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Wednesday, 12 April 1961

Mr Allan Fraser (EDEN-MONARO, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Monaro) .- The Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick) began his speech with a statement which, if it was not made in error, was truly contemptible. He declared that the president of the Australian Labour Party had said that Formosa was expendable and that the Formosan people should be handed over to Communist China. The Attorney-General should be the first to know that the president of the Australian Labour Party said nothing of the sort and that as soon as the remarks were attributed to him, he issued an immediate denial and correction. This could scarcely have escaped the notice of the Attorney-General and his case is weak indeed when he repeats a false statement and does not even bother to acknowledge the denial and the correction of it made by the man to whom it was attributed.

The Attorney-General went on to make a statement equally untrue. He declared that ever since he came into this Parliament he had observed that the Opposition never lost an opportunity to insult the United States of America. Once again, the Attorney-General must stand on very weak ground when he is prepared to rel, on an assertion as completely untrue as is that one. It is quite true that the Opposition does not always agree, and has not always agreed, with the policies enunciated by the President and the members of the Government of the United States of America. But as for our friendship and admiration for the United States of America, there has never been the least doubt in the expressions of any member of the Australian Labour Party. The AttorneyGeneral must know that to be true.

The Attorney-General then declared that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) had said that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) was guilty of a slick subterfuge. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition did say that. The Attorney-General made no attempt to defend the Prime Minister from that charge but simply asked the rhetorical question, "Will the people of Australia believe that? " I think, on all the evidence of the last few days, that a very large section of the Australian people will indeed believe it, and they will certainly do so after comparing the statements made by the Prime Minister to this Parliament last night with the series of statements which he made in London within the last few days.

Then the Attorney-General went on - he is a little bit behind the times and repeating what was the policy of this Government a fortnight ago, but is no longer the Government's policy because it has been altered by the Prime Minister in the meantime - to make an eloquent and dramatic assertion of the fundamental right of small countries to maintain their policies in the face of all opposition. Of course, he was referring to the right of South Africa to maintain the policy of apartheid, because right up until to-day the leader of the Australian Government has insisted that apartheid is a domestic policy of the South

African Government. The AttorneyGeneral now asserts again the proposition that small countries must have the unfailing right to maintain their policies in all circumstances, at the very time when the Australian delegate to the United Nations has been instructed to vote for a motion condemning the policy of the South African Government on apartheid and calling upon the nations, individually and collectively, to take whatever steps they can to compel the South African Government to alter that policy. The Attorney-General, therefore, is quite behind the times in producing that argument once again in this House.

Then the Attorney-General - I do not think he is quite on his best form to-day - amazingly enough put forward the proposition that, if Australia had switched in its attitude towards South Africa, Great Britain had switched even more. That is a very poor type of argument for an eminent legal man to put before the members of this Parliament. How can he defend the Australian switch by declaring " If we have switched, at least some one else has switched even more than we have "? But of course it is not true.

Mr Freeth - Do you think we should have voted in favour of South Africa?

Mr Allan Fraser (EDEN-MONARO, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The Minister for the Interior is even more childish than the Attorney-General. There was no switch on the part of the United Kingdom. It is true that the United Kingdom voted with South Africa a couple of years ago and voted against it yesterday, but the statement of the United Kingdom delegate to the United Nations made it perfectly plain why the United Kingdom was doing that and emphasized that apartheid could no longer be regarded as a domestic issue. The Australian Government in this extraordinary switch shows that it still contends that apartheid is a domestic issue for South Africa, and yet at the same time it has instructed its delegate at the United Nations to vote for the motion to condemn apartheid and endeavour to bring it to an end.

The Australian Government has switched in a way in which no other government has switched, and the switch has been made more obvious and glaring by the succession of statements made by our Prime Minister in London in the course of the last few days, all of which, as I will show, are in direct contradiction of the instructions issued by the Australian Government to our delegate at the United Nations within the last couple of days. But before dealing with that 1 would like to deal with one other point made by the Attorney-General.

