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Wednesday, 12 April 1961

Sir GARFIELD BARWICK (Parramatta) (Attorney-General) . - Mr. Deputy Speaker, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) made a very great statement in this House last evening. That statement was clear, logical and comprehensive, and it dealt with several quite historic events. One would have expected that the debate which followed it would, in the interests of this country, have bent itself along the lines of a dispassionate and quiet examination of the views which were expressed by the Prime Minister concerning the results which he had achieved in the interests of this country. But, instead of that, we find the Opposition making foreign policy a mere local political football and nothing more. We saw the spectacle of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) rising at one stage to the height of a very silly joke and of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) uttering, as he so often does, smug and self-satisfied invective. At this he is very good. He is not so good at argument, as I propose to show in a few moments.

T think it is a matter for great regret that on the occasion of a debate such as this we cannot come to grips with some of the real problems of the world and consider them dispassionately in the interests of this country. The Prime Minister dealt with disarmament. The two leading speakers on the Opposition side have addressed the House, but I have not heard from the Opposition as yet one word about disarmament, although I have often heard honorable members opposite say that this is the most crucial question in the world to-day. Not a word do we hear about the Prime Minister's statements on disarmament, either of criticism or, mark you, of commendation, because what he did was both right and great. He spoke of what happened at the Seato conference, where he played a most significant part. Do we hear a word from the Opposition of criticism? Do we hear Opposition members saying, for instance, " Well, we differ from you, and for this reason "? Or is there any word of commendation for his having been able to bring together the points of view of Great Britain and the United States of America, which at that time were tending to diverge, and to achieve a unanimous resolution in Seato?

The Prime Minister did important work for this country with respect to the " Six and the Seven", the operations of which groups are matters that this country should take to heart. Is there a word in the speeches of Opposition members about those things? Is there any commendation? No, there is only an amendment made either to satisfy some personal splenetic feelings towards the Prime Minister or to gain some local political advantage, if that is what the Opposition thinks it can get out of such an amendment. I should have thought, of course, that it showed the poorest political judgment to cast a shaft of that kind at the Prime Minister, having regard to his standing with the Australian public to-day.

Mr Bryant - Ha, ha!

Sir GARFIELD BARWICK - I know that the gentlemen on the other side of the House think that the trade union secretaries with whom they associate represent Australia. They do not, though honorable members of the Opposition have yet to learn it, and at the end of this year they will learn it in no uncertain manner.

The Deputy Leader of the Opposition said that the Prime Minister had lost us friends and had caused us to be misunderstood. Who says so? What material evidence is there of this? The self-satisfied assertion from the other side of this table is certainly not evidence, but the claim is made, of course, with great self-satisfaction. Where is the evidence? The truth, of course, is that we have not lost friends; the truth is that we are not misunderstood, and the truth is that never were we held in higher esteem by the Asian and African nations, and those who move amongst them at the United Nations and elsewhere know this only too well.

What kind of concept led the Deputy Leader to make this assertion? It was a somewhat naive idea - a very naive idea, although one hears it expressed quite frequently - that the way to obtain the friendship of these new, emergent nations is to be supine and go with them on every occasion, never standing up for your own country or your own point of view. How silly! The basic desire of these people is to be treated as equals. Where is a man treated with more equality than in a friendly group, in which he can be criticized and differed from? To be admitted as a member of such a group is the greatest mark of the depth and the reality of the friendship of and with the other members of the group; it is the greatest indicator of the full recognition of equality. But the Opposition says, "Oh, you must not disagree. It does not matter what you think; go with them, run along with them. This way you buy their affection." I am quite sure you do not, and I am quite sure that this country will do much better by standing up for what it believes to be right, trying to find common ground wherever it can and, when its own interests are not prejudiced, going along with these people as far as it possibly can. In this way we will gain their friendship and earn their respect.

