in the 16th century, who went in there principally for commercial reasons. The French interest was more or less on political grounds and of the 30 million Vietnamese - about 14 million in the south and 16 million in the north - the missionaries were able to recruit about 2 million Catholics. When the missionaries were attacked, the French Government sent in troops to protect them. About 50 or 60 years ago there were skirmishes between the French and the lndo Chinese and many Frenchmen who were endeavouring to protect their missionaries were killed. On one occasion in the bay at Saigon, eight French warships were tied up adjacent to 12 Chinese warships. On instructions from the French the 12 Chinese warships were sunk. During the Second World War the Japanese, prior to their defeat, took control of these areas. After 1945 turmoil existed until 1954, when the Geneva Agreement was signed. Between 1 946 and 1 954 the rise of the Vietminh, the Communist guerrillas in Vietnam, created havoc and confusion. They fought the French wherever they could. In 1950, to the best of my knowledge, Mao Tse-tung sent down to the headquarters of Ho Chi Minh a number of people to educate Ho Chi Minh and his followers in the guerrilla warfare methods that the Chinese had used. These forces grew in strength and finally defeated the French regime.
Under the 1954 Geneva Agreement both sides agreed that the Communists would take control of Vietnam above the 17th parallel and that the Vietnamese living south of that parallel would be controlled by a democratic system. The North Vietnamese ruled their country with a rod of iron. Revolts occurred in the capital, Hanoi, and bloodshed spread from one end of the country to the other. Complete control of the population was gained. When the Geneva Agreement was signed, about 60,000 South Vietnamese who belonged to the Communist Party, or Vietcong, went north to North Vietnam to remain under its rule. I do not know that the number was 60,000, but I have that figure at the back of my mind and I am subject to correction in that respect. There they were taught by the North Vietnamese the methods of guerrilla warfare that had been passed on by Mao Tse-tung. They have gradually infiltrated south, creating havoc and disaster in the villages of South Vietnam, making government there difficult and even shooting some members of the South Vietnam democratic government. We have seen aggression and infiltration in this area, but despite this in the 10 years since the Geneva Agreement was signed there has been an increase in the national productivity; and I believe that if the Communist infiltrators are withdrawn South Vietnam can go on to become a prosperous country.
The Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna), opening the debate on behalf of the Opposition, made one or two statements that I should like to answer. If I understood him correctly, he said that Labour urged that the parties be asked to meet at the conference table and that the United Nations should be approached to intervene. First, I want to talk about getting the parties concerned to the conference table. This, of course, is the aim of the Western powers. This, of course, is the aim of the Australian Government. But if you want to have a conference of the parties concerned you must, if you can, entice the North Vietnamese leader, Ho Chi Minh, to the conference table. Have we not heard that on 7th April this year President Johnson put forward the proposition that the American Government would make available to the countries concerned, without any strings attached, the sum of 1,000 million dollars provided they would attend a conference and settle their disputes?
– That is right, peacefully. No sooner was the offer made than a reply was received from Hanoi and Peking to the effect that they would not have a bar of it. They said: “ If you want to come to terms with us, you must first remove your troops from Vietnam “. If I remember correctly, a similar position arose in Laos between 1960 and 1962 when the warring factions agreed that they would set up a neutral government immediately provided the Communist commanders in Laos, and the United States, removed their troops. What did we find? The Americans withdrew completely from Laos and within three months the Communists attacked again.
We want to find out, and find out to our own satisfaction, who are the aggressors in this situation. One would think that the Americans were the aggressors from what we have heard from Opposition members. It is clear in my mind, from the statements that have been made by President Johnson and by others speaking on his behalf, that provided an effective solution can be found in South Vietnam whereby a democratic government can be elected and allowed to control its own affairs, whereby North Vietnam will agree not to send its people south along the Ho Chi Minh trail and infiltrate them into South Vietnam to upset the Government of that country, then we can expect peace. But the aggressors are the North Vietnamese. It is agreed that every year thousands of infiltrators, trained in the arts of sabotage and guerrilla warfare, are sent by North Vietnam into South Vietnam to cause havoc among the South Vietnamese people. This is tragic. I believe that the Australian Government’s move in sending 800 troops to fortify the 100 specialists we already have in South Vietnam training the South Vietnamese soldiers, is a move to help the Americans gain what they require - a peaceful settlement.
Since the Americans decided to bomb supply lines, and bases in North Vietnam where military equipment is manufactured and stored, many people have raised their hands in horror and have said that neither America nor any Western power should attack. In other words, they say that we should just sit there to be shot at. According to their argument, we should endeavour to stop the North Vietnamese infiltrating into South Vietnam by guarding, if we can, the whole of the frontier. This cannot be done. When these infiltrators are captured they are found to be equipped with modern weapons and the machinery of war. They use the equipment to blast fear into the hearts and minds of the South Vietnamese people so that they can gain their objective. What is the objective that they hope to achieve? They hope to achieve, in this instance, complete control of the whole of Vietnam. They hope to place the whole country under the control of North Vietnam which, of course, is a satellite of Peking.
We, as a Government, have said: “ Thank goodness we have an America which is prepared to help these under developed nations protect themselves in their hour of peril “. If America had not stepped in and occupied itself in an endeavour to prevent
South Vietnam becoming Communist, South Vietnam would have been a Communist country by now. I want to say - this affects every person in Australia - that if we are not prepared to fight Communism where we see it rear its head, in a very few years we will be fighting Communism in this country.
– The honorable senator may say “ oh “. Let me tell him that I have no doubt that the Communists have prepared a plan to conquer the whole of South East Asia, and for this purpose Australia is included in South East Asia.
– The richest jewel.
– The richest jewel that they can get in South East Asia is the country in which we are living. If we can help the Americans stem the flow of Communism from coming further south, we will be playing our part in this sphere. If we and the Americans are successful in helping the South Vietnamese to restore the conditions of the Geneva Agreement of 1954 so that a democratically elected government can control South Vietnam and prevent the onrush of the Communists, the Communist programme in this area will be put back at least 20 to 25 years. This is what we are fighting for at the present time.
Mr. President, we saw the great help that was given to us in the dark days of the last world war when America, after Pearl Harbour, came to our assistance. We remember very well that the British battleships “ Repulse “ and “ Prince of Wales “ were sunk overnight off the coast of Malaya. We knew that we could expect very little help from the British because they were occupied fully in Europe and the Middle East. The Americans said, in response to a request by the Australian Government: “ We will come to your assistance and help you “. Within a period of a few months there were approximately 1 million American troops on Australian soil. They had come to help us. The Americans are helping the free world at the present time through their endeavours to protect the South Vietnamese. I believe that the Australian Government is doing the correct thing in sending a token force of a battalion of 800 men to fulfil its obligations in this very important region.
– In the last few minutes we have been privileged to listen to some of the most alarming nonsense that has been stated in the Senate. Senator Scott said that we must be prepared to fight Communism wherever it rears its head.
