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Thursday, 27 June 1946

Mr BLAIN (Northern Territory) . - lt would seem that the hour of post-mortems is at hand. There is diversity of opinion as to whether we should learn the reasons for our failures in Malaya, Ambon, Timor and other places.

I congratulate the honorable- member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) on the speech that he has made. The Government considers that the parents and sweethearts " cannot take it ". As one who has received most distressing correspondence since his return to Australia, I assure ministerial supporters who wish to shelter , behind that excuse that the relatives of servicemen " can take it ". Before I state my own ideas, I should like to do something for those who * have survived, particularly members of the 8th Division who were in Malaya. Prior to going to Sandakan, in North Borneo, unknown to the Japanese I was elected president of an old diggers association. I arranged gatherings, at which lectures were given, and collated for my own benefit much information from businessmen who had been in Malaya, aswell as from Australians, so that after the war immediate advantage could be taken of the trade and business possibilities in Malaya. These men have written asking me to place their case before this House, so that the exact information obtained may not be lost, and immediate advantage may be taken of the trade possibilities. They are now " champing at the bit " because all their endeavours to rehabilitate themselves may be nullified by the hold-up of shipping. While I was a prisoner of war in Malaya, I had many discussions with men who had been in business in Singapore, China and the Netherlands East Indies, with regard to the possibility of Australia getting a greater share of the far eastern trade than it had prior to the outbreak of the war. My idea was to raise my voice in this House later, with a view to the rehabilitation of these men under the provisions we are now discussing. The general consensus of opinion was that Australia had sadly neglected its opportunities in that area in the past. One man who had had trade experience in the Netherlands East Indies, Malaya and Hong Kong, extending over a period of 30 years, told me that he could recall very few Australian products being marketed in those places during the period between World War I. and World War II. Those that he remembered were a well-known brand of jam, the biscuits of another firm, and two brands of butter. The outbreak of World War II. in Europe was directly responsible for Australian goods finding a ready market in the Netherlands East-Indies, Malaya and Hong Kong. Those countries, together calledsterlingbloc.Duetostringentexwith India, were members of the sochange restrictions, trade relations were confined almost entirely between themselves, and with Great Britain, South Africa, New Zealand and Australia. Prior to Japan's entry into the war, the tide of South African exports flowed towards Britain, almost entirely to the exclusion of theFar East. Paradoxically, although Britain required all the foodstuffs and raw material it could obtain, itsexports of manufactured goods to theFar East continued, although on a diminishing scale because of the lack of shipping. Later, itsexport trade was confined almost entirely to the " gold bloc" nations, consisting of the United States of America, Canada, and the various South American republics, for very sound economic reasons. Thus Australia, and to a certain degree, New Zealand, had a clear field inFar Eastern countries. These were the conditions obtaining in Malaya, Netherlands East Indies and Hong Kong prior to the war, and they will obtain once more now that the war is over. And what of China, with its vast, unexploited markets? In 1940-41, the leading British, Canadian and American firms were unable to meet the demand of the Netherland East Indies and Malaya, and had to retire from the market. It was during this period that Australia came into the picture, supplying wines, spirits, beer, ham, bacon, &c, for which advertising created a considerable demand. Thus, Australia gained an entry into the Far Eastern markets with little or no effort. In fact, the tendency was for local importers to beg Australian firms to establish local representation. Now that the war is over there is great danger of this market being lost through complacency: The quality of Australian products is on a par with the best British and American products, and the prices are competitive. It is obvious, however, now that peace has been restored, that British and American manufacturers will start a strong trade offensive to regain the lucrative trade which they lost because of the war, and they will be helped by the Far Eastern commercial houses which had established agencies before the war. We know that Australia produces most of the requirements of the Far Eastern consumer. How, then are we to obtain our proper share of this business? We must do as others have done in the past, plus a little more. The Chinese like Australians. They find it difficult to get on with some Englishmen, but they have no difficulty in getting on with Australians. Chinese have told me and other prisoners of war that we must come back after the war and trade with them. Other prisoners had a better opportunity to discuss such matters than I had, because I was in irons a good deal of the time. I offer the following suggestion for stimulating Australia's trade with the Eastern countries : -

1.   The establishment of active trade commissioners ' in the Netherlands East Indies, Malaya, Thailand, and China, with offices where any information pertaining to Australian can be obtained, and where samples will be available for distribution.

