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 ANDERSON (Hume) .- We have heard in the speech of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) a very bitter attack on the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies). But from where does the Opposition get its information on foreign affairs? That is a point I would like to make. On all economic matters the Opposition has quoted exhaustively from newspaper reports. From what other source does Labour, in opposition, get its information? Only from newspaper reports, and it quotes newspaper reports on every single measure in this House, Members of the Opposition have only one source of information; they have to rely on the newspapers. It is interesting to note that fact because some people are not foolish enough to rely on newspaper reports.

We have heard from the Deputy Leader of the Opposition an attack, again and again, on the Prime Minister's two speeches in the United Nations. Here is a case where he made headlines in the American press, and the headlines were entirely complimentary and said that he was doing a great job. At the same time we have a State Labour Minister of State, the honorable Mr. Sheehan, who was present at both the Prime Minister's speeches in the United Nations, telling a civic reception in Young - he said it also in the Parliament in Sydney - that when he was there he was so impressed with the magnificent speech of the Prime Minister that he. was proud to be an Australian. Mr. Sheehan, the Minister for Health in New South Wales - a Labour Minister - at a civic reception in Young said, " I was proud to be an Australian when I heard this speech made, but when I came back to Australia I found that the whole of that speech was grossly misrepresented ". Yet, on that basis Labour produced its urgency motion - on the say-so of a newspaper report.

What sort of Opposition to a federal government is that on the vital matter of external affairs? What was the resolution that Mr. Menzies spoke so strongly against? It was Mr. Nehru's resolution. Let us see who supported Mr. Nehru. We have Soekarno of Indonesia, Tito of Yugoslavia and Nasser of the United Arab Republic. Those were the people who supported India in this resolution to require the President of the United States of America, Mr. Eisenhower, on the eve of his resigning, to meet Mr. Khrushchev. Here was a man on the point of resigning and who could not commit his nation at all; yet the resolution demanded that he negotiate with Mr. Khrushchev. What kind of equality of negotiation was that when it was the result of weakness? Was that the kind of resolution to be expected of any elder statesman? After all, our Prime Minister is regarded in the world to-day as an elder statesman, a man with a profound knowledge of human feelings, and a man with a history of negotiations. He is the man who in 50 or 100 years will be talked of as an historical figure, but the people who have criticized him will be lost in the oblivion of time.

We have a Labour State Minister, an able man, who states that the Prime Minister made a magnificent speech, yet speaker after speaker from the Opposition side have derided him. The Opposition should not forget that the right honorable gentleman is the national Prime Minister, and that they are not helping the nation nor giving support politically by talking about our Prime Minister in this way. The Labour Party view is the view of the press from which it derives its opinions.

As to the London conference, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition stated that the Prime Minister had said that it was a bad thing to weaken the Commonwealth of Nations by forcing out South Africa. The Labour Party used for its own purposes the statement of the British Prime Minister who said that he did not agree with that point of view. These are not matters of fact; they are matters of opinion. But we have this fact: The Prime Minister of Australia, an elder statesman, has years of experience in Prime Ministers' Conferences while Mr. Macmillan, although a very able man, is still much younger in these matters than is the Prime Minister of Australia.

Tunku Abdul Rahman, a man of great stature whom I admire immensely, and who will I think unite the three races of Malaya into one multi-racial nation, has suggested that South Africa's departure will not weaken the Commonwealth. However, he also is a new boy. As I have said, these are not matters of fact; they are purely matters of opinion, and in these matters I am prepared to back the opinion of our own Prime Minister.

In any case, why not reason this out for ourselves? The Prime Ministers agreed not to argue about the domestic policies of member nations. Honorable members will recall the speech that was made by Dr. Verwoerd when he returned to South Africa. He claimed that his country was forced out of the Commonwealth because of intense bitterness and vindictiveness by others. It cannot be claimed that our Prime Minister made that statement; it was made by Dr. Verwoerd himself. Nearly all members of the Commonwealth have some problem of a similar nature in their own country. Ceylon, Ghana and India each are confronted with difficulties of some kind. To-day the Afro-Asian members of the Commonwealth do not want South Africa in it; to-morrow they themselves may be under criticism. This procedure could cause great trouble for future Prime Ministers at future conferences.

I agree with our Prime Minister that it is very sad that South Africa should have left the Commonwealth. He made a point that must be borne in mind by the Opposition: It is not a government that has been excluded from the Commonwealth, it is a nation, 45 per cent, of which is composed of English speaking people and 55 per cent, of Afrikaanders. Then there is the great mass of native races in that country. The Prime Minister referred to the historical relations between South Africa and Asia, and stated that we had fought side by side in two wars - at Deville Woods in the First World War and at El Alamein in the Second World War. Do you think that that means nothing to us? But the honorable member for Werriwa referred to it sneeringly. Our relations with South Africa should not be forgotten. The present Government of that country will not always be in control and we should be patient until it is changed. But to me it is a tragedy that a foundation member of the British Commonwealth of Nations has left it. Those are matters that the Prime Minister, with his wealth of experience, has very rightly deplored. There is no question in my mind that he does not agree with apartheid, which is a policy that we would not care to advance.

