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Tuesday, 11 April 1961


Mr WHITLAM (Werriwa) .- The resolution of which the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Chaney) has just given notice is strikingly ironical. If one thing emerges more clearly than any other from the personalized diplomacy of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) in his capacity as Minister for External Affairs, it is that he has left us more friendless and made us more misunderstood than anybody could have dreamt of even only five years ago. Australia, during his regime as Minister for External Affairs, has not heeded America's advice on colonial issues. The Government changed its policy in the United Nations only when the United Kingdom changed its policy. It did not change its policy when President Kennedy made it quite plain that he intended to adopt a different- attitude on colonial issues from that taken by his predecessor, ex-President Eisenhower. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) showed very clearly how far out on a limb the Australian Prime Minister has now got himself in the Commonwealth and in the United Nations. He quoted several statements showing how Mr. Macmillan directly rebuffed the Australian Prime Minister and repudiated his remarks. But there are other examples of this. A striking one occurred when, on 19th March, 1961, at a press conference in London, the Australian Prime Minister said -

A lot of people . . . seem to think the British Commonwealth is a court of morals or a court of law. You sit down and sit in judgment on each other.

He used similar words after a dinner the following night at the Savoy Hotel, when he said -

I am a believer in the members of the Commonwealth not sitting in judgment on each other. . . But are we to be sitting in judgment one on the other? . . Never until this year have we sat in judgment on each other.

On 22nd March, Mr. Macmillan very plainly rebuked the Australian Prime Minister on this point. He said in the House of Commons -

I do not at all accept the view which I have seen expressed in the last few days that this means that the Commonwealth will in future turn itself into a body for passing judgment on the internal affairs of member countries.

But unabashed, our Prime Minister at his press conference when he landed in Australia, said - i think it would be a terrible thing for meetings of Prime Ministers to become courts either of morals or of justice . . . sitting in judgment on each other.

Every time, one sees, the British Prime Minister has repudiated, rebuked or rebuffed the Australian Prime Minister, and he is not the only one to do this. The only Asian Prime Minister for whom the Australian Prime Minister has one word of praise or acknowledgment is the Prime Minister of Malaya, the Tunku Abdul Rahman, who, when reporting on the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference, said-

The success of the stand against apartheid was not due to one man but to the Afro-Asian countries, Canada and to a certain extent, the Prime Ministers of Britain and New Zealand.

He mentioned every one except the Australian Prime Minister. The Australian Prime Minister has succeeded in putting this country off-side with every member of the British Commonwealth. As I will later show, we all too rarely vote beside the other members of the Commonwealth and practically never beside those in Asia and Africa.

The fate of the Commonwealth is a matter of very great sentimental as well as practical significance to Australia. The Commonwealth is the best bridge - in many ways it is the only bridge - between the Europeantype countries on the one hand and the countries of Asia and Africa on the other hand. It is the only bridge between countries which have a complex industrial society and long-established political institutions and on the other hand countries which are seeking to establish industrial and political societies along the lines which Britain did so much to transmit to them. The Australian Prime Minister has gone out of his way to suggest that the Commonwealth has been weakened by the defection of South Africa. We should make it quite plain in this Parliament and in this country that the Commonwealth is stronger for South Africa, under its present outlaw government, leaving the Commonwealth. We all agree that the Commonwealth would be stronger if a South African Government representing the free will of all the inhabi tants of South Africa were in it, but it is because there is no chance of this coming about under the present regime that South Africa is out of the Commonwealth.

The view I express here is expressed by the British, Canadian and New Zealand Prime Ministers as well as by the Prime Ministers and representatives of Asian and African members of the Commonwealth. In the House of Commons debate, Mr. Duncan Sandys said -

Having now come through the crisis, there is no doubt that the unity and moral standing of the Commonwealth throughout the world will be increased.

On the 5th of this month, the New Zealand Prime Minister said - i believe it-

That is, the Commonwealth- gained in moral stature by expressing itself clearly on a question of principle. If it had failed to do so its disintegration as a Commonwealth would have been much more likely.