2.   Adequate advertising prepared by experts who have an intimate knowledge of the country concerned.

3.   The establishment of a "Bureau of Standards " in Australia to ensure that no inferior goods are exported to impair the reputation of Australian -products.

4.   Manufacturers should exercise more' care over labelling and packing. The Oriental particularly likes attractive goods.

5.   Manufacturers should appoint their own resident representatives to work in co-operation with their agency houses, and the agent's salesmen and dealers. A representative with personality, and with ability to mix with the Orientals, is one of the biggest assets a manufacturer could have. These resident representatives should have a fairly large territory to cover and, from time to time, should call on dealers who handle the products they represent. This creates goodwill.

6.   Finally, the choice of trade representatives is of primary importance. The Government, before making appointments, should confer with the Australian Chamber of Manufactures, and with the various State chambers of commerce. This would ensure the sending of a good type representative, with a sound knowledge of Australian produce. Too often, these jobs are given to redundant public servants approaching the retiring age. and to political hacks as a reward for service.

Before the war, 40 per cent, of the cargoes sent from Australia to Singapore, and 20 per cent, of those for Hong Kong were carried in Dutch ships. What is Australia doing to-day to implement trade with the Netherlands East Indies, Malaya, China and the Philippines ? We axe certainly sending large quantities of foodstuffs to Britain and Europe, and rightly so, but what of the Dutch ships lying in the ports of Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, ready to transport goods to starving people in Java and Sumatra ? I understand that £A6,000,00Q worth of foodstuffs .and merchandise is in store ready for transport to the Netherlands East Indies. Is the will of the waterside workers to prevail? Apart from the possibility of converting an ally to an enemy, what of the many returned soldiers, and particularly those prisoners of war who came in contact with businessmen, while in the camps of Singapore and Malaya, and who themselves want to get into business, but cannot do so because of the attitude of Thornton, Healy, Wells and others? What of the many others who could be put into useful employment if this useless and vicious ban on the loading of Dutch ships were lifted? Dutch ships would transport goods, not only to the Netherlands East Indies, but also to Singapore, Indo-China, Chinese ports and the Philippines.

With regard to the Philippines, it will be remembered that the Prime Minister, on his way back from a lightning visit to Japan, called in at Manila, where he met government officials, and businessmen who were anxious to do business with Australia. He, as usual, promised to discuss the matter with his colleagues, and said that he felt sure that trade with Australia could be speeded up, and he welcomed the opportunity, and so on. But what can the Prime Minister and his colleagues do in the matter? He and they must pander to their Communist bosses, Thornton, Wells and company. Dutch ships could help. I wonder whether those people in Manila know what the trouble is. They will know very soon. The Dutch Minister to Australia. Baron Van Aerssen, has left for Manila to represent his country at the liberation _ celebations in that country. He, too, will meet those government officials and businessmen, and no doubt they will ' discuss trade problems, and what is happening in Australia. In view of the Government's attitude, and the Prime Minister's rebuke to the Dutch Minister regarding the Dutch warship

Piet Hein,Baron Van Aerssen will be able to tell the real reasons why the expansion of our export trade with our northern neighbours is being neglected, why this golden opportunity is being missed. It is for no other reason than that -the ships of a country, who was an ally, and whose country i3 strategically important to us, are lying idle because of the whims and viciousness. of our Communist friends.

