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
Wednesday, 12 April 1961

Mr McMAHON (Lowe) (Minister for Labour and National Service) . - Mr. Speaker, immediately prior to the suspension of the sitting for dinner, the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) indulged in a defence of the Communists that had to be heard to be believed. I listened to it with growing surprise and with growing disquiet. I believe it is perfectly true to say that the whole of the thesis of the honorable gentleman and the idea that he wanted to leave with the House was: "Whatever the Communists do is right. Whatever the free countries of the world do is wrong. It does not matter that there may be a blood bath in Hungary - an attack by the Communists on the defenceless citizens of Hungary. It does not matter that there may be an attack by the Communists on the defenceless peasants of Tibet. Provided that those military actions are undertaken by Communists, I, as the member for Parkes, will defend them m this House." I have said that I listened to this with growing disquiet, because, although I do not know very much about the widespread political affiliations of the honorable gentleman, I can be certain that he has now alined himself with the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns) as one of the propagandists for communism in this chamber. I should very much like to know whether the honorable member for Parkes is prepared to deny this and what the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) and, for that matter, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) think of the statements which he made. Slaughter of innocent people, murder or whatever you like to call the disasters that have overtaken the people of Hungary at the hands of Communists, is defended by the honorable member for Parkes. He now nods his head in agreement. He sees nothing wrong with the holocaust that occurred in Hungary. As I have said, the honorable gentleman nods his head in approval. I do not want to waste too much of my time on the honorable member for Parkes, because I had the vague feeling that he knew not what he said and should be forgiven for his foolishness.

What I want to do is to mention briefly three things. First, I want to touch on what the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) said about the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference in London. Secondly, I want to mention the action that the Prime Minister took at the meeting of the Council of Ministers of the South-East Asia Treaty Organization. Thirdly, I want to mention the action that he took with respect to disarmament, both in the United Kingdom and in his discussions with the President of the United States of America. Although some matters have captured the public imagination and have been highlighted in the press, I believe that the action taken at the Seato conference and the action taken in connexion with disarmament are actions which this House should approve.

As to the events in London and at the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference, I believe I am right in putting a series of questions. I also believe it to be. perfectly right for the House to place this problem in its proper context. The context is clearly: What was the purpose of the Prime Minister's visit overseas? These purposes are clear. There were three objectives. The first was to make his contribution to the cause of world peace, whether relating to thermo-nuclear warfare or conventional warfare, or to the reducing of cold war tensions, or to an attempt in some way to reduce subversive activities in this and other countries. That was the first objective that the Prime Minister sought to achieve.

The second great objective was to ensure that South Africa remained within the Commonwealth of Nations or, if you like, the British Commonwealth of Nations. The Prime Minister is a Commonwealth man. He believes in the destiny of the Commonwealth. He believed that he had a responsibility to ensure the integrity, the usefulness and the influence of the Commonwealth countries. That was an objective that was well worth achieving, and the right honorable gentleman did his best to ensure that South Africa remained within the Commonwealth. Thirdly, I believe that wherever he went, he tried - I shall put this point again a little later - to put the view that we do not believe in poking our nose into the business of other people. We believe in the doctrine of noninterference in the affairs of other countries. Those objectives were ones that I believe were worth attempting to achieve, and I consider that the Prime Minister made a real contribution towards achieving them.

May I now come to the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference itself. There has been far too much misunderstanding about what occurred. Public imagination has been captured by the disagreements; by the most highly charged emotional episodes. I believe that the press has done less than justice to the real substance of what happened at the London conference and subsequently. The first criticism of the Prime Minister that we heard was that there was a difference of opinion between Mr. Macmillan and himself. I think that there is here too big a play on words and that this is in truth a matter of emphasis. It has been made clear by now that either South Africa had to take the initiative in withdrawing its application for admission to the Commonwealth of Nations or it would have been compelled by the vote of some of its fellow-members to leave the Commonwealth. I have heard it said that Mr. Macmillan has a different opinion from that of the Australian Prime Minister. I do not think that is so. I can say that the Foreign Secretary of the United Kingdom said that South Africa had to leave. It does not matter in what language you express this - whether in the stronger language of the Australian Prime Minister or in the more mild and indirect language of Mr. Macmillan: The simple fact is that there were only two alternatives - the withdrawal by South Africa of its application for continued membership of the Commonwealth or the expulsion of that country by the vote of at least four of the other members of the Commonwealth. So it was all a matter of emphasis. There was no difference of opinion between these two men.

