25th Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMuIlin) took the chair at 1 1 a.m., and read prayers.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration. Can the Minister give any information to the Senate about the breakdown in discussions between the Italian Government and the Australian Government regarding Italian migration to Australia? Can the Minister also give the Senate information about the difficulties experienced by the Government with the P. & O. line and other shipping lines regarding the transport of British immigrants to Australia?
– My colleague the Minister for Immigration has been having discussions in the past few days with the Italian authorities in respect of future migration from that country. However it is yet too soon to give any adequate picture of the results of these discussions. As to the second part of the honorable senator’s question, any changes in arrangements with the P. & O. line will not affect migration from Great Britain to Australia, lt is a fact that half of the total of British assisted migrants are currently brought by air to this country and this movement will continue through 1965-66. There have been recent negotiations with the P. & O. line and other shipping lines for the movement of British assisted migrants who will travel by sea from 1st July this year to 30th June 1966. Contracts have been secured for sufficient berths for this period. It has been arranged with the P. & O. line that it may offer berths from time to time to the Commonwealth which may be accepted if they are required.
Senator PALTRIDGE__ The honorable senator will appreciate that it may be some months before the Housing Loans Insurance
Corporation will be ready to begin operations. The legislation to establish the Corporation has only very recently been approved by the Parliament. The next step will be the formation of the Corporation and the nomination of its members. The Corporation, of course, has to consider many matters of policy and formulate operating criteria. One of the matters to be considered will be the classes of insurable loans which must be prescribed by regulation. I understand that existing dwellings will almost certainly be included in the classes of loans capable of being insured.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for the Army. Will he ask his colleague to obtain a copy of an Indonesian school atlas which is reported to be available at an Army camp at Wewak? Will he have it placed in the Parliamentary Library? Does the Minister know that this atlas is reported to show Papua and New Guinea as East Irian, Australia as South Irian and New Zealand South East Irian?
– I read in the Press this morning of the supposed existence of the atlas to which the honorable senator has referred. I also noted a statement in the Press that no such atlas existed. I will refer the honorable senator’s question to the Minister for the Army to ascertain whether there is any evidence of the existence of such an atlas.
– My question is addressed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. In view of the fact that four weeks annual leave is enjoyed by State public servants in New South Wales, can the Minister state when the Commonwealth Government intends to legislate to grant the same benefit to Commonwealth public servants?
– From time to time the honorable senator asks me a question of this nature. I can only give him the type of answer that I have given him in the past in relation to questions about conditions of employment in the Commonwealth Public Service. Those conditions are regulated by an established system that has operated for a long time and which will continue to operate for a long time. The Public Service has its own arbitral procedures, and they will be followed in the future as they have been in the past.
Following the great and glorious victory of the Liberal Party and the Country Party in New South Wales, does the Minister for Civil Aviation propose to submit to the new Government in that State the proposal to set up a joint expert committee to examine the totality of intrastate air routes in New South Wales? To enable the important air service to Dubbo to be resumed immediately, will he propose to the new Premier that the status quo be maintained and the existing airline be enabled to operate a direct service pending the outcome of the expert inquiry?
– Yes. This is the proposal that I submitted to the existing Government in New South Wales two or three times and which was accepted in principle but rejected because of certain conditions. For some time the Commonwealth Government has sought a joint expert committee consisting of representatives of both the State Government and the Federal Government to examine the totality of the air routes in New South Wales. It is believed that there is a great deal of wasteful travelling in New South Wales and that, from the point of view of the efficiency of the whole intrastate system, the matter should be re-examined by an expert committee.
Provision is made in the proposal that, if the experts find some field in which they cannot agree, they may have access to an umpire so that some finality can be reached in their deliberations. The Prime Minister has already said that the Commonwealth would be prepared to accept the advice of this expert committee. I believe that a breath of fresh air is now blowing through this long and very unfortunate dispute and that we now have the prospect of the matter being settled to the satisfaction of the taxpayers of Australia, who have to find the present subsidy, and of the people of Dubbo and the surrounding area, who have been deprived of their air service for far too long.
– Has the Leader of the Government in the Senate seen in today’s press a statement reported to have been made by the Minister for External Affairs at a meeting of South East Asia Treaty Organisation countries? The Minister is alleged to have said that the people of South East Asia had to be convinced that S.E.A.T.O. countries would give them a better way of life than Communism. He is reported to have said further -
We can give the people a better standard of living and freedom.
We cannot win by military strength and action alone.
Does this new emphasis on the limitations of military action and the importance of social, economic and political factors in South East Asia indicate a new policy of the Government?
– I have not seen the statement) attributed to the Minister for External Affairs at the South East Asia Treaty Organisation Conference, but I assume that the report referred to by the honorable senator is reasonably correct. I hasten to emphasise that this statement represents no conflict with the policy of the Government over many years. It has never been the thought, nor has it been the objective of this Government, that military means alone should be used to bring about peace in Asia. We have demonstrated in very practical terms our desire to help Asia in the economic and social senses by the contributions we have made to various countries in Asia. May I add with a degree of pride that on many occasions we have assumed leadership in giving assistance to Asian countries? Australia regards as part and parcel of the ultimate settlement of disturbances in South East Asia the establishment of sound and stable economies and increases in the living standards there. The policy of the Australian Government will be directed towards those ends. I shall repeat what I said last night: In achieving those ends we shall also see that the right of self-determination is preserved for people and that freedom shall not vanish from that area.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for External
Affairs whether the United States of America has any, and if so what, obligations by treaty towards Australia in the event that Australian troops become involved in Indonesian attacks in the course of that country’s so-called confrontation.
– I would like the honorable senator to put his question on the notice-paper so that a detailed dissection can be made with legal precision of the treaties which are in force between the United States of America and Australia and presented to the Senate.
– I address my question to the Minister representing the Treasurer. Because of the immense importance to Papua and New Guinea of its cocoa bean export trade and the need to increase the tonnage exported, I ask the Minister: Is it not a fact that there must be an increase in the activities of manufacturing industry in order to create a demand for an increase in the importation of cocoa by the industry, with a corresponding increase in export by Papua and New Guinea? Therefore, would the Treasurer in the preparation of the Budget this year give consideration to the removal of sales tax on chocolate and confectionery products which would result in further stimulating the importation by Australia of raw cocoa through increased consumption?
– I shall have pleasure in submitting the honorable senator’s proposal to the Treasurer for consideration when details of the Budget are being prepared in the very near future.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Prime Minister. Having regard to the statement by the Prime Minister on Tuesday last, when he admitted that on the previous Thursday afternoon “ the dogs were barking around the premises “ that an announcement regarding the despatch of an Australian battalion to Vietnam was imminent, and having regard also to his acknowledgment of the existence of Press reports carrying this news on the same Thursday, and to his claim that the Press certainly did not get this information from the Government, will the Minister tell the
Senate how the Press was able to run stories regarding this very important matter before the Parliament was informed, and what steps are being taken to discover the source of the leakage?
– It will be recalled that in the statement referred to by the honorable senator the Prime Minister made it perfectly clear that despite the fact that the Press was running these stories on the Thursday afternoon they had not come-
– Wednesday afternoon.
– Be careful.
– I shall be. As a matter of fact, the Prime Minister’s reference was to Thursday. He said that despite this they had not come from himself or any member of the Government. I do not know what steps have been taken to ascertain the sources of the information as used by the Press. Indeed, as the honorable senator himself is aware, the Press has sources available to it that would be beyond the reach of an Australian national government. It was necessary, as must be appreciated by all honorable senators and as was referred to by the Prime Minister when making the statement, that negotiations in connection with the commitment of this battalion took place in a number of capitals in other parts of the world. It is not beyond the bounds of possibility that the first news break of this matter occurred in one of those capitals and at least one newspaper when reporting, this rumour, or as it was then, this unofficial release, ascribed the source of its information to London.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Territories in relation to the statement that he read in this chamber yesterday, in which it was announced that £300 million would be made available to the Territory of Papua and New Guinea over the next few years. In view of the fact that so many of the people of New Guinea are anxious to repay as far as possible money made available to them, has any thought been given to making any of this money available on a long term basis at a low rate of interest so that they may feel that they will be expected to pay some of it back?
– The honorable senator is asking whether any thought has been given to the Government’s appropriating money by taxation and lending it to the Administration in Papua and New Guinea at a low rate of interest for a long term so that it will at some future date be paid back. I do not believe that any thought has in fact been given to that proposal.
(Question No. 434.)
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Which libraries, if any, have been designated as depositories for all Commonwealth publications?
– The Prime Minister has supplied the following reply to the honorable senator’s question -
The National Librarian has indicated that no library in Australia has been formally designated either a full or partial depository of Commonwealth official publications. The matter is, however, under active consideration as a result of a recommendation in the report of the Joint Select Committee of Parliamentary and Government Publications.
It is relevant that the majority of State reference, parliamentary and university libraries receive a varying range of official publications, including in most cases those of the Commonwealth Parliament. The National Library has continued arrangements with individual Commonwealth departments for receiving two copies of all their publications. In addition, the National Library receives the publications of State departments, and it is on this basis that it produces its comprehensive catalogue entitled “ Australian Government Publications “.
– I have received from the Minister for Territories a reply to a question asked by Senator Branson on 28th April concerning the remarks of Mr. Sidky, the retiring Director of the United Nations Information Centre in Papua and New Guinea. The reply, which I shall later forward to Senator Branson in letter form, is as follows -
I have seen press reports of Mr. Sidky’s remarks. As has been stated on a number of occasions the Government is determined to ensure that the time for self-government or independence will in due course be chosen by the people of the Territory themselves. The Government will not hang back from constitutional change in Papua and New Guinea if and when it is clear that the people want it, nor will it withdraw from its responsibilities in the Territory until the people feel that they are ready to take them over. To attempt to forecast when this will be could be misleading.
Motion (by Senator Paltridge) agreed to -
That leave be given to introduce a Bill for an act relating to the Defence Force.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
Standing Orders suspended.
– I move -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
In introducing the Defence Bill, I mention that there are three other Bills, the National Service Bill, the Naval Defence Bill and the Air Force Bill which cover related matters. I deal now with the Defence Bill. I will introduce the other three Bills later this morning.
In the last session, Parliament enacted amending national service legislation providing for the introduction of selective national service comprising two years continuous full-time service in the Regular Army Supplement and three years parttime service in the Regular Army Reserve. Complementary legislation is necessary to amend the Defence Act to take national servicemen out of the Citizen Military Forces and to include them in the Regular forces. Consequential amendments to other sections of the Defence Act are also necessary. The inclusion of national servicemen in the Regular Army Supplement and Regular Army Reserve renders them liable for overseas service in accordance with the policy announced when the national service legislation was introduced into the Senate last year.
Under the existing provisions of the Defence Act, persons who are called up under Part IV. of the Act for compulsory service in the Citizen Military Forces in time of war are not required to serve overseas unless they volunteer to do so. This provision was made many years ago when strategic circumstances were quite different from those of today. It imposes a limitation on the military effectiveness of our forces which is completely unacceptable in the light of the range of situations which Australia may have to face simultaneously in wartime. It is essential that in war the defence forces should be available for service in any location required. The Government has examined this position most carefully and has concluded that restriction of wartime service to Australia and its territories should not remain. It is clear that, on military grounds, a liability for overseas service should be mandatory for all persons called up in wartime.
Honorable senators will recall that during the 1939-1945 war special legislation, the Defence (Citizen Military Forces) Act 1943, was enacted, providing that members of the Citizen Military Forces could be required to serve beyond the limits of Australia in the South West Pacific zone. I would point out that countries with which we are associated in defence arrangements - for example, the United States of America, the United Kingdom, and New Zealand - already impose a comparable obligation. An obligation of this kind exists in most European and Asian countries.
The revised section 50 (c) of the Defence Act accordingly provides that all members of the Military Forces will be required to serve either within or beyond the territorial limits of Australia. The provisions of Part IV of the Defence Act have been extended to apply to service in the Navy and the Air Force as well as the Army and the amendments to the Naval Defence Act and the Air Force Act provide for this. Part IV of the Defence Act is also being amended to remove obsolete provisions dealing with registration, allotment and exemption from compulsory service in time of war. These are being replaced with up to date provisions based on the principles embodied in comparable provisions in the National Service Act.
The Defence Bill also deals with the availability of intoxicating liquor to national servicemen in military establishments. During the former national service training scheme, when trainees were called up at the age of 18, the supply of intoxicating liquor to national servicemen was prohibited. Under the new scheme national servicemen will be at least in their 21st year and will serve continuously for the first two years in Regular Army units where wet canteens are a normal amenity. A ban on serving liquor to national servicemen in an Army canteen, where sale and consumption are strictly supervised, would be unreasonable as other soldiers of the same age group serving with them would not be subject to the ban. In New South Wales and Victoria, the States where the vast majority of national servicemen will be trained, the liquor laws permit men of 18 to buy and consume liquor. The amendment now proposed to the Defence Act will remove the restriction concerning the supply of liquor to national servicemen.
The principles of Part XII of the Defence Act which provide for the protection of the rights of members of the Citizen Forces and Reserves in relation to civil employment are being incorporated in new comprehensive legislation dealing with the re-establishment in civil life of national servicemen and members of the Citizen Forces and Reserves. When this new legislation comes into force Part XII will no longer be necessary and the Bill accordingly provides for its repeal at a date to be fixed.
I refer briefly to other matters which are dealt with in the Defence Bill. The first is the protection of military decorations. The present law contained in the Defence Act relating to military decorations is defective in relation to the control over the manufacture and sale of these items and is difficult to enforce. The amendment to the Defence Act will remedy this situation by giving the Minister for Defence full control over the manufacture and sale of military decorations, and the conditions relating to them. The second matter is the appointment of officers. Section 148 of the Defence Act limits officer appointments in the Australian Regular Army to graduates of the Royal Military College with certain exceptions. In addition to graduates from the Royal Military College the Army requires persons with degrees in both the sciences and arts as well as doctors, dentists, lawyers, school teachers, psychologists and surveyors. Section 148 of the Act is out of date and, in its general intention, conflicts with section 10 as amended last year. The Bill provides for it to be repealed. The third is exemption from jury service. Section 43 of the Act relates to the exemption of members of the Defence Forces from jury service. This matter is covered by a Jury Exemption Bill which has been introduced into Parliament. When this new Bill becomes law section 43 will be unnecessary, and the Bill provides for its repeal at a later date. I commend the Defence Bill to honorable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator McKenna) adjourned.
Motion (by Senator Paltridge) agreed to -
That leave be given to introduce a Bill for an act relating to naval defence.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
Standing Orders suspended.
– I move -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
As mentioned in my remarks on the Defence Bill the provisions of Part IV of the Defence Act have been extended to apply to the Navy. The purpose of the Naval Defence Bill is to put this into effect. The opportunity has been taken to make amendments to section 9 and section 31 of the Naval Defence Act relating to the service of officers to take account of certain inadequacies in the existing sections in relation to officers holding short service commissions. I commend the Naval Defence Bill to Honorable Senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator McKenna) adjourned.
Motion (by Senator Paltridge) agreed to -
That leave be given to introduce a Bill for an act relating to the Air Force of the Commonwealth.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
Standing Orders suspended.
– I move -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
As mentioned in my remarks on the Defence Bill the provisions of Part IV. of the Defence Act have been extended to apply to the Air Force. The purpose of the Air Force Bill is to amend existing legislation to put this into effect. I commend the Air Force Bill to honorable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator McKenna) adjourned.
Motion (by Senator Paltridge) agreed to -
That leave be given to introduce a Bill for an act to amend the National Service Act 1951-1964.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
Standing Orders suspended.
. -I move -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Under existing legislation national servicemen will serve for two years’ full-time duty in the Regular Army Supplement and will then serve for three years in the Regular Army Reserve or, if they volunteer and are accepted, in the Regular Army Emergency Reserve for four years. The Bill provides for the extension of the period of full-time service in the Regular Army Supplement in two major contingencies. The first of these is time of war when the period of full-time service of the national serviceman, as of any other serviceman, would be extended for the duration of hostilities.
The second contingency is a time of defence emergency. The Bill provides that a national serviceman may be required to serve on full-time duty in a time of defence emergency for longer than two years, but not for a period in excess of his statutory obligation to render five years’ total service. It could lead to unacceptable administrative difficulty in a time of defence emergency if a member has to be discharged from the Regular Army Supplement and must then be served with call-up papers for full-time duty as a member of the Regular Army Reserve, particularly if he is serving in a forward area. Such transfers could have a disruptive effect on the formations in which the national servicemen are serving. It is proposed therefore that they should remain as members of the Regular Army Supplement and the Bill makes provision for this.
Provision is also being made to extend a national serviceman’s service in the Regular Army Supplement to allow him to volunteer for full-time service beyond two years if he so desires. A member’s obligation to serve three years in the Reserve would be reduced by the term of any voluntary full-time service. The Bill also makes provision to allow a member to remain on full-time duty to complete medical treatment which has begun prior to his discharge.In such circumstances he would thus be entitledto pay and allowances under the same provisions that relate to members of the Regular Army and the Regular Army Supplement.
In addition to the existing provisions which enable a national serviceman to volunteer to carry out the Reserve element of his service with the Regular Army Emergency Reserve, a new provision is being made to permit a member if he so desires to volunteer for the Citizen Military Forces for three years in substitution for his Reserve service.
National servicemen may be commissioned as officers and accordingly would be discharged from their obligation to serve as soldiers under the National Service Act. The Bill contains provisions to ensure that the period of service which is undertaken as an officer shall be the same as that which would have applied had the national serviceman continued as a soldier. The opportunity has also been taken to effect some minor amendments to the National Service Act which experience has shown to be desirable.
I commend the National Service Bill to honorable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator McKenna) adjourned.
Motion (by Senator Paltridge) agreed to-
That Government business take precedence of general business after 8 p.m. this sitting.
– I present the following report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works-
The augmentation of Darwin Water Supply, Northern Territory.
I ask for leave to make a statement in connection with the report.
– There being no objection, leave is granted.
– A summary of the recommendations and conclusions of the Committee, arrived at after studying the evidence presented, is as follows -
Debate resumed from 5th May (vide page 617), 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.
– When the Senate adjourned last night I was discussing the situation in Vietnam and I sum up as follows: First, there is no doubt that the fighting in progress in South Vietnam now is of greater dimensions than one would expect in a civil war. This fighting has been brought about by the intrusion of North Vietnam troops into South Vietnam - that is, south of the 17th parallel. I think I proved adequately that this was all part of a Chinese Communist scheme to dominate South East Asia and eventually to move in the direction of Africa with the possibility of moving in the direction of Australia via Indonesia. I commend the Government for intervening by its decision to send at least 800 Australian troops to the area where fighting is in progress.
My second point is that the Government, as well as acting for the protection of Australia is also honouring its treaty obligations under the South East Asia Treaty Organisation. I commend the Government for honouring those obligations. By doing so it has shown istelf to be a worthy participant in the A.N.Z.U.S. pact with the United States of America and New Zealand. I put it frankly that this should be the subject of the debate, I cannot refrain from commenting on the last statement made by Senator Cavanagh. I referred to the honorable senator’s speech in a rather hurried manner last night. Now that I have had an opportunity to read the report of his statement in “ Hansard “ I should like to comment upon it. Senator Cavanagh said -
We are ensuring that governments are changed only with the backing of what we term a world wide imperialist power which seeks world domination.
I assume that he means the United States of America.
– No, Senator Cavanagh did not mean that. He said that by our action we were helping the very people the Government is attempting to protect them against - the Communist Chinese.
– - I did not read Senator Cavanagh’s statement with that enlightenment. The honorable Senator continued in the final passages of his speech -
To appease the United States Government, and contrary to the popular feeling of the American people, we arc preparing to sacrifice the lives of our sons in the hope that we will obtain consideration in commercial transactions with that country.
First, I want to say as I said earlier, that it is not contrary to the popular feeling of the American people. As you, Mr. President, and everybody else in the Senate know, the President of the United States was returned to office with an absolutely overwhelming majority.
– Look at his only opponent.
– His only opponent was, if I may use the phrase, considerably further to the right than was President Johnson. So I should say that general opinion in the United States, particularly as revealed at the last election in that country, would be right behind the President in accepting his obligations under the South East Asia Collective Defence Treaty to put down subversion and Communist infiltration into South Vietnam.
I return to the concluding part of Senator Cavanagh’s speech, in which the following words were used - to sacrifice the lives of our sons in the hope that we will obtain consideration in commercial transactions with that country.
That statement has no validity whatsoever in relation to the attitude of the Government in standing behind its protocol obligations under the South East Asia Collective Defence Treaty. To say what the honorable senator has said is to display a left wing attitude. There is no foundation for such an assertion. The statement made by the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt), which was referred to yesterday by another Labour speaker, cannot be linked in any way with the sending of troops to South East Asia. There is no link between the Government’s attitude on defence and the obtaining of additional dollar loans for the development of this country.
I conclude by commending the Government for its attitude in seizing the nettle and in despatching these troops. It seems to me that firmness at this point of time in staying the southward move of the Communist Chinese and the Communist North Vietnamese is the only attitude that the Government could adopt. As I see the position, until the niggling tactics of the Communists are stopped - and stopped by force - there will be no increase in agricultural production or in real wealth in South Vietnam. The attitude that the Government has had to adopt in sending Australians overseas to fight is something that nobody in the Senate likes, but, as I see the situation, it has had to be adopted even for the reasons put forward by members of the Opposition - to enlarge the food bowl in that part of Asia. I support the Government in its humanitarian objective of seeking to increase agricultural prosperity in that part of the world by using its defence forces in the manner proposed. I believe that in the end there will be a cessation of fighting now that firmness has been shown by the Government and that upon the cessation of hostilities the Australian troops will be withdrawn. I repeat that I commend the Government for its action in despatching troops to South East Asia, particularly to South Vietnam.
