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Tuesday, 25 June 1996
Page: 2726

Dr SOUTHCOTT(10.52 p.m.) —Yesterday the member for Werriwa (Mr Latham) introduced to this House a novel account of the pre-war period. Until the member's 90-second spiel, I thought I had heard all of the Labor myths. You know the ones: that the Australian constitution was written in Whitehall, or that Doc Evatt was robbed in 1954 by the Petrov affair, or that Harold Holt escaped from Portsea in a Chinese submarine, or that Gough Whitlam, one of the member's predecessors in Werriwa, was sacked by the CIA.

But what I heard today usurped all of the above. What I heard today, if we are to take it seriously, surely stands as the biggest Labor myth of them all—that Robert Menzies was a Nazi sympathiser. I am amazed that a member would come into this House and make such an offensive allegation. To suggest that Robert Menzies was a closet Nazi, a collaborator, a quisling, is not only over the top but is also deeply offensive to the memory of a great Australian.

Having said that, it does not surprise me that anyone in the ALP still believes this stuff. After all, they were brought up on this rubbish, a melancholy view of Australia from the `we wuz robbed' school of thought.

The main objection of the member for Werriwa to my speech on the adjournment was that I somehow distorted E.M. Andrews' account of the pre-war period and that I should apologise. If we are looking for distortions, surely there could be no greater distortion than to suggest that Sir Robert Gordon Menzies was a closet Nazi. After starting out a few weeks ago with what seems now to be a modestly offensive remark—that the conservatives signed up for a bit of fascism in the 1930s—the member for Werriwa today proceeded to go way over the top.

The member would have us believe that Robert Menzies was Australia's Kurt Waldheim, that Robert Menzies was Australia's Francois Mitterand, that Robert Menzies was the man in Australian politics with a dark, secret Nazi past. Paul Keating might be gone but it is good to know that someone over there is still serving up the same old Labor myths.

In marshalling his hysterical, historical revisionism, the member has cited as an authority for Menzies' life the Marxist historian Humphrey McQueen. Having once relied on McQueen to support his outrageous thesis, I am surprised that the member did not invoke John Pilger as well.

Mr Pyne —He probably will tonight.

Dr SOUTHCOTT —I think that is about to come. It seems as though he has dragged out and blown the dust off a collection of 1970s undergraduate essays.

The truth is that Menzies was a democrat who, during those years, consistently publicly upheld parliamentary democracy. Menzies highlighted the failings of totalitarian rule and consistently argued that it would be unacceptable to the Australian people. Hitler did not believe in elections; Menzies won eight. It is ridiculous to paint a democrat as a tacit fascist.

If the member for Werriwa wants to continue this debate, let me point out the first rule of rebuttal—to address the facts. Last week, in the debate on the adjournment, I outlined the factual history of the Lyons and Menzies foreign policy in the pre-war period. The member for Werriwa conveniently ignored every point I made, namely: during the Italian-Abyssinian crisis it was Lyons and Menzies who put sanctions on Italy; when Poland was threatened by Germany, Australia was one of the countries which guaranteed them; and when Hitler wanted the mandate back for New Guinea it was Sir George Pearce from the Lyons government who refused to return it.

The member made much of Menzies' study tour of Germany in 1938. That was the exhibit A of his spiel. He did not mention that Menzies criticised Germany for executions without trial and for the suppression of criticism and the press. Rather than being a Nazi sycophant, Menzies had the foresight to tell the President of the Reichsbank that, ultimately, suppression of criticism would destroy Germany. That does not sound like a closet Nazi to me. It sounds more like this latest myth needs to be put to rest.