We must next ask ourselves: Was there a loss to the Commonwealth because of the

South African withdrawal? I believe that there was a loss to the Commonwealth.

I go back now to the initial statement by the Prime Minister in this House on the South African problem of apartheid. I would like to make it perfectly clear that my attitude, and that of the Government, in relation to apartheid as actually practised has been clearly and persistently stated in this House. That attitude can be well expressed in the words of Mr. Hood, who said, when stating the Government's attitude before the United Nations: -

The Australian Government has stated that it feels a most serious disquiet at the racial policies which have been practised in South Africa, and that it deplores the results of the application of those policies . . .

That has been the policy that has guided the Government since the matter was first raised in this House, and I believe the Prime Minister adopted the proper attitude when he said to the House, " I do ask that we look at this problem with tolerance. We have not the interests of the South African Government at stake here. We are thinking of the people of South Africa and of their destiny. We are thinking of the Bantus; we are thinking of the coloureds; we are thinking of the Indians, and we are thinking also of the white population of South Africa." So the Prime Minister urged - and I personally believe that this was the basis of his thinking - that the matter should be considered with tolerance and with moderation, because he felt that if opinion in South Africa became inflamed there could be another Sharpeville, which would be disastrous for the people there.

So I mention those two matters. I mention our stand on apartheid, and I refer particularly to the stand taken by the Prime Minister on this issue right from the beginning. Now I move to another matter that has been raised, the question whether there is some inconsistency as between the attitude of the Government and of the Prime Minister on the question of nonintervention in the domestic affairs of States as expressed by him in London, and the attitude taken up by our representatives at the United Nations. I personally believe that we can distinguish clearly between the two. The distinction is based upon this ground: First, you cannot compare the Commonwealth with the United Nations. The Commonwealth is a gathering of friends of long historical association. They do not pass resolutions; they are there to help one another. Consequently, when they meet it is wise that matters relating to their domestic affairs be not placed on the agenda. The United Nations is a completely different kind of organization. In the United Nations General Assembly there is a power to discuss matters of international concern. It is true that the Assembly itself has no right to take executive action, but it can pass resolutions disapproving of the actions of countries, should it think fit to do so.

This is the difference between the two organizations. I beg to point out to the House that the action that we took at the United Nations was taken against this background: First, we made it perfectly clear that we did not believe in physical intervention in the affairs of South Africa, because we believe that given time and honesty of purpose the problem can be solved by the South African people themselves. Secondly, any action taken has to be taken within the terms of the United Nations Charter. That means that under Article 2," paragraph 7 of the Charter itself must be observed, that is, the principle of non-intervention in what are essentially domestic matters is preserved. Finally, we voted against that part of the resolution which said that the conditions in South Africa were a cause of international tension which could lead to a breach of the peace.

So there are three vital reservations. We stand by the principle of non-interference in the domestic affairs of other countries, and we stand by that principle because we will not have others interfere in our affairs, and in those circumstances we do not think that outside people should interfere in the affairs of other nations.

I believe that this answers the various arguments that have been put forward in this House relative to what the Prime Minister has said. On the other side the arguments of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) were a farrago of press cuttings lumped together and out of context. The right honorable gentleman did not refer in any material respect to the statement that was before the House. Consequently, I suggest that there are no grounds whatsoever on which to found an objection to the Prime Minister's statement - and I reach this conclusion without considering in any way the farcical ending of the speech of the Leader of the Opposition.

I wish now to touch on two other very important subjects. I shall refer to the Prime Minister's activities at the Seato conference and, secondly, his approach to disarmament. I have tried to point out to the House that if we consider what has been said by the Prime Minister, and - and this is much more important - if we consider his actions whilst overseas, we will see a single thread running through all of his words and actions. It was his constant attempt to make some modest contribution towards the cause of peace and to do something to help the less privileged people of the world. Examine his actions in that light and I believe you will then decide that the draft motion read out by the honorable member for Parkes commending the Prime Minister should be unanimously agreed to by this House.

Let us consider, first, the events at the Seato conference. The Prime Minister has made it clear that Seato exists for a dual purpose. Its first purpose is to give the people of South-East Asia heart in believing that they will retain their independence and freedom, and that there will be no interference by Communist countries in their domestic affairs. The Prime Minister made it perfectly clear that while we believe in non-intervention, we have gone a considerable distance towards achieving our goal in this respect, and that it has been achieved because never before has there been such unanimity amongst the Seato powers as there has been on this occasion. Whilst there must be a government commitment before armed force can be used against the Communists, nonetheless, as the Prime Minister made clear, Seato to-day is stronger than it has ever previously been. That is an accomplishment, and our own Prime Minister played a notable part in achieving it.

