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Tuesday, 15 March 1966


Mr FAIRHALL (Paterson) (Minister for Defence) .- The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) was rather too reserved in his self-styled indictment of the Government. He said he would have liked to take more time to deal with certain matters, but the House has been good enough to accord the honorable gentleman unlimited time. I am perfectly certain that we on this side of the House would have been delighted to have him pursue those matters in detail, because the further he goes the more confused does he become - to match, of course, the confusion existing elsewhere in his Party. But we are delighted with his broad brush approach to these problems and we are grateful for his statement of the Opposition's views because, after all, the Opposition is the alternative government of this country. The people who will have to vote and who will want to judge, before the end of this year, as between one and the other of the alternative governments will need to look carefully at what the Australian Labour Party offers. We are not dismayed by the Opposition's rejection of our views on what is happening in South East Asia or of our involvement in it, because, reject our views as you may, Sir, the situation will not go away. It is ours to Solve. Therefore, we on this side welcome the challenge which the honorable gentleman has put down tonight to bring this matter forward as an issue, first at Kooyong, if you wish, and later at a general election. We will be delighted to see the Labour Party once again tilt at a windmill. The only problem that arises is as to whether the honorable gentleman or his deputy will survive to lead the tattered array on that occasion.

The Leader of the Opposition hardly dealt with the question of our involvement in Vietnam in terms of whether we should be there and of whether there should be an increase in our commitment. But he said a good deal about the war in Vietnam being an unwinnable war. I seem to remember that some years ago he had something of this kind to say about what was going on when our troops, with United Kingdom troops, cleaned out the Communists from Malaya. We would have been in a more unhappy situation in Malaya and South East Asia today had our troops not been successful by dint of skill, sacrifice and patience on that occasion. One presumes that if the Labour Party had been in office on that occasion we would have withdrawn our troops and urged the United Kingdom to do the same. I invite the people of this country to consider how different would have been the position in South East Asia today if that had been done. The honorable gentleman talks about the war in Vietnam being a cruel and unwinnable civil war. I will come to the last part of that statement in a moment, but the fact is on record that this war is being won at this moment. The whole of the wet season offensive of the Vietcong failed almost completely. Of course, honorable gentlemen opposite want this war to be settled overnight. They might as well settle down, because it is an article of faith of the Communists, to whom we are opposed, that their cause is best served by a protracted war.

The honorable gentleman goes further and suggests that if we are serious about this war, why does not the United States bomb North Vietnam? I only remind the House of the words of President Johnson who has pointed out that the Americans are not in Vietnam to gain anything but the freedom from Communist oppression of the South Vietnamese, their right to selfdetermination and the chance to develop a viable democracy in that country. He added that there, is no instant democracy. President Johnson has pointed out that the U.S. is prepared to do no more, and certainly no less, than is necessary to bring the Vietcong or the North Vietnamese to the conference table under conditions which offer some possibility of a reasonable solution.

The Leader of the Opposition tonight has contributed vastly to a good deal of the confusion which exists in this and other countries about the nature of the Vietnamese war. One is bound to say that the confusion in the public mind, both here and in the United States, is a more powerful asset to the Communists than any weapon they have in the field. I was rather intrigued to notice that in this morning's newspaper there was a despatch from Hanoi which compliments these good people who are contributing to this kind of confusion in the public mind. Our friends in North Vietnam and Hanoi have said -

In the course of a protest against more Australian troops being sent to South Vietnam -

Why would not North Vietnam complain about that7- the Communist newsagency congratulated the Australian people for their attitude.

It should be said loudly and clearly that these views emanate, not from the Australian people as such, but from the noisy minority, from the amateur sign painters, from the card burners and from the demonstrators who are led on partly by intellectuals and pardy encouraged by the kind of offering which the Leader of the Opposition has put to the House tonight.


Mr Bryant - What about the gallup polls?


Mr FAIRHALL - I do not know about the gallup polls, but I have seen a few gallup polls taken among the young people who are slated to go into national service in this country and perhaps go to Vietnam. Almost universally they have understood. They have had a rauch more mature appreciation of the issues in Vietnam and of the fact that it is their world that is being threatened in South East Asia and their world which must be saved. It is only the- quaking elders on the other side of the House who run for cover every time Walter Lippmann writes a new column or every time Wayne Morse, United States senator, puts up a beef in the American House.


