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Tuesday, 9 April 1957

Mr WARD (East Sydney) .- It is to be regretted that, in a debate of such importance, private members of the Parliament are afforded only twenty minutes in which to state their views. Had I the time, I should deal with a number of the inaccuracies in the speech of the honorable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfred Kent Hughes) regarding the Australian Labour party, but I shall merely make reference to his statement that the policy of the Labour party lacks realism. If there is anything which distinguishes the policy of the Labour party from that of its opponents, it is the party's realistic approach to the situation in which this country finds itself. Nobody but a fool would fail to recognize the precarious position of this country, with a very small population, with a large area, and situated in a part of the world where it is threatened with all types of dangers in the future. Yet honorable gentlemen opposite are concerned only with defending and protecting capitalism. That is their sole desire.

Let us consider what Australia can do. A member on the Government side, earlier in the debate, said that Australia had to fashion its foreign policy according to ils strength. It is no use talking strong unless the means are available to back up your words. That was the tenor of the remarks of the honorable gentleman opposite. What is Australia's position? If thee is one country to-day that should be striving for peace, it is Australia. Yet we are in great danger. We are in great dan-er because we have, leading the Government of the country, a war-monger - a man who is very anxious and very disappointed because fo far his meddlesome methods ove*seas have not involved this and other countries in ?n armed conflict. It is rather interesting to know that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) is so contemptuous of public opinion and of parliamentary on,n'on that consistently, having made a speech. *-e thinks that everything that can be said has been said, and departs for other quarters without paying any heed to the viewpoint of the Parliament or of the Australian community. I know that he always has an excuse. I understand that the reason for his hurried exit this evening is that he has gone away to pack some presents for his friend, the Emperor of Japan, whom he will see on his forthcoming visit to that country.

Let us review the position. The Prime Minister claims to be a champion of democracy. After listening to the Prime Minister, one would think that democracy was challenged from one quarter - that the challenge came only from Communists. It is perfectly true that the Communist philosophy is opposed to that of the Labour party as a democratic organization, but, just as we are threatened by the Communists, so are we threatened by the fascists. Do we hear the Prime Minister ever offer one word of criticism of countries where fascism prevails to-day?

Mr Casey - Where is that?

Mr WARD - In Spain; that is one country. Not one word of criticism of Spain has been uttered by any member of the. Government. Whenever a government which might be regarded as a democratic government leans a little to the left - it need not necessarily be a Communist government; it may be merely a progressive government - this Government immediately dubs it as Communist.

Let us examine the situation in the Middle East, the area in which we have had the latest interference by the Prime Minister. He took strong exception to the nationalising of the Suez Canal. That seems to be his only consideration - nothing else. He is worried about the capitalists who invested their capital in the Suez Canal. Dr. E. Ronald Walker, Australia's permanent delegate to the United Nations, had something to say on that matter. No doubt he was expressing not his own view, but the view of this Government. He said -

Egypt's action in nationalizing the Suez Canal could have big repercussions on the flow of capital to undeveloped countries . . . undoubtedly a breach of international law. which, if overlooked or condoned, would encourage further acts of lawlessness.

That was all they were worried about. They thought that, if the Egyptians got away with the seizure of the Suez Canal, other peoples would be encouraged to seize assets that had been established in their countries.

Let me pass on to another aspect of this important question. I have said that the Prime Minister is a war-monger - and so he is. He said that the nationalizing of the Suez Canal constituted a breach of international law. But, in 1952, the United Nations Court of International Justice, dealing with the question of the Iranian seizure of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company's works, said -

A Government has the right to nationalize any company in its territory.

That appears to me to be quite a just decision. But the Prime Minister referred to the nationalizing of the Suez Canal as Egypt's wrongful action and said that it should be resisted at all costs. He tried to prove, by reading from a speech that he made recently, that the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) had been wrong and dishonest, to use his words. in summing up his policy as one requiring full-blooded economic sanctions and then the use of force. What did the expressions " at all costs " mean, if it did not mean resort to force?

It is rather interesting to note that three weeks after the Prime Minister made his statement in this House, the United Kingdom and France struck in Egypt. I should think that the Prime Minister, probably unbeknown to his own colleagues, and certainly unbeknown to the people of his own country, had committed Australia to war in the event of the United Kingdom and France striking. Immediately the United Kingdom and France struck, the Minister for the Army (Mr. Cramer) offered to provide a battalion of Australian troops - 900 men - for use in Egypt. What had happened? Would such an insignificant member of the Government as the Minister for the Army, on his own authority, pledge this country to provide armed forces for use in Egypt? He did so because he was in consultation with the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister, who had pledged this country to war, arranged with the Minister for the Army to make this offer from this side of the world. There is no. doubt about what happened.