One young man, Tom Dole, with whom I was a prisoner, I have met since my return. He gathered this information with some other businessmen, including an old digger of World War I., E. C. Alexander, a fellow prisoner in Malaya, who has now, I believe, returned to his position in the. Treasury at Canberra. I urge that his precise knowledge on trade to Malaya be" studied by the Government. Mr. Dole has organized a firm to which he has given the name " Ceigoa", standing for Consolidated Export and Import Group of Australia, the idea being that it should carry on trade with eastern countries. .The last time I saw him he had two husky Japanese hanging on to his arms, leading him out into the jungle, and others were belting him. I thought he would be shot, but evidently the Japanese contented themselves with beating him, and he turned up again. His address now is 5S Oxford-street, Sydney. There are dozens of men like him, anxious to take part in trade activities with the East, but the Government does not seem to control the situation. It is in the toils of the communist python. I ask the Government to do something to open up trade with the East. I met men in the prison camps representing British firms in Java, and some of them I have met since my return to Australia. All of them agree that there are unlimited opportunities for increasing trade with eastern countries if only the Government will have the intestinal fortitude to deal with the present situation on the waterfront. The honorable member - for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) has asked, for a post-mortem on the campaigns in Ambon, Timor and New Guinea. I think I have a. right to ask for a post-mortem on the Malayan campaign. The Government need not fear that the relatives of the men engaged in the campaign will not be able to " take it". I suggest now, as I have previously suggested in press statements, that Brigadier Taylor, who took part in the campaign, might be called to the bar of the House to explain matters to honorable members. If it is thought undesirable that his disclosures should be made public, there is no reason why he should not address the members of both Houses in King's Hall, so that they might know just what happened in Malaya. Also, as one of the few survivors of 1,900 men at Sandakan prison camp, I have a right to ask why no effort was made to rescue prisoners of war held in Borneo. General MacArthur has declared that it was known to him that we were lightly held by the Japanese, and that the position could have been retaken. I refuse to accept the plea of the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) that it would only distress the relatives of the men concerned if these matters were inquired into. In the name of those who died because the Government failed to send a force to their rescue, we have the right to demand an inquiry. My own nephews, my brother's boy and my sister's boy, one of them in the commandos and the other in the Labuan landing, and thousands of others were awaiting an opportunity to take part in a rescue expedition. Why were they not allowed to do so? I think I know why. If the policy of the Labour party had been put into effect at the beginning of the war, no Australian troops would have gone to Suez. The Middle East would have been lost, the Germans would have joined up with the Japanese, and Australia would inevitably have been overrun by the Japanese. Never before has the old Roman adage, " He who fights has the right to govern ", been more applicable than it is to-day. Among the few honorable members opposite who were prepared to fight for their country on the battlefields of the world I notice present at the moment only " Davy " Watkins and one or two others, including " Reggie " Pollard. I can forgive those who did not fight if they had good reasons to .stay at home; but 'I despise those who sat at home and advised others not to fight. No doubt some honorable members opposite had a good reason for remaining in this country, but there must be many of them who should have been in the services and have had first-hand experience of the horrors of warfare. We are reaping to-day the results of the poisonous propaganda of Labour's hillbilly spokesmen in the Sydney Domain, at King's Cross and on the Yarra Bank who, when the world was arming for war, told our youth that there was no cause for alarm and that in any case we should not spill our blood on foreign soil. . It is because of that feature of Labour's policy that so many of our boys are to-day lying in jungle graves in Malaya. Although 20,000 trained , fighting men were waiting in Darwin for an opportunity to go to Java to rescue their mates, this Government would not send them outside of Australia because it had decided, with a complete lack- of realization of the situation, that the Militia should not be sent beyond the Commonwealth and its mandated territories. This Government even brought down legislation delineating in precise terms the area in the equatorial belt beyond which those troops gould not he used. And this at a time when war was raging in two hemispheres and when an appeal was made to the United States of America to " save Australia and you save America ". I now learn that that was a catch cry for this Parliament. How galling that decision must have been for General MacArthur! The Australian forces in Darwin could do no more than shake their fists at the Japanese across the Arafura and Timor. Seas. The people of America must' despise this Government for that disgraceful attitude, and share with many of us the opinion that it resulted in many of our boys lying in jungle graves. . How can the Government be so lacking in principle as to say that an inquiry will only revive the anguish of the relatives of those unfortunate men? Far from being made the object of criticism, the honorable member for Richmond is to bc commended for having brought this matter forward. The honorable member for Parkes took exception to my quoting passages from a book written by the son of an . illustrious Australian, Sir David. Rivett, because his party believes that these Indonesian murderers are wonderful people, and that the Dutch people had been exploiting them for too long. I have no desire to weary the House by a recapitulation of my war experiences; but it is necessary to refer to' some incidents in order to acquaint honorable members opposite with the facts. After I had been captured and sent to Borneo by the Japanese I wa3 appointed leader of an escape party. I intended to come back to Australia and raise a force to rescue my mates. The full history of this attempt will be presented to the Prime Minister next week. I have written to my former commanding officer, Major Fleming, M.A., Dip.Ed., now a master at .Scotch College, Melbourne, for permission to use the official records of my unit in the preparation of this history. I was ably assisted in this attempt by the Honorable Dr. P. J. Taylor, formerly of Orange, New South Wales, a member of the Legislative' Council of British North Borneo, who had been in Borneo for sixteen years and had been employed as a doctor with a chartered company there. I intend later to bring his case before the Prime Minister with a view to securing for him some recompense for! his valuable assistance. He suffered torture by the Japanese on our behalf. After I was captured by the Japanese I was put in cells, with Dutch prisoners, including an engineer from Medan, Sumatra, named Bekkering a lieutenant ' in the Netherlands East Indies army who had been captured by the Japanese . a week or two after the invasion. Later, he was given his liberty for twelve months, but being a good Dutchman he immediately joined the underground forces and undertook responsibility for designing roads intended for use by the Australians who were expected to invade the country. The Japanese, however, discovered the work he was doing, and he was arrested, tried, sentenced and transported to Singapore, where he shared a cell with me at the Outram Road gaol. Incidentally, his ship was torpedoed cn route. We were associated for fifteen months. I learned that his leader was shot in gaol. Naturally we had many interests in common, because we had been engaged in allied professions. I promised Mr. Bekkering that some day I would return to Sumatra and visit him, and 1 invited him to come to my home in Australia after the war was over. After his release from the prison camp he returned to his home, and on the 15th

