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Thursday, 11 April 1957


Mr FORBES (Barker) .- Mr. Acting Deputy Speaker,I, like the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck), wish to confine my remarks to the United Nations. However, I fear that I cannot bring to the task the same practical and intimate knowledge of the workings of that organization as he does. I agree with honorable members on this side of the House who have indicated that any one who has listened to the speeches made by Opposition members, and particularly that made by the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt), could be forgiven for believing that, if only we would put our complete trust in the United Nations, we should have nothing to fear. Of course, the Opposition's assessment of the position is such a fantastic parody of the true situation that it could be termed a delusion, and all delusions are dangerous. I am aware that, in socialist eyes, it is reactionary to be realistic; but, in my opinion, so much harm could be done, both to the cause of world peace and to the best interests of Australia, by representing the United Nations as something that it is not, that I make no excuse for attempting to put that organization in its true perspective.

It is worth while to recall the assumptions on which the United Nations was established. It was assumed that the peace and security of the post-war world would be guaranteed by the continuation in the postwar years of the war-time co-operation oi the five Great Powers, and the whole structure of the United Nations was piled tier upon tier on that assumption. The Security Council, in which the Great Powers had a permanent seat and a veto, was created to be primarily responsible for the maintenance of peace and security. It was given wide powers, both in the initiation of action for the peaceful settlement of disputes, and, in the event of a determination that a breach of the peace had occurred, to undertake enforcement action. Under Article 43 of the United Nations Charter, the Security Council was given, by the negotiation of special agreements with member nations, military strength to enforce its resolutions. Further, under Articles 39, 40 and 41, resolutions of the council were made mandatory on all members of the United Nations. This system. Mr. Acting Deputy Speaker, appeared to have everything. By giving the Great Powers a permanent seat in the Security Council, it placed responsibility squarely where power lay. By making advance provision for military forces and planning, it gave the Charter the teeth which the League of Nations Covenant had lacked. By making it quite clear that the primary responsibility for the maintenance of peace and security lay with the Security Council, it ensured that the frustration that sprang from divided jurisdiction would not beggar the United Nations as it had the League.

With this system, the peoples of the world could be excused for believing that a new era in international relations had begun, that anarchy and power politics had at last given way to the law of rule and justice, backed by an effective system of collective security. That was the confident expectation. The reality, as all honorable members will know, has been very different. It has been different because the assumption upon which this superstructure was built was proved to be false almost as soon as it came into existence. From the very first meeting of the organization it became clear that the war-time co-operation of the Great Powers would not be continued into the post-war period. 1 ask the House to consider what this has meant, lt has meant that the United Nations has been absolutely incapable of performing its function in relation to the dominating, and overriding, international problem of our time - the conflict between the Communist and free worlds, lt is not easy in those circumstances to repose in the United Nations the confidence that honorable members opposite repose in it.

In the face of the impotence of the Security Council in the East-West conflict, there have, of course, been attempts to give the General Assembly a more active role in the field of the maintenance of peace and security. This was the purpose of the " Uniting for Peace " resolution, and the establishment of the Collective Measures Committee. The advantage of dealing, through the General Assembly, with matters relating to the maintenance of peace and security is that the work of that body cannot be frustrated by the veto, lt can, therefore, discuss the really important issues of our time. On the other hand, the disadvantages are numerous. First, the General Assembly can only make recommendations. Members are not required to obey its resolutions or to place forces at its disposal. It is worth noting in passing that, for this reason, Britain was not legally bound to withdraw from the Suez Canal zone when she did, in response to the December resolution of the General Assembly. Secondly, and this is probably a much bigger disadvantage, is that it would be difficult to imagine, as many honorable members on this side of the House have said, a more inappropriate body to discuss vital and delicate questions relating to the maintenance of international peace and security. It numbers 81 members, of every conceivable size, nationality and political creed. Delegates are instructed by governments which, for the most part, seek only their own national advantage. Bloc voting of a most flagrant type is rife and standards of objectivity are. to say the least, very low. Decisions are taken by majorities made up of small states which have neither the power, nor, indeed, the intention, to contribute to the action necessary to give effect to such decisions. lt was considered in 1945 that a small body, in which responsibility was firmly welded to power, was the only suitable medium for dealing with complicated questions of international peace and security. That is why the Security Council was created in its present form, and why it was given the primary responsibility for the maintenance of peace and security. That the Security Council has been shown to be unworkable in the circumstances of the cold war does not make this any less true. Nor does it make the General Assembly a more suitable body for dealing with questions of peace and security. It merely means that, so far as the conflict between the Communist and free worlds is concerned - and I repeat that this is the outstanding international question of our time - the United Nations has. or should have, ceased to count as a factor in our calculations of security. Nothing but harm will be done to the cause of world peace, and to the United Nations itself, by pretending otherwise.