– I am afraid that I cannot agree with Senator Laught in commending the Government for its decision to send troops to South Vietnam. In my opinion it is the most irresponsible decision that this Government has taken since 1961 because it represents interference in the internal affairs - in an internal conflict - of another nation. On that ground alone it is an irresponsible decision. lt is irresponsible also, in my opinion, because our defence forces will be weakened. It may sound very well to say that the transfer of one battalion cannot weaken our defence forces; but that battalion represents 25 per cent., if not 30 per cent., of our total Army strength available. This battalion represents a negligible amount of troops compared with the defence forces of -the United States of America. We have commitments and obligations which, I trust we all agree, we must honour. I refer to our obligation to aid Malaysia. If disturbances Hare up in Malaysia, we shall be in the position that we have one-quarter to one-third of our Army deployed in South Vietnam. On the two grounds 1 have stated, I deplore the decision of the Government, especially as it was made without prior consultation with the people. If Press reports are correct, the decision was made with the concurrence of five or six men.
I want to make it quite clear that had the United Nations requested that Australia send troops to Vietnam I would have wholeheartedly agreed that we should comply with that request. I do not want to be told that I was -brainwashed while I was visiting China. However, it is so much poppycock to say that we had to send troops to Vietnam at the invitation of the Government of South Vietnam. There have been 10 Governments there. Will the Minister for Defence (Senator Paltridge) tell us which government requested that Australia send troops there? It is obvious that when a country has 10 governments it is politically unstable. For the Australian Government to say that the South Vietnamese Government asked us to send troops makes ridiculous reading.
– Over what period were there 10 governments?
– Since Ngo Dinh Diem. I also want to make it quite clear that I am not anti-American. I am grateful to the United States of America because without its aid we would not be here. But we should not overdo our gratitude to the Americans. It is not the full story to say that the Americans came here to save us. They had to come here to save us in order to preserve their own safety. It was a two way proposition. If the United States were attacked by a foreign power, I would rise and say: “Let us send forces to assist the United States because we owe it to them “. But in this instance I am afraid that the Government’s move will not help.
What is the effectiveness of one battalion? If we want to use words, as we do so often, let us say: “ Right. We are behind the United States in this action.” But to send one battalion means that we have done nothing effective. One battalion will be completely lost in the jungles of Vietnam and will hardly be able to do anything at all. It is only a token force and everyone agrees that is so. On the other hand, the decision has done incalculable harm to our prestige. That is why I deplore the sending of troops to Vietnam.
Australia should be the leading nation in South East Asia. Whether honorable senators like it or not, we are part of South East Asia. We have to live here. We are surrounded by Asians and they are our contacts everywhere. I have said before in this House that we are expendable and I still maintain that proposition. If war broke out in the European theatre, the United Kingdom certainly would not have forces available to help us. If it came to a pinch, I doubt very much that the United States would worry too much about us because we are not essential to that nation.
– The honorable senator can hardly say that we are surrounded by Asians. We are well to the south and we are not part of Asia. We are European people.
– We may be
European people but we are geographically part of South East Asia - the lowest point of it.
– Does the honorable senator give no value to the A.N.Z.U.S. treaty?
– I think that when treaties are tested, escape clauses are discovered. However, I hope that the A.N.Z.U.S. treaty is tight. We should be the leaders in South East Asia and the other countries of this area should look to us for moral integrity. They should know that Australia can be relied upon as a friend and that any dealings with us will be conducted on an honest basis. That is why I feel that harm has been done by the Government’s decision. I hope that it is not irreparable. There is not one country in South East Asia that has not condemned the decision.
– That is not true.
– If it is not true, the honorable senator can so inform the Senate.
– That will not be hard to do.
– I shall amend my words and say that the majority of countries in South East Asia have condemned the Government’s decision.
– I shall have to add them up and see whether the honorable senator is correct.
– Very well. The honorable senator can add them up. I can add them up quickly - Pakistan, India, Indonesia, of course, Laos, Cambodia and Japan; I shall come to Japan in a moment. I have been asked why, if we agree to our troops going to Malaysia, we should not agree to our troops going to South Vietnam. To me, the position is totally different. First, Malaysia is a Commonwealth country. Secondly, it has been attacked by an outside aggressor which is our enemy. Whether or not we try to hide it, Indonesia is our enemy. As long as it is attacking Malaysia, it is attacking us. As long as it has maps showing that Australia is South Irian, as was stated this morning, it will remain our enemy. I think that it is just hood-winking ourselves to try to keep on a friendly basis with Indonesia, because obviously it is trying its best to be our enemy. I may be a warmonger, but let us face the facts. Instead of going to war in a country where we are not really wanted by the people themselves–
– It is not yet proven that the Indonesians call Australia South Irian.
– I have heard it so often - I think I saw it on some map - that I was debating whether as Mayor of Launceston I have to greet and welcome the Indonesian Ambassador on behalf of the citizens of a part of South Irian. The Minister told us at great length what he thought was the true position and what was the nature of the problem. I do not think that anything he said holds good because he gave no authority for his statement of what had occurred. There are only two things that one has to discuss in regard to the position in Vietnam, based mainly on the Geneva Agreement of 1954. This agreement contained some very pertinent clauses. The first was that the demarcation line should be the 17th parallel and that this line was not to be used for political or territorial purposes. That was quite a definite point in the Agreement. The second was that the integrity of Vietnam had to be preserved and no foreign troops or forces should be used, and the third was that there should be a general election in 1956. None of these things has come about.
Another question in regard to Vietnam which seems to have been misunderstood here is the position of the Vietcong. The Vietcong is not made up of North Vietnamese people. It consists of South Vietnamese people who are Communists. They are the people who started the trouble there. They did not like their government. There are many people here who do not like the present Government but that does not mean that we have a civil war. Especially if electorates were divided 50-50, we could easily have a civil war if we were aggressively minded. When the South Vietnamese Communist Party forces - the Vietcong - were in trouble, naturally they went to another Communist country, North Vietnam, to obtain arms.
How did America get into the act? America was asked by the South Vietnamese people mainly to send advisers, and it backed Ngo Dinh Diem, apparently wrongly, with the result that now, some 10 governments later, because there is no legitimate reason for America to have been in South Vietnam, what we are doing is upholding America’s prestige in South Vietnam. That is what it amounts to. America will not accept the fact that it made an error and that it had no right to be there in the first place. Now that its prestige is assailed it is going to war to ensure that its prestige is upheld.
– Can the honorable senator visualise what would be the position if the United States were to withdraw?
– Yes, I can visualise the position completely. Obviously the
Communists, or Vietcong, would take over South Vietnam as a whole. There is no doubt about that, because Communism invariably breeds in poverty and distress. That is where one finds it. Like the United States Government, our Government talks as if peace were something to be avoided. It says: “ We have tried to have peace but they will not come to the table”. I hope that everyone has a copy of that caricature in the “ Australian “ in which our Prime Minister tells us that negotiations shall not take place, and the President of the United States says that he thinks that negotiations should take place. Negotiations can still take place. T think the French have the correct attitude to this problem in that they insist that the 1954 agreement with regard to Vietnam should be upheld and implemented. I think that is the only solution to the problem. The French know what happened to them.
Apparently debate is discouraged. We are told that we must not talk about these matters. The Government has decided that anything that is said will weaken our cause and help the Communists. Dissent anywhere, whether in this Parliament or elsewhere, is condemned as being communistic. I think we are getting down to McCarthyism when we reach the stage that we are not allowed to debate these matters, are not allowed to discuss them rationally, are not allowed to dissent. After all, not all of us are right. You can think you are right and afterwards find you are wrong. We are all liable to errors. Surely dissent should not be condemned. This happened in Japan only about four days ago, when two newspapers were condemned as being infiltrated by Communists. This statement was made in the United States because Japan condemned American actions in South Vietnam. I interpose those few remarks because someone mentioned that Japan was opposed to America’s actions. In fact, Japan is opposed to our intervention in South Vietnam, but because two newspapers in Japan condemned America’s intervention certain people in America - at least the Foreign Relations Committee - claimed that the newspapers were infiltrated by Communists. The Japanese Press reacted very strongly to this.” I do not know whether the incident was reported in the Australian Press but it appeared in newspapers published in the country in which
I was at the time. If we argue with the Government, we are told that we are Communists.
The Government has stated its reason for Australia’s participation in the fight in Vietnam. I was surprised to hear that the reason is that we are obliged to fight under the terms of the South East Asia Treaty Organisation agreement. I think Senator Laught and another honorable senator mentioned that. Why is Australia the only member of S.E.A.T.O. to be picked out to do the fighting? I do not think S.E.A.T.O. has anything to do with this.
– Australia is a protocol state.
– I do not think for one moment that Australia should be the only member of S.E.A.T.O. to go to the defence of the Organisation. In any case, from what I have heard in this place and from what I have read in “ Hansard “, the main reason for our intervention given by speakers on the Government side is that we must stop the ultimate spread of Communism to Australia. This is stupidity. The Government is substituting absurdity for sanity. How will Communism spread to Australia? At least 99.8 per cent, of Australians are anti-Communist. In addition, Australia is a very prosperous country, and a very prosperous country never goes Communist - never. I for one do not fear for a moment that Communism will make good in Australia until such time as a war breaks out and we become a defeated nation and there is bitterness and poverty. Then Communism might have a chance to spread to Australia.
– Visualise the position if mainland China were to get as far south as Singapore as a result of the defeat or withdrawal of the United States forces. Would Australia not be in danger then?
– Does the honorable senator call the threat Communism or China?
– I call it Communism.
– China happens to be communistic at the moment.
– And imperialistic, too.
– Yes, and imperialistic, too. There was also communistic Russia, but I do not think she is communistic today. I do not think that in due course China will be any more communistic than Russia is today, I can visualise China coming south, but I cannot visualise it getting very far south for many years. Whether China is Communist, Liberal or Labour, if she intends to conquer Australia in 20 or 30 years she will be able to do so, irrespective of her philosophy. So it does not matter two hoots whether she reaches the tip of South Vietnam today. What she decides to do in 20 or 30 years, when she will, I think, be one of the most powerful nations in the world, is the vital thing. Her philosophy will not matter. What will happen to us will depend on her aggressive nature.
– Can the honorable senator throw any light on the refusal of Communist China and North Vietnam to sit at the conference table with the United States, in view of the generous offer made recently by President Johnson?
– I do not think the honorable senator would go to the conference table with a carrot in front of his nose such as was put out to the people of Vietnam. Let us not give up hope. To go to war instead of to the conference table is, to me, reproachable.
Let me come back to the question of Communism in China and what we have to worry about in relation to that country. It appears that so far China has not had any troops in Vietnam, but America has made available aid, advisers and troops. Australia has sent an Air Force transport squadron and a few advisers. Apart from a few advisers, the Chinese have not been involved, so it is wrong to say that they are involved in Vietnam at the moment.
In addition, China has her own problems - problems associated with the task of becoming industrialised and problems arising on her northern borders. I do not think it will be long before there will be trouble in that area between Russia, Japan and China. Japan had to expand 20 years ago and had to go to war to do it. She still has to expand. There are many open spaces in Russia and China into which Japan can expand. Russia wants to have a bit of China, and China wants to have a bit of Russia. I believe there will be a three way argument in the northern area very soon, with one country sitting on the fence hesitating to join one of the other two until she sees what she can get out of it. I think China has enough problems of her own to her north and internally.
If we want to get China into this war - that seems to me to be what we should be doing if we want to fight Communism - we are going the right way about it, because any escalation of this war into North Vietnam will bring it immediately to the Chinese border. The Government says it does not want war* I do not believe that for a moment, because it does want war. Australia has entered this war, and if the war escalates into North Vietnam there must be opposition from China. Australia claims that it is fighting to keep Chinese influence out of South East Asia. That is the most puerile statement that could be made. Does anyone believe for a moment that we should go to war or do anything to keep United States influence out of South America, which has always been regarded as a field of influence for the United States? It is natural that the United States should have a field of influence in South America. It is equally natural for China, the biggest nation in Asia, to have a field of influence in the countries on her borders.
– Like she has in Tibet.
– All right. Can the honorable senator explain the difference between China marching into Tibet and the United States marching into the Dominican Republic?
– Certainly. There is a considerable difference.
– There may be a considerable difference. I do not support China’s action in going into Tibet, but we did not go to war with China when it took a bit of India, when it took a bit of Pakistan and when it took a bit of Tibet. Why did we not go to war then? We worry about what China intends to do and then we try to prod her into doing something by escalating the war into North Vietnam. Most people have forgotten that Ho Chi Minh is traditionally anti-Chinese. He has always been anti-Chinese because he has always realized that his country could be engulfed by China. His country has never wanted to be part of China, but when she had trouble with the French it was natural for the Chinese to come to her aid and for her to become a Communist State. Ho Chi Minh very easily could, and should, be wooed from his co-operation with China, because, like other countries, his country’s greatest threat is the fact that China could engulf it.
Our policy of diplomacy has been wrong in this aspect. The traditional enemy of the people of North Vietnam - the IndoChinese - is China, but we have pushed North Vietnam towards the arms of China. We will push it right into the arms of China unless we return to the heart of the problem. Why do countries want to become Communist? That seems to me to be the whole point. It is no good saying to any country: “ You have no right to choose the government yon wish to have “. The British did not call the nationalistic ambitions of the African states communistic because the Africans wanted to kick them out. The British allowed themselves to be kicked out. But because the United States is involved in the present conflict, anyone who wants to kick her out is regarded as a Communist. We tend to confuse Communism with nationalism. We do it often. How do we know the Vietnamese people would not rather be united? We have tried our best to unite West Germany and East Germany. We say that they are all German people in those countries, and they should not be disunited. But in Vietnam we are doing our best to see that the people are disunited. Because we do not believe in Communism we say we must attack any side that suggests Communism. Why do we not show the people that our democratic way of life is a better way of life than Communism? That is where we have failed.
A similar situation arose in Malaysia. I think that the British tackled it much better. They had troops serving there. They wooed the people by fear, by example and by promises. In the end it became quite common for the villagers to say: “ We have a Communist in our village “, and the authorities could extinguish the Communist. We showed the Malaysians that our way of life was better than the Communist way of life. That is where we are basically failing in South Vietnam. The Americans are not showing the people that our way of life is the best. How can you tell people who are on the breadline, who have nothing and who are subjected to poverty and ill health that they should remain as they are? On the other hand, they are being given promises and they are shown the example of China where the people, whether they be Communists or whatever else we call them, are united and have risen from the state of poverty and ill health in which they lived for many years.
We should be wooing the Vietnamese people away from Communism and not sending troops in. You can shoot a Communist, but you can never kill with a bullet a Communist idea. We have to do more than shoot the Communists. Even if we have to do it by fear, we have to show the people that Communism is not the best way of life, and that it is not the best way of dying, either. We are approaching the problem in the wrong way. Thailand has been mentioned in the course of the debate. It is said that it is easy picking for the Communists, but it is only easy picking for the Communists in the north because the people in the south are happy. They are the happiest people I have ever seen. But the people in the north suffer the most deplorable poverty and degradation that you could find in human beings anywhere in the world. These people are ripe for Communism. Anyone can go in there and stir them up. We should be doing something about the matter. We should be sending peace corps, as the Americans call them, to these countries to help the people to achieve our way of life. We have to give them the land reforms that they so urgently zed.
We cannot do anything with people who have nothing. If they have nothing, they may as well accept Communism because they will then get something. It is better to be a Communist and to get something than to stagger along the road of Western democracy, as we call it, and have nothing. We cannot blame these people one iota if they want to be Communists. We have ourselves to blame for not going out and teaching the people and giving them examples to show them that out way of life is better than Communism. If the Vietnamese want to be Communists, let them be Communists. No doubt some people will say that is a dreadful statement to make because if the Vietnamese turn to Communism the Chinese will be down. But the Chinese will not be down because the Vietnamese do not want China and neither do the other Asian peoples. The last thing they want is a strong China because they know it could engulf them if it wished.
I come to my final point. At the present time we are involving ourselves in a war. We are depleting our defence forces when we have commitments to our own neighbours. We have the enemy virtually at our borders. Through our own stupidity we allowed the Indonesians to take over West Irian. Yet we are doing nothing about our defences. I do not want to be howled down by someone saying: “Look at how many millions of pounds we are spending on defence this year. We are now spending 300 per cent, more than we did last year “. But we are spending nothing, and 300 per cent, of nothing is still nothing. We are not spending enough on our defences. The people of this country must realize that they have to pay taxes. They cannot continue to live in a fool’s paradise hoping for the best and trying to bribe the Americans to stay with us. We can rely on America as our ally, but we must spend at least 10 per cent, of our national income on defence. Until we do that we will be hopelessly out of step with the rest of the world. We will always be the subject for a takeover bid by any country.
The Labour Party and the Liberal Party, which has been in power for 15 years, have done nothing about defence until the last few years. I admit that the Government is starting to do something, but it is not doing nearly enough. I know I will be attacked on this side of the .chamber for saying this, but until we have the atom bomb in Australia, until we can manufacture it ourselves, we will never be safe. The greatest deterrent to war is the atom bomb. People may say that Indonesia also will have the bomb. Indonesia will have it sooner or later. If we have the bomb and can manufacture it, and if other nations know that we can manufacture it, we will be safe. We must be prepared to fight for ourselves. I think that it is the greatest defeatism for people to say that we cannot defend Australia. I have heard that said about Vietnam. It has been stated that we cannot win the war. People should not say that. Who else will defend us if we cannot defend ourselves? We must wake up to ourselves and get out of this fool’s paradise.
All honorable senators should go for a trip around China and see what is happening there because in another 30 years it will be the greatest power in the world. Yet we sit back here and do nothing about our defence. We are sending a battalion of troops so that we can say to America: “ We are helping you now. You can come and help us later on when we are attacked.” The Government must be condemned for sending these troops. I think that it is an irresponsible action to interfere in any other country. We might just as well be asked to send troops to the Dominican Republic to help the Americans there. We are depicting our forces to such an extent that we will not be able to help Malaysia if it is further attacked. All these things need not occur if we wake up to the basic problem, which is to show these poor countries, these poverty stricken countries, that there is a better way of life than Communism.
– Mr. President, I am pleased to have an opportunity to declare myself completely and utterly in accord with the Government’s action in sending what help we can to Vietnam. But at the same time I deplore the need for it. That there is a need for something to be done, I think we all are in agreement, but we begin to differ on what should be done. I think that we all should take notice of what the Minister for Defence (Senator Paltridge) said yesterday in his excellent speech. He said that there is a situation of national importance which may increase in importance as the months go by. I think that statement is very significant. We have to see that we do everything we can to try to prevent the situation becoming worse.
If we allow the Communists to achieve any sort of success, whether it is a military success, a propaganda success or a prestige success, they will not stop at that. They will go on. They have said many times that Communism, whether it is Chinese or Russian, intends to dominate the world. They have never retracted that statement. It was incredible to me to hear Senator Turnbull say that the Chinese influence in South East Asia is quite legitimate. When the Communists have said that they intend to dominate the world, surely to goodness we should use every means to try to confine their influence to their own countries. This, I think, is all that we are trying to do.
– And to extend our influence.
– We are not trying to extend our influence. We are trying to prevent the Communists from interfering in the way of life of other people. I think this is perfectly legitimate. It has been said that we should mind our own business and leave other people to mind theirs, but while the Communists are not minding their own business we have to stop them somewhere. We must say to the Communists: “ Thus far and no further “. This is what I think is the position and this is what 1 support.
I believe that the trouble in South Vietnam is only a very small part of the Communist plan to move from strength to strength and finally to move down towards Australia. This is something that we must watch. Many other speakers have pointed out that if Vietnam were to fall the Communist forces would turn the other way. No doubt Laos and Cambodia would fall very readily into the Communists’ hands and then the trouble would be accelerated in Thailand. Thailand in turn would certainly be squeezed from Burma, from the north, from China and from the Laos and Cambodia side. Thailand shares a border with Malaya. We have already been told that there are insurgents at the border who no doubt would join up with the Communists and re-exert pressure on Malaya if Thailand did fall. That is the progressive Communist plan in that area. It may not happen, but the situation is significant. There is vital danger for Australia. In the event of this sequence of events, we might eventually’ find Indonesia becoming a little more cheeky, especially if things were going any worse further north. That is the situation we have to watch.
It was significant to hear yesterday that Indonesia is now talking of Australia as South Irian. I read this morning that the Ambassador for Indonesia said that this was a joke. If it was a joke, it was a very poor joke.
– The children’s books used to say that about Japan -40 years ago.
– I do not care what anyone said or is saying. I am concerned about Australia. If a large nation of 100 million people is now talking about a nation to the south of it which has only 11 million people as part of it, then I think we have to take great notice of that fact. To me it is very disappointing that we cannot present a national front - unity - between our political parties at this time of emergency and be able to say, unanimously, so far and no further. Obviously, we could not go it alone if we were in trouble. I do not see why we should expect our friends to go it alone. Whatever happens to us, we need powerful friends while we have such a small population. In my book, to have friends one needs to be a friend. Australia is trying to be a friend. I think we are doing as much as we can be expected to do with our small population. We are making a gesture. It is not a quid pro quo. We cannot expect it to be. The Americans have said that they are satisfied with our gesture. They have said that they recognise it and that they salute Australia for making this gesture.
I cannot understand the point of view, which has been expressed by one of our newspapers yesterday - a point of view also expressed by the Opposition party - when it said that this decision goes contrary to the policy of enlightened nationalism in Australia. I cannot understand this statement. Surely our nationalism cannot be completely inward looking and favouring isolation. We must go out. This is our nationalism; we are protecting it by helping our friends to draw the line that I have just mentioned. We certainly have helped people on previous occasions to preserve their freedom. Wc have done so in two world wars. We did it in Berlin and we did it in Korea. This is what we are trying to do again. We are trying to help the people of South Vietnam to preserve their freedom.
