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 LUCHETTI (Macquarie) .- This is a most unhappy and melancholy occasion when- honorable members must speak on a motion couched in the terms of that presented by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell). It is a deplorable situation that we should be called upon to discuss in this place a proposal presented to the House by the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Chaney), and the point taken by the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) was valid and correct. Every person present in this chamber last night who witnessed the proceedings in this place could not have been mistaken at the action taken by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) in moving from his place to that of the honorable member for Perth.


Mr Chaney - That is an absolute lie!


Mr Cope - I rise on a point of order, Mr. Speaker. The honorable member for Perth has just accused the honorable member for Macquarie of uttering a deliberate lie. I ask that you call upon him to withdraw that statement.


Mr SPEAKER - I ask the honorable member for Perth to withdraw the comment.


Mr Chaney - I withdraw the remark, but I regret that I have to withdraw the truth.


Mr SPEAKER - Order! I must ask the honorable member for Perth unconditionally to withdraw his remark and not to qualify his withdrawal.


Mr Chaney - Mr. Speaker, in deference to your request I will withdraw, and all I can say then is that he told a terrible fib.


Mr Peters - Mr. Speaker-


Mr SPEAKER - Order! The honorable member for Scullin will resume his seat. This matter is in the hands of the Chair.


Mr Peters - That is right.


Mr SPEAKER - I hope you recognize that fact. I must ask the honorable member for Perth to withdraw unreservedly the remark he made in reference to the honorable member for Macquarie.


Mr Chaney - Mr. Speaker, I will withdraw the remark unreservedly and reserve my right to speak at a later date.


Mr Harold Holt - I wish to raise a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Are we to take it that the honorable gentleman having made what the honorable member for Perth believes to be a completely inaccurate statement is to be allowed to sustain that statement without challenge?


Mr SPEAKER - Order! I think the positron is quite clear. At the first opportunity, if he wishes, the honorable member for Perth has the right to use the forms of the House and to clarify the position.


Mr Anderson - I rise on a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Is the honorable member for Watson in order in directing your attention to the remark of the honorable member for Perth not from his proper place but from the front bench on the Opposition side?


Mr SPEAKER - Order! There is no substance in the point of order.


Mr LUCHETTI - If one required any further evidence of the extraordinary situation that prevails in this place with respect to the Government's foreign policy, it is to be found in the fact that the chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, the honorable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes), who was listed to speak before me in this debate, has been relegated to a position further down in the debating list. He was not permitted, as one would have expected was his right, to enter the debate last evening. What was there to be feared of the honorable member for Chisholm if the Government's record is clear, if the Goment has nothing to hide and if the Government is prepared to stand up to its responsibilities and face its obligations with respect to foreign affairs? I commenced my speech by saying that this is a sad and tragic situation. Indeed rt is. When it comes to the security of Australia and of our people, we ought to be as one upholding principles which unite the people of Australia and following a policy for their advancement and well-being. But in this situation the Government dare not trust the chairman of its Foreign Affairs Committee to speak in his turn and to express himself.

The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon) spoke at some length and said there is too much misunderstanding. Of course there is too much misunderstanding, but does not that misunderstanding come from the Prime Minister whose policies, actions and attitudes change with the day and with the hour? When the Prime Minister came into the House to discuss a motion of censure on the Government arising from the killings at Sharpeville, he expressed some sympathy for the victims of this affair, but we were not allowed to discuss the killings at very great length. For my part, and I say it for members of the Australian Labour Party, I do not uphold murder as a political weapon anywhere, whether it be hi Sharpeville, in Tibet or anywhere else. We denounce it as an action altogether apart from what we regard as right.

The changed attitude of the Prime Minister raises an astonishing state of affairs. Just as he switched his policy from day to day, so a change of policy and attitude was required and he switched his policy and his delegate - an extraordinary action on the part of the Prime Minister. So we have a changed policy and a changed delegate. If our policy were along lines designed for the advancement of this country and the preservation of the security and well-being of the people of this nation, would not one expect that we would be voting occasionally with New Zealand, Canada, our neighbours Malaya, India, Pakistan and all of these countries which are in proximity to Australia, which are building up their democracies and with whom we are sharing a great and solemn responsiblity in this part of the world? But the Prime Minister and those who sit behind him, especially the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Chaney) and those who would seek preferment in a government of this kind, of course will give the O K to the sentiments expressed by the Prime Minister on the incident at Sharpeville which resulted in the killing of 67 and the wounding of more than 100 people. What does that matter to some members of the Government side of the House? These happenings must be denounced if we are to uphold the things that are worth while. What is the reason for the change of attitude? In the first instance hardly a tear of regret was shed and hardly a word of sympathy was expressed for those bereaved at Sharpeville. But when the matter was discussed at the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference, the Prime Minister of Australia took his place and said that he was sorely troubled. We were all sorely troubled. We regret anything that breaks the unity of the Commonwealth, because any and every organization that can be built up to give strength to those things for which we stand and which are based on sound moral grounds is deserving of the fullest support and respect.

