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Wednesday, 27 February 1952

Mr WARD - That is the Minister's view.

Mr CASEY - That is my view. I realize that it is not the view, or at any rate the expressed view, of most members of the Opposition. Many facts have been ignored by honorable gentlemen opposite in the course of this debate. They have ignored entirely that Japan has been denuded of practically all its territories outside its main islands, that it has been deprived of all sources of raw material, and that its economy has been ravaged by the war. They have, except for a token recognition by the Leader of the Opposition, ignored entirely the Pacific pact. As some honorable members on this side of the chamber have said, we cannot consider this peace treaty properly without at the same time giving adequate consideration to three other documents of first-class importance. They are, first, the security treaty by America, Australia and New Zealand, which will be considered by the House shortly and the terms of which are known to honorable members; secondly, the security pact by America and the Philippines, which is on the same lines as the pact I first mentioned; and, thirdly, the American-Japanese military agreement. All those documents have a direct and important relevance to this treaty, and are complementary to it, but I do not recollect that, except for a token and passing reference, any member of the Opposition paid any attention to them. The Australian public has been, wittingly or unwittingly, led to believe that those pacts and agreements either do not exist or are of no significance in connexion with this treaty.

I shall not attempt to cover all the points that were raised by the Opposition, but I wish to deal with a few of them. The honorable member for Mackellar dealt to some degree with a point that was raised by the Leader of the Opposition, but I want to enlarge upon the matter. The Leader of the Opposition sought to lead honorable members to believe that there had been some repudiation by the Australian Government of the obligations that were entered into at Potsdam in 1945 and by the Far Eastern Commission in 1947. The Leader of the Opposition, when he was Minister for External

Affairs in 1946, said publicly that the Potsdam proclamation was an expression of policy and not a treaty and that that policy may and should change with the times. He made that clear. At that time he instructed the Australian Ambassador in "Washington, Mr. Makin, and also the Australian representative on the Far Eastern Commission, that Australia adopted the paper and the basic surrender policy on the understanding that the policies laid down in that paper were subject to, and without prejudice to, discussions which would take place during the negotiation of the peace treaty with Japan. Can that be outside the memory of the right honorable gentleman ?

Mr Beazley - Is the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey) suggesting that the Leader of the Opposition favoured an alteration in the direction of the policy?

Mr CASEY - I am saying that the Leader of the Opposition said that Australia was not bound by the terms of the Potsdam declaration and that he instructed his ambassador in Washington and his representative on the Far Eastern Commission to inform, the commission and the world of those facts. I think that they should be known. I would like to believe of a fellow human being that the omission was a matter of inadvertence and that the Leader of the Opposition did not mean to mislead the Australian people in that respect. Australia has never been bound by the Potsdam agreement or by the terms of surrender in 1945. The Opposition has avoided entirely the challenge that I issued in my second-reading speech that it should name its alternative to this treaty, either now or at any time in the past. Not a word has been said in answer to that challenge. If honorable members opposite suggest that the Australian people have been misled into believing that this treaty is wrong and that if we only had the sense some other treaty could have been substituted for it, that should have been said. All that has been said is that Australia should refuse to ratify the treaty. The inference is that if that were done, some better treaty would be or could be forthcoming. That is complete nonsense. Article 26 of the present treaty lays down that Japan can make terms of peace with countries which do not sign or ratify this treaty - and Australia might be one of them - on the same or substantially the same terms as are provided in the. present treaty and can do so within three years. In other words, at this stage there is no form of treaty that Australia can enter into except this treaty or some other treaty substantially on the same lines.

Honorable members opposite have questioned whether Australia has been given a proper opportunity for consultation with the United States of America, Great Britain and other countries that are principally concerned with the treaty and whether Australia has embraced any such opportunities as it has had. The honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) and the honorable member for Port Adelaide (Mr. Thompson) challenged the Government on that point and said that Australia was being dragged at the tail of the American cart; that Australia had not been properly consulted and; that it had not embraced the opportunity for consultation. I shall briefly trace the facts starting from September, 1950, when Mr. John Foster Dulles approached all the. members of the Far Eastern Commission - Australia. Burma, Canada, France, India, Holland, New Zealand, Pakistan, Philippines, the United Kingdom, and Soviet Russia. He presented them with seven main principles that in the opinion of the Administration of the United States of America should be the principles on which the treaty should be framed. They were discussed at considerable length with Mr. Dulles in September, 1950. Only a few months later, in February, 1951, Mr. Dulles came to Canberra and spent some time here in intimate discussion with my predecessor and his opposite number in New Zealand. At the end of the discussion a communique was issued which stated -

The discussions in Canberra represented consultation at its best. They have been most fruitful in developing the closest possible contacts between the nations represented.