I have heard some rather astounding statements about our obligations under the South East Asia Collective Defence Treaty. Senator Turnbull seemed to think that Australia had no obligation under this Treaty. I heard Senator Kennelly say that we had no obligation under this Treaty. I think Senator Kennelly asked the question: If we are obliged to take this action, why are other countries not obliged to do so? This was also implied by Senator Turnbull. I agree that we have an obligation under the South East Asia Treaty Organisation, because we have signed that Treaty to say that we intend to check further Communist aggression in South East Asia. Now, we recognise - certainly, the Leader of the Opposition in another place (Mr. Calwell) has recognised this point - that there is aggression by Communist powers in Vietnam. If that is so, and if we have been requested by the Government of South Vietnam to assist it to check this aggression, then we have this obligation. We can be proud of the fact that we have been one of the leaders in recognising this obligation.
America is a signatory to the S.E.A.T.O. and A.N.Z.U.S. agreements. America is certainly doing all that it can to live up to its obligations. Australia has now entered this particular sphere and is the second power to do so. The United Kingdom, another signatory to the S.E.A.T.O. agreement, has stated that it is completely involved in Malaysia. I think that is a very fair assessment of the situation. No country can be completely involved in every sphere. Although we Australians are assisting the United Kingdom in Malaysia, we are also assisting the United States in Vietnam because we cannot take the lead ourselves in any of those areas. Other signatories to the S.E.A.T.O. Treaty are New Zealand and the Philippines. Both countries are considering whether they will be involved in this matter and whether they will send assistance. Thailand, which is also a signatory to this Treaty, has not been requested by the Government of South Vietnam to send direct assistance into that country. Obviously, Thailand is completely involved in its own defence because, as I said previously, should anything go wrong in Vietnam, Thailand would be- in the direct line of attack. It is quite clear to me that all signatories of the S.E.A.T.O. Treaty are recognising their obligations and doing what they can where they can.
I have listened also to the attempts by Opposition speakers to prove that the war in Vietnam is a civil war. I think that the Minister for Defence made it quite clear that there may be the appearance of civil war in Vietnam because the Vietnamese people are fighting each other. But, obviously, the Vietcong is a military arm of the Communist powers further north. That point alone makes it quite clear to me that this is not merely a civil war. It has been given the appearance of a civil war, but it is backed up by the Communist powers outside. Therefore, we have the obligation to assist as we have been asked to do.
It seemed to me very strange to hear Senator Kennelly going to such pains to excuse Communist activity in Vietnam and, rather, to say that there is no Communist activity in Australia. He used as an illustration the fact that there are no Communist members of Parliament in Australia. He said that the Communist Party did not get very many votes in Australia. That to me is an extraordinary argument. I do not think the Communists put very much importance on having Communist members of Parliament in Australia. What they do is to use the political forum as an opportunity for spreading their propaganda. Their main activity is underground. They get into our national organisations such ns our trade unions. In every way the Communists are trying to subvert Australian activity and the Australian way of life. This is a dangerous thing. When I hear so many members of the Opposition party say that Communism lives most freely in an underdeveloped country I rather shudder because I do not agree with this statement. I agree that such a country is a breeding ground for Communists, but I think the most fertile breeding ground for Communism is a country ‘that has a high standard of living and a high standard of education. If such a country is by some means subverted and thereby a large pool of unemployment is created, and if people who have education and enjoy a high standard of living see their opportunities to use their powers being reduced, that is the most fertile ground for the spread of Communism.
– Did the honorable senator say “ education “?
– If a country has education and if the educated people cannot find suitable employment, the ground is most fertile to enable Communism to flourish. It is the educated man, the thinking man, on whom the Communists concentrate. They concentrate on this ground in their own countries. They concentrate on it in other countries. They are not so interested in the masses who have a low standard of living. They are interested in getting people who can spread their propaganda. That means educated people.
– How can Communism spread through Asia if that theory is right?
– I said it can spread. There is the ground in underdeveloped countries with low standards of living for the spread of Communism. But this is not the most fertile ground. The most fertile ground is what I have just described.
– Where there are educated people who want to be commissars?
– I do not think it is necessarily that. I refer to educated people who are disgruntled and who are then worked upon by the ideals of Communism. It is the educated man who is the best person for spreading Communist propaganda. 1 think that in their own countries - in China and Russia - the Communists concentrate on the educated persons.
– In the universities.
– This is the next step. I was asked whether I had any country in mind. This has been proved in India. Kerala was the best educated State in India and it was the only Indian State which elected a Communist government.
– What does that mean - 5 per cent, or 7 per cent, of our rate of literacy?
– I agree that there is a very low standard, but the rate of literacy in Kerala was higher than in any other Indian State.
– What was the percentage of literacy in that State?
– I could not give you the figure offhand, but the percentage was higher there than in the other States. I would like to mention the United Nations now. Senator Murphy and Senator Kennelly spoke about the United Nations, and I agree with Senator Kennelly on one point. I am disappointed that the United Nations has proved itself completely impotent in dealing with this situation. So long as it does not have a police force, I cannot see how it can be of great value in the type of situation we are discussing. Senator Murphy went to a great deal of trouble to stress that there is no escape from our loyalty and our pledge to the United Nations. We have pledged ourselves to try to uphold the ideals of the United Nations and we have informed the organisation of what we intend to do. But what can the United Nations do? It can do nothing. It is a forum for getting people together to talk; it can do no more than that. As long as some nations keep talking, the United Nations may add to the hopes of peace. But in this case the situation has got beyond talking. The aggressive forces refuse to talk. As long as that situation continues, the United Nations cannot be of assistance.
Senator Murphy also said that there has been no request from the United States of America to us to come in and help. When Dean Rusk was here 1 heard him begging Australia to do more to help in South East Asia. I am glad that we have done so, and I hope we will go on doing all we can. But a country of 11 million people cannot be expected to play the significant part that America plays.
I want to reply to Senator Cavanagh, who took the Minister for Defence (Senator Paltridge) to task and tried to prove that the facts and figures the Minister quoted were of no consequence. I think Senator Cavanagh said the Minister could not substantiate any of them. That was completely unfair, because the Minister was quoting from officially collated information. He made it quite clear to me that he was quoting from the American White Paper.
– But the figures disagreed.
– I would like to read to the Senate the final sentence of the American White Paper. It is -
The evidence presented in this report could be multiplied many times.
The honorable senator says that the figures do not agree, but the report says that the evidence given can be multiplied. The White Paper also refers to the findings of the International Control Commission. I do not think we can disagree with a body like that, which was set up to make the inquiries.
– The Minister did not quote those figures.
– He quoted officially collated figures. I am quite prepared to take the evidence of the American White Paper, which shows that the things the Minister mentioned are of consequence and were happening.
Senator Cole said we should cease trading with Red China. I do not agree with that view at all. I think the only hope for peace in the world is for all. nations to trade with each other and to get to know each other better. That might well lead to tolerance and a better chance of negotiating to settle differences. When I visited China one of the things most obvious to me was the intense dislike of the Chinese people for the people of the Western world. This dislike is being fostered by the propaganda poured out by the Communist Government of that country. It is a successful form of propaganda. The Communists build up this hatred in their people, and the hatred makes it easier for them to get the people to work harder. If we want to counter this propaganda, we must show ourselves as being friendly to the Chinese people. We must do that before we can hope to counter the hatred that the Communist Party is fostering with the obvious intention of making its people more intense in their approach to these matters.
Senator Cole said he thought that most of the wheat we sold to China was being traded outside China. Some wheat may have been dealt with in that way. 1 believe some was sent to Korea, but the Chinese made it quite clear that they had done so. Perhaps they were prepared to do without some wheat that they needed so that they could send it to those who needed it more. However, I know that in the north of China, where wheat is grown and where the people eat wheat - the largest proportion of the Chinese people live in the north - they cannot get enough wheat, and I do not think they will ever be able to do so. That part of China is infertile and suffers from intense droughts and huge floods. The people of that region have all sorts of difficulties to contend with, and I do not think they will ever be able to grow all the wheat they need to feed themselves. I believe that a better and broader approach to this problem is to watch what is going on in China. We certainly do not want to build up our wheat production and then have the Chinese say to us: “ We do not want any more of your wheat “. We would then find ourselves with a depressed market. I do not think that will happen. Indeed, from my own observations, I say it will not. At present I have no objection to our trading with the Chinese. I think there must be some sort of reciprocal trade: we must be prepared to buy from the Chinese as well as to sell to them.
I repeat that I support attempts by the Australian people to check aggression without waiting for it to come closer and become more powerful. We must do what we can to check infiltration, subversion and aggression so that nations will be able to live at peace with each other. I do not want to see Western democracy dominating the world, but I want us to be able to follow our own way of life, alongside other peoples, without any interference.
– My opinion is that the Government has a fixation about the effectiveness of military operations. On this occasion and during previous debates on international affairs we of the Australian Labour Party have made it quite clear that we do not take the view that America should withdraw from Vietnam but we do believe that the Australian Government - not relying on some other government - should take a stronger line in relation to negotiations and a stronger line in relation to social, economic and political advances in South Vietnam and in all countries of South East Asia with which we are allied under the South East Asia Treaty Organisation. On each occasion when we have raised this matter there have been only apologies from Government spokesmen.
This latest decision by the Australian Government has been taken at a time when S.E.A.T.O. discussions are being held, when our Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Hasluck) is saying that there is an imminent danger of war in South East Asia and when the British Foreign Secretary is saying that the British Government cannot commit troops to South Vietnam because it is already very heavily committed in Malaysia. We believe that Australia should be strongly and actively pursuing every possibility of negotiation. On the issue of negotiations and on the importance of the social, economic and political aspects of the situation in Vietnam, the Opposition has always disagreed with the Government, and will continue to do so.
The Australian Government has apparently committed itself, with the United States of America, to a policy which will mean that the war in South Vietnam will no longer be on a limited basis, as was the pattern in 1964. Instead there will be an escalation of the conflict.
An important point was made by Senator Turnbull and it is of major significance to Australia as well: How can we afford to send a quarter of our armed fighting men to South Vietnam at a time when the challenge from other powers in our area is becoming stronger and Malaysia, a member of the Commonwealth of Nations, is likely to demand our active assistance? The United Kingdom Government cannot afford to send troops to South Vietnam because it has already 20,000 troops in Malaysia. The potential of Great Britain is much greater than ours, as is the potential of the United States of America; but if you listen to the statements in this Senate and in another place by Ministers, including the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies), you would think we have the great manpower and economic potential of the U.S.A., China and the Soviet Union. We just have not got that potential, and we should measure this question on the basis of whether we can afford to give this assistance when our own position might be challenged.
We should consider the need for the Australian Government to take a strong line through peaceful methods so that we can instil within the countries we support the ideals of freedom, the establishment of a sound economy and stability. These are all factors in the production of good fighting men. On many occasions the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator McKenna) has pointed out that under the South East Asia Treaty Organisation arrangements we are obliged to assist wherever we can in developing the pattern of freedom and improving the economic and social welfare of the people. We have never taken this up in South Vietnam as a mission nor have we ever seriously considered it.
I asked the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Paltridge) a pertinent question this morning in that connection because, for the first time, at the S.E.A.T.O. conference being held in London, the Minister for External Affairs has made the important point with some strength that military action alone cannot necessarily win this sort of war and that the real basis of the fight rests on convincing these people that they must be removed from poverty. That must apply strongly in a country which has very low standards of living. For these reasons alone the Australian people should look seriously at this proposal to send Australian troops to assist South Vietnam.
We should also be watchful against an extension of this move. Figuratively, this is only a foot in the door. If the escalation continues and we find, as we have reason to expect, that the intrusion of Communist China and North Vietnam becomes more purposeful and leads to more important and more practical military action, we will have been committed. Our young people will be committed to continue to add to a stream of reinforcements to help a country which in itself is not on a proper basis to fight such a war. These are the premises on which the Opposition unanimously takes the view that our troops should not be sent to these countries. Over the years, we have agreed unswervingly to the utmost economic aid and political assistance that we can give in places such as Vietnam. I do not speak against such assistance because I think this is the key to any successful campaign in the area.
I was interested in the references made by Senator Laught to Lee Kuan Yew, the Prime Minister of Singapore. Senator Laught said he had had discussions with Mr. Lee Kuan Yew when he was in Canberra. So also had we. Honorable senators can read the life story of this man in the Parliamentary Library if they wish to do so. We must remember that Mr. Lee is putting up the same sort of thesis in relation to his own problem in Malaysia as we are. Mr. Lee is arguing that the real basis of successful work against Communist intrusion and subversion is to raise the social standards of the people of Malaysia and to establish a system of political democracy. This is the note he strikes and it is a note of which we should be aware in relation to his visit to Australia. It is why some of Mr. Lee’s comments in Australia were criticised by the Malaysian rulers.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 4 p.m.
– Before the suspension of the sitting, I referred to the view that had been expressed by the Prime Minister of Singapore and suggested that his attitude might he considered by supporters of the Government as indicating the sort of policy that a democratic government might pursue in the present situation and that it might serve to explain the position that the Opposition in this Parliament takes up in relation to the struggle against Communism. The history of the trade union activities of the Prime Minister of Singapore reveals that at one time he was regarded as being a left winger or a Communist. I believe that in some quarters he is still so regarded, because he believes that the only way in which a war can be waged successfully against infiltration, subversion and Communism is to institute as many democratic processes as possible and to achieve a high standard of living with stable economic conditions. He has told us that he has this problem in his own country, but as far as we can see he is handling the problem successfully. What he has said should not only be of importance to us in our attitude to Malaysia but also it ought to be an indication of the attitude we should adopt towards South Vietnam.
We of the Opposition have complained about the way in which the matter we are now debating was brought before the Parliament. The Leader of the Opposition in another place, Mr. Calwell, has pointed out the difficulty that he experienced in obtaining information about the proposal to send troops overseas. The Minister for External Affairs has said that the situation in South Vietnam could quite easily lead to a major war. Yet, before the proposal was announced, the Prime Minister did not consult initially with the Leader of the Opposition. How can a Government expect to win a war without the good officers and the constructive opinions of the Opposition of the day? Having regard to the statements of Government leaders some months ago that assistance to South Vietnam was under review, it was quite improper for the Prime Minister to make his announcement in the way he did without first having consultation with the Leader of the Opposition. No parliamentary system can survive unless there is some sort of liaison between the Opposition and the Government. Such a relationship lies at the very root of democracy.
The Opposition has been annoyed also about the lack of consideration that was extended to the Leader of the Opposition in not providing him with an opportunity to have consultations with Mr. Cabot Lodge when he recently visited Australia. An opportunity for such consultations is all the more important if it is believed that the struggle in South Vietnam is so important and dangerous as to warrant the use of a greater number of armed forces in that country. We can only assume that the request - if it was a request - for, and the decision to send, troops to Vietnam stemmed from the urgency of the situation in that country. If a Government proceeds from sound premises, it must have regard to the co-operation that the Opposition can give. We have always said that the Government cannot expect to involve the Opposition in an action which might lead to war if it acts on motives which the Opposition does not accept. We believe that this Government has a fixation about the use of purely military means to overcome problems such as those which exist in South Vietnam. We agree that economic aid to the value of approximately £6 million - by now it might be more - has been given to countries in South East Asia. Of that sum about £3 million or £3± million has been given to Vietnam. But this Government has shown no initiative in encouraging a stable and democratic system of government in South Vietnam or in trying to persuade the rulers of that country to adopt economic measures which might win back to them the support of the people who are now being influenced by the Communist Vietcong.
We must consider the background of events in South Vietnam. I have not the time now to do more than briefly indicate broad agreement about some of the historical facts that have been mentioned by Opposition speakers and to some extent by speakers on the other side of the Senate. It is of no use saying that this is simply a struggle against Communist forces and policies emanating from the Communist in China. We must have regard to the struggle that was organised against the French, to the combination of nationalist forces which later split into two groups, to the Geneva Agreement, and to the fact that certain elements of the nationalist forces later came under Communist influence and took up a strong position in South Vietnam. In many areas those forces have been in occupation for 20 years. They control large sections of the country simply by reason of the fact that they have been there for so long. Indeed, those who have been watching the situation know that in many places the existing Government of South Vietnam accepts the position that in some areas two sets of taxes are levied upon the peasants, the rubber planters and so forth. In other words, the Government of that country and the Communist forces are imposing taxes, both of them accepting the situation that they both have to work in those areas.
We must have regard not only to the historical background to which I have referred but also to the impact of unstable government. We of the Opposition are not the only ones to say that there has been a great deal of instability in South Vietnam. Indeed, the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Paltridge) made that very point when he returned recently from his trip overseas. But we should not encourage an attitude which leads one to say: “ Yes, there is instability. But what can we do about it?” If the Australian Government, as an instrument of the S.E.A.T.O. alliance, is to be effective in encouraging the adoption of higher standards of living and the establishment of free institutions in such countries, it ought to take some initiative. It ought to be playing a greater role in these matters and should not be content with saying: “ We have given economic aid. That is as far as we can go.” Having listened to the words that have been uttered by leaders of the Government, one cannot help but gain the impression that they are not playing a very persuasive part in helping to improve the conditions of people in South East Asia.
On 23rd March last, the Minister for External Affairs had this to say in another place, as reported at page 232 of “ Hansard “ -
We are told from time to time that, while external aid can help, it is for the people of South Vietnam themselves to establish a political regime which will withstand internal subversion. We must remember, however, that the South Vietnamese are not dealing simply with a situation of local unrest, but with a large-scale directed’ campaign of assassination and terrorism, and the direction comes from outside, it would be a dangerous thing to argue that, because subversive elements inspired from outside have achieved some success in creating instability within a country, these elements thereby earn the right to become the government of that country.
As 1 interpret the Minister’s remarks, he said that, even if you say that political democracy ought to be established, you cannot establish it where you have subversion. The fact is that many of these subversive elements have not come from the north but are local South Vietnamese who are not satisfied with economic conditions in that country.
In regard to negotiation, we say that this Government ought to show initiative similar to that which has been shown, not only by the present Labour Government in the United Kingdom, but also by its predecessor. The attitude of the Minister for External Affairs has been developed by the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Paltridge). In the speech to which I have referred, the Minister for External Affairs said -
It is not a valid policy to call for negotiation unless there is a clear idea what is to be the outcome of negotiation.
He referred to the necessity for negotiations to be very real and” the necessity to consider whether one should withdraw or not. I remind honorable senators that this discussion was taking place a few days before the President of the United States made the statement which apparently surprised the Government. The President made it very clear that the Americans would talk anywhere.
The Opposition wants the Government to pursue a policy actively directed towards negotiations. It is not good enough to say: “ If you attempt to negotiate now, nobody will talk with you “. The fact is that we have never tried to negotiate nor accepted that as an obligation. Apparently, we have been content to ride along with the tide and rest on the decisions of the U.S.A. This is wrong. We should be making statements similar to those now being made by the British Foreign Minister at the South East Asia Treaty Organisation Conference, even though the diplomatic situation raises great difficulty and, from the point of view of escalation, the position is very grave. In view of the current situation, the Opposition believes that our mechanical problems of defence will be aggravated by the decision to send our troops .overseas.
Consideration must also be given to the political instability of South Vietnam. Unless the Government is prepared to take the initiative in this connection, some alternative should be discovered. I put it to the Senate that the lesson should be understood now that the only way effectively to combat Communism is to act democratically. This is the method of the trade union movement and the method used successfully by Lee Kuan Yew, the Prime Minister of Singapore.
Senator Cavanagh, I think, made the point that you cannot beat Communism in a country of poverty. I appreciate that it is difficult to establish political freedom and a legislature in a country which is war torn, but I suggest that the Government has never appreciated the importance of that point in its contributions to S.E.A.T.O. Nor has it demonstrated that realisation in statements made by Government supporters in this Parliament. We are informed by the Minister for External Affairs of various changes in Government and military personnel in South Vietnam. Too many changes have occurred for me to quote them now. There have been more than ten. An honorable senator referred to the changes in executive control in the military revolutionary council in attempts to move towards a national congress. If I were to cite now all the circumstances of the changes, I would be here for some hours. It is important to note that unfortunately South Vietnam is ruled by military personnel who, although they are most important in their sphere of operations, must always be an adjunct to a democratic parliament. At various times, South Vietnam has been ruled by 14 generals out of 18. The position has shifted backwards and forwards. Strikes and demonstrations against the Government have been staged. There are, of course, religious difficulties which stand in the way of a move towards a national assembly. As a people who believe in free institutions - as Senator McKenna has said - it is our obligation under S.E.A.T.O. to encourage a move towards a national parliament.
The situation in South Vietnam is turbulent. In the past, some regions have been controlled by military generals who might well have been replaced by civilian mayors. I am aware that somebody might say that the Government has a pacification policy in South Vietnam and that economic measures cannot be carried out because economic advisers who are sent to villages are quickly done away with. This is no solution. There must be an evaluation of the situation. The
Australian Government must follow the policy which, it seems to me, the Minister for External Affairs is putting forward at the present S.E.A.T.O. Conference. It is a policy which he did not embrace last year and which emphasises the importance of freedom of economic planning.
In July of last year I visited South Vietnam. I do not want it thought that 1 proposed a withdrawal of U.S. forces in South Vietnam. It is certainly true that a change ought to be made, with assistance from Australia and the United States of America, towards a civilian or parliamentary system. As I said earlier, some peasants are paying two taxes. That was the situation when I visited that country and I believe that it still obtains. I understand that land taxes are still being paid to absentee landlords. I also gained the impression that the military activities there were not being properly prosecuted. I saw young men being trained in South Vietnam in an academy of the West Point type. Their training was equivalent to university training. It occurred to me that, for the purposes of guerrilla warfare, it would have been preferable to have used the talents of the peasants in the lower ranks who might be allowed to earn commissions in the field.
It has been claimed by people who understand the military situation in Vietnam that there is not much difference between the fighting abilities of the North Vietnamese and South Vietnamese, but that the people who have gone to the North have been brainwashed and are more dedicated fighters. They are opposed by people who have not been trained in guerrilla fighting but have been given the training that is approved from the Western point of view. If South Vietnam forces are to operate effectively they should be trained in the needs of guerrilla warfare. In World War II we learned of the advantages of guerrilla activity. Guerrilla activity in support of the Allies was only effective because it had the support of the civilian population. Training must be given to the South Vietnamese in methods to combat the subversive activities of the elements trained by the Communists who have come down from the North. The civilian population - the ordinary people who make the area their home - will not react strongly against the Communists unless they feel that they are a part of the total activity.