Of course the Australian Labour Party claims to be very worried about friendship with the Asians. Its attitude is very amusing. It insists that we recognize red China. The Labour Party knows that such recognition cannot be given with any qualification. It knows that there must be an unqualified recognition. So it stands for an unqualified recognition of red China and for its admission to the Security Council, in which it will have a permanent seat and the right of veto. The Labour Party knows what that means. It knows that it means the sacrifice of 10,000,000 Formosans. The Labour Party's official spokesman is reported to have said recently that these people are expendable. This is a magnificent way to win the friendship of these South-East Asian people, who live daily under the shadow of an aggressive and expansionist China. What do these people feel about a suggestion for unqualified recognition? Really, it is an amusing suggestion that the Prime Minister has lost friends, and that this group of people on the other side of this House are making friends for Australia.

The Deputy Leader said that we were isolated. To be quite accurate about this I shall quote his words. He said -

Let me further illustrate our isolation by giving details of voting in the first part of the current session.

He was referring to the current session of the United Nations. Honorable members can all read the report of his speech, and I shall not weary the House with all the details. But he said that he had worked out a total of 52 roll calls in that session, and he gave the number of times on which members of the Commonwealth voted with us and the times on which they did not. These figures, he said, indicate isolation. This is a very amusing suggestion. The members of the Commonwealth do not vote as a bloc. This is one of the most distinctive marks of the Commonwealth, and one of the most outstanding ways in which it differs from other groups in the United Nations. It is not a power bloc. The members of the Commonwealth are not tied to certain views in the United Nations, and they vote in various ways. One has only to look at the records to see that this is so.

What is the proposition of the Deputy Leader? If we vote with Burma we are unfriendly towards New Zealand, which does not vote with Burma. How can w satisfy them all if they vote in different ways? In truth, the voting of the various members of the Commonwealth in the United Nations is a convincing indication of the claim that the Commonwealth is a group of independent, autonomous states, which vote in that assembly as they will.

The conclusions arrived at by the Deputy Leader, based on the voting on the 52 roll calls, are quite amusing. We have been able to run through the records since the honorable gentleman made his speech. What he did to get 52 roll calls was to lump together all the roll calls including those on points of order, all the roll calls on dissents from the Chairman's rulings. and all the roll calls on the many repetitive motions that are sometimes put in the United Nations. There were not 52 substantive issues. I suppose that if there were five or six, that is as many as there were. But of course this show of knowledge on the part of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition is as empty as a pricked balloon. So is this argument put before us as an indication of our isolation.

Then the Deputy Leader made a further statement in the same context. This is again most amusing coming from a spokesman for the Opposition. When I first came to this House what impressed me most markedly was the fact that the Opposition never lost an opportunity to insult the United States of America. Yet last night the Deputy Leader said -

The United States voted beside us only 43 times out of 52.

Well, really! We ought to have been with the United States 52 times out of 52! If we had been we would have been stooges of a great imperial power! You cannot win in that sort of argument.

As I say, in the first place we have the assertion that we have lost friends, and in the second place we have this spurious, bogus sort of argument based on voting in the United Nations. If I had a good deal more time I could go into this aspect of the matter even further.

Another statement made by the Deputy Leader - and this again is part of his stockintrade - was that the Prime Minister was guilty of a slick subterfuge. Do the people of Australia believe that? I leave that to the people of Australia. That is the kind of invective of which I spoke at the beginning.

Let me now turn to what has happened in connexion with this South African affair. The Prime Minister - and I want to make this point clearly in the short time that I have - has perceived that which others have perceived, but he has perceived and been persistent about it, that the most important matter for small nations in this world is the maintenance of their sovereignty and the right to decide their own policies for themselves. Small countries more than any others need to preserve this sovereignty, because if they do not they will be subject to pressures from a great power or a group of other powers, perhaps an aggregation of small powers. The Prime Minister said from the very beginning that this was of significance to Australia because we are a small nation, and unless we are able to maintain our sovereignty and our right to decide for ourselves we will be in a parlous position. That was basic to the United Nations and it was basic to the Commonwealth, though the two organizations are very distinct. It is enshrined in an article of the United Nations Charter.