December, 1945-, lie wrote me the follow ing letter: -

I hope you to be in good health and expect that Australia's abundance changed your thinness into common dimensions'. I hope also you joined your family and found your people in good condition. And I hope you will have been able to show the Australian nation how the yellow swines did treat their prisoners of war and the same to the English nation in London, accordingly the scheme you told to prisoners ito in cell No. so and so, nearly one year ago.

He was referring to a proposal to bring Dutchmen and north-west Europeans to Australia. The letter continues -

I, too, must not complain. At present I'm sitting in my own home with my wife and my four children, all in very good condition. I.'lie return to Sumatra was in political wise a great disappointment. When we came in mir country we were longing for starting work 10 recover the damages done to the Nipponese management and for living as soon as possible in common way. This is at present quite impossible and I. fear it will remain so in near future.

I.   asked him what was the reaction of cbe native population when the Japanese first came there. He said that when they first came to Medan the natives were inclined to favour the Japanese; but six months afterwards they showered him with, kindness. That was their way of expressing their feelings. They said that formerly the dogs were there but now the pigs had arrived. They found the Japanese far worse than the Dutchmen. The letter continues- -

I left Changi about the middle of September and went to Johore Bahru near Singapore. [ stayed there about a fortnight in a great hospital and started in the beginning of October for Medan. My wife and children who had been interned for three and a half years of which two years in poor and one and a half years in very poor conditions, happened to arrive in Medan nearly at the lime day. lt is a sad but epic story. In a long paragraph he told me something of the conditions they had to overcome when the Indonesian Republic was formed. Me went on to say -

Dutch troops and police are not permitted to invade; we are depending quite on English and Indian troops'. They got only order from their Government to maintain order in Medan. So the difference with Outram Road is that our prison is quite- good and comfortable and that we are allowed to walk for several miles i'-i Hie European quarters but we all feel that up till to-day we are still in prison. Evacuation is possible but by lack of ships' the amount of evacuees, for Europe is but. little. Widows orphans and' sick persons, have preference.

