Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Full Day's HansardDownload Full Day's Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Thursday, 4 April 1957


Mr BIRD (Batman) .- In a discussion on international affairs, all arguments should have the calculated purpose of maintaining Australia's sovereignty. The views of honorable members on either side of the House may differ in many respects on the attitude we should adopt in relation to that all-important question. We on this side make no apology for advancing the policy of the Australian Labour party as the best means of maintaining in a very safe condition our all-important sovereignty. Labour's policy has been formulated for one purpose and one purpose only - the preservation of Australia and the Australian way of life. In trying to achieve that objective, many side issues must necessarily intrude. We have to declare ourselves on international issues that may not have much relevance to this country, but nevertheless the focal point of all our discussions - this country's survival - must never be neglected.

Having made those few preliminary observations, I desire to say something on what should be our attitude in relation to the recognition of red China. During the Seato conference the United States Secretary of State, Mr. Dulles, reiterated the impregnable hostility of his Govern.ment and of the people of America to the new regime in China, and he re-stated America's determination never to recognize it. This point of view stems primarily from America's national interest, and Mr. Dulles, doubtless, thinks that it is the best policy for America. I freely concede that as the spokesman for America he has every right to put forward that point of view, but I suspect that when he put it forward - as a matter of fact, I understand that it was not on the conference agenda - it must have been met with opposition and caused actual embarrassment to the United Kingdom delegation. I concede his right to put it forward from the point of view of the national interests of the American people; but when he suggested that this idea was of international interest, it was quite obviously a hint for the other members of Seato to follow suit.

One of the very important members of Seato is Great Britain which was one of the first countries to recognize the de facto control of China by the Peking Government. It was the Attlee Government that was instrumental in implementing that policy, but since that time there have been three Conservative Prime Ministers - Sir Winston Churchill, Sir Anthony Eden and

Mr. Macmillan.There has never been the slightest suggestion that the policy originated and promulgated by the Attlee Government should be rescinded. I cannot put it forward too strongly that recognition of a regime does not imply approval of that regime, but is simply a realistic admission of the fact that the Mao Government in China is in effective control of the numerically largest nation in the world. 1 should also like to point out that Great Britain and the United States both maintain diplomatic relations with Soviet Russia; but, surely, nobody would ever seriously suggest that that recognition implies any approval of the Soviet Union's action in relation to very many matters.

As a near neighbour of Asia we should treat with the greatest reserve Mr. Dulles's remarks in relation to what he things about the non-recognition of China, and we should consider how the position affects and will affect this country. 1 do not think I am doing America a disservice when I state that we should remember that America's attitude in relation to China originated from the fact that after the war the American Government backed the wrong horse in China. Despite enormous American lendlease support given to him, Chiang Kai-shek failed to maintain control of his country. When he was defeated, as he certainly was, and sought refuge on the island of Formosa, the United States was not only deeply angry but was also deeply committed to that regime because it had supported it through thick and thin; and, no doubt, all sorts of promises had been given in the case of certain eventualities. I can understand the American point of view because of the commitments made by the United States to Chiang Kai-shek. It is wrapped up emotionally and diplomatically with the idea that the leader of an island in the Pacific, leaning on American support, is one of the five great leaders of the world. That is only a very polite fiction; nobody believes it.

While that may be America's idea it is not necessarily Australia's idea. We must weigh the pros and cons of recognition from an Australian point of view. As a self-governing entity, whilst we can consider very courteously the view of Mr. Dulles, or those of any other statesman of world renown, we are not necessarily tied to any ideas of their own particular thinking. No one in this House seriously doubts Australia's implacable hostility to communism. It is true that some honorable members opposite say that some members on this side of the House are friendly disposed towards it, but I frankly do not believe they mean what they say in that respect. Labour knows full well all that communism stand for. We also are well aware of the international dangers which spring from communism.

Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.


Mr BIRD - Before the suspension of the sitting I was discussing the controversial question of whether this Government should recognize continental China and I said that no one had any doubt of Australia's implacable hostility to communism. 1 stated also that practically all Australians are aware of the international dangers that spring from communism. Nevertheless, we must recognize the fact that we have to live in a world not of our choosing, and that we have to co-exist with nations whose policies we dislike. As realists, we must admit that the Chinese Government controls the lives of 600,000,000 people, and that it has done so for eight years, in spite of the thunder emanating from Formosa.

This vast nation, continental China, has terrific possibilities for Australia, either for good or for ill. On the credit side, the immediate possibilities for trade are enormous. There is no doubt that China's anxiety to increase her trade with us, particularly for wool, wheat and machinery. On the debit side, we know what would happen should we fall out with her in the future. But we have to recognize the fact that we cannot hope that the new China will cease to be a living entity if we look the other way. It. is there, whether we like it or not. While we ignore the most powerful nation in Asia in our trade dealings and exclude a quarter of the human race from the councils of the world, we are surely allowing emotion to take the place of common sense. Irrespective of what Mr. Dulles may feel, the Commonwealth Government should consider this question on the basis of what constitutes Australia's interests, and I hope that it will give this matter very serious and sympathetic consideration in the very near future.

