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Wednesday, 16 October 2002
Page: 7853

Mr KATTER (4:28 PM) —In speaking on the motion on the terrorist attacks in Bali, I will make a number of historical allusions. In the centre of Charters Towers there is a beautiful band rotunda in a once beautiful park—it has been virtually destroyed by the state government's attitude towards flying foxes, so we have lost our beautiful park. It was a Boer War memorial and, as such, there are the names there of 30 or 40 Charters Towers citizens who died in the Boer War. I suppose it is to our shame that we were associated with a war in which 28,000 women and children perished in concentration camps. There is no precedent for what happened in Germany, except for the treatment of the wives and children of the Boer farmers who were in those concentration camps. Nearly 30,000 of them died, and you can get some idea of how horrific it was when you consider that the Americans lost 54,000, killed in the war against Japan. We are here today to mark the deaths of maybe 100 or 200 Australians, but we participated in a war in which 28,000 totally innocent civilians died in concentration camps. And you say, `What the hell were we doing in that war?' We were in that war because we were scared—we were a little tiny outpost of Anglos in a great big sea of people who were very different to us and we felt we had to stay close to England or our situation would not be a happy one. On the same basis, we went into the First World War and had much higher casualties per head of population than any other country in that war. Our casualties were quite horrific and were a significant proportion of our entire population. Again, you say, `What were we doing in that war? What, really, did it have to do with us?' Again, we had to stay close to England because we were scared, because we were a little tiny outpost in a sea of people who were different to us.

Today I broke ranks with my Independent colleagues in the House of Representatives because they felt that we should not go into Iraq except under a United Nations sanction. Mr Acting Deputy Speaker Lindsay, we admire your courage and independence of thought in taking the stand that you did. But I did not see it that way. Quite frankly, I felt that we really do have to stay close to the United States. This country will be in the gravest peril unless it does stay close to the United States. You have to ask yourself: are our interests best served in staying close to the United States? Internal politics dictate that the United States operates very aggressively in the Middle East. The internal politics, trade considerations and interests of this country do not at all dictate that we should be involved in the Middle East. But if we are not, and if we start showing distance between ourselves and the United States, and we get into trouble and have to holler for a marshal, I do not know where that marshal is going to come from.

I never criticised this government for going into East Timor. But every single piece of knowledge that I have accumulated from the thousands of history books that I have read in my life—probably about two or three a week—indicates to me that you do not pick a fight with a country that has the fourth or fifth biggest standing army on Earth when, at the same time, you have one operational submarine, no radar and, I do not hesitate to say, 50,000 silly little plastic rifles that the SAS quite rightly refuse to take. As an ex weapons instructor in the army and a person who shot—I will do some skiting—in the Earl Roberts shoot for the British Commonwealth, I would like to think I know a little bit about firearms. Even then, there are only 50,000 of those rifles.

Honourable member interjecting

Mr KATTER —I am copping an interjection here. What we are talking about is the tragedy that occurred in Bali. I am sorry that you do not understand—and I would have thought it was fairly obvious to most people on the planet—that the tragedy occurred in Bali because of our very close association with the United States. If you would like to present some other reason I would most certainly be keen to hear it, and I am sure that everyone else here today would be keen to hear it. I will help you out if you are having difficulties.

We are talking about going in and having a fight when this country is undefended. As a North Queenslander yourself, Mr Acting Deputy Speaker Lindsay, you and I are both well aware of the fact that the entire north Australian coastline—from Cairns through Bamaga to the Gulf of Carpentaria, over to Gove and Darwin and down to Port Hedland and Karratha—is about 6,000 kilometres. Only 100 kilometres of that shows any signs of human habitation. You have to understand that, if we want to live in South-East Asia, we must know and understand our neighbours and we must become great friends with our neighbours. Any person that has a fight with the person next door is very foolish. You have to get along with those people. But you have to see it from their point of view. They have 250 million people crammed onto six tiny little islands. The way they see it is that we went in and took half of one of those islands from them. That is the way that they see it. There is great rage and anger we are dealing with and confronting here.

I think every Australian who loves his country does not want us to continue in a situation of rage and anger with our nearest neighbours. But to get out from under the United States' coat-tails we must become a country in our own right, and we are far too small, at 20 million people, to even remotely consider doing that. I am pleased to see here the member who represents the vast landmass of the Northern Territory. In the last war our interests were subjugated to those of Great Britain. When 110,000 Japanese troops were massing on the Malaysian border, not a single military person in the world hesitated for one moment in wondering exactly what they were doing. They were massing there for an attack upon Singapore, and everybody knew that. Even though this was occurring and even though the Prime Minister of Australia, Mr Curtin, was well aware of the fact, where were our troops—where was the Australian Army? Our interests were so subjugated to those of Great Britain that the Australian Army was defending the Libyan desert. Three of our five divisions were defending the Libyan desert. We are told that there is no threat from our northern neighbours. That is what they said in the Second World War: `The Japanese have got no way of coming down the peninsula. They haven't got any armoured personnel carriers, they haven't got any lorries—they have no means of getting down there.' They walked and they commandeered bicycles. It was very surprising. We are being told the same load of rubbish now that we were told then. Our interests were so subjugated that, with the enemy knocking on the door and bombing Darwin, our troops were defending the Libyan desert.