The Canadian Prime Minister said -

The Commonwealth could not survive if it could not agree on a strong principle. That principle was non-discrimination.

A week ago in the West Indies, the British Prime Minister said - i do not share the views of those who say Dr. Verwoerd's action will have weakened the Commonwealth. i myself was the first to recognise that South Africa's continued presence among us could lead only to increasing strains on our association.

Lord Casey, who was formerly the Australian Minister for External Affairs and who did a very great deal to make Australia understood amongst our neighbours, within the terms of reference that Mr. Dulles permitted, said -

Personally, i think it has strengthened the Commonwealth. i have always thought it would be rather embarrassing if South Africa had remained in the Commonwealth.

Every conclusion reached by the Australian Prime Minister and every argument put by him reveals all the more dramatically how far he has taken Australia from the point of view of every other member of the British Commonwealth of Nations. In the British Parliament, there was complete agreement on what binds the Commonwealth together. Mr. Macmillan said -

This association must depend not on the old concept -.f a common allegiance but upon the new principle of a common idealism.

Mr. Gaitskellsaid

There must be something else if they are to regard the Commonwealth as worthwhile and that something: else can only be common ideals and the feeling that the Commonwealth as a whole is something which is worthwhile for what it can do in the world.

The Commonwealth now is more worthwhile than it was a month ago. The only Prime Minister in the last month for whom our Prime Minister has had any word of real praise is the Prime Minister of South Africa. 1 shall recall some of the fulsome tributes our Prime Minister has paid. He said that he is a man of obvious honesty, great courtesy and great lucidity, that his arguments " did him very great credit ", that he comported himself " with very great dignity ", that he " expressed his own case very powerfully ", that he speaks " with great sincerity " and that " he is a man of singular integrity, a most impressive man". To-night, the Prime Minister recalled the comradeship between our countries during the last war at Tobruk and El Alamein and so on. What was Dr. Verwoerd doing during the last war? What was he doing in the Transvales, which he owned and controlled at that time? The Prime Minister said - not here but at one of his press conferences - that he was not an apostle of apartheid. That may be, but he certainly appeared to the whole world as its chief acolyte.

The Prime Minister has at last to-night deplored the Sharpeville incident. When the Labour Party raised this matter in the House a year ago, he said that we should wait until the royal commission had reported on this matter. He said that the South African Prime Minister had done what any Australian Prime Minister would do and that is appoint a distinguished judge to inquire into the matter. This inquiry concluded on 24th January last and a summary of the report was contained in the " Sydney Morning Herald ". Incidentally, the " Age " carried the same summary, so it appears in two sources which the Prime Minister would find equally palatable. The summary said -

The report of the . . . commission of inquiry . . . gives no findings or conclusions. The Commissioner said in his opinion it was not his task to report on the liability or responsibility of individuals.

At his press conference when he returned to Australia the week before last, the

Prime Minister once again took refuge im the same excuse and said -

But was the government of South Africa responsible for the shootings at Sharpeville? Did the government order the shooting? Do we know that yet? No. Well, I think we should wait until we know.

How much longer must we wait? Tonight, after consulting with his colleagues, he has apparently come to see that his arguments and his excuses are no longer tenable.

The question of apartheid not only arose in the Commonwealth. There is also thequestion of the attitude Australia should take on apartheid as a member of the United Nations. Let it be understood forthwith that the United Nations will no longer tolerate the excuse of domestic jurisdiction on these matters - nor should it. Not only has Australia subscribed to the Declaration of Human Rights but we have also subscribed - it is in our statutebook - to the Charter of the United Nations. The charter in articles 55 and 56 makes plain that all members pledge themselves to take joint and separate action in co-operating with the organization for the achievment of universal respect for and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language or religion. We are all committed to this policy and have been since 1945.

