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, 11 April 1957


Mr CASEY (La Trobe) (Minister for External Affairs) . - in reply - I had the privilege of opening this debate, and now it falls to me to close it. We have had 47 speakers, and the debate has occupied approximately seventeen hours of speaking time. When I started this debate, sir, I was obliged, in a considered statement, to confine myself, by reason of the limitation of time, to two broad subjects - the Middle East and the area of South and South-East Asia. I recognized, of course, that there was a vast deal more to talk about in the world, but in 45 minutes I do not believe that any one could do anything approaching justice to more than those two subjects. If I may venture to say so, I believe that I have brought to those two subjects an appreciable amount of personal knowledge of the areas involved. I lived and I worked for two long and strenuous years in the Middle East, in the middle of the war, from 1942 to 1944. I think I know the Middle East. I think I can say without boasting that I know practically every mile of the Middle East and every country in it, as well as the principal figures who, at that time, were in political power. Strangely enough, most of those men are still in office and in power in those countries. So, sir, I think 1 can say without boasting that I was not speaking out of ignorance when I put forward as the core of what I had to propose on behalf of the Government, for the beginnings, at least, of a solution of the Egyptian-Israeli problem, the real necessity for a cooling-off period. That was the basis, plus a demilitarized zone - something in the nature of a cordon sanitaire - round the State of Israel itself.

This conception was combated by the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt). He said that no cooling-off period was required, and that what was necessary was to bring the two parties together at once. He repeated that in different forms, at three different times. He said that the thing was to bring them together now. Any one who knows this situation, any one who has read a little about it, must, I think, regard that view - and with great respect I use the words - as the utmost folly. I ask the right honorable gentleman, who, I realize, is not able to be present in the chamber to-night, what he knows about the Middle East. Has he ever been there? I do not believe so. Has he read the standard books on the area? Has he read " The Arab Awakening ", by George Antonius? Has he read "The Independent Arab", by Hubert Young? Has he been to the principal cities? Does he know Moshe Shertok now Sharett? Does he know Ben Gurion? Does he know Camille Shamoun of the Lebanon? Does he know Shukri al-Kuwatli of Syria? Does he know Nuri-el-Said of Iraq? Does he know Ala, the recently retired Prime Minister of Iran? Without doing the right honorable gentleman any injustice, I do not think that he knows any of these people, has read any of these books, or has been to any of these places. Yet he speaks in this House, with some assumed authority, of what should be done! He derides me when I say that there is a tremendous emotional racial complex behind the Egyptian-Israeli problem of today. And the problem of to-day did not begin to-day. It did not begin twenty years ago, but 50 years ago and more, as any one who has given the slightest attention to the Middle East situation must know. Yet the right honorable gentleman says that no cooling-off period is necessary and that there is no emotional racial complex or hostility behind this matter! The problem, he says, has an economic basis; it is a problem of oil. Does the right honorable gentleman realize that there is not an oil well within 500 miles of EgyptIsrael?

I suppose that one is foolish to get upset by these things, but I am a member of a political party, and I am also an Australian. I am an Australian first and a member of a political party second. Here is the leader of a party that might conceivably be the alternative government in Australia, in certain circumstances, although it might be in the distant future. At any rate, he is looked upon in the world as an alternative Prime Minister for this country; and when his words ring round the world, as I expect they do, by virtue of his position as Leader of the Opposition, thousands of people in the world who know a great deal more about the background of the problems of the Middle East than he does will look upon those words - and here I do not wish to be offensive - as arrant nonsense, and Australia will be denigrated. As an Australian, I feel ashamed when I think of that, although the Government might gain momentary party political advantage from the speech of the right honorable gentleman made the other day, because everybody realizes he had nothing to contribute. Worse than that, I. am thinking of the effect on people overseas who look upon Australia as a distant country and upon the right honorable Leader of the Opposition as a potential leader in this country. It makes me ashamed that a man who sets himself up as knowing something about international affairs, a man who has been President of the United Nations Assembly, should give voice to what I may call - and again I am not attempting to be offensive - such arrant nonsense.