In view of the United Nations' impotence in the East-West struggle, it is easy to become cynical and advocate its dissolution. A feeling ot frustration is created which is akin to that of the man who is constantly being hounded for petty parking offences when the daily newspapers are full of stories about unapprehended murderers. Such a feeling is natural, but it should, I believe, be r-'is'.ed. lt is extraordinary how often discussions about the United Nations are bedevilled by the assumption that you must bc either for it - meaning uncritical support - or against it - meaning unthinking denunciation. People who would never dream of discussing this Parliament, for example, in that way, fall into it quite naturally when talking about the United Nations. That is exactly what honorable members opposite are doing when they tax those of us who are on this side of the House with ignoring the United Nations.

I am not against the United Nations. I believe that it has a most useful function to perform, lt has many tasks, particularly in the economic, psychological and social fields, which are not frustrated by the EastWest struggle. They are tasks which, if I may say so, have greater significance for the long-term peace and security of this planet than the day-to-day handling of breaches of the peace. It lays down a code of international conduct which members cannot flagrantly ignore without having their actions exposed to the spotlight of a large section of world public opinion. Even in the field of peace and security it has performed useful functions in settling disputes outside, or on the periphery of, the cold war. In a world where conventional methods of diplomatic representation and practice are often consigned to the ash heap, it provides an opportunity for negotiation and contact. The events which led to the settlement of the dispute over Berlin are an outstanding example of its functioning in this respect. Above all. if the United Nations remains in being there will be a perfectly efficient instrument, ready to hand, should circumstances change and the powers decide to use it for the purpose for which it was intended.

If the United Nations is to be preserved for this purpose, there must be restraint. The great western powers must refrain from attempting to use it as an active instrument of collective security in the cold war. The smaller powers, and particularly the

Asian-African members, must remember that some of their actions in the United Nations can work against peace, rather than for it. While the West must make allowances for their nationalism, they must realize, as the " Economist " put it recently, that even the most patient elderly western nation, apparently resigned to the Iocs of its place in the sun, and tolerant of endless baiting, can be nagged to the point of madness. They can. if they wish, press on regardless, but they will thereby destroy the basis of world peace.' It is they, because they are weak, who will suffer most.

Does any honorable member imagine that the present conflict between the Communists and the free world is the ultimate decisive point in the history of human civilization? It may appear as such to us, who have to live with it, but so have other conflicts in history appeared to their contemporaries. If we look back to the views of . those who lived during the period of the religious wars of the sixteenth and the seventeenth centuries, it is clear that they saw their cootemporary conflict, as we do ours, as the culminating point in the history of the world, lt was not so in their case, nor do I think it will be in ours. Most of us - I hope on both sides of the House; certainly those on this side - have enough faith in the immortality of human freedom to believe that the Communist world will ultimately collapse of its own accord. No tyranny in history has survived the corruptness that it inevitably generates and the instinct for freedom that is innate in every human being. Why should this, the most monstrous example of the species, suffer any different fate? The overthrow of communism may not happen in a decade or even in a century, but when it does the United Nations will come into its own. Then perhaps it will satisfy the aspirations of people everywhere who look to it as a symbol of world security based on justice and international law.