When it is a matter of morality in international affairs, this Government is not interested. This fact emphasizes, of course, the great difference of opinion which exists in regard to these matters between the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and the Prime Minister of Australia. The British Prime Minister, Mr. Macmillan, declared that the flag of South Africa had been hauled down to half-mast, but the flag of Australia has also been lowered and our reputation in the world has suffered disastrously because of the policies pursued by this Government. The honorable member for Hume (Mr. Anderson) asks, " Who has said so? " Does not the opinion of the United Nations count for anything? Is no heed to be paid to the point of view on this subject which has been expressed by important people throughout the world? Everywhere we go we hear repeated the statement of people such as Mr. Macmillan, who declared that the Commonwealth has to depend not on the old concepts of common allegiance but on a new principle of common idealism. Must there be no morality in the Commonwealth of Nations? Must we change our colours in the United Nations, where we condemned the Government of South Africa? What a variation and what a change!

Mr. DuncanSandys, the British Commonwealth Relations Minister, said that South Africa was deliberately trying to swim against the whole current of world thought and was trying to put history into reverse. Consider also the points of view expressed by the press of the world. " The Times" said that if South Africa had not withdrawn from the Commonwealth unity would have been gravely threatened. " The Guardian" said that a change of policy will result in South Africa being invited to rejoin the Commonwealth of Nations. "The Scotsman" said we would be better off without South Africa. The International Commission of Jurists condemned South Africa's policy on the matter of human rights. Let us consider the point of view expressed by the Church on South Africa's policy of apartheid, this vicious segregation of black and white, this class consciousness, this attitude which divides colour against colour and relegates a section of the people into camps and compounds. Such a policy must be denounced. Following the scandalous treatment meted out to Dr. Reeves, the Bishop of Johannesburg, he told a press conference in the United Kingdom how the secret service officers in South Africa had kept his home under observation and that attorneys and others who called to see him had subsequently been arrested under this reign of terror and misuse of power. Dr. Reeves, on his return to South Africa drew attention to these matters, and within two days this great Christian gentleman found himself on the plane being deported from South Africa. We lacked the moral courage to condemn South Africa vigorously and openly so that the world might see that we treasured our liberties and our unity with countries such as Malaya, whose Prime Minister. Tunku Abdul Rahman proclaimed to the world the strength of Australia's spirit in world affairs and has said that our white Australia policy is not hurtful but strengthening and worthwhile in the councils of the world and that it is a matter for ourselves.

At the conference of the World Council of Churches, which met at Johannesburg from 7th to 14th December last year, ten delegates from each of eight affiliated church bodies - 80 persons in all - denounced what was taking place in South Africa. We are not prepared to stand in our place and declare South Africa's policy to be obnoxious and abhorrent and against the traditions of Australia.

Let it never be forgotten that Australian representatives in the past stood high in the councils of the world. Our former leader, Dr. Evatt, was able, by marshalling the small nations, to win a position as President of the General Assembly of the United Nations and we were respected throughout the world because we had grown from colonial beginnings and had strengthened our democracy with a secret ballot of one man one vote, and had a social service system and a way of life second to none in the world. Those nations were proud to follow our leadership, but despite all that our Prime Minister, in the course of two or three weeks - a month or two at the most - because he wants to hold the portfolio of External Affairs as well as that of Prime Minister, has thrown overboard all these things and has destroyed our reputation and our position in the affairs of the world. This is to be deplored, but what can be done about it? The Opposition proposes a course which ought to be followed. The Prime Minister ought to accept that course if he knows what is good for himself and for this country. The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Chaney) no doubt feels that after his effort last night and the strange and extraordinary way in which he came forward with his amendment, he will, in some weird and wonderful way, qualify for advancement in the Government. If he holds that view I think he should take a second look at his position. There are matters close to Australia that need very special attention. Only last week it was my privilege, with the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck), to visit the Territory of Papua and New Guinea and Dutch New Guinea and to meet representatives of Samoa, the British Solomons and other places in this part of the world. Are we not obliged to respect the point of view of the coloured people in those countries who are our neighbours and friends, and the people in New Guinea who are gaining strength in democracy under our tutelage, care and guidance? Are we not obliged to give them leadership? If our Prime Minister and our Government are prepared to remain inarticulate, and if those who are afraid to express themselves are not prepared to strike a blow in this troubled world for issues which have a moral foundation, what a shocking state of affairs exists. What hope is there for mankind? What hope is there for humanity?