Mr Calwell - He said some nice things about the Minister.


Mr CASEY - That may be, but personalities have to go by the board when the interests of Australia are concerned, and they are concerned at this time.

Mr. MosheSharett, who was head of the Jewish agency in Palestine when I was there, will visit this country next month. I had intimate dealings with him every fortnight while I was there. He will be here as a visitor next month, and I shall direct his attention to what the Leader of the Opposition said about the economic origin, so-called, of the Egyptian-Israeli problem, and I shall invite him to make public comment. If any man knows that problem, it is he. Mr. Moshe Sharett was the Minister for Foreign Affairs in Israel for a number of years until quite recently.

Any one who knows this problem realizes that the hostilities between the Arab nations and Israel, and between Egypt and Israel, are the deepest and bitterest in the world. The friction between southern and northern Ireland is a flea-bite compared with the Arab-Israel or Egypt-Israel hostility. It is almost a blood feud; and to suggest that any good could result, against a background of those conditions when the dead on both sides are hardly buried, from bringing the two sides together round a table, however round the table is, I say again, complete nonsense.

Two things stick out clearly. First, there has got to be a cooling-off period; and secondly, there has got to be some mechanical means of keeping the two sides apart for a sufficient time to allow the worst of the passion, the worst of the blood feud, to die down. Then, perhaps under the chairmanship of a strong and powerful chairman from a strong and powerful country, with the objective of economic advantage to both sides, it is conceivable that they may be brought together.

The right honorable gentleman went on to speak about Europe. As we all remember, he recommended that the American forces, the British forces, indeed all forces extraneous to Western Europe be withdrawn. Again, I cannot conceive of anything that would be more against the interests of the democratic world than to do that. First of all, although I realize he did not say it, presumably he means the Russian forces would be withdrawn on the one hand and the British, American and other forces would be withdrawn on the other hand. That would mean that the Russian forces would withdraw an average distance of 300 miles whilst the American forces would withdraw an average distance of 3,000 miles. What does any one suppose would be the net effect of that, when the Russian forces could get back in a matter of days, or even hours, whilst the Americans would take weeks, possibly months, to reinstate their forces in Western Europe? What would happen to the free countries of Western Europe during that period? I suggest they would be in the most vulnerable position in the world.

As I understood him, the right honorable gentleman tried to equate the position of the American troops in Germany with that of the Russian troops in Hungary. The American troops are there in considerable numbers among troops of other countries at the invitation of the countries concerned. Do we know enough about the situation in Poland and in Hungary to say the Russian troops are there at the invitation of those two countries? Of course, they are not! The two situations cannot be compared. The American, British and Canadian forces are in the countries oi Western Europe as a last and almost desperate effort to save those countries from a sudden onrush of communism. Any one who suggests seriously that the American. Canadian and British forces should withdraw from the free countries of Western Europe is, I think, inviting attack by the other side.

The young gentleman from Yarra invited us to consider the question of nuclear weapons. He subjected us to a talk about how terrible nuclear war was going to be. There is nothing very original about that. Every adult in the world knows that well enough. But the nuclear weapons exist, and what are we to do about them? He said that nothing was being done about them. He forgot the fact that our major allies in particular, together with Australia, have been trying desperately for years to evolve, with the Russians, a system of mutual control and eventual elimination of the nuclear weapon. Is he completely unaware of all the work that has been done patiently over the years by the Disarmament Commission, by the representatives of the United States, Great Britain, Canada and other countries? Is it the unilateral doing away with nuclear weapons that he wants? That would be suicidal. Our major allies have been trying, year after year, to evolve a system that Russia would agree upon for the safe control of those weapons by both sides on a basis that could be relied upon. Anything other than that would be suicide. Yet, at the end of a long debate, we are treated to a treatise about how dreadful nuclear weapons are. Presumably, the honorable member suggests we ought to go in for the unilateral discarding of them.


Mr Calwell - He did not say that.