Mr Devine - Did he know that Australian troops were there?


Mr FAIRHALL - I guess he did. The honorable member is confusing him with Senator Fulbright. I notice that the Leader of the Opposition said in the first place that the United States is right in its belief but is wrong if she thinks she can ever win. Then he went on to the next paragraph and said that the American forces cannot and will not be defeated in the battlefields of South Vietnam. Sir, this is right. The United States has under its control preponderant military power and it is a matter of absolute self-restraint in the interest of world peace that she does not apply this preponderant military power.

One ought to look carefully at the kind of threat which exists in South East Asia. The Geneva Accords - there is not time to go into detail on this - separated the Communist North from the non-Communist South, but almost immediately there was subversion on the widest possible scale in South Vietnam, instituted without any doubt at all from North Vietnam. Indeed, it ought to be made perfectly clear that in 1960 Ho Chi Minh said that the great function of the Communist Party was to promote the revolution in the North and liberate the South. Liberate the South from what?

Liberate South Vietnam from its aim to produce a democratic state free of Communist intrusion. Communist infiltration and Communist power. This is the view of the North Vietnamese and explains in clear terms why it was that immediately after the partition there was Communist infiltration into the South. The war that is going on in South Vietnam is not a war between two nations for national aims. It is not a civil war, unless, of course, one is gullible enough to misunderstand the true nature of the thing. It is in fact an ideological war, and the fact that there are South Vietnamese on both sides of this struggle merely indicates that it is an ideological war. That does not make it, by any stretch of imagination, a civil war. It may well be that the war will not stop at the boundaries of South Vietnam, assuming that the Communists were to be successful, although I do not believe they possibly can be.

The Leader of the Opposition has asked what evidence there is of Chinese troops. There is no need for the Chinese to have Chinese troops in South Vietnam to be masterminding the kind of thing that is going on there because there is not the slightest doubt that the North Vietnamese are puppets of the Chinese and that the whole conduct of the war, down to the last jot and tittle of it, comes out of the philosophy of Mao Tse-tung. It is there for anybody to read, if he is interested enough. It is pretty clear, if one looks at the authority, that what is happening in South Vietnam today is perhaps only the first round of an attack by the Chinese Communists in an effort to dominate the world, and it may be an open ended struggle. Twice in our lifetime Australia has been involved in war - in Europe and in Asia - for the preservation of our own national interests, although these may not have been immediately threatened. In both these cases we were warned of what the situation was likely to be. Hitler wrote his " Mein Kampf " and we decided to disregard it. There were Japanese documents of a similar kind. We chose to disregard them. Now Australia, as well as the Western world, is on notice that once again this kind of threat is abroad.

A quite precise document has been written setting out the Communist Chinese aims and the Western world and Australia in particular will be the authors of their own fate if they refuse to take any notice of it. Some Opposition members interject and appear to disagree with that statement. I remind them that post-war Asia has thrown up Mao Tse-tung who is a Communist and a skilled military tactician. More recently a document appeared in general public written by a man who, after all, is rather an authoritative speaker on behalf of the Chinese Communists - one Lin Piao. This gentleman is the vice chairman of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China. He is the Vice Premier of the Ministry of National Defence and, therefore, what he says must be taken wilh a good deal of authority. Set out in this document is the whole handbook of Chinese military strategy and, with it all, an outline of the Chinese aims to gain control of the world. He talks about Asia, Africa and Latin America. It is, rather strange that these things are working out in the daily paper because one can read in any daily paper in any part of the world where Communist inspired subversion and Communist inspired revolution is breaking out. Where? In Asia, Africa and Latin America.

More recently we had the development in South America of a Three Continent Solidarity group, all designed to set up a secretariat for the promotion of revolution throughout the world - revolution in its turn to be taken over by Chinese Communist power. It is very interesting to see that when Ghana had a revolution, the first thing uncovered was a whole nest of Chinese and Russian Communists. They were indoctrinating Ghanians and attempting to use them as a means of provoking the same kind of upheaval in Africa as has happened in South East Asia. Here is the working out in Africa, in Asia and in Latin America of the whole of this Chinese Communist philosophy. In a situation like this with South East Asia threatened and wilh the world threatened with the expansion of Communist power, the United States of America cannot stand aside. We ought to consider ourselves particularly fortunate that the United States has not only decided to underwrite the peace of the world but also has the power to do precisely that.