Since Ngo Dinh Diem was deposed in November 1963 there have been at least 14 occasions when the heads of the State, or the Prime Minister, have been deposed. Three attempts have been made to set up a national council which would incorporate civilian elements. In the most recent move, General Khanh was deposed and made an ambassador. I believe that the criticism I have made regarding the Government’s view on political regimes is reflected in the statement of the Prime Minister when he referred to Diem, who had maintained some stability in South Vietnam. The Prime Minister made the point that our criticism is often misplaced when we refer to military juntas and the lack of universal control by the South Vietnamese people. At page 1112 of “ Hansard “ of 4th May, he is reported as saying -
Now Sir, this is a matter which, I venture to say, is unarguable -
He is referring to the need to stop the civil war - but the last point that the Leader of the Opposition undertook to make was that in South Vietnam there was a poor government - a corrupt government. This word “ corrupt “ comes trippingly to the tongue. Every government of this kind is “ corrupt “ or it is “ Fascist “. 1 know of no evidence that the Quat Government in South Vietnam is corrupt. 1 certainly have had no evidence that the Government of Ngo Dinh Diem was corrupt. I thought he was a brave and honest little man, and a patriot.
I come now to what has been said about Ngo Dinh Diem in a document issued by the Embassy of the Republic of Vietnam in Canberra. I shall quote from a document entitled “The Revolution of November 1st 1963.”- It states -
On November 1st 1963 after a secret and swift movement of troops into Saigon, several units of the Vietnamese armed Forces began an attack on the basic points of Ngo Dinh Diem’s defence system, and overcame all resistance within less than a day.
For nine years the Ngo Dinh Diem Government had pursued a dictatorial and tyrannical policy. Power was concentrated in the hands of the Ngo family and those of a number of their close, incompetent and interested collaborators whose main concern was to humiliate themselves in flattery before Diem, Nhu, Can and Le Xuan (Nhu’s wife).
The natural and necessary outcome of the situation therefore had to be the overthrow of the Ngo regime. The whole Vietnamese population was united in hopes for a coup d’etat.
Bringing about the reforms which had been consistently denied to the people, the Revolution resurrected political activities, which had been a mockery, and above all, it restored the people’s confidence in the future of the nation.
I have referred to the fact that the various groups of generals who have had control of the South Vietnam Government have made declarations about the need to restore freedom of religion, political assembly, &c, but there are difficulties, as everybody can imagine, when a country has a government consisting of military personnel. Somebody will say, as apparently the Minister for External Affairs has said, that that is a matter for the people concerned. I suggest that it is not. I suggest that if we are to send our boys there, if we are to spend £3.5 million in aid to the country and if we are to wind up on the winning side, we ought to see that there is a possibility of winning and the only way to do so is to see that these conditions exist. We are not satisfied that the statements which have been made by the Government do in fact represent the position.
We think that the South East Asia Treaty Organisation ought to have been commissioned to discuss the question of military aid to South Vietnam, which should not rest simply upon a request from the South Vietnamese, which could be misinterpreted, as Senator Kennelly has said, or could be the result of many factors. If S.E.A.T.O. is to be a satisfactory organisation to resist Communist influence in these areas, its members must work as a combination. Members must consult with each other and act in conjunction. It has been said that even in Thailand there is some subversion. I was glad to hear Senator Turnbull make the point that there is subversion in the north of Thailand because the country is impoverished. It may be that the task of the Government is difficult. These are things of the sort that we should be worrying about. If we want to fight Communism emphasis should be given to this question.
We should not say that we will run the risk of a world war and that we have to send troops to South Vietnam because this is what a friend would do. When our initial forces are diminished, we might have to consider sending overseas the younger ones, the trainees. This could easily lead to a very serious situation for this country. We will find, as time elapses and casualties occur - as they will occur- that the people of Australia will act as they acted during World War I, when the first persons to oppose conscription were the members of the armed forces. The Government should not act in this way. The only weapon we can properly use is the weapon to which I have referred, if we are to win in the long run.
When Senator Mattner and I were in Vietnam - I do not think that he will dispute this - the emphasis was on non-escalation. The President of the United States made this clear a number of times. After the incident in the Gulf of Tonkin last August he made it clear that the United States did not want a wider war, that it wanted to limit the war. I carried out the ordinary tests that anybody can make in an excursion of this sort in pursuing the point of view that T have. I am satisfied that when I was there the important leaders and ambassadors of the most important countries were anxious to limit and contain the war, to ensure that it did not spread. This is the situation that should obtain today. We should not be in a position which, easily and quickly, could lead to escalation of the conflict which might produce a world war.
If the Government puts us in this position, it must fact up to the issue that I mentioned earlier, namely, the potential that we have in this respect in view of our obligations in our geographical situation. We have suggested a very wise course. The United Kingdom Government was pursuing this course and it displayed this purpose in its negotiations in relation to Laos. By way of demonstrating this, let me mention the strange paradox in Vientiane, the capital of Laos, where the Government, led by what one might call a Labour man, a Social Democrat, and supported by almost everybody except the Pathet Lao, agreed that the headquarters of the Pathet Lao remain in Vientiane. This course was supported by representatives of other governments in the country. In fact, there was a radio link with the Pathet Lao forces.
We queried this and we were told that this seemed a common sense course because it made possible the keeping open of an avenue for discussion with the Pathet Lao. The objective was finally to bring the Pathet Lao. the Communist section, back into the Government. Later there were conferences, supported by the United Kingdom Government, to exploit this approach. They have not been satisfactory, as yet, but we must have regard to this sort of purpose. We must not think that the problem of South Vietnam can be settled only by consideration of South Vietnam. Senator Laught mentioned the Mekong River, which flows through the countries of South East Asia. All of the countries are intermixed. The factors that are present in South Vietnam are just as important to Cambodia and Laos as they are to Thailand, so Australia must, in my opinion, take the initiative displayed by the United Kingdom Labour Government and even by the previous United Kingdom Government. I know that the British experts were moving towards limitation. We should be very watchful concerning an extension.
I shall not detain the Senate much longer, because other speakers want to make their points. Obviously, in such a situation the dangers of escalation should not be discounted. I have never heard anybody discount them. On either side, everybody has referred to the practical implications. We say, as we said last year, that we must stop now and look at the causes. The Government should consult with the Opposition. It should place before the Opposition any demands, if there are demands, and say whether Australia is just making a prestige or token display of force to suit the United States Government. I do not make any carping criticism of the United States because it has itself involved in this situation. In our case we are making more than a token contribution. This force is a vital factor to Australia. In issues of this sort the Opposition ought to be fully informed and given every opportunity to examine the policies which the Government initiates and which get us into this position.
Nobody can bellieve that if we are involved in a war of this sort we can get the industrial movement on side by legislative action, without consultation. Unless the Labour Party has a confirmed belief that the Government is correct in its action the industrial movement will not move anywhere. Every stable government - in fact, every government except a dictatorship, where stability does not obtain for long - knows that to have a satisfactory economy, with the working force carrying out its functions, it is necessary to have the cooperation of the trade union movement. You must be able to talk to the Australian Council of Trade Unions. It, in turn, must be able to talk to you so that you can arrive at agreements that are reasonable.
As I think everyone knows, the A.C.T.U., which is not a Communist controlled body - it is the trade union centre of Australia - has declared that Labour’s policy is the correct one. It has sent telegrams to the Prime Minister seeking a reversal of the Government’s policies to bring them into line with the policies which we adopt. If the present situation should become more serious, it is obvious that the Government will have against it not only the Opposition but also a large section of the Australian community. I suggest that this must follow if the Government has to call up trainees for military service overseas. In addition, the Government will be faced with the opposition of the organised labour movement - a movement whose co-operation is essential to the success of any planned wartime economy. At present the Government does not have the support of the three sectors of the Australian population to which I have referred.
We of the Opposition, and most of the Australian people, want to see a peaceful solution of the present situation, but if we cannot have peace we want the war to remain as limited as is possible. We do not want the war to escalate. We believe that the situation which obtained last year was much more conducive to world peace, and much safer for Australia, than is the present situation. In addition, the Opposition wants the Government to take the steps to which I have referred. We want the Government to agree with us that even now, in the far:e of the refusal of Communist China and North Vietnam to come to the conference table, the flag of negotiation must be waved. The parties concerned must talk because eventually - everyone must accept this - there will have to be negotiation.
The point that Senator Ridley put to me within the last two or three hours is a very sound one. Let me put this as a matter for consideration by the Senate: If it is true that difficulty is being experienced in supplying manpower for the armed forces of the United States in South Vietnam, that would not be a matter of concern to China. China probably would like to see the situation worsen and America placed in an embarrassing position. Even though the time may be later than we think, we still must make peace overtures. Most of all, the Senate must realise that the only way to
fight Communism is to implement the social and economic policies which we have put to the Government as a necessary foundation on which to work. The Government must adopt this approach not only to the present crisis but also to any future crisis which may confront it.
– I think it well to recognise that the role of Her Majesty’s Opposition is always to have a very close and searching look at any legislation that is introduced into the Parliament, or any proposal that is put before it, so as to ensure that the legislation or the action proposed will maintain for the country the freedom which we have been able to uphold and for which we have paid a very high price in the past. Its duty also is to ensure that our standard of living will continue at the present high level and that Australia will be developed as quickly as is possible.
The proposal now before the Senate is a very grave one because it commits 800 Australian troops to fight. Therefore, it is only natural that the Opposition must look at the proposal very closely. In the debate which has been in progress for two days, the Opposition has said a great deal, most of it criticising the Government for the grave decision that it has made, criticising America for its actions and criticising many of our other allies for what they have done. But never during the debate have I heard any criticism by any honorable senator on the Opposition side of the Communist attitude in the area in question. Apparently the Communists may continue to do what they have been doing in the past - infiltrating into countries, upsetting their living standards, overrunning their governments and then moving further south, all the time getting closer to Australia. Nothing has been said about that.
I do not think that very many Opposition senators support the attitude that some of their party colleagues have displayed in this debate. I have been amazed at some of the statements .which have been made. One of them, which I regard as a red herring to try to get the people of Australia to object to the Government’s decision, is that you cannot put Communism down with guns. What is meant by that? The whole of Senator Bishop’s speech seemed to me to be directed to the argument that the forces opposing the North Vietnamese should negotiate with the Communists. However, it has been pointed out by many speakers on the Government side that negotiations at this stage are impossible because the leaders of North Vietnam have flatly refused to negotiate. In this they have been supported by spokesmen for the Soviet Union and Communist China. In the other place the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) made this statement -
Let me sum up. We believe that America must not be humiliated and must not be forced to withdraw. But we are convinced that sooner or later the dispute in Vietnam must be settled through the councils of the United Nations. If it is necessary to back with a peace force the authority of the United Nations, we would support Australian participation to the hilt.
In other words, Mr. Calwell agrees that Australian troops should be sent to this area provided the matter goes before the United Nations. To be effective, it must go before the Security Council. What will happen there? France and Russia will veto it immediately and the matter will be put aside. Nothing will be done and America will have to continue in her present role of helping South Vietnam.
I was very interested last night in Senator Laught’s remarks about the Geneva conference. He pointed out that the Geneva Agreement was signed in 1954, after eight years of war in what was known as French Indo-China. He said that this agreement was brought about by the desire to provide a basis for a political settlement in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. I would have wished him to have gone a little further with the thought that he was projecting before the Senate and to have directed attention to the conditions which have obtained in that area since then.
Following the Agreement, with the aid of the West a development programme began in South Vietnam. It resulted in a change of conditions for the people who had lived in absolute poverty and misery over the years. The rapid development became an embarrassment to the people of North Vietnam, who decided that something had to be done. This is not the first time that we have seen such a thing. A similar situation occurred in Germany. After the last war West Germany, with the aid of the Western nations, began such an intensive programme of redevelopment and established so many new industries that it became an embarrassment to the people in East Germany. Finally, after heated exchanges and many small battles across the border, the East Germans built a wall between the two areas of Berlin. All the time the Communists are endeavouring to cover up the aid and assistance that the West is giving to the underdeveloped, countries.
– The honorable senator would not say Germany was underdeveloped?
– It was at that time.
– It had been damaged by the war.
– Yes. Senator Kennelly made a point that interested me. He asked what could be achieved by sending 800 Australian troops to South Vietnam. If I were experiencing a great deal of difficulty and were being attacked by a greater force than I could muster, I would be very grateful to anyone who came to my assistance. In these days of modern warfare it is not necessary to have the great numbers of troops that were necessary in past wars. As long as the troops are well trained, are well equipped with the latest weapons and are mobile, a small force can be of great assistance. Australia, which is not a large country as far as population is concerned, has said that it will send 800 troops to South Vietnam.
A further point that interested me was a remark made by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna). When he was dealing with the fact that a battalion was to be sent to this area, he raised the question of national service trainees. The Minister for Defence (Senator Paltridge) during the debate on the National Service Bill stated that after six months training national service trainees will be integrated into the Australian Regular Army. Senator McKenna suggested that if national service trainees are sent to join the battalion that will be stationed in South Vietnam, this will lower the morale of the troops in the battalion. I take this remark as a slur on our troops. If I were a serviceman in that area I would welcome anyone who came to give me a hand. I would put my hand on his shoulder and say: “ I am proud to see you here and I am glad to have you.” The troops who go to that area will probably be the grandchildren of the men of whom we are so proud; the men of whom we speak so highly on Anzac Day and whom no doubt the members of the Opposition praise when they are asked to speak at Anzac Day services. I feel quite confident that these lads will possess the spirit of the original Anzacs
Australia isa large continent, populated by one race of people. It is not like other large continents throughout the world where the land masses are shared by various races of people. We have a population of 11 million people, which is very small when compared with the populations of other countries in the world. It is obvious that because we have a large area with a small population we cannot hope to defend ourselves against an attack by an aggressor. We must have friends. We want to be able to live in peace in this country, and to be able to get on with the job of developing it. We want to be able to help the people who live near us to develop their countries in order to raise their standard of living.
Australia has joined with its friends and allies in establishing pacts. We have agreed with them that we will band together to oppose aggression. If we are attacked we will expect our allies to come to our help. If they are attacked, we will endeavour to go to their help. Through these pacts not only do we enjoy the assistance of our allies but also we are bound by obligations. In this case we have been asked to provide assistance and the Government has agreed to do so.
– Who asked for the assistance?
Do not try to tie me down. The honorable senator can say what he thinks later on. The Government’s defence and foreign affairs policies have been under close scrutiny for a long time now. Following the announcement of the decision to send troops to South Vietnam they have been under even closer scrutiny.
I know that many people in this country will disagree with the Government’s decision to commit these 800 men to the fight. But on many occasions in the past the people nave had the opportunity to criticise and to reject the Government’s policies on defence and foreign affairs. The people had the opportunity at the election for the House of Representatives in 1963. What happened? The Government was swept back into office and the Opposition was almost annihilated. In 1964 the people again had the opportunity to criticise our policies and to vote on conscription, which was the main issue introduced into the election campaign by the Labour Party. The Government accepted the challenge at that time. What happened? It is history now how the people of this country rejected the Labour Party’s beliefs on that question.
I want to return again to the Geneva Agreement of 1954. I refer to the speech by the Prime Minister on Tuesday when he reminded Parliament and the country that, at the time of the signing of the Geneva Agreement, he made a statement in which he said that the Government would view any aggression in violation of the Indo-China settlement as a threat to international peace and security. Is there any honorable senator who would deny that aggression from North Vietnam has taken place? Even the Leader of the Opposition in another place (Mr. Calwell) admitted in his speech on Tuesday that there was northern aggression. He said -
That there has long been and still is aggression from the north and subversion inspired by the north 1 do not for a moment deny.
If there is aggression from the north - and the Leader of the Opposition in another place has admitted that fact - then in my view, in the view of the Government and in the view of most thinking people of this country, it has to be halted.
We have heard in this debate time and time again from Government speakers how, if this aggression is not halted now, it will carry on into Thailand and very shortly be at the doors of Australia. The Prime Minister has said in most certain and specific terms that the Government believes that there has been a breach of international law and a violation of the United Nations Charter. I have just said that if this aggression from the north is not halted it can come down and be on the shores of Australia because nothing is more certain than this: If the North Vietnamese were successful in the area in which there is conflict at present, the Communists would immediately start this downward thrust to our shores. America cannot be expected to carry this burden alone. We asked America during the last world war to come and give us assistance. America did so during the years 1942-45. I believe that we have to face our obligations now. We have to give America assistance. The Government has done the right thing in this case and I fully support the action it has taken.
– In this debate, the Opposition throws down a direct challenge to the Government on a matter of grave national importance. I think it is correct to say that the Government and the Opposition are in open and serious confrontation on this issue which arises from the decision of the Government to send a battalion of 800 combat troops to South Vietnam. Australia is the only country other than the United States of America to send combat forces to South Vietnam. Some 30 countries, as the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) said in his statement informing the people and the Parliament of this decision, have been giving aid of a military or an economic character to South Vietnam; but, apart from the United States, none has yet been involved in military combat activity side by side with the South Vietnamese until Australia’s decision last week.
The “ New York Times “ of, interestingly enough, Thursday 29th April 1965 - that is the date on which the Prime Minister made his announcement - quoting a Canberra dateline of 28th April - that is last Wednesday - foreshadowed this decision of the Australian Government. It said -
Sending the Australians to South Vietnam would represent the despatch of the first non-American troops to that nation. The 3,000 South Korean troops that arrived recently in Saigon were noncombatants.
It is a serious decision that the Government has taken. In the view of the Opposition, a very heavy responsibility rests upon the Government to satisfy the Australian people not merely that its decision is a defensible one in political argument, but that it was the only proper decision to take at this time in the interests of Australia and of the world community. We say quite categorically and unanimously that the Government has failed to discharge that responsibility. It has failed to tell us frankly, openly and convincingly why it was necessary - not just desirable or defensible, but necessary - for Australia to be the first nation other than the United States to send combat troops to the South Vietnam area of conflict.
Much has been said in this debate. I do not want at this stage to reiterate all the arguments which have been put on behalf of the Opposition. We base our case on the essential merits of the situation, and we base our case firmly on what is needed in the best interests of the defence of Australia. At no stage has the Australian Labour Party ever ceded to any other party in this country any priority in patriotism or any priority in concern over Australia’s defences. The Australian Labour Party is as ready as any other party - second to none - to defend this country in any case where aggression is aimed at us. This is our primary responsibility. We have never shrunk from it and we never will.
Let me come to the substance of the issue. The Government has based its whole case here on a simple generalisation to deal with a very difficult problem. It has relied heavily on the proposition that there is aggression from North Vietnam against South Vietnam, an independent country it is said, and that that concludes the matter. The Leader of the Opposition in another place (Mr. Calwell) said quite categorically that this was a grotesque oversimplification of the issue. The Government has been at great pains to combat the argument that we on this side have advanced that, in very large measure, this is a civil war. The war has, of course, a strong component of direction and encouragement from the north- I am speaking of the Vietcong - but it is in large measure a conflict in which Vietnamese are locked in conflict with each other.
The United States State Department in its White Paper “ Aggression from the North “ sets out to document its case. It does so in very stark language. This document was produced in February by the State Department to coincide with the launching of bombing attacks by United States air forces against North Vietnam. It puts a case, in somewhat unrestrained language, about aggression from the north, with, as I say, substantial documentation; but as a document, it is less than frank. Having read it alongside the report of the International Commission for Supervision and Control in Vietnam, in my opinion it is an unsatisfactory document, because it gives only half the picture. That is the point of view from which we approach this difficult problem. Without frankness in discussing this situation, we will never get results. In my opinion, general assertions are less persuasive than is an impartial investigation of the facts. Invective is not a substitute for analysis. It never can be. 1 propose, in the little time that I have, to examine one or two aspects of this question with a view to suggesting some unhysterical inferences to be drawn from an examination of these considerations. One vital matter which suggests itself to my mind right at the commencement of this discussion is that the Government has endeavoured, through the Leader of the Government in the Senate and those who have spoken in support of his statement, to rebut the proposition that it is a civil war that we are discussing. As the Leader of the Government put it yesterday, that is almost a laughable proposition for the Opposition to advance. The Government is at pains to persuade the Parliament and the people that this is a plain case of aggression from North Vietnam’ against South Vietnam and that it is to meet that situation, and at the request of the South Vietnamese Government, that combat troops are to be sent from Australia. They are being sent to fight in a war; that is the case that the Government has advanced. But yesterday it resolutely refused to agree that Australia was at war with North Vietnam. I place a lot of importance on this, because many considerations of great moment depend on whether , or not we are at war. At question time yesterday Senator Murphy asked the Leader of the Government -
Is it clear that we are now engaged in war against North Vietnam? Is it intended formally to declare war against North Vietnam?
The Leader of the Government evaded the questions and said -
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 to resist aggression which was being waged inside South Vietnam in a defensive role. As to the declaration of war, the question does not arise at this time in these circumstances.
Later on, in the course of this debate, the Leader of the Government gave an analysis of the numbers of men found to have infiltrated from North Vietnam and of the quantities of war material and so on which have come into South Vietnam from the north. He cited with approval something that the Thai Foreign Minister had said at the current South East Asia Treaty Organisation meeting in London about the crucial nature of the struggle in South Vietnam. Senator Ormonde interjected -
So we are really at war?
Senator Kennelly also interjected to say ;
The Minister said at question time that we were at war.
The Minister’s reply to this was -
I said nothing of the sort. Honorable senators opposite should look at “ Hansard “. He does not understand what is said.
