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
Tuesday, 11 April 1961

Mr CALWELL (Melbourne) (Leader of the Opposition) . - I thank the House for its indulgence and I thank the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) for making a copy of his speech available to me at about 5 o'clock this afternoon. I had the opportunity to study the speech and to consult with my colleagues at a special party meeting. I am authorized by the Opposition to propose an amendment to the Prime Minister's motion, and I move -

That all words after " That " be omitted with a view to inserting the following words in place thereof: - "in the opinion of this House, the speeches and statements made by the Prime Minister on the question of South Africa, following the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference, have done great harm to Australia's relations with other member States of the Commonwealth, and with the nations of South-East Asia; have aggravated the position he created at the United Nations meeting in October last year; and do not represent the views of the Australian people.

The House resolves, therefore, that the right honorable gentleman should be censured and removed from the office of Minister of State for External Affairs ".

This is a very important debate. The Prime Minister spent a considerable time telling honorable members and the nation of the part that he played at the Prime Ministers' Conference, and at several other international gatherings, in matters of very great importance to the world. In respect of what was done in relation to disarmament; in respect of what was done in relation to the United Nations and the Congo, and in respect of all the efforts that are being made to establish peace in Laos as a selfgoverning independent neutral country, there can be no objection by any one, but on the question of South Africa about which the Prime Minister spoke for so long, I have a good deal to say because the Opposition does not agree with the conclusions that the Prime Minister has reached and will offer quite a lot of convincing evidence to prove a case contrary to that which has been made by my right honorable friend.

On 22nd March last, I had the honour to initiate a debate, as a matter of urgent public importance, on the arrogant and provocative statements made by the Prime Minister after the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference on the question of South Africa. In that debate I was followed by my colleagues, the honorable members for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) and Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) but we were the only Opposition members who were permitted to participate in the debate. Six days previously the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen), who was then Acting Prime Minister, made a statement to the House in reply to a question that I had asked him concerning South Africa's decision to leave the Commonwealth of Nations. On behalf of the Government he stated that he regretted South Africa's decision and, speaking for the Opposition, I agreed with what " he had to say. I remember saying too that everything should be done to strengthen and nothing should be done to weaken the Commonwealth of Nations. I also expressed the hope that one day South Africa, under another Prime Minister and with a reversal of its policy of apartheid, would rejoin the Commonwealth of Nations.

I am sure that no one - not even Ministers and Government supporters, no matter how much they may have applauded the Prime Minister to-night - expected him to criticize and to condemn in such extravagant language what was said at the Prime Ministers' Conference. The statement that he made in London at his press conference on Sunday, 19th March, and the speech that he delivered to the Australia Club at the Savoy Hotel on the following night, were so remarkable as to be almost unbelievable. It might have been well if all that was said could be forgotten, but unfortunately what was said was so provocative and challenging and contained so many implied reflections upon other member nations, including African and Asian nations, that not only did the Prime Minister harm himself and his own reputation but he also gravely harmed Australia's reputation and embarrassed us greatly with other members of the Commonwealth and with the nations of South-East Asia.

How badly he damaged our association with the Commonwealth of Nations was evidenced quickly by the action that was taken by Mr. Macmillan, the British Prime

Minister, in his speech on the subject of South Africa in the House of Commons on the day following the Savoy Hotel oration. Mr. Macmillan seems to have gone out of his way deliberately and, if I may use the words, even cold-bloodedly to contradict the statements of our own Prime Minister relating to what actually happened at the conference and to rebuke him for having allegedly disclosed confidential information. I am not claiming that Mr. Macmillan was right in charging the right honorable gentleman with that offence but the inference is very clear that that was what he meant. Yet the Prime Minister to-night spoke in almost affectionate terms of his friend, the British Prime Minister! There is not the slightest difficulty, however, in convincing every purblind Liberal and even the most backward member of the Country Party that the British Prime Minister categorically denied the Australian Prime Minister's statements on at least four or five important and major counts. Referring to the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference, the Australian Prime Minister said this -

Apparently the character of our deliberations is to be changed. I think it is a great pity, but in particular this is the last time we will ever have a discussion on racial policy in the Commonwealth itself in a meeting of Prime Ministers.