So the points of time when Australia was consulted and made its views forcibly known were numerous. They occurred in March, April, May, June and July, 1951. At each of those meetings Australia was consulted and had an opportunity to express its views on the treaty. It is completely misleading the Australian people for party political purposes to say that Australia has not been in these negotiations right from the start. The treaty bears in half a dozen places the impress of the views of this Government. The United States almost unanimously supports this treaty although the final stage has not been reached. The United Kingdom has supported it almost unanimously.

Mr Ward - No.

Mr CASEY - The Parliament of the United Kingdom gave its support by 350 votes to .30. I call that almost unanimously.

Mr Ward - Two hundred members abstained from voting.

Mr CASEY - That may be, but the voting was more than 10 to 1 in favour and it is not straining the meaning of words to call that " almost unanimous ". I believe that in New Zealand there was no opposition to it and 45 other countries have accepted the treaty. What has the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen's Imperial League of Australia to say about it? That organization is closely concerned with the treaty. I remind honorable members and the Australian public that two of every three of the supporters of this Government in the Parliament were engaged in one of the last two wars. When 66 per cent, of those who support the government of the day have been through one or other of two great wars it is reasonable to believe that they do not want to go through another or have their sons go through one. I was challenged by the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) when he spoke about Manus Island. With some heat he challenged me to make a statement or to make the relevant papers available in connexion with Manus Island. I do not propose to make those papers available.

Mr Ward - Why not ?

Mr CASEY - I have been through them all m the last month. The files are quite voluminous, but not as voluminous as they could have been and should have been, for it is clear from the files that all the information is not on the file. I am not suggesting that papers have been taken off the file. I do not know that and I make no such charge, but I do know, and the officers of my department know, that a great many of the stages in the business that concerned Manus Island were covered verbally. There was no written record of such conversations. If the honorable member for Melbourne wants any assurance on whether the United States of America did or did not ask for the use of the defensive equipment on Manus Island in the future, I say that it did ask for it. I make that statement after having read the file. It asked for it and in due course its request was refused. No shrewder blow was ever dealt at the Australia of the future than that refusal to allow the greatest power in the world to use this great bastion which stands between us and the Asiatic mainland.

Honorable members interjecting,

Mr SPEAKER - Order ! I must ask honorable gentlemen on both sides of the House to give the Minister a reasonably fair hearing. These interjections will get us nowhere.

Mr CASEY - I would not have spoken on this subject, which is not really relevant to the debate,had it not been raised by the honorable member for Melbourne. However, it has some connexion with the general fabric of the debate. I am unable at this stage to discuss in any detail the subject of the tripartite Pacific pact. Honorable members will have an opportunity to discuss that subject at an early date. It has to be considered in relation to the Japanese peace treaty and I hope to have an opportunity to speak on it in due course. One could speak at almost any length on this matter. I am not greatly given to the adoption of an acid party political attitude. But I have been compelled to reply to interjections during the course of this debate. "When I could not contain myself any longer, I said " rubbish " and " nonsense " a few times, and in confining myself to those innocuous terms I think that I exhibited an almost superhuman degree of restraint. The sort of statements that have been made on the Opposition side of the House during this debate makes one fearful of the continued satisfactory working of the democratic system. Misrepresentation, distortion and the omission of relevant facts may be permissible in party political debate on unimportant matters, but this is a matter of first-class importance. If the record of this debate should reach other countries, I shudder to consider what they would think of the Australian Parliament and of honorable members of the Opposition in particular. Opposition members might regard their remarks as the ordinary small change of party politics, but to my mind they were dreadful. Having heard this debate and traversed all aspects of the matter, I commend this treaty to the House more sincerely than I did when I opened the debate. The Australian people can at least regard this measure as very much the lesser of the two evils facing us. I commend the bill to the House.

Question put -

That the bill be now read a second time.

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