He then went on to deal with other matters. There has been absolute humbug on the part of the Government in dealing with the fundamental question of whether or not Australia is at war with North Vietnam. It is not just, an academic question. Many matters of international law, of belligerent status, of the treatment of prisoners, of the use of particular kinds of weapons and of the prohibition of the use of certain kinds of war materials depend on whether we are at peace or at war. All these matters are governed by the answers to the question whether there is a state of war between nations. To my mind, the people of Australia are entitled to a completely frank statement by the Government on this question - a statement free from any ambiguity whatever. We are committed - this, of course, is only a first instalment, because reinforcements will inevitably become necessary - to despatch a battalion of troops to fight alongside South Vietnamese troops and United States troops in South Vietnam and to be associated with military activity, in the form of bombing, against North Vietnam. The case is that the Vietcong activities in South Vietnam are really part of an operation directed from the north.. So in ordinary parlance anyone would say that a state of war was emerging. That seems to me to be a very important question.
Another series of defence Bills was introduced by the Government today, representing a further step in the process by which all avenues against conscription are being closed by the Government. Anybody who listened to the second reading speeches made by the Minister on those Bills this morning would have noted that the Government’s view was that it was clear, on military grounds, that liability for overseas service should be mandatory on all persons called up in wartime. Of course, the Government’s case for conscription is a case for complete conscription, whether in peace or war. I emphasise the word “ wartime “ because it may be of great importance to many young men in this country to know whether or not this is wartime. This is not a mere matter of legal sophistry or of splitting hairs. Tt is a matter of the greatest importance in international law. It ought to be defined at the earliest possible moment and the Parliament should be given a precise statement of what the position is. This morning Senator Wright, at the invitation of the Minister, placed on notice a question relating to certain of our obligations under pacts and alliances in relation to the situation to our north. That was a proper question and it is proper that it should be answered carefully so that there will be a precise definition of what our obligations are. To have the question properly spelt out and to have the answer to it given in due form and after deliberation is to perform a service. The same applies to the big question whether or not we are at war. The Government cannot have it both ways. It cannot commit young Australians to go to fight 7,000 miles away-
– Not 7,000 miles away. That is ridiculous.
– Then how many miles is it - 4,000? I will accept a correction.
– It is a matter of 27 degrees. To say it is 7,000 miles is ridiculous.
– How many miles does the honorable senator think it is?
– It is 27 degrees or about 1,800 miles.
– I will not pause to answer this interjection. I am content to accept any correction which accords with the facts.
– It is ridiculous to say that it is 7,000 miles.
– All right. The honorable senator has said that three times. If what f said was incorrect, I will stand corrected. lt is to a place many thousands of miles away that young Australian men are to be sent to fight and perhaps to die. Some of them will certainly die. Senator Cole last night reduced this debate to an absurdity by suggesting that Australian troops had no more chance of being killed in South Vietnam than had a person driving a car in Sydney or Melbourne. That was a ridiculous statement, which should be rejected by the Senate. It is important for young Australians to know whether they are to be sent to a war or to fulfil a commitment of a vague and an ill-defined character. I have only this to say: In my opinion, the Government has been completely and unpardonably vague and irresponsible about the question whether we are at war.
I come now to the next matter because this seems to me to be of great importance. Somebody at some stage has to ask what are the assumptions upon which these young Australian men are being sent to Vietnam. On what theory of international politics has the decision been made? What is the theory or logic upon which continued military activity is being undertaken? It is a serious discussion and I think it involves some fundamental questions. The whole problem has been bedevilled by the refusal of our Government, supporting the attitude of the U.S.A., to recognise the central fact of China’s existence and power in Asia.
That is not a defence of China’s policies nor is it a. plea not to resist aggression from whatever source it comes; but it is a plea for a sense of reality in considering what we are talking about when we speak of being at war with China or of stopping Chinese aggression. We have to have a fairly clear idea of what we intend to do. Do we want a war with China? Sometimes, listening to honorable senators on the Government side, one hears them talk about a desire to have a free and independent South Vietnam, of resisting aggression and containing China; but they seem to be confused and to use language more appropriate to a military war against China, resulting in China’s defeat. I do not think anybody seriously put it up as a proposition that we should launch a nuclear war against China or engage China frontally in some other kind of military activity. So direct war of that kind with Peking is, I suppose, out of consideration.
Then we have to decide whether what is being sought from the enterprise in which our troops are to be joined is to secure military victory over North Vietnam so that the South Vietnamese, with those who fight alongside them, will be able to impose the terms of settlement. I think it is plain enough that we will never reach that position of military victory over North Vietnam without also involving Communist China and perhaps Russia. That would be assuming a prospect of military victory as a result of which our side could dictate the terms. But that is a counsel of perfection and that is how every responsible commentator thinks of it.
If you are not to get to the stage of military victory over the North Vietnamese, it follows that at some stage there has to bp some kind of compromise - some kind of settlement resulting from negotiations. A settlement resulting from negotiations involves of necessity give and take. If it does not mean that it means that one side or the other has achieved a victory. In a situation of political compromise or settlement emerging from a military stalemate we have, of course, to be seriously concerned about the type of government that emerges in Vietnam and in South Vietnam in particular. Obviously, we do not support - nor can we support in the long run - any kind of government which lacks broad popular appeal and which is incapable of leading them out of the misery and despair, the poverty and degradation that they have had for a generation or more. We would support a government which could do that but it does not seem that such a government will come from any of the little junta groups which are displacing each other periodically for the right to control South Vietnam for a few months or weeks.
– I thought he did it very illogically.
– There were some things in Senator Turnbull’s speech with which I did not agree and particularly his reference to the need for Australia to have its own atomic bomb, but that is a matter of opinion. When Senator Turnbull dealt with those factors governing the situation in Vietnam I thought his contribution was most interesting.
– After referring to the immensity of China’s strength he said that Australia should defend herself.
– Senator Turnbull had to refer to the immensity of China’s strength; otherwise, he would not have been talking about relevant matters and that is one of the difficulties that the Government faces in relation to the whole question of China. Senator Cole and perhaps others want to see Australia even stop trading with China. Nobody on the Government side is prepared to take the elementary step of recognising the existence of this enormous power. None of them will try to make a realistic assessment of what it will be like in 5, 10 or 20 years time with us still holding our position, as I hope we can.
I have discussed these considerations because it seems to me we must turn a serious mind to the future. It is no use talking about war, conflict or the involvement of troops without some kind of picture emerging from our own Government as well as the United States Government, of what it is we want to see at the end of this campaign. What kind of government is to emerge? Senator Turnbull apparently thinks there will not be any alternative to a Communist government. I do not know whether that is so. Perhaps some kind of coalition government could emerge. Some experienced observers in the United States of America have expressed the view that there are some prospects of a stable political situation emerging from a political settlement. Professor Hans J. Morgenthau. Professor of Political Science at the University of Chicago and formerly consultant to the State and Defence Departments of the United States of America, stated recently in the “ New York Times “ - we must learn to accommodate ourselves to the predominance of China on the Asian mainland … Ho Chi Minh will become the leader of a Chinese satellite only if the United States forces him to become one. Furthermore, Ho Chi Minh, like Tito . . . came to power … at the head of a victorious army of his own. He is, then, a natural candidate to become an Asian Tito, and the question we must answer is: how adversely would a Titoist Ho Chi Minh, governing all of Vietnam, affect the interests of the United States? The answer can only be: not at all. One can even maintain the proposition that … it would be in the interests of the United States if the Western periphery of China were ringed by a chain of independent states. 1 am not saying that that is my solution to this problem. I have not a solution any more than anybody else has. But 1 do sincerely believe that these are the sort of questions Australians have to ask themselves. These are the kind of things to which our Government should be addressing its mind. It is not good enough for the Government to say we are doing this as an obligation that the situation calls for having regard to our close relationship wilh the United States of America and the interdependence of our alliance or the sort of help we might hope to have in the future from the United States should the necessity arise, without saying to us: “ This is the sort of thing we want to see happen in this part of the world to which we are sending our troops but which is not within Australia’s shores.”
These are important questions, and they must be answered at some stage or other. Nobody will believe that the Australian Government has unquestionable wisdom on the matter. It is equally wrong to try to belittle the attitude of the Opposition, which calls for clarification of these fundamental matters. It is wrong to suggest that, in joining issue frontally with the Government on this question, we are not seriously concerned about the defence of Australia and all that Australia means to all of us. I reject any suggestion that the Government has a monopoly of wisdom or patriotism in relation to this matter. For our part, we believe that what we are putting forward - we have taken the step seriously and not without very real, close and anxious deliberation - is in the best interests of our country.
Much has been said about negotiations. We believe that the timing of the decision to send troops to South Vietnam is wrong. In making its decision, the Government is flying in the face of a mounting tide of anxiety all over the world about the course of the war in Vietnam and the critical urgency of looking for a way out. It is important for us to get past the generalisations. One or two Government senators have said during this debate, and when we debated the conflict in Vietnam a few weeks ago, that it was impossible to have negotiations because the Communists would not negotiate, as though that concluded the matter. We must look behind the formal picture. Following upon President Lyndon Johnson’s speech at the Johns Hopkins University, in which he offered unconditional negotiations, the “ New York Times “ of 18th April published this startling statement in its main editorial -
The United States and North Vietnam began to negotiate during the past week. While this may well prove to be one of those oriental journeys of a thousand miles, all such ventures always begin with a step or two. Communist China and Soviet Russia have yet to budge an inch but, since no peace is possible in South East Asia without their participation, they cannot remain immobile forever.
The first move had to be made by the United States since the policy being followed by the Johnson Administration required a continuous escalation of air and ground attacks. In the absence of any concomitant peace offensive, the United States was moving inexorably into what was at best a blind alley and at worst a road leading to a catastrophic collision with Peking and Moscow. President Johnson wisely put the brakes on with his Johns Hopkins speech offering “ unconditional negotiations “ and, as a creative and positive inducement, a development plan for South East Asia that would benefit North Vietnam as well as the other states.
The next move had to come from the Communist side and, in the circumstances, it could only come from Hanoi. Its initial feeler was unacceptable if taken literally and as a whole, but it could be considered a bargaining position for ultimate negotiation.
The point I am making is this: What may seem on the surface to be a very intractable situation may have many possibilities concealed beneath the formal position. We know of efforts for a solution being made by many countries including Britain, and some of the countries of Asia, including some - Pakistan in particular - that are represented at the current S.E.A.T.O. conference in London. They are taking the view that there ought to be an acceleration of the search for a settlement formula, not because they want to see the world succumb to Communism or because they are unaware of the importance of winning the battle for men’s minds and resisting Communism, but because they see this as an essential and positive step towards that objective.
We on this side of the Senate have said time and time again that what is missing from the Government’s approach to this problem is the overt expression of a desire to associate itself with these moves and to support what has been said by U Thant, by the Prime Minister of India, by the Prime Minister of Canada and by influential sections of American opinion. One could more easily understand the Government’s recent decision if it were accompanied by earnest pleas to the warring parties to negotiate. But that attitude on the part of the Government is conspicuous by its absence. Perhaps that is not without significance, because in the House of Representatives on 6th April the Prime Minister, when asked a question about the matter, said that he would be the last Prime Minister in the British Commonwealth of Nations to support a plea for negotiation.
– That is not what he was asked. What he said was that it was pure fantasy to seek negotiations with people, such as the North Vietnamese and the Chinese, who had refused the opportunity to negotiate.
– He said that, if he were the last one to hold such a view, he would denounce such a proposal.
– As being a fantasy in the current circumstances.
– He said that he would denounce it because in his view it was a fantasy. He said that on 6th April. The significance of the Prime Minister’s remark will be seen when we recall that in the House of Representatives on Tuesday last the right honorable gentleman said that the decision to send a battalion to South Vietnam was made in principle on 7th April. In other words, when he replied to the Leader of the Opposition in another place in relation to the importance of negotiations, he did so one day before the decision was made to send a battalion to South Vietnam. I suggest that that is of very considerable significance.
As the Leader of the Opposition has said, the whole problem of Vietnam will eventually have to be settled. We think it will have to be settled through the United Nations, because ultimately it will have to come before that body in some way or other. We have said through our Leader that Australia should be prepared to take part in any peace keeping operations that are undertaken through the auspices of the United Nations. It is of no use belittling- the potential of the United Nations. Time and time again it has been suggested that this body is impotent, that we ought to give it away, and that it can be of no use in the current situation. We in the Labour Party do not believe that. We believe that it is important to strengthen the authority of the United Nations and that some further initiative should be taken to bring the current problem before that body. Only in that way will the essentially international character of the search for peace be vindicated.
We all may be entitled to our own views about the politics of a particular situation. There is a great deal of room for honest disagreement amongst Australians and others about what factor ought to be given emphasis. There is room for disagreement about whether we are confronted with a simple act of aggression or whether the matter ought to be looked at in a much broader context. It may be thought that there are wrongs on both sides, as was stated by the International Control Commission in its report to the Co-Chairmen of the Geneva Conference in 1 962. The Control Commission found that there had been fundamental violations of the Geneva Agreement by both sides. To get a balanced picture of the realities we must look at both sides of the picture and hope that the kind of conditions that we want to see emerge in that part of the world do in fact emerge. As Senator Bishop and other speakers in this debate have said, it is of the greatest importance that attention be given to the positive side of economic and social development in that troubled area of South East Asia. It is important to bear in mind constantly that the international conscience demands a solution which will harmonise with the best interests of people of goodwill all over the world. That is why, with a deep sense of responsibility, the Opposition has on this occasion chosen to say to the Government deliberately and clearly: “ We oppose the decision you have taken. We do not believe that it is in the best interests of Australia”.
– Before I come to the few points I wish to make, I inform Senator Cohen that the distance from Darwin to the 17th parallel is 1,920 nautical miles, or 2,260 statutory miles. It is a distance not much different to the distance between Perth and Sydney. When I challenged Senator Cohen on the 7,000 miles issue, he held up his hands in holy horror as though to say: “You are a peasant. You would not know anything about it.” If the honorable senator is as accurate in his other remarks as he is in his geography, they may be dismissed.
I agree with Senator Cohen that the decision to send troops to Vietnam is perhaps the most momentous decision that has ever been made by a government of this country. I believe that it was made after studying all the relevant facts. Honorable senators opposite claim that they have all the knowledge on this matter. Perhaps they would concede that the present Government might have some knowledge of conditions in South East Asia and they might even admit that it is vitally concerned with the safety of Australia. The fact is that the Government is concerned with the future security of this country which is involved in the Communist infiltration into South Vietnam. The threat may not come directly for a day or a year, but it will come as surely as night follows day. Senator Murphy has informed the Senate that we must not resist the infiltration of the Communists - that they can use all the power they possess.
– Who said that?
– The honorable senator did. He said that they can infiltrate into South Vietnam and can continue through South East Asia and the whole of South East Asia will fall to the Communists. He says that we must not lift one finger in defence of our position.
– When did I say that?
– The honorable senator should read his speech. With his clever, analytical mind, that is the way he put it. I shall quote from his speech. He said that Communism flourishes on degradation and poor living conditions. He said that Communism is flourishing in North Vietnam. There must be terrible conditions in North Vietnam. Senator Murphy asked why we do not endeavour to improve conditions in South Vietnam. If he will bear with me for a moment, I shall quote from his speech. We have heard all about the Geneva Conference in 1954 when the decision was made to end the war in Indo-Chino. We sought a political settlement in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. It is well worth recalling that our own Mr. R. G. Casey, as he was then, played a very important part in the peace negotiations. The Geneva Conference ended on 2 1st July 1 954 after agreements had been reached for the cessation of hostilities in Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam.
What principles were evolved, enunciated and agreed to at the Geneva Conference? It was agreed to respect the principle of independence and to observe the unity of nations, their territorial integrity and their right to democratic freedom. It was agreed that general elections should be held in 1956. I remember well the return of Mr. Casey to this Parliament and the report that he made on these matters. The Australian Government was not a party to the Geneva Agreement but it was very willing that peace should be consolidated in South East Asia. The present Government has worked consistently towards the consolidation of peace in that area. At that time, the present Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) warned that we should not run away with the idea that because an armistice was signed all Communist aggression could be forgotten. He warned that it might continue. How true his words have proved to be. I think all honorable senators opposite should agree wilh what he said, if they have at heart, as they claim to have, the love and defence of Australia. He said in 1954 that Australia’s security depended on turning the wave of aggression that came from the north into permanent peace. He has not wavered from that belief, nor has the Government or the Government parties.
I throw the challenge directly into the teeth of honorable senators opposite who say that the Government has not done anything to preserve .peace and maintain the security of this country: What more could the Government have done since 1954? Senator Murphy taunted us by saying that we should improve the living conditions of the South Vietnamese. The Americans have attempted to improve the living standards in South Vietnam but 1 gather that Senator Murphy wants to tip them out of that country. I shall cite for Senator Murphy’s benefit a few facts that he conveniently forgot to tell us. President Eisenhower understood the gravity of the situation in Vietnam and he was determined to give economic aid to the new government to enable its survival. In 1954 President Eisenhower said -
The purpose of this offer is to assist the government of Vietnam in developing and maintaining a strong, viable state capable of resisting attempted subversion or aggression through military means.
The United States of America, therefore, provided help which was largely economic. On the basis of this assistance and the brave sustained efforts of the South Vietnamese people, the five years from 1954 to 1959 gave concrete evidence that South Vietnam was becoming a success story. Success was attending its efforts. This is what the Americans did -
By the end of this period, 140,000 landless peasant families had been given land under an agrarian reform programme.
That should gratify the hearts of honorable senators opposite. In addition -
The transportation system had been almost entirely rebuilt; rice production had reached the pre-war annual average of 3,500,000 metric tons - and leaped to over 5,000,000 in 1960; rubber production had exceeded pre-war totals, and construction was under way on several medium sized manufacturing plants, thus beginning the development of a base for industrial growth.
North Vietnam was the manufacturing portion of Vietnam. As we know, South Vietnam was agricultural. This should please honorable senators more; it should please everyone in the Senate -
In addition to such economic progress, school enrolments had tripled, the number of primary school teachers had increased from 30,000 to 90,000, and almost 3,000 medical aid stations and maternity clinics had been established throughout the country.
That is real progress. That is what we wanted, but 1 do not hear honorable senators opposite lauding the Americans or saying one word about this. This is what we needed, yet Senator Murphy says: “ Out with the Americans from South Vietnam.”
– Quote what I did say.
– Are these the efforts of people who wished to bring war to the country? Perhaps the very success of these efforts has led somewhat to their undoing.
– From what document is the honorable senator quoting?
– It is “Vietnam Since the 1954 Geneva Agreements “.
– Is that a speech or a report?
– It is a report. All this is documented. The horizon was bright for South Vietnam. Things were going well. It even looked as if the country could have a free election. The report continues -
Its success stood in marked contrast to the development in the north. Despite the vastly larger industrial plant inherited by Hanoi when Vietnam was partitioned, gross national product was considerably larger in the south - estimated at 110 dollars per person in the south and 70 dollars in the north. While per capita food production in the north was 10 per cent, lower in 1960 than it had been in 1956, it was 20 per cent, higher in the south.
These are achievements which were brought about by the Americans coming to that country. Their whole idea was stability, so that the people about whom honorable senators opposite weep crocodile tears could have their standard of living raised. Yet we are told that this was not the correct thing to do. This is the answer to the suggestion that we could do more on the economic front than has been done. Australia is coming in as she should, in my opinion, to play her part, and I hoped that every member of the Opposition would come in behind us and say: “ Good luck. You are doing the right thing.” I repeat that this is one of the most momentous decisions that the Government has made. I suppose that it has explored every avenue. I suppose that it has thought of ail the ultimate things that Senator Cohen has mentioned. It has the welfare of this country at heart. It has been in office for 15 years and never have we seen such prosperity. Never have we seen such economic growth. Do honorable senators opposite think that any government with that record will throw it away? It would not make sense. This Government had a most stupendous decision to make. It made a decision which I believe will be seen to be right. We shall be judged, not today or tomorrow but in 10 or 15 years, on this decision. I have heard it said that we ran away from Munich. If we did not do as we are doing now, in 10 years it would be said that we ran away from Saigon.
Sitting suspended from 5.45 to 8 p.m.
– Before the sitting was suspended I was referring to the progress that South Vietnam was making. South Vietnam was not expected to improve, to develop and to continue to develop as it did. lt was thought that South Vietnam would collapse. The North Vietnamese were of the opinion that South Vietnam would fall like a ripe plum under the control of Hanoi. As it did not happen that way, what occurred?. At the end of 1959 South Vietnam was succeeding to such an extent with the help of America that the north decided to increase pressure on it to bring about its downfall. My authority for that statement is Ho Chi Minh who, when addressing the National Congress of the Communist Party in September 1960, said -
The North is becoming more and more consolidated and is being transformed into a firm base for national reunification. We must liberate South Vietnam from the atrocious rule of the United States imperialists and their henchmen.
This meant sabotage, terror, assassination, attacks on innocent people, innocent villages and hamlets, cold blooded murders by the thousands of school teachers, health workers and officials. In fact, anyone opposed to the Communists was fair game for assassination. In 1961 alone almost 3.000 South Vietnamese were killed and 2,500 kidnapped by the Vietcong.’ A colonel who served as a liaison officer with the International Control Commission - we have heard a good deal about the International Control Commission - was assassinated merely because he was a liaison officer. This was no minor effort by the Vietcong. It was a major effort, well planned and controlled, and relentlessly pursued by the Government of Hanoi.
In March 1962 the President of the Republic of Vietnam addressed a conference of 93 non-Communist heads of state. Among other things, he said -
The North Vietnamese admission that the Vietcong attacks on the people of Vietnam - attacks which now average more than 400 per week and claim total casualties of nearly 800 per week - are henceforth to be openly Communist directed must be a matter of concern for all nations. The Communists have now themselves made it clear that they are making another brutal attempt in their effort to achieve world domination.
That admission by North Vietnam was published to the world. We have been told that Communist infiltration, sabotage and so on are of a minor nature. They are designed so that the South Vietnamese will not be able to attain anything of freedom or of development.
In 1961 the Republic of South Vietnam appealed to the United States of America. President Kennedy sent advisers and aid.