He went on to say -

Although it is an established convention of these meetings that we do not discuss the domestic affairs of a member country, the Prime Minister of South Africa agreed that, on this occasion, the racial policy of the Union Government should be discussed.

I observe here that the Australian Prime Minister has misrepresented the whole position when he has sought to claim that South Africa's withdrawal has destroyed the convention to which Mr. Macmillan has referred several times. The British Prime Minister, in rebuking our Prime Minister on this count - and no one else because no other Prime Minister deserved to be rebuked for what he said - stated -

May I say in passing that 1 da not at all accept the view, whichI have seen expressed in the last few days, that this means that the Commonwealth will in future turn itself intoa body for passing judgment on the internal affairs of member countries. I see no reasons why the existing convention to which I have referred should not be maintained. After all, it was not broken on this occasion, for the Prime Minister of South Africa agreed that this discussion should be held.

Yet we heard our own Prime Minister say a few moments ago that the convention had been broken and that we could not be sure that at some time in the future our own Australian immigration policy, or somebody else's policy, would not be brought under discussion at the conference of Commonwealth Prime Ministers. Indeed, our Prime Minister went out of his way to make it appear that Dr. Verwoerd had been very badly treated at this conference. In this connexion, Mr. Macmillan was reported to have said, according to the Prime Minister -

There was no question of the expulsion of South Africa for it became apparent to Di. Verwoerd himself that he could not serve the Commonwealth or help its unity and coherence in any other way except by withdrawing his application.

The Australian Prime Minister in quoting Mr. Macmillan said -

I have myself stated the facts in their sequence, and what I regard as the inevitability of Dr. Verwoerd's withdrawal.

The Prime Minister did not continue to quote what Mr. Macmillan said, and there is a vital omission in what he had to say on Mr. Macmillan's views. I think the following words used by Mr. Macmillan were of enormous importance: -

I am convinced that had Dr. Verwoerd shown the smallest move towards and understanding of the views of his Commonwealth colleagues or made any concession; had he given us anything to hold on to or any grounds for hope, I still think the Conference would have looked beyond the immediate difficulties to the possibilities of the future.

That has never been told by the Australian Prime Minister in any of his speeches. I repeat those words are of very great importance. Our Prime Minister said at his press conference in London -

I notice there is a good deal of speculation and perhaps something more about the final stages of this Conference so perhaps I might as well add my own little bit to it.

The British Prime Minister came down rather heavily against the Australian Prime Minister on that score with these words -

It is not my intention to give an account of the discussions that took place at the Conference. Those discussions are confidential and all Prime Ministers should try to preserve in respect of them the traditional confidence of a national cabinet.

Then, again, our Prime Minister said -

My objection to the policy of apartheid is in. simple terms, that in my opinion, it won't work. It is a policy of separate development It is a policy that the white man occupies a superior position. In other words, it is the same policy that has existed in all colonial establishments until a few years ago. The more this policy succeeds in a sense, the more certain it is to fail in the long run.

Mr. Macmillanhas put it in a much better way and in a way which might be more readily acceptable to the South African people. He said -

All kinds of discrimination not only racial, but political, religious and cultural in one form or another have been and are still practised, often as a survival of long traditions. The fundamental difference between ours and the South African philosophy is that we are trying to escape from these inherited practices. What shocked the conference was that the policy of the present South African Government appeared to set up what wewould regard as an inherited practice. Inherited from the past perhaps as a philosophy of action for the future.

To-night, our Prime Minister, in his effort to prove that Australia could be queried at some future Prime Ministers conference over our immigration laws, has himself introduced this question of equating Australia's immigration laws with the South African policy of apartheid. I had not seen it mentioned until I saw some report from London that it was the Prime Minister himself who raised this issue. He said that what had happened to South Africa in respect of apartheid could happen to us in respect of our white Australia policy.

Mr Menzies - Sir Edgar Whitehead said that. I know I have a white head, but I did not say it.

Mr CALWELL - I do not know what white head said it, but the right honorable gentleman is getting the credit for it; and the fact that he has kept using the argument may give an opportunity to people, who do not know about Sir Edgar Whitehead, to give him the credit for it. Of course, you cannot equate our immigration laws with apartheid. I need only quote the opinions of the Malayan Prime Minister, Tunku Abdul Rahman, who also attended the Prime Ministers' Conference and preserved a dignified silence after it concluded until his return to Malaya. According to press reports which all honorable members have seen, he said that the white Australia policy was being confused with apartheid by the Australian Prime Minister and added -

One is for the protection of Australians, the other is for the repression of Africans and Asians within South Africa.