This country has got to grow up. It has to mature and become a country in its own right. We are Australians. We are not descended from the British or descended from whoever; we are Australians. We are a different thing completely and we must acknowledge that fact. To do that, we have to develop northern Australia. Frankly, there is no doubt in my mind that in another conflict they will draw a line, probably from Karratha to Cairns, and say, `You can have all of the stuff north of that.' That is not an unreasonable proposition. Do you think that a mother in Sydney would believe her son should be taken from her and shot fighting in a war for country that this country has never been interested in? There is no development there, there are no people there—there is nothing there. I pay great tribute to pioneers in places like Darwin and little Karumba in my own electorate, where my own family originally come from, and all of those areas. I pay great tribute to them. But I was at a conference recently where they said: `They keep talking about northern development—they're never going to develop it. It's been 150 years and there's still nobody there.' It is a valid argument. Is this country really interested in occupying its landmass? You would have to say no, it is not.

People say to us: `We can't have a population of 50 million. Mr Carr said you can't possibly have a population of 50 million. This country can't support a population of 20 million.' The Murray-Darling Basin at this very moment supports a population of 20 million and it has supported a bigger and bigger population every single year of its existence. Maybe it has reached a hiatus now—I do not know—but it supports a population of 20 million people. Everybody knows that. There is six times more water in the rivers of the Gulf Country, the area that I represent, than there is in the Murray-Darling Basin. We have twice as much arable blacksoil land as the Murray-Darling has, stretching north for 1,200 or 1,300 kilometres all the way from Blackall to the Gulf of Carpentaria. This area can be developed.

If we grow up and are able to stand on our own two feet, we will not be dragged into situations such as the terrible events that occurred in Bali where our own citizens are killed. That sort of hatred is being turned upon us because of things that the United States are doing—and I am not saying that they are wrong—in the Middle East. We are paying the penalty for that. It is a surrogate punishment, and it is a surrogate punishment that will continue and will get worse. I want to put on record here today that what you saw in Bali is only the tip of the iceberg—that is only a start. This nation must grow up. It must move to that population. It must occupy its continental landmass. Otherwise it will provide a magnet to every other country on earth that is overpopulated. Our nearest neighbour has 100 million people going to bed hungry every night. If you return to those figures I gave you, you will see that the Gulf Country by itself can support a population of 100 million people. Do you think it is fair to ask an American mother to sacrifice her son in fighting for land that this country was never interested enough to occupy, except for a hundred thousand or a couple of hundred thousand hardy little souls who live in the area north of the line from Cairns to Karratha?

Today I plead with the government of Australia. We need to become a country in our own right. We need to have our own ability to defend ourselves. This is not a huge expense, strangely enough. We could have a hundred patrol boats equipped with guided missiles, 10 or 20 submarines instead of six submarines and an adequate radar system. But most of all, if we have a coastline of 6,000 kilometres that shows human occupation for only 100 kilometres, what right do we have to hold on to that in a world where a third of the population goes to bed hungry at night?

People ask whether it will help the Philippines or Indonesia if we develop and produce food in these areas. Yes, it will. In fact, the biggest agricultural commodity this country produces is beef. One in seven beasts we produce in this country goes to those countries by way of the live cattle trade. We send out a very cheap product; we send a $400 steer up there. They put a lot of time and effort into making that steer a really big bullock, and then they process him out because they have very cheap wage rates up there. They are able to secure from us enormously cheap, high-quality protein, which is of enormous value to countries such as those. There is a great future in the trade arrangements between us and these countries.

There is a great saying that good fences produce good neighbours. A good fence is defence capability. There are basic elements. I could talk about a lot of automatic rifles in this country. I could talk about following the Switzerland model or following the Israel model. They are little countries surrounded by big giants. I could talk about the enormous success of the Israeli war machine. There are only four million people in that country, but when you take them on you take on an army of three million people. There are very few countries on earth that would like to pick a fight with an army with three million soldiers in it. The situation is similar with Switzerland. I do not think it has been invaded for 600 years, because every single Swiss citizen has an automatic firearm at home. It also has the lowest homicide rate in Europe—arguably in the entire world.

The very essence of this great tragedy, and I want to put this on record here, is that this sort of thing will occur again and again, and it will get worse and worse, until this country grows up and occupies this continental landmass. As long as it does not do that, quite rightly the rest of the world will look at it as a magnet. Professor Richard Blandy, in an excellent landmark article in the Australian some years ago, said that the population of Australia in the year 2001—(Time expired)