– Yes, I said that.
– He acknowledges that that is what he said. What does that mean? If we look at the world today we find that there are many Communist countries including Russia and China. What he said boils down to this: That forthwith we should be fighting those countries. The honorable senator is silent now, but he made that statement notwithstanding the fact that the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Paltridge) today spoke of how this country went to war in 1914 and 1939 to fight for freedom and against aggression. Of course, in 1914 it went to war with Russia, and in 1939 it went to war with U.S.S.R., a Communist country, which was an ally of Australia in its battle against the Japanese whom’ the honorable senator mentioned.
This shows that the scene in world politics changes from day to day. After the 1890’s, again after the First World War, and yet again after the Second World War, the people of the world tried to achieve some kind of sanity in international relations, which would mean that the type of thinking advanced by the honorable senator would not obtain further in the world to perpetuate the bloodshed which has been occasioned by the stupidity of mankind throughout the ages. We have made an attempt - I hope it will be a successful attempt - to have a workable international organisation through the United Nations. If we fail, we fail, but we are trying, and for the sake of humanity I hope that we will succeed.
The issue which we are debating this evening is whether we approve of the sending of 800 Australian troops to Vietnam. The Australian Labour Party represents about half the people of Australia. We are unanimous in our disapproval of this action. We want the whole of the world to know that we, as representatives of the Australian people, consider that the action is not in the interests of Australia, that it is not in the interests of Vietnam and that it is not in the interests of the world. The people of India, Pakistan, Canada and other nations, which are close to us in their ideas, have expressed through their representatives disapproval of the extension of the war in Vietnam, and so they should. The war and participation in it is inconsistent with the United Nations Charter.
Why was the United Nations established? lt was established to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind; to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and all nations large and small; to establish conditions under which justice and respect for the obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law can be maintained; and to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom. It was established also to promote tolerance so that people could live in peace with one another and as good neighbours; to unite our strength to maintain international peace and security; to ensure by the acceptance of principles and the institution of methods that armed force shall not be used save in the common interest; and to employ international machinery for the promotion of the economic and social advancement of all people.
We, as a nation, along with most of the nations of the world, pledged ourselves to accept these principles and to act upon them. But we are not acting upon them. The purposes of the United Nations were and are to maintain international peace and security; to take effective collective measures for the prevention and removal of threats to peace; and to suppress aggression. What are we doing? Are we taking collective action through the institution which we, along with other nations, participated in establishing? We are not. We are engaging in a military adventure. We are not engaging in collective action through the United Nations. We are not carrying out our obligations as we should carry them out. What hope has a small nation like Australia at the present stage of its development unless it uses international machinery for the suppression of wars and threats to peace?
– What hope has ii of persuading the United Nations to act?
– The honorable -senator has interrupted and has said, in effect, that the United Nations fails to act. We have not asked it to act. We participated in the establishment of this institution, which is the hope of mankind and especially of countries like ours. The machinery of the United Nations ought to be invoked by nations such as ours. We must attempt to have collective measures used to suppress any form of aggression or threat to peace in places such as South Vietnam. There will be another South Vietnam tomorrow. There will be other places all over the world, whether the Dominican Republic, parts of South America or Africa. We are going to have threats to peace as we have had over thousands of years and the nations on each side are going to say: “ We are right. It is the others who are the aggressors, lt is the Communists, it is the Reds, the Blues, the Greens or the Yellows.” It is always the other man who is wrong and we who are absolutely right. Maybe we are right in this instance. What we need to have is effective international machinery to preserve peace. We must not take any action which would detract from that machinery, and we ought to take action to bring it into effect.
The United Nations does have machinery which can be invoked. We have failed to take action to invoke it. There are others who ought to have taken action to invoke it. If there is any guilty man in this world in this instance it is the Secretary-General of the United Nations. I think he must bear some measure of the guilt. In my opinion he has been extremely weak. He is the chief administrative officer of the United Nations and he ought to have done more than he has. He has spoken about the nations involved in this conflict coming together. He has pleaded with them to come together but he has not taken effective action to bring them together. He ought to do this. He ought, on his own initiative, to summon a conference. It is true that he cannot compel them to come but he can say that if they do not come they will be judged by humanity for their failure to do so. The United States of America would then be given the opportunity of extracting itself from a position which it obviously wants to get out of.
Why should we, the Senate of Australia, be seeking to extend a conflict in South Vietnam when our brother senators in the
United States are pointing out, day after day, to their own Government that the extension of the war in South Vietnam is wrong and opposed not only to the interests of the world but to the interests of the United States? Honorable senators know that senators such as Wayne Morse of the United States are opposed to the course of action which means an extension of the war in South Vietnam. Honorable senators know that Senator Michael Mansfield of the United States is opposed to it. Michael Mansfield was one of the signatories to the treaty mentioned here today, the South East Asia Collective Defence Treaty. He is one of the men who signed the treaty on behalf of the United States. He has indicated that what is happening in South Vietnam is wrong, if honorable senators look at the treaty they will see that it requires the parties to observe the principles of the United Nations and to act in accordance with the United Nations Charter. Australia is pursuing the wrong course.
– Is the honorable senator suggesting that we should just allow the Vietcong to walk in?
– The honorable senator suggests nonsense. What are we to achieve by our present course of action? The military solution was tried in Vietnam by France and it failed. It has been tried for many years by the United States and it has failed. If honorable senators examine the matter they will recognise that the military solution must fail if it is continued, and if we participate in it we will be parties to that failure. We ought not to be pursuing this course of failure. We ought to be helping our friend, the United States, to achieve the proper solution in South Vietnam. It is not a military solution. Senator Paltridge said tonight that there are other nations in South East Asia which are awaiting the same fate as South Vietnam. Surely that ought to make the Senate pause. What is being done about those places? We know that the troubles in South Vietnam are a legacy of history. We know that land reform, democracy and the equalisation of wealth are called for. I do not know a great deal about Thailand but I do know that until recently, and almost certainly up to the present time, there existed in that country a dictatorship; that it does not have the necessary land reform; that it does not have the necessary equalisation of wealth. What are we doing, and what are we inducing our great friend the United States to do, to correct these things before we have more threats to peace? Let us turn to what needs to be done in the world. Let us solve the problems before we allow a situation to develop where people revolt and seek some other solution.
– That is why America is in South Vietnam. She is there for that very reason.
– The honorable senator says that that is why the United States is in South Vietnam. Has the United States invited Australia to go to South Vietnam? I have carefully listened to what has been said here and elsewhere and no person has said on behalf of the Government that the United States invited Australia to send troops to South Vietnam. No person has said that the Council of S.E.A.T.O. has done so and that that action has been taken in accordance with the treaty. It has been vaguely mentioned that in some way we are operating under S.E.A.T.O. In what way? When has action been taken under that treaty? It is incumbent on this Government, if it brings Australia into war - and at the moment we are at war with North Vietnam - to explain to the people of Australia in what way we became at war.