The Attorney-General declared that the matters upon which Australia did not vote with the United States of America in the United Nations related to purely procedural questions. This gentleman is the Acting Minister for External Affairs when the Prime Minister is absent, and yet he declares that the occasions upon which we did not vote with the United States of America were those in which purely procedural matters were involved. They were nothing of the sort, and it betrays only ignorance on the part of the Attorney-General to declare that this is so. Three of the matters upon which Australia did not vote with the United States concerned South- West Africa, one concerned the tremendously controversial question of Algeria, one concerned Ruandi.Urundi. and one concerned racial discrimination in non-self-governing territories. To make nonsense of what the Attorney-General said, this renewed session of the United Nations saw Australia voting with the United States on South- West Africa for the first time.

Australia has abstained from voting on South-West Africa on two occasions this year, with eight others, and on Angola with seven others. The vote in favour of the three resolutions was 74, 79 and 83 and Australia, on each occasion, was in the minority. On colonial issues we have, right up until the last day or so, continued to differ from the United States of America and with all the other Commonwealth countries, and it is a woeful record indeed for the relationships of this country with other Commonwealth nations and, particularly, with the countries of South-East Asia.

Rightly or wrongly, the statements made by the Prime Minister in London, after the Prime Ministers' Conference, did bring widespread criticism and protest in Australia. That is acknowledged, rightly or wrongly, but when he faced Parliament last night, on his return, only two courses were open to him. One was to repeat the statements he had made in London, to stand up to them and justify them. The only alternative open to him was to run away from the statements that he made in London.

Mr Anderson - You are going in for political trickery now.

Mr Allan Fraser (EDEN-MONARO, NEW SOUTH WALES) - 1 ask the honorable member to listen to the record and then compare the statements. My friend from South Africa should listen with particular attention to this debate. Before the Prime Minister spoke it was a matter of fascinating speculation as to which of these two courses he would take, but we were not long left in doubt. The Prime Minister last night retreated as far and as fast as he could from everything he had said in London, and I will prove that up to the hilt. In an hour-long speech last night - he had a whole hour - he did not once say that South Africa had been pushed out of the Commonwealth. He made great play with those words in London and courted applause with them as he thrust out his chin in the mellow atmosphere of the Savoy Hotel dinner. Reporting to his own Parliament last night he did not use those words once. They were unfortunate words, of course, and were calculated to arouse sympathy for Dr. Verwoerd and the South African Government, and to line Australia up as a supporter of that Government. That was far from the truth, as every one of us knows.

Australia has no sympathy with Dr. Verwoerd, his Government or his policy. Our Prime Minister, by this talk - and I have quoted only one sentence from very much that was to the same effect - injured Australia in her relations with other Commonwealth countries, and particularly in her relations with the countries of SouthEast Asia, smashing so much that Lord Casey had striven so patiently to build up over so many years. The truth of his assertion that South Africa has been pushed out of the Commonwealth was contradicted immediately by the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. Our Prime Minister neither withdrew the statement here nor did he repeat it. He ran away from it, as he ran away from so much else that he said in London. He made statements in London far more provocative and far more injurious to this country than the one to which I have just referred. Last night he did not repeat any of them. Why? Why did he not submit them to the judgment of his own Parliament? Why did he not make his report to this Parliament instead of to dinner clubs in London? They are not statements that can be forgotten.

Mr Snedden - He happened to be in England, not in Australia.

Mr Allan Fraser (EDEN-MONARO, NEW SOUTH WALES) - But why did he not repeat to this Parliament the declarations that he made in London after the conference? While those statements remain unjustified - the Prime Minister made no attempt to justify them - and unwith.drawn. they continue to injure Australia, lt was the Prime Minister's duty last night to do something about them. He did nothing.

Mr Snedden - Why did you not listen to him?

Mr Allan Fraser (EDEN-MONARO, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I listened to him and I have read the " Hansard " report of his speech. Here is the contradiction: In London he praised Dr. Verwoerd to the sky.

Mr Snedden - In what speech?