What was the aim of the Americans? They did not have any designs on the territory or resources of South Vietnam. They had no aims in the region - no imperialist designs, if you wish to put it that way. South Vietnam was a member of the free world, lt was within the free world family, working for its own independence. South Vietnam asked for help and the Americans gave their help and are continuing to give their help. lt is a basic principle, particularly as far as the Australian people are concerned, that men and women shall remain free. Surely the Opposition stands for that. We stand for it. Every member on this side of the Senate maintains and upholds this basic principle of our way of life. Will the Opposition discard it? Does the Opposition wish to throw it away? If it does, I do not. People must remain free. We must help to maintain the free and independent nations so that they can develop politically and economically. We want that. The Opposition claims that it too wants that. Well, will the Opposition not come to the party? Are we to abandon these people? Are we to throw away our principles of freedom and assistance?
I was told earlier that a very vital matter of defence is involved. Vietnam is vital to Australia’s defence. Let us pause on that thought for a moment, because the crux of the whole problem is the defence of Australia. Vietnam lies across the east and west air and sea lanes, ft flanks the Indian subcontinent, as well as Australia, New Zealand and the Philippines. It dominates the Pacific and Indian Oceans. In Communist hands - this is the matter of importance to Australia and we must realise it - it poses a serious threat to the defence of Australia. No-one can deny that. Australia is not Europe. It is not Asia; it is not Africa; it is not America. It is Australia, peopled by Europeans. Asian explorers discovered Australia many years before Europeans did and they gave it away. Australia, which has been settled by Europeans, is the richest jewel in the southern hemisphere - the land that gave us our infant nurture; the land for which Australian soldiers fought and died so that you and. I could live in freedom and so that, the freedom loving people of the world would be protected. Are we, in . 1965, to throw away our principles?
As this is the richest jewel in the southern hemisphere let us pause for a moment to recall what Khrushchev said. He remarked -
World wars and local wars are too dangerous. They are out. But a liberation war such as in Vietnam -
Vietnam was mentioned in particular - is a sacred war.
That is how Khrushchev regarded it, as a sacred war. In Communist eyes, it is a war of liberation. That is the kind of thing that must be faced up to by Australia. South Vietnam’s geographical position and its terrain make it an ideal place for Communist infiltrators. It is close to their base. There are diverse ethnic, religious and tribal groupings within South Vietnam. The Communist exploit factionalism. They resort to sabotage and terrorism.
We have heard a great deal about land reform. We are offering it to the people of South Vietnam. The only people who oppose it are the Vietcong. Yet not one honorable senator opposite said anything about the attacks that the Vietcong are making. After having listened to them, one would think that the Vietcong are perfect. But when Australia or America attempts to put these ideals into practice, the Opposition says that we are doing the wrong thing. We want to introduce land reform, we want to make loans to tenant farmers, and we want to introduce health and welfare measures, to provide economic development and to improve the status of the ethnic and other minorities. We want to establish a civil administrative corps so that the people will have a better public service. These are the improvements that we seek to make. Yet there are people who say that we should not help the Vietnamese. We want to provide more teachers and more technicians, and by the grace of God we shall provide them.
Military security is a prerequisite of internal progress. What has stopped the progress? It has been the infiltration of the Communists from North Vietnam. Our goal is to provide peace and stability in Vietnam in South East Asia. That is our ideal. We believe that this is the only way in which it can be accomplished. We are not warmongers. We hate war like the devil hates holy water. I believe that there is, perhaps, some agreement between the Opposition and ourselves on these matters. I want to say to Senator Murphy that I misunderstood something that he said. Peace at any price is not practical in the long run. When the day comes for America and Australia to withdraw, we expect to leave an independent and stable South Vietnam, rich in resources and with bright prospects of contributing to the peace and prosperity of South East Asia and of the rest of the world. That will also mean stability and safety for Australia in particular.
These are but a few of the principles for which our Government stands. Because of these aspirations I, in common with all Australian people who have the welfare and the security of this country at heart, support the action of the Government. I repeat again that we hate war. The Government has not lightly taken the decision to send 800 troops to South Vietnam. It was one of the most crucial and heartrending decisions that any man in authority could make. I want once and for all to correct the erroneous idea that the Government acted quickly. The Government would know more about the situation than anyone else. But having made the decision, it must stick to it. 1 believe that as the days go by the Opposition will come to the conclusion that it was the only decision that could have been made. It is up to each and every one of us in Australia to support it.
– Senator Mattner ended his long and rambling speech by saying that the Government’s decision to send 800 Australian troops to South Vietnam was the most crucial decision that it could make. That is the whole basis of the argument of the Opposition. The last part of Senator Mattner’s speech seemed to me to belie his whole approach to the problem. He was gracious enough to say that since the suspension of the sitting he had discovered that he misunderstood what Senator Murphy had said, but he was not gracious enough to set the record straight although Senator Murphy, by interjection on several occasions, asked him to do so. I agree that this decision was a very crucial one for the Government to make. But T think that there is a heavy responsibility on any honorable senator standing up to discuss this matter at least to look at what has been said and not to misquote anyone. He should have the quotation in front of him before he accuses and impugns the patriotism, the honesty and the approach to this crucial decision of any honorable senator in this chamber.
Senator Mattner suggested that Senator Murphy said: “ All you want to do is to pull the Americans out “. I do not know how he suggests that Senator Murphy would get the power to pull the Americans out, but that was the accusation he made. If Senator Mattner had looked at “ Hansard “, by no stretch of the imagination could he have suggested that Senator Murphy made that statement. When Senator Murphy was speaking Senator Mattner interjected and said -
Arc you suggesting that we should just allow the Vietcong to walk in? 1 do not think that he could get a much more direct answer than that given by Senator Murphy, who said -
The honorable senator suggests nonsense . . . We ought to be helping our friend, the United States, to achieve the proper solution in South Vietnam.
Senator Mattner is one of those persons who make up their minds and refuse to be confused by the facts.
Senator Mattner mentioned other matters. I shall not waste time in dealing with all of them. Several times he suggested that the only people who are concerned about the safety of Australia are the members of the Liberal Party and the Australian Country Party and that the members of the Australian Labour Party are not concerned at all. Had his speech been a responsible one, we would certainly have demanded the withdrawal of those slanderous statements. Because it was not a responsible speech, we are perfectly prepared to let it pass almost unnoticed.
In the United States of America today there are senators, whose names we have seen frequently - Mansfield, Morse, Fullbright and others - who are criticising the action that their Government is taking at this time in Vietnam. Their criticisms are receiving tremendous publicity. Yet, I do not read of any suggestion from the Government of that nation, or from President Johnson, to the effect that those people are traitors, or that they do not love their nation and do not fear for the safety of the world any less than those people do who are defending the line that the President has laid down.
Senator Mattner fell into so many errors that time will not permit me to reply to all of them. But towards the end of his speech the honorable senator told us that many important considerations attach to the geographic situation of South Vietnam. Senator Mattner was a very distinguished soldier in World War I, and he must have had a knowledge of the events preceding World War 11 and in particular the false line of defence known as the Maginot Line. Those words have almost become a duty expression when the defence of any country is spoken about. It struck me very forcibly as Senator Mattner spoke that he was expressing the Maginot Line type of thinking, which in a military sense is only about 25 years out of date. I suppose it is not too bad for Senator Mattner to be only that far behind in his thinking. Is it not the Maginot Line type of thinking to say: “ We will defend a line in this geographic situation in the world “? Of course it is the same process of thinking as the Maginot Line type of thinking which was proved completely unworkable by the panzer divisions under conditions of mobile warfare. Surely in these days of nuclear weapons and of intercontinental ballistic missiles nobody would think that all the country to the north of a line drawn on a map would be contained and all of the country to the south of it would be saved.
This is not to say that South Vietnam itself is not tremendously important. It is important not because of its geographical position but because of all sorts of other considerations. I am sure that the United States, in fighting so far from its shores, is not doing so on the Maginot Line concept. The United States is taking this action because it believes that the world today is indivisible and that Communist aggression, if it is not resisted wherever it breaks out - President Johnson has made this clear in the last few weeks - will slowly erode the countries against which it is directed, and the only people who will be saved will be those who have some form of priority. One nation will fall before the Communist aggression just a few months, a year or two years before other nations fall.
Senator Mattner also gave some history of the governments of South Vietnam and spoke of how well the country was doing under Ngo Dinh Diem in the earlier days of his administration. The honorable senator said that the Australian Labour Party denied the progress that had been made. Senator Mattner referred to the economic and social development under the strategic hamlets concept in South Vietnam in the early days. Land reforms also were introduced in those days. The honorable senator said that he has never heard one word about these matters from the Australian Labour Party. Mir. President, T do not think that this debate offers the right opportunity to honorable senators to discuss the historic aspects of the development of the situation that exists in South Vietnam now. We discussed these matters very fully in August of last year. T remember very clearly that T dealt with them. T acknowledged and pointed out that, at this stage of its development. South Vietnam had done wonders. What was happening surprised the rest of the world. I do not claim any monopoly of those remarks because many honorable senators on this side dealt with the history of South Vietnam during the debate in August of last year. T spoke on this matter again on 1st April last when the Senate was discussing this question. T said then that it was not necessary for me to deal with the history of that country because the Senate had debated and thrashed out that matter only a few months before. But Senator Mattner is getting closer to the present. Tonight he is within six months of what the Senate is now debating, although he is 25 years behind in his military thinking. So. T do not think it is necessary now to go over the matters which were covered in the debates which we had here in August of last year and in April of this year. I say that honorable senators on this side acknowledge very clearly the development of South Vietnam and are aware also of those problems that caused the United States of America to send forces into that country.
What precipitates this debate is the fact that in the most unprecedented action in the peacetime history of Australia, the Government, while giving very little information to this Parliament and without consulting the Opposition - in fact, the Government went to great lengths to keep the Opposition shut out - has decided to send troops into a combat area. The Government seems at pains to step around this proposition. Mr. President, you will recall that I asked the Minister for Defence (Senator Paltridge) a question on Tuesday of this week. With your permission, I will repeat it. I asked the Minister -
Was the Leader of the Government in the Senate aware, either in that capacity or as Minister for Defence, that the Prime Minister intended to make this announcement of sending troops to Vietnam at 8 p.m. last Thursday? If he did have this knowledge, does he consider that instead of the Senate adjourning at 5 p.m. after one debate had been gagged and another adjourned, the statement should have been read to the Senate simultaneously with the announcement in another place? If it is true that the Minister for Defence gave related information affecting his department in the corridors, does he not think that the Senate is a more appropriate place to make statements on such an unprecedented and important matter?
The Minister for Defence replied that there was to be a debate in another place on the matter and that he had noticed that the Opposition was going to oppose the Government’s action. He continued -
As a short answer to the question, let me say thai I was not aware that the Prime Minister was to make a statement until very, very late-
I ask honorable senators to observe the double adverb -
The Minister went on to introduce some propaganda into his answer. 1 find this a difficult situation to question. 1 do not impute dishonesty to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. 1 merely say that I find it difficult to question because on looking at the !! Hansard “ report of the speech of the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) on Tuesday last, I find that he started off by saying -
The first thing that I want to mention, as briefly as may be . . .
His speech occupied nine and a half columns of “ Hansard “ and he took four columns to explain to honorable members how meticulous he had been in dealing with the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell). I ask honorable senators to note some of the narrative and to compare it with the ignorance that the Minister for Defence, as Leader of the Government in the Senate, claimed at this stage of the proceedings. The Prime Minister said -
The Leader of the Opposition inquired at my office on Thursday morning at a time when I was heavily engaged on a matter of some urgency. He said he would like to know what was happening . . . After this had been conveyed to mc, the Leader of the Opposition was told that it was possible that I would be making a statement on Thursday night but that it was not certain and that when I knew definitely I would let him know. He was told that if I found myself in a position to make a statement 1 would hope to be in a position to give him the text of it by 5.30 p.m.
The Prime Minister continued -
At 4.45 p.m.-
That is a quarter of an hour before the Senate adjourned - the Leader of the Opposition inquired again . . .
The Prime Minister then said -
He was told it was still not certain that I would bc in a position to make a statement - it was possible, even probable, but not yet certain.
Yet the Leader of the Government in this place gagged one debate. He said: “ I want to intervene in the debate at this stage”, and then, finally, he gagged it. Later he adjourned another debate. Nevertheless he says that it was very very late in the afternoon before he was aware that this statement was to be made. We are asked to believe that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) was told that it was probable that the statement would be made and, inferentially at last, we are asked also to believe that the Leader of. the Government in this place did not know about it. I just say that I find that confusing and hard to follow. The Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) talked about making a brief statement. He took up enough time for a major and important speech, but he gave very little information.
I am reminded of our friend Shakespeare, who said: “ The lady doth protest too much, methinks.”.
Unfortunately, in this matter, as in every matter of foreign affairs dealt with by this Government, there is a heavy overtone of politics. The Government has an eye on votes, even when the security of the country is involved. I ask honorable senators on both sides to consider the way in which the Prime Minister and Senator Paltridge have dealt with this matter and then to ask themselves: Is this a responsible way to act in relation to a subject that could involve a third world war? That possibility has been acknowledged by members of the Cabinet. Senator Mattner has said - it was one of the few sensible things he did say - that this is a crucial decision on a matter of tremendous importance, a decision completely unprecedented in the history of Australia. Yet here we have this playing of politics, this trying to inveigle, the Opposition into a situation where, if it dares to raise its voice against the Government’s decision, it can be called unpatriotic, pro-Communist, un-Australian or anti-American, or have used against it any of the. other epithets which are churned out so frequently by (he Government’s propaganda machine.
It is very true that this is a divisive question. I think that events throughout the world for many years past have produced divisiveness. We saw something of this in our generation when Nazism was starting to sweep through Europe and we first heard the term “ Fifth Column “. The Nazis had a pretty inefficient organisation, compared with the Communist organisation, but they were able to get people in Europe to sell their countries out to Nazi Germany and to turn traitor. It is true that the whole world is now divided on the question of Vietnam, particularly since American forces have started to bomb the north, to hot up the war, to escalate it and to move away from the containment policy which was followed for so long in South Vietnam. We can see this divisiveness in the American Senate. We can see it when we discuss this question with our friends. We see how they are divided on it. We see it here tonight.
After all, if democracy means anything, it means an inquiring mind and a right to demand qf your government that when it takes action it will not take it in a divisive manner, as the Prime Minister obviously set out to do. Obviously he set out to put the Opposition on one side and the Government of the country on the other side, because of political reasons. By no stretch of the imagination could it be said that this was designed as a unifying effort, to get the whole of Australia behind the decision of the Australian Government.
We have been told that this action was taken after a request from the Government of South Vietnam. You do not have to be in the diplomatic corps to know that a great deal of preparatory work is done before the simplest proposition is made by one government to another. Nobody could believe for one moment that before this request was made, on a government to government level, the Government of South Vietnam - whichever one it might have been at that time - did not indulge in tremendous diplomatic activity. Nobody could believe that the Government of South Vietnam would have asked for this to be done if it had not been assured previously, on a diplomatic level, that its request would be favorably received. Do not let us think that whenever a government cries out for help, other governments do not look at the position from the point of view of selfinterest. We tend to forget that when Hungary cried for help nobody answered. I did not hear action of this sort being talked about when Tibet was invaded by Communist China. Do not let us kid ourselves that when somebody under aggression - aggression that has no right to take place - asks the Australian Government for help, we immediately start to go to their help.
The question that was not answered - and deliberately not answered - by the Prime Minister is: Was the Australian Government the only government that was requested to send troops to South Vietnam? After diplomatic pressure and negotiation, was Australia the only country in the world that was asked to send troops to this war torn country? Obviously that is the sort of information that the Opposition wants. It is the sort of information that could prevent divisiveness, that could bring about a unified Australia. However, the Government is importing into this matter a streak of politics. It hopes to kill two birds with one stone, lt wants to put its policy into effect and to divide the nation.
The United States is fighting far from its own shores. It does not have the Maginot Line complex that Senator Mattner talked about. It has taken up the gauntlet because it believes that if freedom is lost in Vietnam, loss of freedom in other countries, including the United States, would eventually follow. I do not quarrel with that view. Every government worth its salt should be looking after the interests of its own people. However, the world today is one world, not a world of many little nations; you cannot now discriminate between one place and another. The question that we have asked is: What attempts were made to bring other countries to the party? Were any attempts made by South Vietnam - which it is said asked us for help - to bring the United Nations into this? I am just as aware us are honorable senators opposite of the deficiencies of the Security Council owing to the operation of the veto. In 1945 an Australian Labour Party Foreign Minister fought very hard against the veto and was accused of trying to upset the equilibrium of the great powers. That battle was fought in 1945 at San Francisco. Now the chickens are coming home to roost. We know this very well.
However, as Senator Cohen pointed out this afternoon, because the United Nations is not perfect and because it cannot act as quickly as we would like, that is no reason to bypass it or to laugh at it. When the United Nations was mentioned in the debate that occurred recently in the other place, you would have thought the words “ United Nations “ were dirty words which ought not to be mentioned in the Parliament. After studying the history of the collapse of the League of Nations, one wonders why anyone should take that attitude at all-
– That attitude cannot be attributed to the Government as a whole. Read Mr. Paul Hasluck’s speech.
– If we could have a few more speeches by Mr. Paul Hasluck on foreign affairs and if a few more Government supporters would fall in behind him, I do not think we would have this type of approach to world problems. Some Government supporters are saying that this is a crucial problem, but others are behaving as if it were not crucial at all. I understand the difficulties, lt is difficult to have confidence in the governments that South Vietnam has had from time to time. For many years there has been fighting in the outer suburbs and in the last year or two there have been bombing atrocities and things of that sort in the city streets. Such events are not conducive to stable government. Honorable senators will remember that in 1941, without an invasion of this country and when our forces were fighting a long way away, an Australian Government collapsed under the pressures of war. If you compare that situation with the intensity of events in Saigon, you can imagine the result is a fairly unstable government.
Let us consider the question of negotiations. In this connection, Senator Mattner fell into the error into which so many others have fallen, that you can make your mind up first and examine the facts later. The Minister for Defence (Senator Paltridge) scorned the suggestion that there should be negotiation. As Minister for Defence and the Leader of the Government in the Senate and therefore a senior Minister, he should have a greater sense of responsibility. When I asked the Minister by way of interjection how he squared his attitude with President Johnson’s statements on negotiation he did not answer.
Government supporters ask: “ With whom are we going to negotiate? “ My simple answer to that question is: “ The same people with whom President Johnson suggested he would negotiate “. The Government’s attitude defies understanding. The Government and its supporters have said that the campaign in Vietnam is directed by a Communist movement in Hanoi, yet in the same breath they say: “ We do not know with whom to negotiate “. If you say on the one hand that there is a force directly causing aggression from North Vietnam, surely you know with whom you have to negotiate. If you do not negotiate, where are you left? How is the war going to end? If you say there is no one with whom to negotiate, you are saying in effect that this is a fight to a finish. Thank heavens President Johnson, the senior man in world affairs, is not saying that. He has already said with whom he would negotiate.
This is a type of guerrilla warfare. Mao Tse-tung said the Vietcong must live like fish in the sea, striking at the enemy and then going back to the ocean so that they cannot be discovered. But if you say there is no one with whom to negotiate and this is a fight to a finish, you are saying, in effect: “ Either we lie dead on the battlefield or the North Vietnamese and all those who are drawn into the war with them lie dead. Only unconditional surrender can end this war “. What sort of prospect is that in 1965? Thank heavens the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) has retreated from the impossible situation in which he put himself when he said: “ If I am the last Prime Minister, I am going to resist negotiation “.
– The honorable senator is not quoting the Prime Minister accurately.
– I am quoting him very accurately. The right honorable gentleman said that when he was asked a question about negotiation. Senator Wright will have to look very closely through his law books to refute what I have said. The Prime Minister said: “ If I am the last one, I am not going to negotiate “ or words so close to those that it does not matter. Thank heavens he has retreated from that position. It is history now, and I hope the right honorable gentleman never returns to it. I hope he finally believes that we must get to a position where this terrible, cruel, filthy war can be ended.
I cannot understand the Americans being sensitive about this. Is it suggested that negotiation should take place merely so that the Americans can say: “ Our job is done. We have negotiated peace. We do not care whether it sticks or not; we are getting out “? No one is suggesting that. Certainly it has never been suggested by anybody in the Australian Labour Party with whom I have talked on this subject. There has to be a situation where negotiation can take place. We dealt with this question some four or five weeks ago. The Vietcong were making greater gains and it was impossible to get them to negotiate around the table when they thought they were going to win and the Americans and their allies would have to withdraw. One of the problems that have arisen at various times since the Second World War has been the stage at which to negotiate. If the escalation of the war caused the North Vietnamese and the Hanoi Government and their allies to be convinced that they could not win, surely they would be in a state of mind to negotiate.
On the other hand, it would be quite useless to have negotiations if they were to result in something like the 1954 accords. The more 1 examine the situation the more I think we have to come back to something of that nature, but it would be useless if the agreements were merely prostituted from the start without any thought of carrying them out.
Senator Mattner fell into another tremendous error when, in speaking of the undoubted gains in South Vietnam, he said they were getting to a situation where free elections would be held. He failed to say that it was the South Vietnamese Government which stated that it would not participate in elections. I am not condemning that attitude, but I say that in this complex situation it behoves us all to examine the facts and then try to work out a national or international policy. The South Vietnam Government refused to participate, and that is held against it. Of course, it was not a party to the agreement in the first place. This is speaking with hind sight, but we can see now what a tremendous error that was.
When it comes to negotiation, the Liberal Party and the Australian Country Party should be taking heed of President Johnson. 1 do not think the Prime Minister and the Government can sustain the argument that because we agree with what the United States is doing or attempting to do in South Vietnam, automatically we should be sending troops there. The Prime Minister has said that the Labour Party’s attitude is: “ We agree with you but you must go it alone “. At present the Americans are heavily engaged in the Dominican Republic. Does any Liberal disagree with what the United States Government is doing there? According to the Prime Minister, if we agree with what the United States is doing in the Dominican Republic, we should be sending a battalion over there. Does any Liberal disagree with the Americans on the division of Germany and their attitude to the pressures they experience there from time to time? I have not heard any suggestion that the Australian Government should send Australian troops into divided Germany. The Prime Minister’s attitude is an over simplification of the case.