This is a most curious situation, Mr. President. Here we are, in 1965, going into an undeclared war. In 1939 when Great Britain went to war and the Prime Minister of Australia, Mr. Menzies as he then was, said that because Great Britain was at war Australia was automatically at war. Later, when Mr. Curtin became Prime Minister following a change of government, Australia, before it entered the war against the Japanese, convened its Parliament and decided to go to war against the Japanese. Here in 1965 we have entered an undeclared war against another nation. Under what circumstances? Was Parliament consulted prior to that decision? Was the Ministry consulted prior to that decision? We know that Parliament was not consulted. We know from the words spoken by Senator Gorton, a member of the Ministry and a member of the Executive Council, that he did not know about the decision. What stage of affairs have we reached in Australia when this Commonwealth can be brought into a war without prior consultation with Parliament and without prior consultation with the Ministry itself? The Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) has said that we have gone to war because we have been invited to do so by South Vietnam. By South Vietnam! By a government which is not elected by the people of South Vietnam, but appointed by a military clique. There has been a succession of governments in South Vietnam.
– There have been 10 governments.
- Senator Turnbull informs me that there have been 10 governments in that country. Most of those changes of government occurred during a period when it is said that the Australian Government was increasing its military aid to South Vietnam. We know that our Government has said that there has been no change in what Australia is doing. The Government says: “ We committed ourselves two or three years ago to what we are doing today. We started sending people there - military instructors and advisers - and this is not a qualitative change. It is a quantitative change. Today we are sending a battalion of troops whereas before we sent advisers, instructors and so forth.” Gentlemen of the Senate, that is not a true statement of the position. You know from your reading that, in the early stages, the United States of America was sending persons called instructors or advisers to South Vietnam because it had undertaken not to send military forces there. We were acting similarly. The pretence for a long time - it has been exploded by United States Senators - was that there were no military forces at all in Vietnam on behalf of the United States of America, and similarly that there were none there on behalf of Australia. That pretence has now been abandoned and we are sending military forces to Vietnam. We have engaged in an undeclared war. We are apparently not prepared to face the world and say that we are engaging in war and are prepared to declare war. Why? Because this would be a shocking breach of our duty to the United Nations. There is no escape from our paramount loyalty and paramount attachment. We have joined the United Nations and we are obliged to carry out its Charter. Whatever difficulties there may be and whatever defects there may be in the
Charter or in the United Nations Organisation itself that Organisation is the hope of mankind and we must adhere to it. 1 must correct what was said about the statement of the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna). He said not only that there was civil war in Vietnam but also that there was aggression from the north. Whatever are the rights or wrongs in Vietnam or in other parts of the world, the only true course for the Australian people to follow is to invoke the United Nations Charter, to invoke regional arrangements made under that Charter, and to act so that we will gain the respect of the world. How can we face the other nations of Asia when we show that we are prepared to enter into a conflict that divides them, whenever the United States of America is involved, even though there has been no request from the United States for us to do so? Let us hear no more of the requirements of partnerships or alliances. There has been no request from the United States of America that we enter Vietnam. Why should we do it in this manner, by sending troops? Why should we enter into war in flagrant breach of our duty to the nations of the world under the United Nations Charter? I join in the unanimous view of the Australian Labour Party, representing half the people of Australia, that the action of the Government deserves complete and utter disapproval.
.- In the course of his speech Senator Murphy said one or two things which I want to correct very emphatically. First of all he led us to believe that the United States Senate was most violently opposed to the action of America and Australia in Vietnam. Clearly, that is not true and I deny it emphatically. In case the honorable senator did not hear me I repeat that during his speech he made a statement that is clearly and unmistakably not true.
– What is that?
– If the honorable senator had been listening I would not have to repeat what I said. I say that he had tried to mislead not only the Senate but also the Australian people by implying that the majority of the United States Senate is opposed to the action of the United States of America and Australia in Vietnam.
– I did not say that.
– That was the inference which everybody would draw from the honorable senator’s statement. One or two United States Senators have disapproved of the action which the American Government has taken, but the overwhelming majority of them stand four square behind the action of the Administration and are now completely in accord with the action of Australia in joining the United States in its operations in Vietnam. Let there be no mistake about that. In a few moments I propose to quote a most distinguished Senator, who is extremely well known throughout the world, on this very matter and, indeed, on the broader and much more dangerous problem of the onward march of Communism in South East Asia. I say here and now that if ever the Australian people had reason to be appreciative of the fact that the proceedings of this Parliament are broadcast, it is at this time, be-> cause until the last two or three days the facts that have been stated from the Government side have never truly seen the light of day in our Press or anywhere else.
The whole of the Australian nation is today watching the onward march of Communism getting closer and closer to our shores until now it is only a matter of a few short hours away. This is vitally important to Australia. Unfortunately for our attitude - perhaps it is fortunate in many ways - during the past few decades when the world has been torn asunder we in Australia have been insulated against a great deal of the degredation of war. The general attitude of many people in Australia has been: “ Yes, this thing happens, but it cannot happen here “. But today we are beginning to see how dangerous this onward movement of Communism is; how it is threatening the future of our country.
– he may be right in this - suggested that there will, in the years ahead, be further examples of aggression. I think his words were: “ We will see Vietnam exploits throughout the whole of this part of the world”. Unfortunately this is true and I am sorry that there is such a division of opinion amongst members of the Opposition. Admittedly the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) when speaking in another place acknowledged that the fighting in Vietnam is in fact Communist aggression, and this was highlighted by the Prime
Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) when he subsequently spoke. But there are many members of the Opposition who are running away from the facts. They will not even acknowledge that Communist aggression is one of the tragic facts of the world today. Consequently I feel it is vital that we should be as well informed on the onward move of Communism as it is possible to be. ] propose to quote tonight from an article which was probably the most impressive 1 have ever read on this subject. The article from which I intend to quote is a condensation of a speech given in Miami at the Governor’s Conference on Cold War Education on 1st December 1964. It is by Senator Thomas J. Dodd who has long been known as an expert on Communism. He is Vice Chairman of the United States Senate Special Sub-Committee on Internal Security, the author of the book “ Freedom and Foreign Policy “ and has had a very distinguished legal career. Indeed, he was chief prosecutor at the Nuremburg trials of the Nazi war criminals. He has had a very colourful and impressive career. The article is introduced under this extract, referring to the Communists -
They may apply the pressure differently at different times and different places, but the pressure is always on - and the goal is always the same: destruction of the free world.
Then Senator Dodd stated -
There are some wishful thinkers who tell us that the Communism of today is not the same as the Communism of yesterday. . . These wellintentioned people are completely cut off from the reality of the world in which they live.