What led to the nationalizing of the Suez Canal. Let us consider this question frankly. The honorable member for Chisholm suggested that we should be realists in this matter. First of all, the Egyptians were trying to play the iron curtain countries against the Western Powers, and evidently they were doing so fairly successfully. They were bleeding each group in turn to bolster their very weak economy and to get the arms that they desired. But then the Western Powers became disturbed because Egypt was looking to the iron curtain countries to supply the things that she had not been able to get in sufficient quantities from the West. So the Western Powers imposed a trade boycott on Egypt. In 1955, the United Kingdom, which had been the first trading nation with Egypt, had fallen to the eleventh position and the Soviet bloc had risen to the first position. Czechoslovakia, which supplied a lot of the arms acquired by Egypt, was actually buying Egyptian cotton and selling it to Lancashire, in England, for less than the cost of purchase. It was actually losing on the transaction, because it was playing the game of politics.

What happened then? The United Kingdom and the United States of America decided to bring greater pressure to bear on Egypt. We have heard a great deal about breaches of contracts. Although they had entered into an undertaking to help the Egyptians to finance the Aswan High Dam. which was so important to Egypt and which was to cost £580,000,000, they suddenly decided, without consultation and without warning, to withdraw their offer immediately. That was done deliberately because they wanted to bring pressure to bear on the Egyptians. The " Sydney Morning Herald ", which is not a Communist journal, on 27th July, 1956, said -

The plain fact is that the Anglo-American stand has kicked the props from under the Egyptian President's foreign and domestic policies . . .

His Domestic Policy was based on the completion of the High Dam (Aswan) within 10 years . . .

It has to be built if the promises to the people are to be even half-way fulfilled . . .

Without it, the rising pressure of population will lower still further the present miserable average living standard in Egypt.

That was the situation. What alternative did the President of Egypt have to nationalizing the Suez Canal to obtain the revenues needed to construct the great dam which would help to lift the miserable living standards of his people? It was merely a question of move and countermove. There is no doubt that that was the situation.

Let me come to the question of Commonwealth consultation. The Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey) denied that the Prime Minister had pledged this country to join the United Kingdom and France in war. Will the Minister say that this country was fully consulted on every move and on every negotiation that was taking place during the days that preceded the attack on the Egyptian nation? lt is perfectly true, and it is widely recognized to-day, that Sir Anthony Eden blundered very badly. If it had been left to the Edens and the Menzieses, we would certainly have been engaged in war to-day, together with France and the United Kingdom. What stopped the war was public opinion, in Great Britain and elsewhere, which demanded that there should be no war over the protection of the assets of a few capitalists who had reaped enormous profits as a result of an investment that they had made in the construction of the Suez Canal. The Prime Minister asked: Who built the canal? Certainly it was not the people who financed it. According to reports which have not been denied, 120,000 Egyptians lost their lives in the construction of the canal. In my opinion the people who invested their capital in the canal have done handsomely out of it. as the figures will show. In any case, the charge that they were not to be compensated is untrue, because the Egyptians agreed to compensate on a proper market valuation. The shareholders did not want that; they wanted the compensation to be made on the enhanced value which they believed their assets possessed.

We find, therefore, that there is something to be said for both sides in this argument. Let us now turn to the question of Commonwealth consultation. Australia is a member of the British Commonwealth of Nations. We are supposed to he equal partners in this Commonwealth of Nations. If one nation becomes involved in an armed conflict, the others are assumed to be committed. But what is the fact? Australia was not consulted in this matter. The United Kingdom and French forces had invaded Egypt, and the first we knew of it was after the blow was struck. The Prime Minister said that events were moving too quickly for effective consultation. I sincerely believe that the Prime Minister was kept fully informed, and that he knew what was happening, hut that he was not telling his colleagues and he was not telling this Parliament. Lester Pearson, the Canadian Minister, said that the Commonwealth of Nations was on the verge of dissolution. Let us hear what Lord Home, the Secretary for Commonwealth Relations, had to say about this matter. In a most contemptuous statement, he said -

Britain had consulted the Commonwealth nations as much as could he expected, when it is borne in mind that several of them would have opposed her action. All Commonwealth Governments were informed as soon as possible afterwards.