Tunku Abdul Rahman also said -

The white Australia policy, as it is called, is not racial discrimination. It is to protect the Australian people. If Australia's doors were open wide they would be swamped. Why create problems in Australia that would be difficult to solve. In Australia, Asians, including Malayan students, are treated properly, decently and on their merits.

The Tunku also said he had no fears for the future of the Commonwealth, which, of course, is quite opposite to what our own Prime Minister has said. To-night, he again expressed his fears as to the future of the Commonwealth because South Africa has decided to leave the Commonwealth. We all hope that South Africa's decision is only a temporary one; because it is not South Africa that has made the decision, but Dr. Verwoerd and his irreconcilable race-hating people. South Africa under some moderate leadership, even people who would walk in the tradition of Botha and Smuts, to whom reference has been made, might be brought back into the Commonwealth. Our Prime Minister was not content with saying that South Africa withdrew from or left the Commonwealth. In his enthusiasm to make a case from, his point of view, he said that South Africa was expelled from the Commonwealth. He even we't so far as to say that South Africa was kicked out of the Commonwealth. Dealing witu this matter, the British Prime Minister said -

There was no question of the expulsion of South Africa because it became apparent to Dr. Verwoerd himself that he could not serve the Commonwealth or help its unity and coherence in any other way except by withdrawing his application. This he did, and so, for the time being, ended over half a century of South Africa's membership of our Commonwealth.

What Mr. Macmillan said was a flat contradiction of the claim of the Australian Prime Minister that South Africa was kicked out of the Commonwealth. It is the sort of oratory one would not expect to hear from the friend of Presidents and Prime Ministers. The impression which the Prime Minister created on his fellow

Asian and African guests and on the other distinguished diners at London's exclusive Savoy Hotel - including two former Governors-General of Australia, the Duke of Gloucester and Viscount Slim - must have been appalling. At the end of his speech Mr. Macmillan said -

At the end of the day, 1 do not believe it will be words that will win - certainly not bitter words and recrimination.

Who alone displayed bitterness and indulged in constant futile recrimination? It was not Dr. Verwoerd. It was not Mr. Holyoake, nor was it Mr. Nehru nor Mr. Diefenbaker. Only our Prime Minister did that, and only Australia could suffer in consequence. Now we are told by the Prime Minister - we were told it when he was abroad and it has been at least adverted to in his speech to-night - " But instead of having a discussion in a meeting of a limited number of heads of governments who are men of experience and restraint, this thing will now be put into the United Nations; it will be debated hotly in the General Assembly ".

The question of South Africa was debated the other day in the General Assembly. But it was not hotly debated. The Australian delegates moved very quietly and slowly to the rostrum. They delivered their speeches and they cast their votes. They did not want too many people to notice th,' fact that this Government, which a few weeks before said that apartheid was a domestic matter for South Africa, was tow saying that South Africa was worthy of the censure of the civilized world because it was following a policy of apartheid. The Government cannot have it both ways. It could not be right on both counts.

Sir. theSouth African problem will be with us for a considerable time. AH we can hope is that better counsel will prevail in South Africa, and that influential journals in South Africa, such as "Die Trans.vaaler", which has always supported Dr. Verwoerd and which has changed its attitude, will be followed by other newspapers which, too, will advocate a more temperate and reasonable course.

The Prime Minister in his speech to-night said -

In a section of the Australian press a great effort is being made to show that in all these matters-

He was there referring to South Africa -

I am at loggerheads with Mr. Macmillan and that it follows that I must be wrong.

Well, 1 have shown, I hope to the satisfaction of everybody, that at least he and Mr. Macmillan did not agree, and that Mr. Macmillan has said so very definitely. Our Prime Minister said, referring to the fact that in the Australian press efforts are being made to discredit him-

This is indeed a curious attitude for Australians.