If 1 might digress here, I would say that unfortunately we have in Australia all too many people who are possibly well intentioned but who are completely cut off from the realities of the world in which they live. Unfortunately, there are all too many of these among the Opposition in this Commonwealth Parliament. The article continues -
In his historic speech after the disaster of the Bay of Pigs, President Kennedy offered a classic definition of the cold war: “ It is clearer than ever,” said the President, “that we face a relentless struggle in every corner of the globe that goes far beyond the clash of armies or even nuclear armaments. The armies are there, and in large number. The nuclear armaments are there. But they serve primarily as the shield behind which subversion, infiltration and a host of other tactics steadily advance, picking off vulnerable areas one by one in situations which do not permit our own armed intervention. Power is the hallmark of this offensive - power and discipline and deceit.”
In his speech Senator Dodd went on to give the record of the onward march of Communism. He stated -
In 1956, there was the bloody suppression of the Hungarian Revolution, with a death toll of 25,000 in Budapest alone.
This was something that happened and was all too quickly forgotten by the free world. It did not affect us and so there was the apathy about which I have been complaining. The article continues -
In December 1960, the Soviet Union - not Red China - began an airlift of military equipment and North Vietnamese specialists to the pro-Communist forces in Laos, thus initiating the crisis which threatens to bring this critically important SouthEast Asian country under complete Communist control.
I am quoting from this article because its author is one of the greatest authorities in the world today on Communist aggression. If I said these things on my own account I would say them not as an authority. I am citing this article because there are few greater authorities on the subject in the world than Senator Thomas J. Dodd. Therefore, we should take note of his opinions. He continued -
In three continental areas - Asia, Africa and Latin America - the forces of Communism have confronted the free world with crisis after crisis in such rapid sequence that the facts are perhaps blurred by the sheer pace of events. … In South Vietnam, the Communists have doubled and tripled the scale of their attacks. They have now succeeded in creating a situation that places the survival of South Vietnam in question and jeopardizes all of South-East Asia.
We were told by one of our colleagues so very truly that Australia in the eyes of the aggressor countries is a very vital part of this South East Asian area. Senator Dodd went on later to refer to the events in the Congo. Such shocking things happened there that many people could scarcely read the details about them. In his article, Senator Dodd stated -
I see no evidence of moderation or a peaceful intent in this long and terrible record, which continues right up to this day…..
But what of the Sino-Soviet conflict?”, our wishful thinkers say …” Doesn’t the growing rift impel the Soviet Union to seek an accommodation with the West?”
The differences between Moscow and Peking are, it is true, serious. But my own reading of the situation is that the conflict, instead of producing an abatement, is bound to result in a further intensification of the cold war. Moscow is not opposing Peking’s efforts to bury the free world. It is, rather, competing with Peking to prove that its approach to subversion is more effective, and to take over in critical areas before Peking establishes its own sway. The Kremlin’s open letter to the Chinese Communists, published on July 14, 1963, made this clear: “We fully stand for the destruction of imperialism and capitalism,” It said. “We are doing everything for this to be accomplished as soon as possible.”
The final extract I want to read is this -
This is the picture of the world in which we live. It is not a pleasant picture. But we must face the facts, brutal and unpleasant as they may be. If, in the quest for temporary peace of mind, we bury our heads in the sand and ignore the facts, we are inviting disaster.
There it is. Either we bury our heads in the sand and bring disaster on ourselves or we face up to the situation. Every country has reason to be grateful - as Australia has had reason to be grateful - to the United States for its determination to fight for the protection of the free world in areas where it is not intimately involved. Let us not forget that we are intimately involved now and the fact that the United States is prepared to act as it is doing is perhaps the greatest indication of salvation that we have.
I am deeply shocked to hear anyone who claims to be an Australian saying: “ Yes, this is our war all right. This is our problem. This is our danger. But we want somebody else to fight the war for us “. In fact, that is what the Opposition has been saying today. I repeat that the Leader of the Opposition in another place acknowledged the danger and supported the work that was being done by the United States. Indeed, he was more eulogistic about the United States and her efforts in this theatre of war than he has ever been before. The Labour Party realises that another country is fighting our battle, but it follows a recognition of that fact with a statement that Australians must not participate in the fight but must remain neutral. All [ can say is that that is not an Australian sentiment, and I should be ashamed to think for a moment that it was.
We have heard a lot from the Opposition about the rehabilitation of South Vietnam when the subversive elements are, as I am convinced they will be, subdued. All the possible problems in the world seem to be envisaged by members of the Opposition. Is our memory as short as their comments suggest? Surely honorable senators remember - I do not see how they could forget - that the year 1945 saw a complete transformation in the attitude of the United States to affairs outside her own borders. Since then she has done more to provide economic, military and every other type of aid in all countries that have been in need of it than has been done by any other country throughout the existence of this world. And she is still doing that in many parts of the world.
In 1945 Germany was battered and torn asunder and could see no future for herself. At the conclusion of the Second World War Germany was divided into various zones. The Communists had control of one zone and the United States had control of another. Fourteen years after the partitioning of Germany I had an opportunity 10 see both East Germany and West Germany. Never have I seen such a contrast. The area that was under the domination of the Communists remained almost an area of the dead. The haunted expressions on the faces of all the people presented one of the most depressing sights I have ever seen. When I crossed from the Communist zone to the zone that was under the control of the United States, I felt that I was entering an entirely different world. There I saw progress, health and happiness. That area which, as I said, had been torn asunder, had been rehabilitated to a degree that was almost unbelievable. I envisage that pattern being followed in other parts of the world, particularly in the area to which we are referring in this debate.
The United States has not one thing to gain from her participation in events in South Vietnam. She has entered into the problems of South East Asia at tremendous cost - at the cost of her young men, the most valuable commodity of all, and at tremendous expense in every other way. Her motives have been the very highest. We see in South Vietnam an operation which is more unselfish than any we have seen elsewhere in the world in modern days. I repeat that the United States has nothing to gain. She is expending herself merely to help a downtrodden and mutilated country. In spite of this, she is forced to hear herself abused almost throughout the free world. I have been proud of Australia’s being an ally of the United States in years gone by, but I do not think anybody could be prouder than I am today as I think of our country being associated with a country that is acting so unselfishly as is the United States of America in this particularsphere. Not for one moment could Australia continue to have pride in her own existence if she were not prepared to join in this operation. I believe that no other course was open to Australia.
I want to make one other observation. If ever journalism in Australia has been prostituted, it has happened during the past week. The Press has published statements which have degraded journalism in a way that I hope I shall never see again. Phrases like “ Diggers for Dollars “ have been used. That will be a shame to Australian journalism forever. I hope that the Australian Press will realise that fact and that we do not see any more examples of such shocking journalism. I repeat that I am proud that Australia has taken the action that she has taken in regard to South Vietnam. I should be ashamed if we were to stand by, to remain neutral, and to let another country fight our battles.