During his speech, the Minister for External Affairs referred to the Seato conference that was recently held in this building. 1 must say that a perusal of his speech and of the press statements failed to reveal what really transpired at the conference. Any fair assessment of the work of this conference and of the value of Seato generally would require access to the detailed records of its performances in the realm of military and police security, and, of course, that is not available to me. I hope that Seato will, in the future, devote itself more to the economic and social advance of Asia, so that Asian countries will be enabled to defend themselves, and so that they will be less subject to Communist subversion. I very much doubt whether specific emphasis on military preparations, which has been such a feature of Seato, makes very much sense in Asia at this time. Countries like Pakistan should not be encouraged to waste any more of their substance on military preparations which have only a minor connexion with defence against communism. We must remember that the Asian members of Seato are least likely to fall to a Communist coup, and also that they are impotent to prevent this happening to their neighbours. There is a place in the SouthEast Asian area for some such organization as Seato, and, for the benefit of Government supporters who are so fond of deriding the decisions of the Australian Labour party's conference recently held in Brisbane, I should like to say that the Labour party's policy with regard to Seato is quite specific. It is as follows: -

The Seato regional organization must be both an instrument for the peaceful settlement of SouthEast Asian disputes and for the mutual defence of the area in case of attack and operating strictly within and through the framework of the United Nations.

Every one can see, therefore, that we are not opposed to Seato. Nevertheless, I, as one who has given this subject some study, because I well remember the initial debate that took place after the Manila Treaty in 1954, cannot feel elated about Seato, as it is working at present. Asian participation in it is far too small, and the Asian countries represented are open to the suspicion that they have become members for ulterior reasons. For example, Pakistan, in my opinion, seems to use Seato as another forum in which to inveigh against India.

Although I do not wish to offend the Minister for External Affairs, who, I know, entertains very friendly feelings towards the Thai Government, I must say that I believe that the present Thai Government, which came into power by a subversive act, wants to classify all its opponents as Communists. The Philippines, a nation that has the most genuine reasons for supporting Seato, is the least Asian in culture and outlook. In my view, Seato has failed to live up to initial expectations. I hope that in the future every encouragement will be given to those Asian countries that have not, up to the present, seen fit to participate in Seato. They should be encouraged to join the organization, because I feel that the ultimate purpose of Seato will never be realized while it has such a small Asian representation.

It was interesting to note that the Minister, in his speech, gave details of the amounts that were paid to recipient countries under the Colombo plan. I have been unflagging in my support of the Colombo plan, and I suppose I have spoken about it in this House as much as any other honorable member has. I must admit, however, that the information that the Minister gave was rather disappointing. If I remember correctly, the Colombo plan was inaugurated in 1951. It was a sixyear plan, and we were told that Australia's contribution during those six years would be £31,250,000 for economic development and £3,500,000 for technical assistance, making a total of just under £35,000,000. I was particularly aggrieved to hear the Minister say that in the six-year period the Government has spent only £20,000,000 on the Colombo plan. In other words, it has underspent on this plan, if one considers its originally stated intentions. I could understand a change in the amount if it was due to the fact that the countries who receive assistance under the Colombo plan had sufficient capital equipment, but while I appreciate the technical assistance that has been given, and which has done so much to engender friendly relations between Asians who come here and the Australian people, I still contend that the main problem confronting the Asian countries is lack of technical equipment, and the provision of that equipment will cost much more than the amount that the Government has so far been prepared to pay. It has paid only £20,000,000, when it should have paid £35,000,000. I should like to know why the Government has underspent to the extent of £15,000,000 on the Colombo plan. There may be a good reason for this, but if there is I should like to hear it. The Minister did not vouchsafe any reasons when he told us that £20,000,000 had been spent in this very deserving cause.

The question of Colombo plan aid opens up the wider question of foreign aid towards Asian economic development on a much broader basis. This aid to economic development of Asia is a development of the post-war era, and it is one to which the Labour party, of course, heartily subscribes. Clause 7 of the decisions of the Australian Labour party's conference in Brisbane, which has been criticized so much by Government supporters, reads as follows: -

The Labour party advocates generous assistance by Australia to Asian peoples suffering from poverty, disease and lack of educational facilities.

It can be seen, therefore, that the Labour party is right behind the Colombo plan and any other plans that have for their purpose the encouragement of Asian economic development and the increasing of productivity in this area. An examination of the amount of foreign aid that has been given to South-East Asian countries shows that one of the most undesirable features is the unevenness of its distribution. I thought that there would have been a concerted plan to ensure that all the countries suffering from the chronic disabilities of poverty, under-production and consequent undernourishment of the people received a reasonable amount of money for the purpose of increasing productivity.

I am not talking about the Colombo plan, but of the several aid programmes covering South and South-East Asia. Since 1950, of the total United States grants to Asia, 30 per cent, has gone to South Korea, 20 per cent, to the Philippines, 16 per cent, to Japan, 13 per cent, to Formosa and 11 per cent, to Viet Nam. Excluding Japan, 75 per cent, of the total direct United States aid to Asia has gone to four countries, whose combined populations total only 60,000,000. The combined populations of India, Pakistan and Indonesia are more than 550,000,000, but until recently they have received very little United States aid. They are now receiving fairly substantial amounts, and I very much regret to say that cynical

Asians are saying that the reason for this is the large amount of Russian aid that is being offered to many Asian countries.

It appears to me that the United States economic aid to Asia is governed by political and strategic considerations rather than by economic planning. No such criticism can be directed to the Colombo plan, because none of the grants made under it has been connected in any way with military equipment or defence purposes. There is little doubt that the Colombo plan, with its emphasis on mutual co-operation, is a form of foreign aid held in great esteem by most Asians.I was very pleased to hear the Minister say that this plan would continue for another four years. However, this is not such an act of generosity when it is realized that, during the first six years, the original allocation of money was underspent by £15,000,000. When we review the position, it must be admitted that foreign aid to Asian economic development has, unfortunately, not achieved very much. At present, Asian countries are not in the most favorable condition for achieving a high degree of economic development, and the question that must be asked is this--


Mr SPEAKER - Order ! The honorable member's time has expired.

Debate (on motion by Mr. HaroldHolt) adjourned.







Suggest corrections