This statement was made by the Secretary for Commonwealth Relations, and he said plainly that Great Britain did not confer with the Commonwealth nations because some of them were opposed to what was happening. He said that in any case those nations were told as soon as possible afterwards. Of course, we know of Sir Eric Harrison's proposal. His way out of the difficulty was to have two commonwealths, one commonwealth- that you told and the other that you did not. That is the way that Sir Eric Harrison would have dealt with the question of Commonwealth consultations.

Let me now say a word or two about the Israelis themselves. I believe that the Israelis have put up a terrific struggle to exist under very difficult circumstances, and I believe they should be encouraged because Israel is a democratic nation. As a matter of fact, if the Minister for External Affairs would admit it. in Israel to-day there is a great deal of socialism being practised. In a portion of the world where democratic freedoms are unknown except in this particular country, what do we find? In Israel the ordinary Arab and Jew are working quite well together. They are in business together, and they are getting along quite well. But the people who wish to continue racial enmity are the very Arab chieftains who have been hacked by the reactionaries and the conservatives of the world. If the Arabs and Jews were left alone to resolve their own differences they would have a peaceful arrangement in no time. Therefore. I say that those people have been used as mere pawns in the game.

The Leader of the Opposition has said that the big issue behind what was happening in the Middle East was the struggle tor oil. and in the few minutes that remain to me I hope to be able to show that that is so. It is perfectly true thai there are many issues in the Middle East which are not the creation of the oil monopolists, but it is also perfectly true that the oil monopolists, with their great powers, are using these local issues and turning them lo their own advantage, because they know thai 64 per cent, of the world's oil reserves are in the Middle East, and that 25 per cent, of world production of oil to-day comes from the Middle East. The United Kingdom and the United States of America practically divide the field, and the oil interests of those two countries have been reaping enormous profits. Bui when the Suez crisis arose and oil supplies from the Middle East were interrupted, these great patriots whom honorable members opposite are so prone to talk about, the oil monopolists, immediately raised the price of oil in their own country of America by 1 2 per cent. They were prepared to exploit not only the British nation and the other free nations of the world but also their own people. This is what the New York " Post " had to say about this action of the oil monopolists -

It is a grim story of greed and irresponsibility. The country must decide how long it will endure government of, by and for oil interests.

In the Sydney " Daily Telegraph ", of 7th February. 1957, there was a rather interesting article by Dr. Emery Bares dealing with what the oil monopolists have been doing in the Middle East. The author said -

United States ex-Congressman Hamilton Fish, testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations and Armed Services Committee on the Eisenhower Middle East doctrine, declared that United Slates oil men were behind the Arab revolt in Algeria, f (Dr. Emery Bares), first heard of Aramco's alleged agreement with (he Algerian rebels from a high French official a lew days before Israel attacked Egypt on 29ih October. 1956. The antiFrench rebellion in Algeria started in January, 1955. The French became puzzled at the liberal supply of arms which was reaching the rebels. The Algerian Revolutionary Committee in Cairo seemed to be affluent, lt had ample supplies of cash, including dollars.

The Aramco referred to is a combination of American oil companies, lt is rather interesting to note that at about the sams time the French had struck payable oil at Fort Flatters, 500 miles south of Algiers. On 9th October. 1956. the French captured five leading Algerian rebels by a trick. These rebels were proceeding from Morocco to Tunis for a conference. The pilot of their aircraft landed in Algiers, and when the plane was searched 35 lb. of documents were discovered which had been taken by these five Algerian rebels. The documents included an agreement with Aramco, the American oil monopolists. Under this agreement large sums of money were to be paid monthly to the Algerian Revolutionary Committee, and the Aramco oil combine was to be given the sole rights of oil exploration and exploitation in Algeria, lt is quite evident that the oil monopolists were exploiting the situation in the Middle East, and that the real struggle was for oil and power. Have honorable gentlemen forgotten the story of the Buralimi oasis? The Saudi-Arabians, backed by the United States of America, and the Sultan of Oman, backed by the United Kingdom, claimed that the area in question was in Saudi-Arabia and Oman respectively, because it was considered to have great oil potentiality. Mr. John Foster Dulles issued a warning to Britain, and a report appeared in the Sydney " Daily Mirror", of 17th January, 1957, as follows: -

Britain's activities in the Persian Gulf area threatened Anglo-American relations. Events ill Oman were moving wilh such rapidity (hat nothing short of an immediate understanding could prevent an open U.S.-British split.

That had nothing to do with Egypt, and it had nothing to do with Israel.

Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. John McLeay).Order!The honorable member's time has expired.

Debate (on motion by Mr. Drury) adjourned.

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