– This debate has been really pathetic, particularly as we recall the lamentable statements that have been made and the tedious repetition about the expansion of Communism and the way in which we propose to stop it with 800 men. I pay a tribute to the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Paltridge) for the excellent speech wilh all its pathos, that he delivered today. 1 thought he was very impressive. Indeed, nobody could fail to be impressed by his oratory. I thought he made a grand speech on this occasion. He did not rely upon his eloquence alone but supported his oratory with figures which he submitted to the Senate. In that respect he differed from other speakers in this debate who have simply made statements without naming authorities to back them up. Two exceptions were Senator Morris and Senator Lillico who did have some backing or authority for their statements. However, they referred only to the expansion of Communism, the authorities being a resolution carried at a Communist Party meeting and the statement of a member of the United States Internal Security Committee as to the aims of the Communists.
Nobody has produced proof that a Chinese soldier has been captured while fighting in Vietnam or that there has been heavy infiltration by Communist forces, or by those who support the Communist ideology, into South Vietnam. Senator Paltridge gave some figures - one figure was 50,000 - in relation to personnel, machinery and ammunition captured in Vietnam. As support for those figures he stated that he had seen captured equipment in a museum when he was visiting Vietnam. When he was asked to name his authority, at first he said that he was the authority and then he said that the information came from Vietnam.
While I concede that Senator Paltridge made a brilliant speech, if the correctness of his figures is disproved, he was simply building up a false case, despite his eloquence. He could not substantiate anything he said, as I shall show during the course of my speech. The figures cited by the Minister disagree with those cited in an American White Paper brought out in February of this year, and with the figures cited by Mr. McNamara, the United States Secretary of Defence in his statement last week. Senator Paltridge could not tell us the source of his information and, as I have said, it does not agree with the figures included in American reports and the American White Paper. It is stated in the American White Paper that guns have been captured which were manufactured in other countries but it is not stated that they are of Chinese manufacture. Our Minister states that he saw hundreds of thousands of guns in a museum in Saigon. I do not know whether he was seeing double on that occasion, but the lack of authority for his figures is consistent with the way in which this debate has been conducted by honorable senators opposite. The Government has failed to lay the full facts on the table so that we may consider them.
Honorable senators will remember that last Thursday I asked a question of Senator Gorton, the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Hasluck) in this chamber. I asked whether it was true that 800 Australian combat troops were to be sent to South Vietnam and, if so, was it the result of the visit of the American special envoy, Mr. Cabot Lodge. If not, whose was the responsibility? Immediately I asked the first part of that question Senator Paltridge turned from the table to speak softly to the Minister behind him whose duty it was to answer my question. I do not know what Senator Paltridge said, but I do know that the Minister, who is Leader of the Government in the Senate, turned and engaged Senator Gorton in conversation. This immediately indicated to me that there was no need for the Minister to whom my question was directed to listen to the rest of my question because, for some reason or other, a direct answer would be evaded. Senator Paltridge, with his knowledge of parliamentary procedure, knows that it is wrong to commence a conversation - whether it was about the races or the football I do not know - with a Minister whose duty it is to listen to a question directed to him by an honorable senator so that he may furnish an accurate reply. It became very obvious to me that Senator Paltridge and Senator Gorton did not think it necessary to listen to my question because no attempt would be made to answer it accurately. Senator Gorton replied -
I know nothing of the matter which the honorable senator has raised. In fact. I have not even seen the report to which he referred.
At the very moment he was answering my question, the afternoon editions of the daily Press were coming out in the capital cities bearing headlines on the front page announcing the decision to send 800 troops to South Vietnam. The Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) has said that this was not a sudden decision; that it was made by Cabinet on 7th April. Perhaps, as it was a decision of the Cabinet, not the full Ministry, it was thought that the Minister who represents the Minister for External Affairs in the Senate was not sufficiently trustworthy to be told of it. For that reason, the information may have been withheld from him and his answer to me may have been truthful. However, one would think that the Government would appraise the representatives of Ministers in this chamber with accurate details concerning the departments they represent so that they can impart that information to keep honorable senators fully advised. One would also think that Senator Paltridge, as Leader of the Government in the Senate, would have brought his knowledge as a member of the Cabinet to assist Senator Gorton to advise the Senate of the exact position. I do not know whether he told Senator Gorton how to answer my question, but it seems to me that the Senate should not have been left in doubt. It was evident last Thursday that there was a desire to hide from the Senate information which, incidentally, was announced the previous night over an American radio station. The behaviour of
Senator Paltridge last Thursday is consistent with his endeavours today to rely on his eloquence to carry him through, as the Prime Minister relies upon his glib tongue in another place. The rights of the people to the facts are disregarded.
The paper we are debating tonight tells us that the South Vietnamese Government has requested military aid. We are not even told whether South Vietnam wants our soldiers there. Its Government has asked for additional military aid. If we had been given the full facts, we would know whether we have been requested to supply troops. There is strong evidence that our troops could be an embarrassment in South Vietnam. We are simply told that we are sending troops as additional military aid. If it would have been possible for us to have taken alternative action, we have not been told about it.
The Opposition has not been taken into the confidence of the Government so that we could offer assistance. The information we are given is very far from the truth and is insufficient for the Opposition to determine whether it should support the Government’s proposals. Honorable senators opposite blindly follow the lead that has been given and repeat in parrot fashion that we must stop the expansion of Communist China. No facts are given to support that statement. In order to cover the lack of facts to support its assertions, the Government attempts to establish that our aid to South Vietnam is not an isolated case. The Minister stated -
In addition to Australia and the United States, some 30 other countries are providing assistance or have undertaken to do so in the military or non-military aid fields. This includes assistance from a significant and important group of Asian countries, including the Philippines, Malaysia, Japan, Thailand and the Republic of Korea, who are contributing either economic or military aid.
There we have a statement that one cannot say that we are an isolated country coming to America’s assistance. There are 30 other countries, some of which are named, giving military or non-military aid, that is, military or economic aid. The Minister does not state which countries are giving military assistance. To bolster up this weak case, the Government is linking this country’s assistance to the American excursion into Vietnam with those countries which are trying to benefit South Vietnam by giving economic or non-military assistance. Those countries are linked in order to defend our attitude on this occasion. That is the way the Government approaches this question. The case of the Leader of the Government in the Senate was supported, I submit, by inaccurate figures. No one from- the other side of the chamber can hold out any possibility of a solution to this question other than fighting it out with guns and blasting it out with bullets. Senator Cole has the novel idea that the problem can be solved by cutting off trade with China and banning peace movements. That is his solution, but the others want bullets.