The Leader of the Opposition spoke very strongly about disarmament and cited numerous figures to indicate the enormous sums of money that are being spent on instruments of war, but he forgot to say what his solution of the problem is. All he said was that there is a need for disarmament and he dismissed the question from his mind because he claimed that it is a matter for the United Nations. The Prime Minister's speech was a reasoned careful expose of what we must expect i" relation to disarmament.

Consider the attack that is being made ai present on the United Nations structure. The Soviet bloc is attacking it constant!' in an endeavour to create disorder and to weaken its effectiveness. The Leader of the Opposition agrees with the Government and with the rest of the world that we must have disarmament, but what protection will there be if the United Nations b rendered ineffective? In view of the deliberate attack that the Soviet bloc is making in an effort to destroy the executive of the United Nations, should we disarm and then take the risk of suddenly finding that the United Nations is sterile and unable to help us? Is that the kind of statesmanlike approach that the Labour Party has to disarmament? Or has it not read the latest report in the press and so cannot state its policy until it finds out what the press thinks of disarmament?

The position in Laos could be very dangerous for Australia. I think that the determination of our Prime Minister and the forthrightness of the communique which was issued from the Seato conference is of first-class importance. There is a tendency on the part of the Opposition to use for its own purposes various aspects of foreign affairs from which it hopes to gain political advantage. At present South Africa is in the limelight. Many people feel unhappy about the situation that has arisen and in relation to which Australia has taken a stand. But that stand will be misinterpreted, and the Opposition will always refer to the tragedy of Sharpeville. I have heard the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) and every member of the Opposition who has spoken on this subject refer time and time again to Sharpeville. The honorable member for Werriwa referred in a sneering way to the report of the royal commission on Sharpeville. The incident at Sharpeville was not ordered by the Government; so far as I know it was the error of an excitable police officer. But the incident at Sharpeville is minor when compared with the horrors of Tibet. 1 challenge any honorable member to find in " Hansard " one single condemnation by the Opposition of China's action in Tibet. I can assure the House that there is not one reference to Tibet, but Sharpeville has been mentioned in every speech by Opposition members. Sharpeville was an ugly incident which involved the killing of some 130 people, but in Tibet thousands are being murdered, children are being taken from their families and people are being exiled from- their country. Genocide of the worst order is being practised. Curiously enough, these horrors are being perpetrated by an ally of the Soviet. No reference to this matter by members of the Opposition appears in any debates on external affairs.


Mr Stewart - Has the Prime Minister ever deplored it?


Mr ANDERSON - Yes, the right honorable gentleman has done so time and time again. So also has every other member of the Government. The honorable member will find that every single supporter of the Government has deplored the treatment of Tibet but never once has the honorable member himself ever done so. The situation there has never been deplored by the honorable member for Parkes, or by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward); if he knows where Tibet is. We have this continued harping on one episode because it might have political significance, irrespective of the value of such: comment to Australia and the world. We never hear any comments from the Opposition on the young freedom fighters of Hungary who were put into gaol at fifteen years of age and held there until they were eighteen because the death penalty in

Hungary can be enforced only on persons who have reached the age of eighteen years. When these young freedom fighters reached their eighteenth birthday they were quietly executed. We have not heard one word from the Opposition about Hungary because Hungary is in the Soviet bloc. The same Opposition now claims that the Prime Minister should be relieved of office and that those who now sit in Opposition should take over control of external affairs.

I have travelled in Asia as have many members of the Opposition. How are Australians regarded in Asia? They are regarded with the highest respect. Does that bear out the opinions that have been expressed by the Leader of the Opposition and his deputy? Australia is highly respected in Asia just as we respect the Asians. The Malayans have a very warm affection for the Australian people and we reciprocate that feeling. The first Malayan legation building erected outside Malaya in any part of the world was built in Canberra by Tunku Abdul Rahman Would the Tunku have done that if. he did not respect us? Would he not have built a legation building in Great Britain, India or Germany? The fact is that he built such a place in Canberra because he has a warm regard for the Australian people. He knows, that we are his friends and that the Malayans are our friends. If you go to India or any part of Asia, you find that we have the respect of the Asian people. Why? The answer is: Because of this Government's foreign policy. Our Government is closely associated with Asia. It is in the interests of Australia that our friendship should be placed among the Asian people. The Opposition cannot deny that Australia's prestige is high everywhere in Asia.

If you examine the censure motion thai has been moved by the Leader of the Opposition, you find that it is not supported by any factual criticism but only by a repetition of the opinions of leader writers in the press. What value can be placed on such a motion? This Government has earned a reputation among coloured people for fair dealing. Our prestige is high in Asia because the Prime Minister and the Cabinet are respected in the Asian countries. I am very proud of our Prime Minister. He has come to be regarded in the world as an elder statesman. His word has carried great weight in world councils. He was criticized in a minor vote on Mr. Nehru's resolution only because the delegates to the United Nations did not have time to refer to their governments for instructions on how to vote. The Opposition in this House has done a great disservice to Australia by its attacks on our foreign policy. It takes no part in external affairs. This should be a non-party matter but the Opposition derives all its background on external affairs from newspaper reports.

Debate (on motion by Mr. Stewart) adjourned.







Suggest corrections