Mr Allan Fraser (EDEN-MONARO, NEW SOUTH WALES) - In his speech to the Australia Club at the Savoy Hotel dinner. Not one word of a similar kind did he utter in his speech to this Parliament last night. In London, in the days after the conference when he was making so many statements, he alone of all the Commonwealth Prime Ministers said not one word in moral disapproval of apartheid. In fact, he never has until last night. I shall read from the official report of what he said in London. It is in these terms -

I don't moralize about South African policy because I think moralizing is a pretty cheap thing. All T say is that I don't think apartheid will work.

Of all the Prime Ministers at the conference he singled out only Dr. Verwoerd for his praise. He said not one word in moral condemnation of apartheid in all the statements that he made in London. He said not one word about it until last night. How then can Australia's attitude fail to be misunderstood? How can the harm done to Australia by such an attitude be overestimated? He said in London that he had told Dr. Verwoerd that he knew that Dr. Verwoerd believed that apartheid was right, but that he - our Prime Minister - felt that in the long run it would not work. Then he went on with these amazing words, which he did not repeat to this Parliament last night -

But if Dr. Verwoerd goes back to his own country and says that he is unmoved by that, then I want to tell you that I stand for the rights of any Commonwealth country to run its affairs in its own way.

How does that statement square with his instructions to the delegation to the United Nations? How can any one be blamed for construing it to mean that the Prime Minister stands for the right of South Africa to continue its policy of apartheid? What other construction can possibly be placed upon it? What else was the Prime Minister talking about? What limit is there to the harm that this can do in other Commonwealth countries, among all coloured peoples in the world whose friendship is so very important to us in Australia? Is it any wonder that the members of the South African Government and the newspapers supporting Dr. Verwoerd hailed Mr. Menzies as their strongest and sole supporter?

Does the Prime Minister admit or deny that he has somersaulted? If he recognizes his error, why does he not admit it and try to repair the immense damage that has been done? Why try to reconcile the irreconcilable? How can he justify and reconcile now the statement that he made in London that he stands for the right of South Africa to run its affairs in its own way - meaning only apartheid - with the instruction that was issued from Canberra to Australia's delegate to the United Nations to vote for the motion condemning South Africa's policy, and so on?

Our Prime Minister made another extraordinary statement in London which he did not repeat last night. He said -

If somebody in a Prime Ministers Conference wants to tell me what the policies of Australia ought to be, I will tell them to go and jump in the Serpentine.

Mr Jess - Would you not do the same?

Mr Allan Fraser (EDEN-MONARO, NEW SOUTH WALES) - It may be right and it may be wrong, but nothing like it was contained in the Prime Minister's report to this Parliament. In London he was saying that he would not allow in a Prime Ministers conference even what Dr. Verwoerd had willingly agreed to, namely, a full and frank discussion of the policy of his Government. I think that that statement of our Prime Minister was highly provocative, arrogant, high-handed and intended as a challenge to those other Commonwealth leaders who had dared to express their views on the policy of another member country.

If he believes that the attitude he adopted in London was correct, why did he not repeat his statements to the Australian Parliament last night? Why, I ask again, did he run away last night from so many of the things he had said so boldly in London? Why did he run away from the statement -

Don't you think that it is a monstrous thing for us to be sitting in judgment one on the other?

Why did he fail to repeat this most amazing statement of all -

I am bound to tell you I will have something to say about that, and by the time I have said it, by the time the answers have been made, there won't be any Commonwealth, because we will all have expelled each other.

Does that represent the considered attitude and determination of the Prime Minister of this country - that unless he can have exactly his own way he will bring about the destruction of the Commonwealth?

What other meaning can be attached to his statement that if he had been in Dr. Verwoerd's place he would have left two rounds earlier? What does that mean other than that he arrogates to himself the right, if Australia's policies are criticized in London, to withdraw Australia from the Commonwealth of Nations? The Commonwealth of to-day does not suit the Prime Minister. He is very angry at the change, but he does not realize that the people of Australia are determined to live and to work in the new Commonwealth, just as they lived and worked in the old, long after Mr. Menzies has faded from this political scene.

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