Mr CASEY - He did not say that; but that is the natural inference to be drawn from what he said. The young man from Yarra is gradually building up a reputation in this place. I do not accuse him of partisanship in any particular way, but I will say we are becoming pretty well aware of where his personal political sympathies lie.

I come now to the United Nations. In my opening speech at the beginning of the debate, I had some critical remarks to make about the United Nations. If I may say so, I did not make critical remarks of that sort without reason. I do not make them thoughtlessly or heedlessly. I have looked back at what I have said, and I have not one word to withdraw of the critical comment that I made about the United Nations. That is not to say that I do not believe there are very many useful aspects of the United Nations. Australia's support of those aspects of the United Nations is continuous, and it will continue. Therefore, 1 do not like to be told that Australia has discarded the United Nations. We have done nothing of the sort. But I think we would be living in a fool's paradise if we did not, from time to time, objectively consider what is the plus and what is the minus of the United Nations, if we did not give thought to whether that organization could be relied upon to-day and whether it is dangerous to rely upon it. That is what I attempted to do on behalf of the Government when I opened this debate.

The time I have available is relatively short; I have only a very few minutes left. 1 should like the House to consider, for a few moments, the general attitude of the Leader of the Opposition, having gathered together the various things which he has on many occasions, and very stoutly, spoken about in this chamber and outside it. I do not know whether this represents the policy of his party and I do not want, particularly, to hang this on all the members of the party which sits behind the right honorable gentleman. As for himself, he has recommended solemnly and on several occasions, including in this debate, the withdrawal of all American, British. Canadian and other what I might call nonindigenous forces from Western Europe. Secondly, he has recommended the withdrawal of Australian troops from Malaya, where they are solely and only engaged in combating communism. The troops in Europe to which I refer are solely and only there in order to ward off communism .

The right honorable gentleman recommends the recognition of red China. I wish I had time to develop, expand, and analyse that business. He recommends a ban on nuclear weapons, presumably a unilateral ban, because all the great countries have been trying to evolve a fair and reasonable bilateral ban on nuclear weapon that could be relied upon.

All these things taken together begin to stir in one's mind, and one begins to ask " What do all these things add up to? " And I am not very sure - and I do noi make this as a light charge at all - thai they do no? add up to something. In addition, of course, the right honorable gentleman opposes Seato and Anzus.


Mr Calwell - He does not.


Mr CASEY - If words mean what the* say, he does. Those six matters that 1 have just enumerated very briefly add up to one thing and one thing only, that he espouses a principle of neutralism for Australia. He has not said that, of course I do not pretend to say that he has said that, but those are the six principles to which neutralists adhere. I should like the right honorable gentleman, when he is again amongst us in the chamber, or outside the chamber, to answer that, charge. I do not make it lightly, because those are the si* principles that comprise the policy of the neutralists.

I do not have any acid criticism of the neutralists in the world, so long as the) admit that they are neutralists. Those are si;t principles which make up, very largely, the policy of the neutralists. But let us go beyond that attitude, look into our domestic side of things, and see the line that the right honorable gentleman has taken domestically in combating the secret ballot in Australia, in combating the industrial groupers who are fighting communism, in propagating the idea of unity tickets with Communists. Adding all those things into the pudding, one gets a more convincing picture of something that, as an Australian, i do not like very much. One could call it by uglier names than neutralism, but I ,10 not propose to do that.


Mr Calwell - Call it Senator McCarthy-ism.


Mr SPEAKER (Hon John McLeay

Order on the left! There are too many interjections.


Mr CASEY - In this debate we have had, as i have said, 47 speeches, a good many of them from members of the Foreign Affairs Committee, and I think I might be spoused for having a little proper pride in the contributions that have been made, not solely by members of the Foreign Affairs Committee by a long way, but I am directing my mind at the moment to them. I believe that if this debate has shown anything it is the value of the Foreign Affairs Committee.


Mr SPEAKER - Order! The right

Honorable gentleman's time has expired.

Question resolved in the affirmative.







Suggest corrections