Looking at this question we see that there was a failure on the part of the Government to take us into its confidence. The matter had been decided on 7th April. No security was involved. Troops were not moving and subject to attack. There was only a decision to send troops. Although the matter was decided on 7th April, the decision could not even be entrusted three weeks later to the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs in this chamber. It could not even be disclosed to the responsible Minister. Three weeks later he knew nothing about it. Does it not make one suspicious that there may be something in the report of the statement of the Treasurer (Mr. Harold’ Holt), which was read by Senator Kennelly? Is it any wonder that we hear reference to dollars for bodies, bullion for bodies - an expression that was used, I think, in the other place - and dollars for blood? Is it cause for suspicion that this decision is made right at the time when there is a revolt in the American Senate, members of which are leading a big section of American opinion in favour of withdrawal from Vietnam? At this time we come to the assistance of the American Government, which can say: “ America is not isolated in the fight. Now we cannot withdraw. We have to consider what Australia has done on this question.”
I spoke quite recently on the subject of Vietnam. I endeavoured to deliver a speech that I had thought out. No criticism was made of the argument I advanced, other than by Senator Cormack. The argument was that Communism bred in the social conditions that exist in South East Asia, that its only hope of success was in a period of war and that all advances of Communism had been in periods of war. I said that conditions had been festering in South Vietnam to such an extent that there was a revolt, that we supplied the very munitions that would permit a takeover by Communist forces in Vietnam, and that we would do it in every other country in turn unless we approached the entire question differently. Conditions are getting difficult in the south, so we start bombing the north to try to impede the inflow of arms from the north. As I said in an earlier speech, according to the words of the United States Secretary for Defence, Mr. McNamara, there was no evidence of any great infiltration or inflow of armaments in South Vietnam up to 1963. An American White Paper showed that in 1964 there were only 19,550 confirmed foreign troops in South Vietnam, with an estimated additional 17,550. If the estimate was right, this was a total of 37,100, not 50,000 as an honorable senator opposite told us today, reading from a document which he asked us to swallow and accept as authentic, although he could not disclose the name of the author.
Last week a Washington correspondent of the London “ Times “ interviewed Mr. McNamara to ascertain how the war was going in Vietnam, with our support and the bombing of the north. According to the correspondent, one could only conclude that bombing had encouraged, rather than impeded, the infiltration from the north. He went on -
It is perhaps impertinent to question Mr. McNamara, but as he is the prime source of such information a comparison of official estimates is one of the few means of assessment left to ordinary mortals. The strength of the Vietcong, he said today, was from 38,000 to 46,000 regulars and 100,000 local part time guerrillas. The official White Paper, entitled “Aggression from the North “, published on 28th February, estimated the regular strength at 35,000 and the volunteers at from 60,000 to 80,000. Thus, if one arrives at a mean figure, in less than two months the hard core has been increased by 20 per cent, end the local volunteers by rather more than 40 per cent.
While we can say that there is infiltration from the north by additional troops, it is being supported by local guerrillas. The conflict is becoming more of a civil war than it ever was before the intervention took place. The support of the local inhabitants of Vietnam against the attacks made on them is greater today than it was previously. The report continues -
The Secretary blamed what he called an intelligence lag, but insisted that the Vietcong had been greatly reinforced. No explanation was offered for the increase of South Vietnamese support, although ‘ii picture published in the “New York Times “ today of a terrified peasant woman clutching a baby and Fleeing from American marines as they charged into her hut is perhaps one explanation.
This is the impression that we have of South Vietnam today. The activities of these forces are winning support over to the Vietcong. The report goes on to say -
The bombing was begun to stop interference from Hanoi and a temporary cessation has been rejected because North Vietnam may draw the wrong conclusion. Nevertheless, Mr. McNamara admits, or claims, that the flow of men and weapons has increased. To say the least, the lesson of the bombing of London and Hamburg, which only strengthened the will to resist, has been ignored.
We blow up bridges, we blow up trains, we make it impossible for these means of transport to be used, but the influx of arms into South Vietnam is increasing. Yet we claim that we are making some progress. The article goes on -
The White Paper made much of the sinking of a ship with a cargo capacity of 100 tons, and no subsequent hauls have been announced. The Secretary said today that since 1960 the Vietcong have captured 39,000 weapons from Government troops and lost 25,000. This represents a net gain of some 14,000 weapons, no mean armament for such a small force, and presumably of American manufacture.
There, in Mr. McNamara’s own words, we are told where the arms are coming from. On the basis of the figures contained in the White Paper, the captured weapons represent about 2i per cent, of the imported armaments used by the Vietcong.
If anyone asks the delegation which went to Vietnam last year and visited the Australian instructors who are teaching the South Vietnamese, he will be told that the main trouble is that for every 1,000 men to whom the instructors teach the art of warfare, only 500 ever fight for South Vietnam. The rest are gone. It could well be that our instructors in South Vietnam are training members of the Vietcong because there is no guarantee that the local inhabitants will fight for the Government of South Vietnam. If that information is authentic, we could withdraw those 100 Australian instructors tomorrow without doing a disservice to the cause in South Vietnam because we are training as many soldiers for the Vietcong as we are for the Government of South Vietnam. The article then goes on to say -
The White Paper insisted that the war was not a spontaneous and local rebellion but an undisguised attack from the north. Today the Secretary said that the Vietcong has lost 89,000 men in the past four and a half years.
If the latest estimate of Vietcong strength is accepted, it represents a casualty ratio of about 200 per cent. This sombre picture must surely suggest that the struggle is essentially a civil war in spite of the help that comes from the north.
This high casualty ratio suggests that even if as has been claimed, a battalion of North Vietnamese regular soldiers is engaged in South Vietnam, this is insignificant when compared with the number engaged in the conflict. The report continues in these terms -
At present only one North Vietnamese unit has been identified, the 2nd Battalion, 101st Regiment, 325th Division. The Secretary thought that it numbered about 500 men. The remainder, whether they came from the north or south, were presumably volunteers
That is the position in Vietnam today. Everything points to the fact that the harder we fight this war the quicker we are losing the battle.
In my earlier speech I said to the Senate that this side of the House was as much concerned as the Government side in stopping the expansion of Communism. But we ask the Government to face up to the realities. The Allies lost Russia to Communism during the First World War; the Allies lost China to Communism during the Second World War. Today we are losing Vietnam and we will lose not only Laos, Thailand and some other countries, but the whole of South East Asia. The threat of Communism which we fear on our front doorstep will become a real threat if Communism fights ils way successfully against Australian troops to the northern shores of Australia. We must try to stop the march of Communism by means other than sending troops to Vietnam.
Peter Smart, a reporter for the “Australian “ and the Adelaide “ News “ had an article in the 30th April 1965 issue of the Adelaide “News” under a Canberra date line relating to the proposal to send 800 Australian troops to Vietnam. He wrote -
But they are now going to a different sort of war - a war of flitting shadows and sudden, shrill violence.
It is a war of cruelty and torture, of betrayal and subversion, with death in every rice field and jungle valley.
They will have casualties, heavy casualties.
The Australian public will have to prepare for a heavy death roll and frequent grim news.
At this time, despite the ominous lull in the fighting in South Vietnam the death toll in that unhappy and war weary country is about 2,500 a month.