But until that day comes, it is the task of the free world to stand firm lest, while waiting for the inevitable, we are destroyed. That is why we must keep clearly in our minds, in view of the criticisms of the Opposition, the complete impotence of the United Nations as a source of security in the face of the only threat which at present overshadows all others - the menace of militant communism. Learning from our mistakes in the 1930's, we have joined with like-minded Powers in regional agreements, and we have kept our defences at a high level. Even if the Opposition has forgotten the lessons of its experience, and some of the great new nations of Asia have never learnt their lessons, there is no reason for us to forget where our real security lies.

Mr. E.JAMES HARRISON (Blaxland) {5.8]. - The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Forbes) said that he wanted to underwrite, if he could, the view expressed this afternoon by the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck). He went on to say that he did not hope to be able to present the case as clearly as the Minister had. I was glad that he was not able to present the case as the Minister did, because I hoped that nobody else, even on the Government side of the House, would carry this debate to the point where the Minister left it. The Minister had the audacity to question the action of the United States of America in referring, as he said, all major matters to the United Nations. That was a deliberate attempt by the Minister to write down the importance of the United Nations, and to write down America for having some faith in the United Nations. Broadly, that attitude shows the difficulties that have arisen in this debate and why we are opposed to the line being followed by the Government.

The honorable member for Barker has said that all he can glean from the speeches of Opposition members - and I think he is correct in this - is that we place our true faith in the United Nations. He considers that that is an illusion, and all illusions are dangerous. Honorable members opposite at this stage of nuclear development are certainly prepared to write down the United Nations to the standard of an economic and social organization, and the honorable member for Barker admitted that that is so.

We on this side of the House are condemned and branded as Communists because we say that red China should be recognized. Though supporters of the Government are prepared to condemn every one who says that Great Britain was wrong in entering the Egyptian dispute in the fashion she did. they are full-bloodedly on the side of Great Britain. Let the issue be clear! There is not one honorable member on either side of this House who is not on the side of Great Britain. But, if we are on the side of Great Britain, why do honorable members opposite brand us as Communist sympathizers because we want to recognize red China? After all, the Conservative Government of Great Britain has recognized red China for some considerable time. Honorable members opposite should get their thinking clear, if they can! Great Britain feels that, in world diplomacy today, red China should be recognized, and we agree with that view. But it suits some honorable members for narrow-minded political ends to brand as Communists those who think as Great Britain thinks. If this debate has done one thing, it has shown that all honorable members in this House should try to make up their minds on where they are going in the future.

If the United Nations is to be reduced to the status of an economic and social organization, as the honorable member for Barker said, what is to be put in its place? I am not second to anybody in this House in opposing communism and all that goes with it. Do we throw everything to the wall and say, "We will meet the Communists when they attack us " or do we say. " We will go out after the Communists right now "? There is no middle course in this issue. In the arms race that has taken place over the last five years, we have seen the development of nuclear weapons and the hydrogen bomb. Those weapons are held by three great nations - America, Great Britain and Russia, all of which are represented in the United Nations. At this stage in the world conflict, the United Nations is the only place where those in charge of these dastardly weapons can be brought together. Much could be said for the work done by the United Nations in the social and economic fields, but we should not condemn other aspects of its work.

It has been said that time will prove that, in the Suez Canal dispute, Great Britain and France were right and the United Nations was wrong. But even if that view is proved to be correct in the years that lie ahead, the action taken by the United Nations at least gave the world breathing space and time in which to analyse the possible results of a nuclear war. We sincerely believe in the strength of the United Nations; that is the policy of this party. But, quite apart from our policy, our moral training, and our understanding of individuals and nations, make us realize the truth of the saying that you must recognize the other fellow's point of view if you want him to recognize yours.

Many nations, in common with Australia, disagree with the general lines of Communist policy, but we must try to understand all the other nations that are opposed to the Communist line and make sure that they are also opposed to the trampling down, by any method whatever, of the honest, decent people of the world, in whatever country they may live. Those nations must be opposed to despotism in any form. One could not imagine any method of government more wicked than those which follow the theories of communism or fascism.

I realize that a number of blocs exist within the United Nations. I suppose it could be said that we in this House are divided into two and a half blocs, represented by the Liberal party, the Australian Labour party, with the Australian Country party making up the odd half.


Mr Bird - The quarter!







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