Has the Government no- sympathy for these people? I replied to this letter on the 6th February, 1946. Had I had the experience- of another four months in Australia I could certainly not have written a letter in more acid or succinct, terms. This .is what I wrote -

It was with great pleasure that I read your long letter telling me that your family were safe, although they had undergone great trials from starvation in- Sumatra after you were placed in prison.

I look back to the days when we were together in" the cells at Outram Road jail - not with pleasure, of course - but the month that I happened to be in your cell passed quickly because we had so much in common, and were able to talk when the Japanese guard was not looking our way.

I am very distressed to think that you came out of one prison, under the Japs only to find yourself in another, owing to the Indonesian attacks on any Europeans whom they find out in the streets. Of course 1 am not so silly as not to know the reason. The Japs played a very cunning game in the islands when they found they were not going to win - they primed and trained the Indonesian to fight the white man in an endeavour to make their case good, as it were. We know what the dirty little slit-eyes did to the half-breeds and natives when they thought they were going to win - they treated them as an inferior people, merely as slaves, but of course with the forty millions in Java they realised that they had a whole population which could be a menace to the white race now and in the future, and so help Japan (as Tojo said) in their hundred years' war. even though they lost it this time. I am ashamed of my own country, and of many of the public men supposed to be controlling it. because they have lent a very soft ear to some of the mongrels here known as Communists, who have played a dirty, filthy game against you Dutchmen by not allowing food boats to leave Australia for Sumatra. However, as Parliament has not yet met I am unable to express myself publicly, but believe me, that little will be left unsaid by me against these odious specimens of humanity who pander to a low section in older to catch votes from the nondescripts in Australia merely to get back into Parliament, and who have not the guts to stand up for the white race. Some of our people seem to be ashamed that they are British and have white* blood flowing through their veins, but rather prefer to side with the Indonesians simply because they realize it is a miniature Communist cell in the communistic growth - a cell that will, if its growth is allowed to go unchecked, be a great menace, not only to our Australian safety in the future, but also to the white race in general. At least, such arc the Blain sentiments.

With regard to youn friend whose letter was forwarded to me; I must confess that I let it pass out of my hands to some Butch friend in Brisbane, who took it out to show to some of your unfortunate' evacuees who were brought to our country for safety. I did intend going out to their camp to. give them, a little talk, and encourage them to have fresh heart, but 1 was unable to do so because I have been anxious to visit my own electorate in the Northern Territory before the Federal House meets in March. I fear that I may have lost contact with my Dutch friends in Brisbane, and so would ask you to request your friend to write to me again and place his case before mc, when I hope 1 may be able to bc of. some assistance to him. Believe me, if you should bc able to journey to Australia as an evacuee it would give me the greatest pleasure to see you again, so do not forget to look me up, when we may talk of old times and perhaps 1 may be able to place you in your engineering profession - you could be of great use to Australia in developing our water supplies, a matter which needs such urgent attention.

I have tried to do something for Dr. Taylor. You remember he was sent to gaol with us from Borneo to Outram Bond, as a civilian. His old friend Mr. Ma vor, the Englishman, died in the cells, unfortunately - he was just unable to make the grade against the Jap. treatment.

Please convoy my best wishes to all the old friends, and hoping to see you some day when I make that promised journey to Malaya.

I.   have made myself clear. All I nsk the

Government to do is to get the ships moving, to take strong action against the Communists who are holding the country to ransom, to re-establish the exservicemen, particularly the members of the Sth Division captured in Singapore by the Japanese, to re-establish friendly relations with the Dutch and not to allow our relations to be further impaired by unpardonable interference in their dealings with the Indonesians.

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