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Wednesday, 12 April 1961


Mr BARNES (McPherson) .- Mr. Speaker,once again we have listened to an Opposition member who has made no constructive contribution to the debate. The honorable member for Batman (Mr. Bird) said that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) was living in the past. I should like to know whether the honorable member considers that our white Australia policy is a thing of the past which should be discarded. I am sure that we all were grateful to the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) for his contribution this afternoon, and particularly for that part of his speech in which he gave a clear statement of the value of what we call the white Australia policy. He pointed out that, in maintaining this policy, we do not think in terms of the superiority of whites. We regard this policy rather as something which is necessary in order to preserve our racial homogeneity. The problem of disturbance of racial homogeneity is the basis of all the troubles which arise in countries where there is a multi-racial society. So far, no one has found the answer to the problem of enabling the different races to live in harmony.

The Opposition has been particularly bitter about South Africa's apartheid policy, but it does not suggest an alternative. T think that we have a great degree of sympathy with the people of South Africa. We in Australia have been fortunate in that we had wise legislators in the past. Those legislators formulated the white Australia policy, which has at least kept this country free of groups of other races and permitted us to live in harmony here. However, one of the characteristics of the human family is that all differences of this kind are looked at with a degree of hostility. 1 refer to differences not only of colour but also of race, religion and politics. There are always differences in these matters.

I suggest that in some of our trade unions a policy of apartheid is practised. I am thinking of the Hurseys and their relations with the Waterside Workers Federation of Australia. I believe that a measure of apartheid is practised in that union. But, of course, we do not hear the Opposition express any hostility towards it.

We have to try to understand the position of the South African people and the situation that would exist if the policy of apartheid were abandoned and the Bantu race were allowed to flood the country. We have to realize the circumstances of the original situation. The Bantu was not indigenous to South Africa. He came there at the same time as the white people. He overcame the indigenous people and to-day he has established himself over most of South Africa. What are the South Africans to do if they wish to retain the way of life that they find desirable for themselves? The alternatives would seem rather appalling. We must be realists in regard to this matter. Different races have different attitudes to life. When one considers the history of negro races that have had the opportunity to govern themselves, one finds that the results have not been very heartening. Take the case of Haiti, which was formerly a colony of France, and, in fact, the richest French colony in the West Indies. As the result of a revolt of the negro slaves in 1804, the Haitians achieved selfgovernment. To-day that country has a lower standard of living than any other country in the islands of the West Indies. I think the average income of the people is about £25 a year.

Then there is the case of Liberia, which was settled by some philanthropic groups from America with freed negro slaves in 1822. I think it was made an independent republic in 1847. Advancement in that country has not been very promising. When the Opposition in this House condemns the South Africans for their policy of apartheid, let me remind it that the franchise in Liberia is limited to people of the negro race who own property.

Let us consider a country that has recently acquired its independence. I refer to Ghana, where members of the Opposition in the Parliament of that country have been beaten and gaoled. There is evidence that the judiciary in Ghana is not as independent as we in Australia would consider desirable.

We should also have regard to the recent troubles in Kenya. We have all been appalled at the ferocity and brutality displayed by the Mau Mau, not only towards the white people but also towards their own race. All these things are of very close and real significance to the white people of South Africa.

The honorable member for Batman (Mr. Bird) spoke of many countries that have received their independence. He suggested that the Dutch have had to get out of the East Indies. I would not agree with that view. I think that most of the countries that have recently received their independence were due for it. Britain granted independence to India and Burma after the last war, and also many other countries. When India and Pakistan became independent, I believe that more than 2,000,000 people lost their lives in the resulting troubles. Generally, however, the transition has worked out very satisfactorily in the cases of other countries, from the point of view of the people who have been living there.

In any country in which there is a significant proportion of coloured population, the white races are unable to settle in very significant numbers. If there are white people, they are limited to professional men, traders and the like. Never do you find agriculturalists or pastoralists, because the standard of living of people who follow these activities is quite low. In Australia itself we have had people from Europe coming here as immigrants who have previously enjoyed lower standards of living than obtain in this country. They have gone to some of our farming areas, particularly the vegetable-growing areas, and the com petition of these people, who have brought with them their European standards, has made it practically impossible for Australians to continue to carry on. These new settlers have their wives and families out in the fields working all day and part of the night. It is well nigh impossible for Australians, with their standards of living, to compete with them.

Similar considerations apply in South Africa. If the gates are thrown open and apartheid is abandoned, allowing open competition, then the white people must suffer. Perhaps, as I have said, the professional men, the traders, and even artisans and tradesmen, will not be greatly affected, but unskilled workers will not be able to survive in open competition with black labour. We have seen what has happened in the United States of America. It is only rn recent years that that country has made any determined effort to give complete equality to the black races.

It is most unfortunate for us in Australia that South Africa has left the Commonwealth. The people of that country have been comrades with us in two world wars, and it is not easy to see an old comrade leave the family. I believe, as the Prime Minister has said, that there was no alternative, but let us hope that in the future some means may be found by which South Africa can again join the Commonwealth. We cannot, of course, approve of apartheid, but we cannot condemn the South Africans for apartheid, because there is no alternative, and we have to appreciate their difficulties. It is not only South Africa that is facing these problems. In the Rhodesias, in Nyasaland and in Kenya the white people are facing frightful difficulties, and so far no satisfactory solution has been found that will enable the black and the white to live amicably together, with the whites preserving the way of life which they find particularly desirable.

Having listened to the expressions of opinion of honorable members opposite, I must say that we have been particularly fortunate to have had a man of the statesmanlike capacity of the Prime Minister representing us on this most difficult mission - and undoubtedly it was a most delicate situation that he had to face. He handled it with tremendous skill. I know that our press and members of the Opposition have tried to show that he changed his views, but we have heard his statement. He made very clear the differences between the United Nations, which has a definite code which must be followed, and the Commonwealth of Nations, in which there is no set code and no legalisms to confound matters. As I say, I consider that we have been particularly fortunate in having been represented by the Prime Minister. When we look at the Opposition we can imagine what would have happened if the Labour Party had been in office and we had been represented by one of its members. In view of the ideas that have been expressed by Opposition members during the last two days, one can well imagine the position that Australia might now have been in. We are grateful, I think, to the old Australian Labour Party for our white Australia policy, but of course the old Australian Labour Party had different ideas, in the days when that policy was initiated, from the ideas that are propounded by the Australian Labour Party to-day. In that policy regard was had for a white Australia and for the dignity of the individual. That was particularly so, but of course Labour adopted international socialism in 1921 and has to conform to the Marxist theories. Labour to-day is bound by the Marxist theories.


Mr Jones - Don't be silly.


Mr BARNES - That is undoubtedly so. It is contained in your platform. The chief part of your policy is taken directly from Karl Marx. The honorable members for Hume (Mr. Anderson) and Mackellar have stated that the Opposition has made no serious condemnation of China for tb policies it has pursued in Tibet. The Opposition has condemned South Africa for the Sharpeville incident, which undoubtedly was a very cruel incident resulting from the decision of a police sergeant, but has had little to say about Tibet, which was a deliberately conceived and murderously concluded plan by a great nation. The thinking of Opposition members is clear. Australia must consider the ideas put forward by the Opposition in the debates that have taken place.

The Prime Minister covered many factors including disarmament and Seato. Both these matters are vital to Australia, but except for the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell), who made some comment, no Opposition member has touched on them. I conclude by expressing the hope that the press will give a full report of this debate, particularly of the views put forward by Opposition members. I believe that the Australian people will be caused great concern when they consider the alternative to the present Government.







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