We come now to the question that has been bandied about, whether what is happening in Vietnam is a war, a civil war or a disturbance. Senator Cohen explained the legal situation today and I have heard a lot of dumb eloquence on this subject from the Government side both before and since. The Government is committing Australians to a situation where there is no war. Is it a war or a civil war? I suppose it would be a civil war if only Vietnamese participated whether they come from the north or the south. They are the same ethnic group. It is true that there are many South Vietnamese, when you consider all the groups, fighting against one another. It is equally true as every speaker on the Opposition side has said that pressures are being directed and infiltration is initiated from the north. I should say that this war or disturbance or whatever it might legally be called - the Government has never defined it - would have ended long ago if we had not in the world the Communist movement, which believes it can control the world, and another movement, known as the West, which is determined that the Communists shall not control the world. What is happening in South East Asia is an extension of the cold war. Possibly it could be described as the hot spot in the cold war.
We must look at the factual situation. If a person has any sense, he does not try to define the present situation in terms of black and white. Rather . must it be regarded in terms of several shades of grey. I suppose some of the little sidelights of this conflct are not important, but nevertheless they emphasise the peculiarities of the situation. I read just recently about the astonishment of new troops who come out from America, particularly the flyers, when they observe what is happening to the petrol companies that have to deliver petrol. American trucks have to pass through a section that is held by the Vietcong. The troops see the Vietcong holding up the trucks and exacting a tax. The petrol company pays it willingly, and the petrol goes through to the opposition. Australian troops who have fought in two world wars would have regarded any suggestion of that happening as being ludicrous; it would not have been believed. But, according to reports, that is the sort of thing that is happening in Vietnam and which is making the situation so difficult to understand.
We have read other reports about the overhang of the fight. I should say that they have been blown up, but nevertheless they indicate what has been happening. We have been told that during the Diem regime the Buddhists accused Diem, who was a Catholic, of nepotism and of showing favouritism to Catholics in the Public Service and in other areas of government service. We have heard reports of Vietcong forces from the north having taken over certain areas and of this sort of thing being said: “ Those guys over there are Catholics. If we can do a bit of a deal with you, you can take them and let us go.” We in Australia find it difficult to believe that that sort of thing is happening. We could not imagine an Australian before he made up his mind what to do, saying: “ Listen, Joe, what religion are you?” This sort of thing makes it very difficult for people in Western countries, particularly the people of Australia, to understand the situation in Vietnam. These are very small things, but they emphasise the fatal error into which so many speakers, particularly Senator Paltridge and Senator Mattner, have fallen in trying to deal with the situation in Vietnam as being a simple issue and in saying in effect, that all the goodies are on the Liberal side and all the baddies are on the Labour side.
Nowadays we are given ample time to discuss such subjects as this. There has been quite a change in the Senate since Senator Gorton and myself came here in 1949. At one stage it was very difficult to have a debate on foreign affairs brought on; nowadays they are coming on so frequently that it is difficult to dodge them. We have dealt with the present world situation quite often. The simple proposition before us tonight is this: Is the Australian Government justified in taking troops from this relatively undefended country and sending them to Vietnam? An explanation is demanded of the Government. All sorts of things in life may be desirable, but in the very tough field of international politics and defence not all things are completely necessary. The Government owes it to the Parliament and to the people of Australia to explain much more fully than it has whether its action in sending troops to Vietnam is necessary.
No attempt has been made by Senator Paltridge, as the Minister for Defence, to analyse for us the troops he has at his dis posal and to indicate whether or not troops should be sent to Vietnam. We have been given to understand in a leading article in the “ Age “ newspaper that a month or two ago a request was made for more troops to be sent to Malaya but the reply given was that, because Australia, a small nation, was embarking upon conscription she was unable to stretch her lines any further. The position is that we already have troops in Malaya and in Vietnam, and we face problems in New Guinea. I do not want to be guilty of projectionism - to suggest what might happen in New Guinea. Nevertheless, Australia is faced with a very delicate situation in the Territory. We will be subject to close scrutiny in regard to the way we deal with New Guinea, particularly as I believe it is the last trust territory left in this part of the world. We will be subjected to rather close scrutiny in the United Nations and by people who already are critical of us. Australia may be faced with commitments in that area at very short notice. Some people are forever worrying about which way Thailand will go, but at the moment we are fairly satisfied with the ruling classes in that country.
I should have thought that at this stage, with the introduction of conscription, the Government would have been doing its utmost to find efficient officers and noncommissioned officers to train the young lads who will soon be entering upon military life for the first time. I should have thought that the Government would have done that to ensure that its conscription plans do not become a farce, as could easily happen. In the past I have criticised the Government for the use it is making of the Royal Australian Regiment at the moment. I read of the sending away of the battalion, and have read the glowing terms in which we were told how highly trained and how toughened the men were. But having spoken to the soldiers and having been told the training that they get, I wonder how well prepared and how toughened they are and how much of their time has been wasted over the years. I am sure that even at this very moment Senator Paltridge is looking around for trained N.C.O’s and officers to give rudimentary training to the men who are to be conscripted into the armed forces. I should have thought that the decision to send this battalion overseas now was timed very badly. The Government will be sending away skilled men who could have been used as instructors.
We have heard a lot about what other nations would think of us if we did not do what it is proposed to do. I point out that other nations that are sympathetic towards the South Vietnamese are not sending troops to Vietnam. No nation, particularly the United States of America, would ever condemn us if the Australian Parliament decided that the size of our defence forces would not allow us to send troops to a particular theatre of trouble. Other nations know that this is peculiarly a matter for Australia to decide, and they would accept any decision that we made.
Wc all know of the peculiar difficulties that exist in the Communist world. There is an undoubted split between Russia and Communist China. On the one hand, Russia is saying: “ The old Communist ideology of controlling the world first by insurrection and then with the use of outside forces should be slowed down, because of the existence of the atomic bomb. If you take this thing too far, you will precipate an atomic war and we will all perish. All the gains and the progress that have been made since 1917 and which it is hoped to make in the future will be completely wiped out. This is not a bad time at which to go through a period of co-existence.” On the other hand, Communist China, the junior partner, is saying: “ Now you are going soft on the Communist ideology. There is a possibility that our objective can be achieved. There is certainly a possibility of achieving it in Vietnam.” That is why the Hanoi Government has not been rushing to obtain Russian or Communist troops to bolster its forces. That is the overtone, as I see it. It is tremendously important and I mention it in the context of the United Nations because of the veto power which makes proceedings in the Security Council so difficult. It is possible that a situation may be reached where a negotiated peace would be as much in the interests of the Russians as it would be in the interests of the rest of the world. Little imagination is required to envisage that the veto power may not be used in discussions on a negotiated peace in Vietnam.
On 1st April in this Senate I spoke on the question of the economic development of the region. This was six days before President Johnson made his statement. Perhaps great minds think alike. When raising this subject Labour speakers have always had to face the scorn of the Liberal Party. We have pointed out the potential for economic development of Vietnam and neighbouring countries through which flows the great Mekong River. It is one of the great rivers in the world and it flows through countries which are crying out for development. It is not a national river; it flows through both North Vietnam and South Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and Thailand.
When President Johnson announced tha great amount of money to be spent, I would have thought that every government in the world would have taken the opportunity to rush in, not merely to mutter: “ lt is a fairly good idea “. I would have thought that every government would have come right out and said: “ Here is an opportunity, not merely to negotiate peace at this stage, but for cooperation on an international level “. Honorable senators should not overlook the fact that the people of North and South Vietnam are members of the same ethnic group. Through the expenditure of large sums of money, the economic development of Vietnam could bring about the flow of social graces and improvements to the people. Right in the middle of this trouble spot it is possible that the problems of national barriers could be overcome. I would have thought that this was an opportunity to create something new, but honorable senators opposite seem to say: “ The first part of the President’s speech raises an impossibility. You cannot negotiate anyway. As for the second part, it is hardly worth talking about.” I think Government supporters have paid some lip service to the proposition since this debate commenced.
I do not wish to comment on the many points that have been raised in this debate. I find that it is still hard to get the Government to discuss the ultimate, to admit that although military action is necessary and must always be necessary when a war looms over us like a colossus in the path of progress, the ultimate fight is for the hearts and minds of these people. Just after World War II it was necessary to rehabilitate the countries suffering the aftermath of the war. There is much rehabilitation work which ought..to be done at present. If the
Vietnamese believe that we are the peacemakers and are attempting to improve the conditions in which they have lived for generations, they will stick by us.
I do not know how statistics are obtained in wartime but the propaganda figures show the battle being waged to win the minds of the Vietnamese. It is the old battle of the propaganda machine. Ultimately these people must be given hope and heart. We must not think that anything is impossible or that the North and South Vietnamese cannot ever live together. Who would have ever thought that France and Germany could associate in the Common Market? Who would have thought that the Indus River, which we recently discussed in this chamber, would assist to solve the problems of India and Pakistan? If it is possible to get such good results in those countries, it is possible here.
– The Japanese and the Americans aire working together.
– And the Japanese and the Australians.
– That is right. Who would have thought that ten years ago - not a long time in international affairs - Russia and America could agree on a moratorium in respect of atomic tests? All things are possible if they are pursued with sufficient vigour. It is not good enough to say: “ There can be no negotiation. This war must be fought to the death. President Johnson is wrong. There is nobody to negotiate with.” I ask honorable senators to contemplate where it will end. T also ask honorable senators how many Australian soldiers it will be necessary to send overseas before the situation is reached that is envisaged by the Government.
I shall quote the words of Mr. Michael Stewart. Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs in the British Government. I can see the hackles of honorable senators opposite rising because T am about to quote the words of a member of a Labour Government. Through trials and tribulations great parliamentary traditions have developed in Britain. There is no great cleft between Government and the Opposition, whatever their political colours might be. on the question of foreign affairs. T would hope that our Prime Minister could learn something from that tradition on his frequent visits to Britain. Mr. Michael Stewart said recently in the House of Commons -
When we discuss international affairs we must necessarily say a great deal about restoring or keeping the peace. This involves frequent mention of the necessity to resist aggression and w> keep up our defence. But we all know that human affairs cannot be rightly ordered by defence and by the use of power alone. The sole purpose of such activities is to make it possible for a nation to be able to use in peace their creative energies for the production of wealth and to turn their minds and hearts to the wise use of it.
– We are discussing, and have been for some time, an extremely grave decision which has been taken by an Australian Government, not for the first time in peace time, to send troops abroad to do what the Government believes is for the ultimate benefit of this country. Whether or not it is for the first time, it is a decision to send a battalion of Australian troops to a war which is likely to be more severe than any war since the Korean war in which Australian troops have been engaged. The war in Vietnam is a war of ambuscade, and of shots in the dark. It is a battle with an enemy who is not easily seen. He strikes and disappears into the high grass, into the thorny bushes and the deep jungles where he regroups and then strikes again. By our action I believe we will not only see that casualties are caused to young Australians called upon so to fight, but we will also make our position perfectly clear. I think it is necessary that we should clearly justify why we believe it is right for this decision to have been taken. It is necessary that we should reply to the arguments which have been advanced by honorable senators opposite in support of their view that this decision should not have been taken.
I do not suppose that when all history is written and finality is reached anybody will be shown to have been irrefutably right or wrong on this matter. As T see the situation at the moment, it is in Australia’s interests that we send our troops abroad. I would like to examine, first, the arguments we have heard advanced against this decision. Some of them we have heard advanced before in other circumstances. Some of them are new: all of them should be examined. It is suggested to us that we are geographically a part of South East Asia and that the action we are taking is liable to turn Asian peoples against us. It is suggested that countries in the area are likely to object strenuously to Australia’s engaging in this kind of activity. This is precisely the argument that we heard when Australian troops were first sent to help put down the Communist inspired rebellion in Malaya, a rebellion of a similar kind but not of such a serious character as the fighting which is going on in Vietnam.
Then we were told that if Australian troops went to that area for this purpose it would turn the whole of Asia against us. But it did not turn out to be so, and I think that the argument itself rests on a basic fallacy, a belief that Asia is a unity, that all Asians speak exactly the. same, and that all countries in Asia have exactly the same outlook; whereas in fact it is probably true to say that the serious divisions and conflicts of the Balkans, which those of us who are old enough to remember as being the trouble spot of Europe, have now tended to move to South East Asia. There are small countries with, in many cases, great dislike of each other, with a willingness to take to the sword to settle problems, with the same capacity to draw into those quarrels other, large countries, as the countries of Balkan Europe had in the era up to 191.4. There are great differences in the approach of Asian countries. There is great hostility, I regret to say, between many of them. I need only point to the fighting which has been going on just recently between India and Pakistan, to the previous invasion of India by Chinese Communist forces, to the confrontation of Malaysia by Indonesia at the present time, and to this tragic civil war which has been raging not only in Vietnam but also in Laos for many years.
I cannot believe that it is true or right to say that an action taken in this part of the world, if it is taken for right reasons, will turn against Australia all the Asian peoples merely because we take it. Certainly in this case it has the support of the governments of a number of Asian countries, which indeed are also lending support to this action. We have been told we cannot combat Communism by force. Indeed, the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Hasluck) has been quoted, I think by Senator Bishop, today as having said that at the conference of the South East Asia Treaty Organisation. I know of nobody who has claimed that the use of force is the final method by which Communism or Fascism or any other ideology can be alone combated; but I know of nobody who can tell me that if either Fascism or Communism resorts to force in order to expand its frontiers or in order to bring other people to its beliefs forcibly, there is any other way of combating force than by opposing force to it.
I agree that in the ultimate the decision on these things will be made in the minds and hearts of men on their own judgments, left to themselves to see whether they can get a better and fuller and freer life. I have no doubt that left to their own judgments they would not opt for Fascism or Communism but, depending upon the state of development they had reached, they would opt to move towards the sort of democratic government under which free peoples, as we understand them, live. But they are not left to themselves. It is not only I who believe that; it is also the propagandists, the Fascist countries and the Communist countries that believe it, and because they believe it they cannot stand by and let the minds and hearts of men find their ultimate solution. They feel impelled to use force to see that the balance swings to their side, as Germany and Italy felt impelled to use force and as, in Asia, the Communist countries now appear impelled to use force.
– They live together in some places.
– I know of none in Asia at the moment. Certainly this action of the Australian Government, backing up the American Government, as President Johnson’s speech made clear and as, I believe, the speech of the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) made clear, is not an action taken in the belief that by sending troops in we will smash the beliefs of people who do believe in Communism. It is an action simply of sending troops in to see that people may have a free choice as to whether they wish to believe in and to vote for Communism or for a government which is opposed to it.
We are told that our objectives have not been defined in this operation. That again is not true. I think that the best definition was made in President Johnson’s speech on this matter, the speech about which we have heard so much, which is supposed to have been in some way different on the point of negotiation from the speech made by the Prime Minister. He started by saying that the United States of America had enough power and would use enough power to stay in that part of the world against attacks from outside but would much prefer not to have to do it and for peace to be able to be reached by negotiation. He said - and this is what I mean by a definition of objectives -
Such peace demands an independent South Vietnam, securely guaranteed and able to establish its own relationships to all others, free from outside interference, tied to no alliance, a military base for no country, and these are essentials for any final settlement.
These, Sir, in other words, are things which are not negotia’ble - an independent South Vietnam, tied to no alliance, a military base for no country, securely guaranteed and able then to make its own mind up and its own way of life. Those are the objectives and that is the part that is not negotiable. That, indeed, was inherent in what the Prime Minister stated when, in the other place, he said -
When people say to me that the Americans should cease fighting and move out and negotiate, then if I am the last Premier that is left-
– Why not quote it accurately, in view of the distortion that has been made?
– This is what 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 fire . . .
The significant fact is that he does not believe and I do not believe that the United States, instead of fighting for this nonnegotiable point of an independent South Vietnam, should stop and negotiate as to whether or not this is to be an independent country. I hope to advert at a later stage to the importance of that matter of whether a country should be negotiated out of independence.
We have been told that the 800 men that we are sending can do little. That is not a significant argument really, I believe, against the background of the importance of this discussion. We had some suggestion by Senator Willesee, indeed, that the troops themselves were not very well trained. All I can say is that these troops are regarded as a crack formation in the Australian Army and that they have had a tour of duty already in guerrilla warfare in Malaysia. I believe they would be amongst the best troops of their kind in the world. They are not large in number but they are an indication that the Government of this country and those who support it, believe that the issues at stake in South Vietnam are so important to the world and to us that we are prepared, not merely to give the moral support which the Leader of the Opposition in this place would give to America in its present task, but also to back up that moral support with finite assistance, grave though the decision to back it up with finite assistance is.
We are told from certain quarters that anything is better than war. At the risk of being misunderstood and misquoted, I must say that I do not believe that that is true. In my own lifetime we have seen a situation arise in which it was necessary to choose between a world in which there were Belsens, Ravensbrucks, genocide and hangmen operating without the rule of law - all the things we saw put into gruesome effect in Europe - and a world of freedom. I believe that we were right then to choose war rather than to live in that kind of world.
– But that does not exclude the possibility of keeping peace, does it?
– I do not believe it does, but I was not directing myself to that point. I was directing myself to the argument advanced, amongst others, from some quarters that anything at all is better than resistance. This I do not believe. I would hate to think that young Australians were now being brought up in the distorted world in which the Nazis and the Fascists would be bringing them up had they won, had people then believed that anything was better than war. And I would not like to see young Australians brought up holding the distorted beliefs which the Communists - a different coloured shirt seems to be the only distinction between them and the Nazis and the Fascists - would bring them up to hold.
We are told that we cannot be successful in this war. This is in the lap of the gods.
No-one can say for sure, of course, whether the United States, with such assistance as we and other countries can give, will be successful in this conflict. But I suggest that that also is beside the point. If it is as right for this to be done as it was right for Australians to stand up against Nazi aggression, surely we should not draw back and say: “ Until we are absolutely certain that we will be successful in this conflict we will not engage in it “. What a world it would have been if the United Kingdom, after the fall of France and the rest of Europe, had sat back and said: “ We do not know for sure whether we will be successful now in this fight against the Nazi Empire so we will nol engage in it “.
These seem to me to be the answers to most of the points which have been raised by the Opposition in this debate. But if they are not sufficient to cover the questions which have been posed I shall advert to what .1 believe to be the positive reasons why the action should be taken. If we are ever to attain a world in which we can all live free from threat of attack and from the fear of having imposed on us either some alien rule or some alien ideology, then it is essential that it should be seen clearly throughout the world that aggression by one country on another cannot be successful and that aggression by one country on another will be resisted and ultimately will be defeated. Though this departs a little from the examination of whether this decision by Australia is right, from the point of view of a small country such as Australia it is not only right but it is also utterly expedient that it should be seen that a country, no matter how small, will not be left to be invaded and to have imposed upon it . the will of another country.
One would like to believe that this would be done automatically by the United Nations, to which many honorable senators on both sides of the chamber have referred. I am sure that it was the hope of many small countries that this would be the role of the United Nations.
– It should be the the role of the United Nations.
– I think they thought it would be. T believe that when the United Nations Organisation was set up that role was vitiated by the introduction of the power to veto. It was not destroyed but was greatly weakened by that veto power. But it will still be possible for a United Nations organisation to make sure that no aggression would be successful in this world if that United Nations organisation had the will. I do not believe that we can hold the belief that in all circumstances the United Nations does have that will, or that in all circumstances the United Nations will act in accordance with that will. Indeed, we only have to look to the confrontation to our north, to the action of Indonesia vis-a-vis Malaysia; to the action of Indonesia visavis West Irian; to the ignoring of the arrangements made under the aegis of the United Nations; and to what the United Nations has not done as a result of these and other things.
I do not wish anyone to believe that in saying this I am seeking to damage or to destroy the United Nations. Rather am I seeking to point out that so far the United Nations has not been able to live up to the hopes one had placed in it, and that if this is so then all trust cannot be put in it. If it is necessary that aggression should be stopped, should not be permitted and should not be seen to be successful, and if the United Nations alone cannot stop aggression, other means of doing it must be found and accepted.
If in this case we are witnessing a situation in which a country - South Vietnam - is having its peace disrupted, its economy disrupted and its citizens killed by forces sent from, based in and directed from another country - North Vietnam - we have here a case of aggression different in kind from the type of aggression of North Korea on South Korea, which was in the form of armed formations sweeping across the border, but not in any degree different in essence. Perhaps it is different only in appearance because in Korea the mistake of sending armed formations en masse was proved.
People must make up their minds on the Tightness and justice of Australia’s action according to their judgment of whether, in fact, South Vietnam is having its economy disrupted and its citizens murdered by forces based in, armed in and directed from North Vietnam. I think the evidence shows that, in fact, this is true. We have the evidence of the International Control Commission which was set up under the Geneva Agreements. In the report which it made in 1962 it stated -
Having examined the complaints and the supporting material sent by the South Vietnamese Mission, the Committee has come to the conclusion that in specific instances there is evidence to show that armed and unarmed personnel, arms, munitions and other supplies have been sent from the Zone in the North to the Zone in the South with the object of supporting, organising and carrying out hostile activities, including armed attacks, directed against the Armed Forces and Administration of the Zone in the South. These acts are in violation of Articles 10, 19, 24 and 27 of the Agreement on the Cessation of Hostilities in Vietnam.
The Commission consisted of representatives from Canada, India and Poland. 1 wish to refer to the comment of the Canadian Government on the report. On 21st June 1962 the Canadian Minister for External Affairs, Mr. Green, stated -
The Canadian government fully endorses the conclusions of the International Commission. It considers that the report establishes beyond any reasonable doubt that North Vietnam has engaged, for a number of years and with rising intensity in 1960 and 1961, in subversive activities of an aggressive nature directed against South Vietnam. The commission’s report also makes clear that the increased military aid which South Vietnam has received since December, 1961, was requested for the purpose of dealing more effectively with these subversive activities.