Why should not the newspapers of Australia occasionally transfer their love and affection from the Labour Party and devote a little attention to the Prime Minister'.' Does he claim that the newspapers of Australia must always support him and must always attack the Labour Party? I know that he has been having a very bad time from the newspapers lately, but I think that he has deserved most of it. He has brought the trouble on his own head. In his measured tones to-night, and in that splendid rhetoric of which he is capable, and in some oratorical passages too, he has sought to extricate himself from all of it, and has said " Macmillan and I are friends again. Everything is quite all right in our Commonwealth. We are all working for the Commonwealth." If he had thought that way before he went to London recently, and had behaved accordingly, he might have been able to be more helpful to Mr. Macmillan in the work he was attempting to do.

The Prime Minister has referred to disarmament, and I want to say something on that matter too, because every member of this Parliament - certainly every member of the Opposition - is vitally concerned with the success of any scheme, under the control of the United Nations, to bring about universal disarmament and the banning of the nuclear weapon. No nation has a monopoly of that desire. The Russians fear the use of nuclear weapons just as much as does the West. Every human being would like to see an end put to war. You have only to consider the enormous waste that is taking place at the present time in order to see how suicidal it all is from any point of view.

In the European-descended world, Mr. Speaker - the civilized world, as we like to regard it - we are spending practically all of £148,500,000 a day, or just on £6,300,000 an hour, on arms, armaments and armies, and the United States and the Soviet are spending between them about 73 per cent, of this huge total. The United States figure is 55 per cent, of the United States Federal budget and about 9.2 per cent, of the gross national product of the United States. The Soviet is said to be spending £18,900,000,000 a year, or something like 49 per cent, of the total Russian budget, on war preparedness and defence. This amounts roughly to 12 per cent, of Russia's gross national product. Communist China is spending about 6 per cent, of its gross national product on its military forces. This amounts to £2,700,000,000 a year.

If world-wide disarmament were achieved, if there were a ban, under the auspices of the United Nations, on the production of nuclear weapons, and if the ban were universally observed, at least 15,000,000 men now serving in armies, navies and air forces would be available to fight want and disease by increasing the production of goods and food. There are about 3,000,000,000 hungry people in the world to-day and these could all be properly fed, and all the sick could be provided with medical care if the vast expenditure on arms were halted. That expenditure is costing the world £18 a year for every man, woman and child now living.

Sir, Iturn now to the events of last October, because in our motion we refer to those events. Honorable members will recollect that at the end of October last year the Prime Minister made a special and urgent flight to attend the United Nations because Mr. Khrushchev and other important world leaders had decided to be present at a meeting of the General Assembly. It is no exaggeration to say that when he left this country most Australians hoped that the Prime Minister would help to find the solution of the problem of a Summit meeting. I personally wished him well. To the consternation of everybody, however, immediately on arrival in the United States he went into conference with President Eisenhower and Mr. Macmillan, and sold them on the idea that he should move an amendment to the Afro-Asian five-power resolution calling for a Summit meeting. He neither met nor tried to meet those who had put down this resolution. In the result, Australia got four votes for its amendment out of a possible 97, and those four votes were duty votes. The unworldly Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt), seeking to explain what had happened, said that Russia would have voted for the amendment but did not want to offend the Afro-Asian bloc. It never seemed to strike the Prime Minister, or the Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick) or the Treasurer, all of whom were personally in New York at the time - all on urgent public business, of course - that the AfroAsian bloc should not be offended or insulted or made to feel inferior in any way by anything Australia did. The Prime Minister described their resolution as useless and in the end it was withdrawn.

Mr. Nehru,after he had made a blistering attack on our Prime Minister, withdrew his motion. He said in his speech that what our Prime Minister had said verged on absurdity; that he was viewing the situation from a superficial point of view; that he had tried to cover up the main issues with a jumble of words. Mr. Nehru asked whether this was not a rather trivial way of dealing with a vital question. The Prime Minister said that he believed the resolution to be useless because the United States President and the Soviet Premier had both said that neither would meet the other except under conditions that were obviously not capable of being reconciled; but, as everybody knows, if the resolution submitted by Mr. Nehru and his friends been passed, neither the American nor the Russian leader could have ignored the decision. The weight of world opinion would have been against whichever one of them refused to attend a meeting which the other was prepared to attend. By helping to pass the resolution which his fumbling, heavy-handed methods destroyed, the right honorable gentleman would have been doing what the smaller powers wanted done and what he himself envisaged when expressing his views on the functioning of the United Nations during the debate in the House of Representatives on 5th September, 1945. On that occasion h? said -

The functions of these small powers will be to influence, so far as they can, the Great Powers.