The Leader of the Opposition has talked about it being clear that America wants peace and has made determined efforts to persuade Hanoi to come to the conference table. This is a fact. We all look back to the Christmas period when the United States made a most outstanding effort to promote peace. It brought a response from almost every country in the world and from the United Nations Organisation. The one place from which it produced no response was Hanoi. Hanoi resorted to quite impossible terms. They were not terms for negotiation, but terms which demanded complete surrender and the withdrawal of the United States forces from South Vietnam. 'I his would have left the Communists with a free field in that unhappy country, with quite inevitable results.

The honorable gentleman spoke of the need for a conference to end this unwinnable war. It is not an unwinnable war, either in military or political terms, but there are grave dangers in a peace conference. We have seen peace conferences so often in the past where a compromise has been decided upon, leaving the Communists in control. That has happened with half of Korea and half of Vietnam. Wherever a conference reaches a compromise solution, the Communists are left in a position of increasing strength, ready to move on again.

The honorable gentleman also wishes to know how to contain China without fighting her and still win. This is a matter of extraordinary patience, and the United States Government is using exactly that kind of patience. In this kind of situation we have a great interest ourselves in South Vietnam. South Vietnam is a protocol State in the South East Asia Treaty Organisation and therefore it is a State to which we have some obligations.

On two occasions when the security of this country has been threatened, we have put forward a total effort, but the nature o. the war in South Vietnam at this stage does not call for a total effort. The effort we are making at the present moment is a reasonable contribution in that kind of war. The stakes are just as high as ever they were but the unfortunate fact is that so few people in this country feel themselves to be personally involved in what is happening in

South Vietnam that there has not developed a true national appreciation of the issues involved. Therefore the exaggerated references which we hear falling so often from the lips of honorable members opposite and of demonstrators are given a good deal of support. The Vietcong and the Communists are happy to have such views published in our daily papers. They are encouraged in their efforts to subvert our people.

It is interesting to ask the question: Who in this community turned on the " Hate America Week " we had a little while ago? It was rather strange that this organised campaign erupted suddenly and spontaneously not only in this country and in the United States but throughout the Western world. If we think that the forces affiliated with and sympathetic to Communism are not in action in this country, we delude ourselves completely.

Time does not give me an opportunity to reply to all of the charges made by the Leader of the Opposition, but other members on this side of the chamber will put up the kind of defence that the honorable gentleman's charges deserve. At present we have 1,500 good Australian troops engaged in South Vietnam. They have been successful and have given a magnificent account of themselves.


Mr Devine - Are they happy?


Mr FAIRHALL - They are not unhappy because they understand very well why they are in Vietnam. They have the added satisfaction of making a magnificent contribution to the future security of this country. I wish that the honorable member who has interjected would make the full contribution that is within his capacity. The Leader of the Opposition has pointed out how we need a great preponderance of manpower over the enemy in the war in Vietnam. As the need comes for the United States to escalate its support in Vietnam, are we to sit by and allow the drafted men of the United States forces to preserve this situation for us?

If there is any decency about this country's acceptance of obligations under treaties, if treaties are to mean anything and if we are to have any status in the eyes of Asians in future, we are obliged to make our contribution. So w.e have come to the point where the Government has decided that we will increase our contribution in Vietnam. Our contribution will rise to about 4,500 people. They will be under Australian command and will be identified and identifiable as a completely Australian unit. Their fighting efficiency will no doubt be enhanced because of this situation. If my honorable friend's complaint is that our forces are to include a component of what he is pleased to call conscripts - " conscripts " is to be made a dirty word and we can be sure that it is used for precisely that purpose - may I tell him that I have spoken to a good number of our men in Vietnam? They understand very well the need in Vietnam. It is only the quaking elders who, as I have said, are concerned about this type of situation. I do not have any doubt that the young men who are going into our Services will give a magnificent account of themselves. They will come out of the forces as better men; they will come out satisfied that they have made their contribution to their own future.

In a gathering such as this, noise sometimes passes for debate and more heat than light is expended, but as the honorable gentleman said in the challenge he presented to us the issue will be tested at the Kooyong by-election and at the next general election. We will see then whether the people of this country will agree that at a time when insufficient men were volunteering for service the only course open to the Government was to return to this method of bringing in those whose interests have to be preserved. I am perfectly certain that the people of this country will give resounding approval to the Government's policy and the Government's action.







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