South Africa undertook this enactment and has never carried it out. I know it will be said that this is purely a pious or a precatory statement in the charter. The fact is that in all the various language versions except the English language the same words were used in these articles as are used in the other articles which impose legal obligations on members of the United Nations. And the leading international lawyers appointed to tribunals such as the World Court and the United Nations Commission on Human Rights by Britain and France have subscribed to that point of view - that Articles 55 and 56 of the charter impose on members the legal obligation to see that there is no discrimination, on the basis of race, between any of the people within their borders. It is not a question of domestic jurisdiction and it is a shabby subterfuge still to assert that it is.

The Prime Minister now says that there was no change in our view in the United Nations, and that when Mr. Hood addressed that body he did not say how we were going to vote - for or against South Africa's policy of apartheid. Of course, he did not. He expected to abstain, as Australia ignominiously did at the session before last. "That was intended; and it was typical of the slick subterfuges to which the Prime Minister resorts on these occasions.


Mr Harold Holt - Did not Britain support South Africa in the past?


Mr WHITLAM - Of course it did, but there are certain economic reasons why Britain has covered up for South Africa. There are no such reasons for us to cover up for South Africa. We are alone. The United States of America has never supported South Africa on these matters. We have always differed from the United States of America on this question. The last occasion when Canada and New Zealand supported South Africa was in 1955. In 1958, we were still supporting South Africa. In 1959, we abstained; and it was proposed in 1961 that we should abstain, and Mr. Hood spoke in that sense and the morning papers revealed that. That was their interpretation of his remarks, but the morning newscast over the Australian Broadcasting Commission reported what Mr. Smithers had said on behalf of the United Kingdom in the United Nations. Thereupon the Prime Minister sent for such Cabinet members as were available to help him out of his dilemma. It was then that the directions were given to Mr. Plimsoll to repeat what were called the salient features of Mr. Hood's remarks and to put a different paragraph at the end and to say that on this occasion we would vote in favour of condemnation.

We were under an obligation in the United Nations to condemn this sort of conduct and we always abstained or supported South Africa. We were the last Commonwealth country to support South Africa, apart from the United Kingdom. The United Kingdom and Australia were the only members of the Commonwealth still to abstain when there was a vote on the last occasion.


Mr Harold Holt - Great Britain did not abstain. It supported South Africa on the last occasion.


Mr WHITLAM - In 1959, we abstained from voting. On this occasion, we voted in favour of the resolution and against South Africa. Of course, people will have heard on the news to-day that once again South Africa's Prime Minister says, "We will continue in our course ".

It is not sufficiently realized that Australia, as I said at the commencement, is getting more misunderstood and more friendless with every participation by the Prime Minister in international affairs. In the Suez affair we lined up with three other countries. Last year in the United Nations on the Australian amendment - that is the one which Mr. Nehru exposed - we lined up with four others. Let me further illustrate our isolation by giving details of voting in the first part of the current session. In this early part of the session there were 52 roll calls and on those Australia and the United Kingdom always voted together, but Canada voted with ui«n»Jy 33 times, New Zealand only 39 times, Pakistan only 26 times, Ghana and India only four times, Nigeria only three times, Malaya only fifteen times and Indonesia, our neighbour, only four times. Ireland, with which we have historic ties, voted with us only 24 times, and Burma, with which we also have historic ties, only six times. The United States voted beside us only 43 times out of 52. We have been in minorities varying between two and nine out of 99 nations.

The plain fact is that as shown by the way we vote in the United Nations we do not consult or value the views of other members of the British Commonwealth, or of Seato or of any .other association. We are becoming more and more friendless, particularly since President Kennedy has come into office and has voted against the colonial powers on Angola and South-west Africa and so on. We were still abstaining on the question of South-west Africa last week.

The Prime Minister has shown himself to be more out of touch with world affairs than any of his predecessors. He has been less successful and more disastrous, internationally, than any other Prime Minister we have ever had. He reels from rebuff to rebuff and his failures are becoming more frequent and more resounding. He takes each reverse with worse grace. The tides of colonialism and racial domination have receded and they have left him, like a stranded whale, moaning and forlorn. We cannot afford to carry this burden any longer. He should resign before he brings Australian still more into odium with the rest of the world and its associates in the Commonwealth, in Seato and with all our neighbours.







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