At the same time, there were two other forces, I will call them, or phases to be regarded' in connexion with South Africa. The first was that the domestic policy of South Africa had caused, was associated with or was instanced by incidents such as that at Sharpeville which came to international attention and there were certain matters of human rights and dignity which, of course, had to be observed. At that point, we get a competition as to which should be the predominant factor for the good of Australia - to harp on the other fellow's misdoings or to preserve a great principle that could1 save us in another day. The Prime Minister, not unwisely in my view, chose the latter.

There was one other force or phase 10 be kept in mind and it was this: If there was to be any place where South Africa could be wooed away from its determination to follow its policy, it was in this club - the Commonwealth of Nations - which the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) was so ready to spurn a few moments ago. The one chance was to talk around the table in that friendly, frank atmosphere which is possible only in that place. If the Prime Minister in this House or anywhere else before going to the Prime Ministers Conference had1 burned his bridges and had expressed himself concerning these incidents and so on, he would have weakened the chance he had of wooing South Africa's Government into a more reasonable and a more humane frame of mind. Other Prime Ministers, I regret to say, did not adopt this course; they arrived at the Prime Ministers Conference having shot their bolt and no longer quite as free as they otherwise might have been and as our Prime Minister was to be frank and flexible in finding some common ground. So we begin with a great principle, followed out by the Prime Minister.

When we turn to the United Nations, we see exactly how the change in emphasis can be made and must be made. With South Africa out of the Commonwealth, we turn to a different forum altogether. In that other and very different forum - the United Nations forum - Lord Casey as he now is had maintained from 1952 to 1959 a vote with South Africa. In 1959, there was a move to abstention and, mark you, abstention with a registration that we did not approve of the policy. The abstention was to maintain that the policy was domestic and ought not be the subject of United Nations' action. This year, a significant change occurred. Great Britain, which had maintained forcibly that the domestic article ought to be observed even to the point in 1959 where it voted with South Africa, changed its view, but in a very modified way. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition and others do not say that Great Britain switched; they say only that Australia switched. Great Britain changed from a vote for to a vote against; Australia changed from abstention to a vote against with an explanation that showed we were maintaining our point of view. I shall read quickly a little of what the United Kingdom representative said at the United Nations. He said -

The Committee may recall that my Delegation has always attached the greatest importance to a proper observance of Article 2 (7) of the Charter of the United Nations. It is this Article which in effect guarantees to members of the United Nations and particularly those who may find themselves in a minority a reasonable immunity from interference by the majority in their internal affairs. Without such a safeguard the position of many member states would be intolerable and it is hardly conceivable that without that clause the United Nations could have come into being.

He then said -

While the importance we attach to the proper observance of Article 2 (7) of the Charter remains undiminished, we regard the case of Apartheid in the circumstances which now exist as of such an extraordinary and exceptional nature as to warrant our regarding it and treating it as sui generis.

That is to say, it was presently of such a kind that a vote in a particular way on this occasion would not create a precedent. We adopted that view. We said: " We can go with this. If this is not to be regarded as a precedent and we have the opportunity to avoid being misrepresented - all the other relevant factors to which I have referred being out of the way, there being no need to refrain from criticism or from talking and there being no need to keep our bridges up but a great need to ensure that we are not misunderstood - we will go along with the resolution. We maintain our view about domestic jurisdiction. We do not agree with the suggestion of sanctions. We do not agree that there is a threat to international peace in the continuance of the policy, but with all those qualifications we will vote as the only means of expressing our point of view finally and clearly."

That is not a change, but it marks the end of the progression. The Prime Minister has been insistent for Australia's sake on maintaining that which I am sure every right-thinking Australian would want to maintain and that is the right to look after our own affairs and not to be busybodies in the affairs of others. We have enough to do to look after our own affairs. I know that when the late Leader of the Opposition was here, he was frequently asking that Australia busy itself before the United Nations in this or that matter in other peoples' affairs. That represents the worst kind of judgment for this country We are now in a position to evaluate the Prime Minister's effort for this country

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