That is the country to which we are sending our troops. Everything points to the fact that we are sending them to assist the very cause that we hope to stem and stop.
Time will not permit me to go further into this matter but I point out that there is a complete answer to the question of the expansion of Communist China. Let me state briefly that if Communism is to take over areas of South East Asia, there must be first the conditions on which revolt thrives. A liberation movement aided by the supporters of an international ideology must involve warfare and this often enables Communism to take over control of a country even though the people are not prepared to accept it. In the developing Asian countries there will be a system of government which is different from that in other countres. It would be a form of Communism but it would differ from country to country. When the Communists change the form of government in a country they claim it is for the purpose of developing the land to the utmost to permit a more equitable distribution of wealth which is so essential for the livelihood of the inhabitants of that country.
Are we opposed to that? Is it anything to do with us if these countries seek another form of government? We are ensuring that governments are changed only with the backing of what we term a world wide imperialist power which seeks world domination. This will result in setting up a number of governments which owe allegiance to the ideology that we are afraid of today. We will have a friend in none of them. We are doing this in company with America which has made a mistake. There is an uprising of American opinion which wants to withdraw from this unholy war in Vietnam. To appease the United States Government, and contrary to the popular feeling of the American people, we are preparing to sacrifice the lives of our sons in the hope that we will obtain consideration in commercial transactions with that country.
– I wish to make a personal explanation. At the beginning of his speech Senator Cavanagh claimed that last Thursday when he asked a question of me concerning the despatch of troops to Vietnam the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Paltridge) turned to me and said something and, as a result of this, I gave to Senator Cavanagh the answer that I gave. From this he drew various conclusions in the course of his speech. It may be a minor matter against the background of the subject that we are discussing, but since it is a part of the record, I should like to put it straight. On Thursday when Senator Cavanagh asked me a question the Leader of the Government in the Senate did not turn to me. He did not say anything at all to me or to any other honorable senator on this side of the chamber. The answer that I gave to the question asked by Senator Cavanagh was an accurate answer. It was in no way influenced by anything that was said by the Leader of the Government in the Senate because, in fact, he said nothing.
– I wish to make a personal explanation. It arises from the same reference in Senator Cavanagh’s speech. It is completely untrue to say that I said anything whatever to Senator Gorton immediately after the question was asked by Senator Cavanagh. It is completely wrong to try to create the impression which Senator Cavanagh has tried to create twice today. There was no conversation at all between myself and Senator Gorton on the occasion referred to.
– I desire to intervene in this debate because there has been a good deal of wrong information given to the Senate by honorable senators opposite. I consider that I should first enlighten the Senate regarding the background to the decision of Australia to send 800 troops to South Vietnam. The Geneva Agreements, to which reference has been made in the Senate from time to time, were negotiated in 1954. They were designed to bring to an end nearly eight years of war in what was known as French Indo-China and in the surrounding areas.
The desire of the negotiators of these Agreements was to provide a basis for a political settlement in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. The Agreements provided for the settlement of political problems in Vietnam on the basis of respect for the principles of independence, unity, territorial integrity and fundamental democratic freedoms. The International Control Commission, to which reference has been made this afternoon, consisting of representatives from India, Canada and Poland, was to control and supervise the provisions of the Geneva Agreements. It is well known that the Governments of the United States of America and Vietnam did not subscribe to the final declaration but made separate statements indicating that they would not use force to prevent the execution of the Agreements.
The United States declared that it would view any renewal of aggression in violation of the Agreements with grave concern and as seriously threatening international peace and security. Our own Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) who was then, of course, Mr. Menzies, cautioned us against thinking that the armistice which accompanied these Agreements meant that Communist aggression could be forgotton or that defence preparations which had been rendered necessary by such aggression could be abandoned. After citing the Agreements he pointed out that Australian security depended on turning a temporary halt into a permanent one. This is what I want to underscore in my remarks. He said that the Government of Australia would view aggression in voilation of the Indo-China settlement as a threat to international peace and security. That is the lead in to the action of the Government in proposing to send 800 troops to South Vietnam.
During the course of the debate several members of the Opposition stated that the situation in Vietnam is a mere civil war. As I see it, and as has been pointed out by honorable senators on the Government side, it is far more than a civil war. To use the words of the Prime Minister in the statement which he read in another place last Thursday, and which was read here yesterday, this is “ part of a thrust by Communist China between the Indian and Pacific Oceans “. I want to address to the Senate some remarks on this thrust. They are based upon observations which I made as a result of a number of discussions with people who did know and who should know of the conditions in those areas.
In Burma there is at the present time, and there was 18 months ago when I was there, an awareness of the actions of Communist China in relation to Burma. Although possessing an awareness of the actions of Communist China, at that point of time the Burmese authorities did not regard them as being inimical to their own security because they had recently negotiated with China an agreement concerning the northern border of Burma. I considered that they were rather optimistic in regarding the situation as satisfactory. People close to the Australian Embassy, including service personnel, were of the opinion that the northern borders of Burma were not inviolable at all but could at any moment be overrun by Communist China.
Further south there were areas in which two branches of the Communists were operating. They were the White Flag Communists and the Red Communists. When I and my colleagues were there these Communists were in Rangoon endeavouring to come to some accord with the Government of Burma. I mention these matters to show that there was a real fear in Burma of the southerly move of the Communists from China. The idea was that the Communists, whether they were soldiers or infiltrators, would move south by the fairly easy method of movement in Burma, that is, by water down the Irrawaddy River. After a good deal of fighting with the regular soldiers of Burma, the Communists would be able to take the port of Rangoon and use it as a jumping off place for Africa.
As honorable senators may have read recently, there has been considerable activity by the Communist Chinese in the continent of Africa. There are 20 or 30 points in Africa where they have tried to gain influence. In particular, in Zanzibar they have been rather successful in getting their philosophy across and in causing major trouble in this newly born part of our Commonwealth. Tanzania, as honorable senators know that is the new name of the country brought about by the amalgamation of Tanganyika and Zanzibar. The Communist influence there was particularly strong within a week of the inauguration of this new State of our Commonwealth. A strong group of Chinese Communists appeared and caused a good deal of trouble at that time. British forces were called upon - and it was right that they should have been - by the Tanzanian Government to help restore order.
I think 1 have traced right from Communist China across into Africa and shown that there is a chain of command as it were, which would use the terrain afforded by a country like Burma. I was reminded by the Minister for Defence (Senator Paltridge), when he made his excellent speech this afternoon, of the problems on the border of India with Communist China and what happened there some time ago. In October 1962, as honorable senators will remember, the Chinese launched simultaneous attacks against India from Tibet in the region of Ladakh part of Kashmir and the North-East Frontier Agency of India. These attacks were well prepared and caught the Indian forces guarding the frontier by surprise. Up to 100,000 Communist Chinese troops were involved in these operations against India.