It is to be deeply regretted that the Russians will not agree to an immediate cease-fire. I think it is bad tactics for them to keep the President of the United States in suspense; it is a display of bad faith and,

I think, must cause considerable uneasiness in the minds of statesmen in the United Nations. I would have thought that there was here a golden opportunity for Russia to show goodwill if it wanted to do so. There is no good reason to build up the military power of the Communists or the Pathet Lao at this time.

I wish also to refer to the related subject of disarmament. Again I mention this against the background of the fact that the Prime Minister's objective was peace and the growing prosperity of the needy peoples of the world. The whole of what he had to say about disarmament was designed to convince the peoples of the world that if we could disarm, or partially disarm, then the resources now used for military purposes could be devoted to the cause of peace and could be used to raise the living standards of the under-developed countries of the world. The Prime Minister pointed out in clear language that we could not achieve these objectives quickly, and that we did not, above all things, want to create the impression that we can have peace without effort. We do not want to build up false expectations and, therefore, we must be prepared to defend ourselves, and we must recognize the difficulties that will confront us in the future.

I wish, therefore, to put this again to the House, because I frankly do not think it has been emphasized strongly enough: The Prime Minister's main purpose was peace. His purpose was to help the under-developed countries and to prevent intervention in their affairs. He wants South Africa back in the Commonwealth, and so do I and so does the Leader of the Opposition. Having mentioned these matters, I personally believe that every member of this House and of the community owes a debt to the Prime Minister because he played a very notable part in New York, London and other places, particularly Bangkok, in bringing home the very lively concept of our desire to live at peace and in friendliness with our neighbours and of our desire to help the underdeveloped countries. Consequently, I applaud the actions of the Prime Minister. I think he has been consistently right in his approach to the problem of South Africa. I believe the Government's statement of principle on apartheid is something that this House should welcome. We all know now that the United Nations with one or two abstentions would approve of it.

Mr Haylen - I wish to make a personal explanation.

Mr SPEAKER - Does the honorable member claim to have been misrepresented?

Mr Haylen - Yes, grievously so, Sir. This is the first opportunity I have had to ask for your indulgence in this matter because it was necessary for me to check with " Hansard ". The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Chaney) alleged that my statements concerning the amendment that never came to life were quite untruthful and he attempted to explain what happened. I want to defend myself by reading from " Hansard " the report of the words he actually used last night. I have delayed making my explanation so that I could obtain the relevant document. The honorable member is reported as having said -

Before I conclude, I shall foreshadow a further amendment which I intend to move later when the one at present before us has been disposed of.

Therefore, on the statement of the honorable member for Perth, there was an amendment in this House. Later that amendment came to this table and eventually came into my possession, and it was the one I read in this House. If the honorable member said that the Prime Minister was paying him a social call and took the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Forbes) with him to make it more formal, we could accept that, but the main burden of my complaint about the honorable member for Perth is his sycophancy and his desire to please the Prime Minister.

Mr SPEAKER - Order! I must ask the honorable member to withdraw that remark. It is a reflection on the honorable member for Perth.

Mr Haylen - I withdraw it. To keep purely to the factual aspect of the matter, I say the amendment was written and obviously it was written and approved of by the honorable member for Perth. It came to this table. I do not make any comment on the implications there. I say I received a copy of it and I read it to the House. I leave it to the honorable member for Perth to explain the miracle of the written word that is not transmitted by radio, by telegram or by telephone; it just floats around the chamber.

Mr SPEAKER - Order! I think the honorable member is now endeavouring to debate the matter.

Mr Haylen - I conclude by reiterating the facts. According to " Hansard " he said that he foreshadowed a further amendment. The amendment was drafted and came to this table. 1 say the honorable member foreshadowed an amendment to approve of the actions of the Prime Minister and then did not have the guts to go on with the job.

Mr Chaney - Mr. Speaker-

Mr SPEAKER - Does the honorable member claim to have been misrepresented?

Mr Chaney - No, I claim that the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) has tried to misrepresent me.

Mr Peters - You are not allowed to talk about that, then.

Mr Chaney - Just one moment. I did not state anything when I rose on the point of order contrary to what he read as appearing in " Hansard ". All I said was that he misrepresented me when he stated that the Prime Minister handed me a written amendment, and I denied that that happened. I think the honorable member for Parkes took too great an indulgence in seeking to make an explanation and he abused the privileges granted him by the Chair.

Suggest corrections