– That was found to be in violation of the Agreements. The ‘honorable senator has only given one side of the picture.
– From the report I have found nothing which deals with some other point.
– If the honorable senator reads on in the document from which he is reading, he will see that the Control Commission condemned both sides.
– I do not believe that that is so, but the honorable senator can point it out if he wishes. I am reading excerpts from a statement by the Canadian Minister for External Affairs.
– I mean the report of the Commission itself, which is contained in the same booklet from which the honorable senator is reading.
– I would like Senator Cohen to develop that argument at some other stage. I do not believe that he will find in any part of the report from the Control Commission a claim that South Vietnam has been sending arms or personnel into North Vietnam or has been attacking or using subversive activities in North Vietnam.
– That is correct.
– 1 think that is significant.
– It has been receiving military assistance in violation of the Agreements.
– That is precisely the point made by the Canadian Minister for External Affairs. He said -
The commission’s report also makes clear that the increased military aid which South Vietnam has received since December, 1961, was requested for the purpose of dealing more effectively with these subversive activities.
That is the significant part of the statement. Surely to a legal man it must mean something. The arms, munitions and personnel are being sent from the north to the south, but there has never been any indication of a reverse flow or of the North Vietnamese being subverted. A similar statement was made on 2nd June 1962 by the Indian delegation. It considered the Polish objections to the report and reiterated its stand and findings. It reiterated the report which I have already read to the Senate.
Also, there is the confirmed evidence, the conservative evidence, of the number of regular army personnel which has gone from the north to the south to carry out these activities. There were 20,000 confirmed and something like 39,000 estimated to have gone from the north to the south, but there were none from the south to the north. There are other matters in this booklet entitled “ Aggression From the North “ which I would commend to all honorable senators to read, to analyse and to study. Besides what is recorded in the booklet, there are matters which 1 shall mention and other matters which are known to other honorable senators including, I think, Senator Willesee who has first hand experience of them from travelling on more than one occasion through this country.
I refer to the murders, the terrorism and the kidnappings of those in South Vietnam who have reached or been appointed or elected to positions of importance in a village. In 1964, 436 village mayors and officials were murdered, 161 were wounded and 1,031 were kidnapped. In 365 days of the year, on the average there was not a day in which three men were not murdered, wounded or kidnapped because they were in a position of some significance in a village and because they did not support the northern controlled and dominated Communist Party. I want to make it clear again as far as I can that the significant fact is not that the aggression is being carried out by the Communists but that it is taking place. If it is allowed to take place in Vietnam it will take place in the country next door and in other small countries. Why should it not take place in a small country like Australia? If this is the sort of world in which we live, why should we expect to be assisted?
There is one other point that I wish to make before I conclude my speech. It has been stated that Communism flourishes in conditions of poverty, lt has been stated that what is needed in Vietnam and in other similar countries is a raising of the standard of living so as to improve the conditions under which people live. I believe that basically this is true. But the Australian Government - I think this has been adverted to in this House of the Australian Parliamen 1 - has had experience of occasions when attempts to raise the standard of living have been disrupted and destroyed by the Communist insurgents for no other reason than that they were improving the conditions pf the citizens of South Vietnam. I refer in particular to a project run by the Australian Government at Ben Cat, which is 30 odd miles north of Saigon. On a large expanse of heath land which was fairly useless and with which little could be done, the Australian Government took up a property, fenced it, examined it to see what the mineral deficiencies were, tried various kinds of pastures - some from Queensland and some which had been developed in the area itself - made it an area of land which could carry cattle, brought on to it jersey cattle, ran a dairy farm, pasteurised milk for the first time in the country and supplied it to the children of Saigon. Tt was a pilot project and it was successful. It was magnificent in its ultimate possibilities because it showed how all the area around could be taken up and used for similar purposes by people who at the time were getting no benefit from it. As soon as this farm began to be successful and was shown to be successful, at night the local Communist Vietcong raided it, shot the cows and calves, held up the trucks on their way to Saigon, smashed the milk bottles and ultimately managed to prevent the farm from being successful and the children of Saigon from getting milk.
– There is a nice little tailpiece. The young Australian who was running that dairy punched the leading Communist on the nose, despite his guns, and knocked him to the ground. He showed plenty of courage.
– If I may say so,
Senator, even any satisfaction that one can receive from that story is overborne by the sadness of the fact that something which could be so significant could be destroyed by Communist insurgents and that we can then hear against us the charge: “Ah, but you must improve the standards of the people “.
Reference was made to the Mekong Delta. Senator Willesee spoke about the development of the Mekong River. The Australian Government together with other governments began to take part in the development of this river years ago. People went there from the Snowy Mountains scheme. I have forgotten the precise details of what Australia was doing but, speaking from memory, 1 think we had a specific job allocated to us. We had, if I remember rightly, to take borings to see where a particular dam could best be constructed on that Mekong Delta. The working parties and the engineers were driven from their camps by sniper fire and fire from gun boats of the Pathet Lao.
I think these facts have reinforced the basic theme which I advance tonight that we must as an objective seek to develop the Mekong. We must as an objective seek to carry out projects such as the Ben Cat Dam. We must as an objective seek to help the general development of this area and we must, if it be possible, allow countries and parts of countries to be the masters of their own fates and, without threat from outside, to develop in the way in which they want to develop without murder, terrorism and outside attack. If that be possible, it is necessary in present circumstances for the force which is preventing it to be opposed with force. I believe it is for that reason that we have heard the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator McKenna) say that the Opposition gives moral support to the United States for being in Vietnam at the present time. I believe that it is for that reason that we heard the Leader of the Opposition in another place (Mr. Calwell) say that the Americans must not withdraw from Vietnam. Whether that is so or not, that is my reason for giving moral support to the Americans for being there. Giving that moral support to America for being in Vietnam. I believe we are allowed to give more than that if the objective sought is right in respect of the very grave and heavy responsibility which following up moral support with material support brings upon us.
Whatever the judgment of history may be on this move - and we have heard from the Leader of the Opposition in another place as to his belief of what it may be - 1 will be glad to think that there was in this country at this time a government which believes in this step to prevent this aggression and which sought to help to prevent in a small way the aggression by Indonesia against Malaysia also. Before that, this country fought against the aggression of North Korea against South Korea and, previous to that, the aggression of Fascist Germany against other countries. This country has been prepared to do these things and is now prepared to take this action again in (he hope that sanity will so envelop this world that nobody will think it worth the gamble to use force to seek to enslave or attack some other country because he will know beforehand that he will be opposed and beaten in that objective by the free peoples of the world. I think that ultimately in that way, and in that way only, lies the sort of peace which I believe all honorable senators in this House want to sec in the world.
.- We have heard from the Minister for Works (Senator Gorton) a speech which has engaged the attention of the Senate for half an hour or so. The Minister represents the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Hasluck) in this chamber, yet in his address he has not expressed one constructive view to enable the people of Australia to underst:ind the true nature of the dispute in which we find ourselves involved. Australia has become involved in a war - a hot war, but an undeclared war - and the people of Australia and also the overwhelming majority of people throughout the world hope that we can extract ourselves from this war and find a peaceful solution to it.
Senator Gorton said that this is not the first time that Australian troops have been sent abroad for the benefit of this country. He outlined our action in Korea. He also spoke of the position that existed in Germany more than a quarter of a century ago, and of the horrors and atrocities that occurred ‘ there. But the honorable senator failed to get to this main point, and I shall come to it at once. Throughout the world a rough division has taken place. The revolutionary forces of the world are making themselves more and more powerful in respect of the consummation of their revolutions, and the forces of counter revolution are becoming more and more desperate. It is lo my great sorrow that we are lining ourselves up with the use of force in the counter revolution. Looking at a map of the world, we find that lines of demarcation have been made either by agreement or by force. The strongest example of counter revolution was the campaign by Hitler in which he sought to suppress the revolutionary peoples of Europe, Asia, Africa and any other country that might have come along into his orbit. With the help of Italy and Japan, Hitler went within shooting distance of success. In that struggle, the revolutionary forces - China and the Soviet Union - and their sympathisers, including the United Kingdom, the United States of America, Australia, New Zealand and Canada, joined together to overthrow Hitlerism, Mussolinism and Shintoism which is the Japanese philosophy of counter revolution. As the result of agreements made after that conflict, when the complete defeat of the main forces of counter revolution - the Germans, the Italians and the Japanese - was brought about, lines were drawn which gave some indication of where the different countries stood. A line drawn down the Elbe River divided the traditional Europe. It was a direct outcome of the traditional hatreds, the racial differences and nationalism which had divided Europe for centuries.
Senator Gorton referred to the Balkan countries and to Balkan type troubles in South East Asia. The Balkan countries were dissatisfied through the centuries, for the simple reason that until the time of deBalkanisation of that area - until the outbreak of the war on which Hitler embarked - the forces of reaction and privilege - the hangers on of power and privilege in those countries - had kept the Balkan people in poverty, ignorance and illiteracy. As a consequence, they were never satisfied. Eventually the forces of revolution lopped off the heads of those who had kept them suppressed and a new deal for the people was brought about.
Now the scene there has changed. There is an uneasy peace along the line through Europe. Berlin is divided by a wall - as old fashioned a thing as a wall which was part of the strategy of thousands and thousands of years ago. In this day and age they have a wall.
– And a botched job it is.
– So I believe. I do not suppose they would want to have anything fancy, because this wall is not something we want to remember. We hope the time will come when it can be destroyed, blown up or effaced from the earth. We hope that the time will come when man will realise that he cannot shut himself off from his fellows by a wall and that the luxury of nationalism and racialism is too costly in terms of materials, men and time. Yet we must face the fact that the Berlin wall is there, virtually dividing the Eastern and Western parts of Europe. The hot war that was fought between the Germans and the Russians has changed to the present uneasy peace between the Western World and the Eastern World.
If we follow the line further, we see that the Balkan countries are virtually behind it. We then come down to the north of Greece, and this takes us to the Adriatic and the area of the Mediterranean. Then we come further down to the south of Turkey, until we reach the United Arab Republic, where again there has been confrontation. In that area it is still uncertain whether there will be war over strategic and idealogical differences or whether the countries concerned will agree to an uneasy peace. We can follow the line again to Afghanistan and to the frontiers of India, Pakistan and Nepal.
The point I am making is that all along the thousands of miles of frontier of which 1 have spoken there have been agreements to disagree. We felt terribly embarrassed by the crisis that arose over the Suez Canal and according to those who wished to propagandise our national honour and that of Britain was at stake. But in the outcome some face was won or lost on both sides. The agreement to disagree continues and the Suez Canal is taking bigger and better British ships, with more alacrity and better facilities. The canal has been widened and, as a world waterway, it is certainly no worse than it was before. In fact, according to newspaper reports, it is better.
We then come to the point of the conflict between China and India. The boundary between these countries was a British made line, the McMahon line. If the British were the great tacticians that I think they were, they certainly would have chosen the best line that could be drawn between a country in which they were accepted on a friendly basis and a neighbouring country - whether friend or enemy at the time. As a natural consequence of the traditional British attitude towards neighbours, the line was drawn to give them an initial advantage if the flames of war ever appeared. The McMahon line was challenged and alterations were made to it in the conflict between China and India. What was envisaged as a valley leading into China was made by the Chinese, with their superior forces, into a valley leading into India.
I now come to the most important part of this world wide line, that which runs across Burma, Laos and Cambodia into North Vietnam. The line takes you from the Baltic and the Atlantic to the Pacific - the two great oceans of the world. The Minister, in the course of his remarks, said that the whole of the argument against the Government’s case rests on the basic fallacy that Asia is a unity. Other than geographically, I agree with him that Asia and the Asian people are not a unity, but there is a common denominator among the Asian people. In this age of rapid communications, with radio and television, with exchanges of ideas and a gradual dawning of the advantages of education, the Asian people are revolting against the domination that has been their lot through the centuries. Wherever you go in Asia, whether (he countries you visit are temporarily friendly or hostile to us. the same problem exists. It exists even in Pakistan and India, which had the advantage of British influence over a long period of years, or in Burma or Malaya, lt is dawning on the rank and file of the people - if it is not dawning on them, the propaganda machines are informing them of it and are teaching them - that life can be much better for them than it is now. lt is the very nature of man to try to improve his lot. If fetters are binding him to conditions worse than those of people in other parts of the world or even in his own community, a spark is lit and may be fanned into revolution.
How is this to be met? The Minister for Works (Senator Gorton) said he believed Communism could not be stopped by force. He said it. had been stated often during the debate that Communism flourished in poverty and he believed this was true. But whether we like it or not, poverty exists now despite the war, the Colombo Plan and the high and mighty ideals of Australians and others who would like to help. The overwhelming majority of people in Asia and Africa are suffering from this poverty. The Minister for Works said we must seek the general development of this area and must allow people to be masters of their own fate but he added that, when necessary, force must be opposed by force.
The rupture between Moscow and Peking began over the situation in Vietnam. The Soviet Union had experienced confrontation in Europe and from compromises, agreements and probes it had found that in this world it was a case of co-existence or no existence. That might sound like a slogan; nevertheless that is the attitude the Russians have learned to take. The Chinese have a different point of view. Historically they are part of Asia and their revolution could be threatened if revolutions in other parts of Asia are overthrown by force. Now we are aligned irrevocably to use our force alongside the tremendous force that the U.S.A. has at its command to fight this battle. But we fight it alone. We are the only two nations in the world prepared to front up to this issue.
The great problem is that the area where the revolution is taking place is expanding rather than contracting and the revolutionaries are gaining encouragement. They believe it is a personal fight and in this way they can improve their standard of living and their general welfare. But they also believe that if their revolution looks like failing, they can call on other countries to help them. This is exactly the situation confronting us in South Vietnam.
Practically every speaker in this debate has stated that the situation in South Vietnam cannot be lauded. Various governments have fallen since the fall of Ngo Dinh Diem and instability at the highest levels has become the order of the day. The internal situation is such that some of the institutional organisations to which we could normally look for support, such as the main religious bodies, have failed to offer their co-operation to the various governments that have been set up in the past 18 months. During my very short visit to South East Asia I was shocked to see how the Muslim and Buddhist religions have exercised their influence on the people. There is a lot of religious activity in the daily lives of the people of Vietnam. Naturally that must have some influence on their daily actions, their individual philosophy and ideology. Yet in recent years there have been tremendous demonstrations by these religious organisations. Many individuals are prepared to go so far as traditional forms of martyrdom. Instead of being put to death on the rack, as were the martyrs of the Middle Ages, they soak themselves in petrol and burn themselves alive. To rationalise these happenings, we say that the Communists are doing this. That may be so or it may not; but I have been deeply concerned personally at the way these religious organisations have aligned themselves with an ideology of godlessness while hourly practising their religious beliefs and convictions.
If we can set up a government in South Vietnam acceptable to the religious people, the poor and the hungry who are full of fear, our adventure into South Vietnam will be fully justified. But we must have popular support within the country itself. If we force on these people what we believe to be the right way of thinking, we will be acting counter to the very essence of democracy. These are the great issues involved in South Vietnam.
It has been said that war is the outcome of the failure of politicians to solve the problems that confront them. Following the great 1939-45 war we lived through a period in which we hoped that individual nationalist politicians in their little boxes that all looked the same and which were facing in the same direction could, even though they displayed poverty of mind and spirit, have their disputes taken to a forum where wisdom could prevail, that forum being the United Nations Organisation. We regarded the United Nations as being the hope of humanity - a place where the failures of individual politicians could be rectified around the conference table, with reason rather than force prevailing. But then we saw, on the part of little pressure groups and selfish interests, the use of the veto, which provided a way out for the weak man or, if you like, the strong man, according to the context in which his action is considered.
Then numbers were used to win the day. It is to our everlasting discredit that we allowed the subterfuge of giving Formosa, or Taiwan as it is sometimes called, a seat on the Security Council, its only claim to membership being that it would provide an extra vote for one side. The inclusion of Formosa on the Security Council deprived an area of the earth’s surface which has a population of 700 million or 800 million of its rightful place in the forum of nations and created an atmosphere which could only end in confrontation by force.
Later we saw the events that occurred in the Congo. The United Nations, instead of being able to settle the problem, was blamed for exacerbating it. The popular revolution under Lumumba failed and there was set up a new regime the conduct of which has since shocked the world. The United Nations has had to bear a lot of the criticism for that adventure. During that war Dag Hammarskjoeld, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, who had been the guiding hand in the activities of that Organisation, was killed in an aircraft crash.
– That was a great tragedy.
– It was a great tragedy. Since then the United Nations seems to have become a bartering garden for those who have had the biggest numbers. Various countries that have shown a desire for self-determination and self-expression, and that have in one way or another obtained independence, have applied for membership of the United Nations. The number of members has grown to well over 100, and the division of voting strength has changed. Now we are told in this chamber, and through the Press and other organs of propaganda, that the United Nations is failing. The fact that this Organisation could be said to be failing is a sign of. illness in the outlook of leading people throughout the world whose nations exercise power, authority and influence.
The charge has been made that the United Nations has been used to sway the balance between the revolution and counterrevolution that is going on throughout the world. Revolution need not necessarily be bloody in character. Revolution can be considered from two different aspects - the overthrow of a government, and the method used to overthrow that government. I do not suppose we would say that Askin was a revolutionary, but nevertheless he overthrew a government. Possibly other people in other parts of the world are just as keen to overthrow their governments. The methods employed to change a government become a matter of concern when they reach the stage where conflict can occur. The kernel of the matter is this: How far should a group of people go in order to change their government?
If a government is regarded as being proWestern, it can expect to receive massive economic and military help and may continue to pursue its present policy. But if countries do not indicate that they are proWestern in outlook, the trend has been for them to try to get the same degree of financial and military help from either China or Russia. That trend is to be seen throughout Asia and Africa. At the moment we are only on the fringe of this great conflict. When all is said and done, really the only places that have been mentioned in this debate have been North Vietnam and South Vietnam. We have been considering the position in which they are found following their revolution against the French and the vacuum that was left through no fault of the Vietnamese themselves. It was impossible for them to overthrow their government before the Japanese war, but the Japanese did it for them. Then, when the Japanese were defeated, the people themselves saw that they had an opportunity to express themselves and to run their own affairs.
The Dutch people, who had been in the spice islands for a long time, did not want to give up their authority in Indonesia. The Japanese solved that problem by driving the Dutch out of Indonesia. That created the vacuum in which the revolution took place, as a consequence of which Sukarno and the present Government of Indonesia are in office. In Korea there was a similar influence, but instead of it being wholly Japanese, first it resulted from the occupation by Japan and then from the occupation by the Soviet Union. The line of demarcation was then drawn. At the same time, the peoples of those countries were looking for self-determination and selfexpression.
As we embark on this war, we should realise that the battalion we are to send constitutes a considerable portion of our total effective armed forces. Whether we like it or not, we are involved in a struggle, the eventual outcome of which we hope and pray will be negotiation, compromise and peace. President Johnson expressed that view and honorable senators on this side of the chamber endorse it. The Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Hasluck), despite his recent statement on world affairs in which he said that it was a matter of power politics and force, is reported to be now of the opinion that compromise and negotiation would be the best outcome. That solution is of vital importance because, as I have pointed out, the same issues will arise throughout the whole of the geographic area in which we live. The issues have not arisen in Papua and New Guinea, our nearest neighbour, but had the Germans continued in their occupation of New Guinea as they did before the first World War, it would have been inevitable that the people of New Guinea eventually would have reached the stage of wanting to throw off their shackles. We must prove and will prove that as a benign friend, rather than an imperial or colonial power, we want to assist them to climb from the darkness of barbarity and share in the great benefits of the scientific and technological changes that have come over the world in recent years.
The problems of Borneo, Sarawak and Indonesia’s confrontation of Malaysia need to be solved. During the time of the emergency in Malaysia, the Communists were removed from the main areas but the problems of education, industrial development and. improvement of living standards are just below the surface. If the industries that are being established in Kuala Lumpur by overseas investors assist to solve the problems of Malaysia it will represent a big change from the situations in other countries where overseas investors have done nothing but to take home their pound of flesh. One is hard put to think of a country where that has not been the practice. Capital, know-how and scientists are not introduced by us into another country on a business level. Under the Colombo Plan we . send trade commissioners and advisers on a socialist level. It is done on a government to government basis and the men who go to other countries do so in order to benefit those countries. But when the investor goes in, he has only one purpose. I hope that we will see a departure from the usual practice and that the overseas investors in industries in Kuala Lumpur will salt their profits in Malaysia to gain further profits and to improve quickly and effectively the living standards of the Malaysian people.
I turn now to the situation in India. Some of us have had the good fortune to visit India, but have also experienced the horror of witnessing in the streets of historical cities such as Calcutta, Bombay, Delhi and Karachi the abject humiliation of the poverty stricken and undernourished people. Through the years we have read of the glamour of these cities and the wonder of the beautiful edifices built in the regime of former times. Yet, on visiting them one is struck by how far down the social scale, how close to rock bottom of civilisation are the people of India in this modern day and age.
It has often been said in the Senate that conditions of poverty create a seed bed for revolution where people will grasp at anything to climb from the damp of the gutter on to the footpath. That helping hand does not necessarily have to come from a foreign country. It is not very hard for such unfortunate people automatically to embrace the philosophy of Communism when they have no alternative way to improve their living conditions. The struggle in South Vietnam contains that issue.
We are facing a very fluid situation which changes from week to week and from month to month. The statements we made last February do not all obtain today. The same may be said of international treaties. Treaties are made when the circumstances and the climate are suitable for the signatories. In the same way, laws that we pass in this Parliament must be amended because of loopholes that are found by experience. Treaties also have loopholes and their provisions are observed while it suits the signatories of them or while the provisions have some influence upon their interests. In the crisis with which we are confronted people use the same words but attach different meanings to them. I refer to such words as democracy, freedom, integrity, nationalism and patriotism.
– 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 10.30 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 6 May 1965, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1965/19650506_senate_25_s28/>.