Recent history has proved that the Chinese are on the march. They have taken considerable areas of India and are there at this present time, although they have retreated a little from the forward positions that they were able to take. I understand that the Indian Government takes this threat very seriously and is actively building up its forces in the border area in order to meet it. What is important to us is that this Government has given military aid to India in order to build up forces to resist this aggression. I know that in a recent speech Senator Cavanagh deplored the fact that the Australian Government was giving this aid. I know that he spoke virtually on a brief from Pakistan but he really tore into the Government’s decision to give this aid. I only mention that matter tonight in order to prove that India is definitely being threatened by Communist China and further aggression could take place.
I now turn to the rather remarkable country of Thailand. There the pattern has already taken hold. I recently spoke to an Australian with whom I served during the last war. This man recently visited Thailand and he said that on the new feeder roads, which the Australian Government is building, near an inland town by the name of Khon Kaen there have actually been hold-ups of cars. He said that drivers will not leave Khon Kaen later than 3 o’clock in the afternoon for fear of being held up by infiltrating Communists from Laos. Chinese Communists are infiltrating over the border with Thailand, holding up motor vehicles, ripping them to bits, taking the tyres, and doing that sort of thing, and generally affecting communications in that part of the world where the Australian Government, with the best of will and under the South-East Asia Collective Defence Treaty, has been giving aid to the tune of over a million pounds. I actually saw this work when I was in the country. Australia is supplying aid in the form of heavy earth moving equipment and providing wages and living expenses of engineers from the Snowy Mountains Hydroelectric Authority to help in the development of feeder roads in that area of north-east Thailand. Chinese Communists have infiltrated this area. Let us hope that this is not the advance exercise of the move that is going on in South Vietnam at the moment - the infiltration of Chinese Communists followed up with support by regular army formations.
The Prime Minister of Singapore, Mr. Lee Kwan Yew, recently visited Australia. I was present when he discussed some questions dealing with Communist China. He said he feared the possibility of the Communist Chinese taking over certain facilities in Singapore. He is a resolute little man and he said that his Government was on the alert for this. The point I wish to make is that this is happening, even way down in Singapore.
Let us pass to the question of Malaysia. In Kuala Lumpur there is a very strong security department which is a department of state. In discussions with people charged with the responsibility of keeping security there I got the impression that they feared the infiltration of Chinese Communists in northern areas of Malaysia, an area where mainly rural occupations are carried on and where there is a good deal of jungle and difficult country. But those people are on the lookout for infiltration at this time. A plan is being followed by the Chinese Communists right through Asia whether it is India, where there has been military aggression; whether it is Burma, where there has been some military aggression with a temporary boundary truce; whether it is in Thailand, where hold-ups are occurring on important roads some miles in from Khon Kaen; or whether it is in Malaysia. There is infiltration in all these areas and I suggest it is an extension of the pattern of infiltration and warfare that we are discussing tonight and against which Australia is committing 800 of its sons, following a decision of this Government. From my observations and discussions, I believe that none of this infiltration is connected with any civil war as suggested by the Opposition tonight. There is no civil war in Thailand. The Thai people are a peaceful agricultural peasant group. Over the years they have relied on the large inflow of water down the rivers, at the appropriate season, over the tremendous flat plains of north-east Thailand. This abundance of water enables excellent crops of rice to be grown and, when the water recedes the crop is harvested.
The Thais are a peaceful folk and there is no civil war in that country. Why, then, are the Communist Chinese infiltrating Thailand? They are doing it because of their expansionist plans. The Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator McKenna) said earlier today that China has no ships. He said, virtually with a wave of his hand, that China had not the means to be an aggressor nation. But the Chinese are carrying out their aggression in a more subtle way. They are carrying it out in the way in which they have been used to communicating with other parts of the world for many years - overland and down the rivers. The Mekong is an enormous river which flows through six or seven countries in that part of Asia and it is the avenue of approach towards South Vietnam which the Chinese are using. I was at Saigon 18 months ago - only at the airport, I admit - and I understood from discussions I had there with important Australian personnel with the instructing forces, that the infiltration of the Chinese Communists from North Vietnam down the Mekong River was one of the great problems being experienced. Saigon lies on one of the branches of the delta of the Mekong River and Communist infiltration is going on both overland and down that river.
If the Communists are not stopped in their tracks we can, in the course of a short time, say good-bye to Malaysia and then, with the whole of South East Asia virtually gone and with Burma and Thailand isolated, the position of Australia will become very serious, because by that time the Communists in Indonesia - the P.K.I. - could well be supreme and with the quick transport that Indonesia could provide, the Indonesian Communists, supported and encouraged by the Chinese - assuming that they move down this way - could offer a threat on the common land border of Australia with Indonesia in Papua and New Guinea, only a few hundred miles from north Queensland. I therefore suggest that the war in Vietnam is not a mere civil war, as the Australian Labour Party seems to be asserting; it is real aggression.
The Labour Party is trying to belittle the value of the force we are to send to South Vietnam. Senator Kennelly talked in terms of half a million men already being engaged in the war there. But it is not so much a matter of the numerical extent of our forces as of their excellence. They are magnificently trained men, experienced in jungle warfare and many of them have already had experience in hunting out terrorists in Malaysia. As I understand the situation, these men will be given jobs of great importance such as guarding some of the air fields at which the United States has millions of dollars worth of aircraft, helicopters and equipment ready to send into isolated parts of the jungle in surrounding areas. It looks as though the military task of the Australian troops will be to add to the security of these areas by guarding the air ports and operating along the trails into areas where the enemy is hidden. Therefore I put it strongly to the Senate that the Australian force, though only 800 strong, will be of importance far greater than its numbers would signify.
I come now to the question of the moral value of our commitment of that force in the general arrangement that we have with the United States. As is well known, we have a number of pacts, treaties and arrangements with the United States. One pact that I call to mind is the A.N.Z.U.S. Pact, a mutual protection pact, between the United States, Australia and New Zealand. From the standpoint of sheer necessity it is absolutely essential that we abide by that pact and do what is required of us under it. That pact is not actively in force at the present time, but it is an arrangement that we have with the United States and which could be brought into force if and when any of our territory was attacked. It is a pact which shows our willingness and desire to have a military arrangement with the United States and New Zealand. But I want to refer particularly to the South East Asia Treaty Organisation. South Vietnam is a protocol area of S.E.A.T.O. It is a protocol area because the whole question of subversion was discussed and debated about ten years ago at the instance of our then Minister for External Affairs, Mr. Casey, who was behind the charging of S.E.A.T.O. with the responsibility to preserve the integrity of countries other than the actual S.E.A.T.O. countries - countries in the area which could become subject to Communist domination and Communist infiltration. South Vietnam is brought into our sphere of responsibility mainly through its being a protocol State of S.E.A.T.O. Australia is legally obliged to come to the aid of countries such as South Vietnam.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin). - Order! In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 11 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 5 May 1965, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1965/19650505_senate_25_s28/>.