Was that not precisely what the five neutralist nations sought to do? Our Prime Minister does not like the neutralist nations. He does not like the people who will not line themselves up with one big bloc or another. Both in his second speech at the United Nations on 5th October, 1960, and in his subsequent television interview on 13th October, 1960, he made many sneering references to the neutralist powers. On 13th October, 1960, he said, among other things -

I think there is an awful lot of nonsense being talked about a neutral bloc.

Addressing the General Assembly he said -

Neutralism is of course one of those rather rotund words which does not readily admit of definition.

Mr Menzies - That is quite right.

Mr CALWELL - He repeats it still. I thought that he was on the penitential stool to-night, but he is still an unrepentent sinner. He said further -

If, when we say that a nation is neutral, that it will not under any circumstances take arms in any conflict which does not concern the protection of its own immediate boundaries, it seems to me to be a notion hard to reconcile with the charter of the United Nations which contemplates under certain circumstances the use of combined force in terms of the charter itself.

I answer the Prime Minister by saying: What can India do? What can Ceylon do? They have no forces. They have no strength. India has 400,000,000 people and most of them are starving. They have no great resources. Men such as Nehru are saving their nation from communism. The attitude of the Menzies Government is to drive these people into the arms of the Communists. The Prime Minister must know that what he has said is a complete distortion of the situation. The neutral powers have striven to remain independent of either large power grouping and, at the same time, to strengthen the United Nations.

The Prime Minister's condemnation extends also, I presume, to the age old neutrality of Switzerland and Sweden and implies a criticism of the Austrian acceptance of a neutralist position. His criticism must have stunned a man such as Mr. Nehru because without neutrality much of what has been accomplished to keep the world at peace could never have been achieved. Nehru has played his part in helping to preserve peace in the world. If it were not for the neutral powers, the United Nations would never be in a position now to take the preventive steps that it has taken in the Congo, Laos and, earlier, in Korea and the Middle East.

I do not wish to delay the House very long. It has been generous to me. But at least I have something to offer by way of constructive criticism on behalf of the Opposition and on behalf of those whom we have the honour to represent. If the Prime Minister were a statesman he would not behave as he does at almost every international gathering that he attends, be it the United Nations or the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conferences. He should be seeking ways and means to strengthen and expand the influence of both these bodies which are so vital to our very existence and, on the broader plane, so vital to the peace and happiness of mankind.

Why has our travel-stained, speech-happy Prime Minister never tried to do anything about Malta, now at cross-purposes with the the United Kingdom Government? Why has he not tried to bring Burma back into the Commonwealth, or to unite the 32 counties of Ireland, now unhappily partitioned, and bring that country back into the Commonwealth? All that the Prime Minister wants to do is to follow a policy of fragmentation, cutting countries off one by one until the only people left will be those who are eligible for membership of the Carlton Club in London. Unfortunately, the foreign affairs policy of the Menzies Government is the private property of the Prime Minister. He makes it and changes it as he likes. He does so without reference to principles or precedents. It is largely an opportunist policy which varies with his moods. Both he and his Government are deserving of censure for this lamentable state of affairs. If honorable members opposite want to hear support for what I have said they need only walk the streets of any city of Australia and observe the reactions of Australian people - decent, honest, Australians, working for a living and proud of their work - to the Government's actions in international affairs. The Government is just as likely to be defeated at the next general election on its foreign affairs policy, with its many reversals of attitude, as it is on its internal policy and its many changes and reversals.

The Prime Minister of Australia could say anything on international affairs and the Asin and African peoples, as well as the Americans, would regard his observations as proving that he is completely, pathologically, incapable of understanding the developments that have occurred in international relationships in the twentieth century. The Prime Minister cannot understand the Asian people and the Asian people have given up all hope of trying to understand him - at least since October of last year. What the Prime Minister said in London after the Prime Ministers' Conference on the South African issue has destroyed whatever influence he or his Ministers, past or present, ever had in Asia.

Mr Whitlam - I second the motion and reserve my right to speak to it at a later stage.

Suggest corrections