We heard in an earlier speech that at the Prime Ministers' Conference nothing must be said against South Africa. But it is all right inferentially to condemn Pakistan, India, Malaya and all the other countries that form part of the Commonwealth of Nations. Apparently it is all right to trade those millions of people living close to the shores of Australia, with whom we have so much in common, for a mess of pottage from Verwoerd and his vicious, class-conscious, punitive government. Is that the degeneracy that has gripped this country to-day? Is that the kind of leadership that this nation can expect when Australia, to quote the words of Henry Lawson, is in this position - " By our place in the midst of the farthest seas we are fated to stand alone ". Surely, having regard to our geographical position, we should try to appreciate the problems of this day and ag~. But we can hardly expect anything like that. We have moved away from decency and truth. What a shocking state of affairs if this British Commonwealth of Nations, which has existed for mankind's good and advancement over the years, is to be destroyed because the moral base is out of tune, out of harmony and is unwanted. But when you transfer a question from the Commonwealth into the realm of discussion and debate in the United Nations, with its charter of human rights and the rest, a moral base becomes all-important so far as the great powers of the world are concerned. They have recorded their vote, in no uncertain terms, in denouncing the Government of South Africa.

Surely there ought to arise in this land a spirit which truly represents the Australian point of view. I say to the exservicemen who sit in this place that our name is good because the Diggers made it good. They were mates and cobbers with people, whether they were black, white or brindle. Colour was not taken into consideration. They were not concerned about it. The Australian Diggers have a good name and they are accepted throughout the world. They shared their bully beef with every one, and they were not concerned about the petty issues which now have arisen. But now we are to be dragged along the line of apartheid - a truly vicious policy.

The honorable member referred to the white Australia policy. If he disagrees with our immigration policy, let him and the Prime Minister declare it to the world. But the Tunku Abdul Rahman, a realist and a real friend of Australia, has declared his faith and belief in it because he knows that it is firmly based, that it is not racial, that it is not petty and that it is not offensive. He knows that it is based on the security and well-being of the people in this land. Just as we in this country have supported that one central policy, we ought to continue with decency.


Mr SPEAKER - Order! The honorable member's time has expired.


Mr Chaney - Mr. Speaker, I regret that I have to rise again to say that I have been grossly misrepresented. The explanation that I shall give to the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Luchetti) is the same as the explanation that I gave to the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen), but because the honorable member for

Macquarie obviously was not listening to me on that occasion I feel that I must repeat it. He stated that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) left the table, came to me and handed me a proposed amendment. What actually happened was that the Prime Minister came to me while the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Forbes) was sitting beside me and said, " Do you mind if I leave half-way through your speech because I have an appointment in my office? " I replied, " If I were you, I would leave now". That is what happened. In fact, for the benefit of the honorable member for Macquarie, when the Prime Minister was here the honorable member for Stirling (Mr. Cash) was making me another copy of the proposed amendment because I wanted one to give to the Clerk.


Mr Forbes - Mr. Speaker, I claim to have been misrepresented by implication.


Mr SPEAKER - Order! The honorable member for Barker is not in order.


Mr Menzies - Mr. Speaker, I heard what was said earlier on this matter and I have been misrepresented. I should like to say something to my friend, the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Luchetti) who I am sure will accept my word. After having made a very lengthy speech last night and after the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) had made his speech, I went across to the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Chaney), with whom at the time was sitting the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Forbes) who will confirm this, and I said with, I thought, a certain amount of rudimentary courtesy, " I am terribly sorry, but I will have to leave the House half-way through your speech " and then the honorable member for Perth said whimsically what he has just stated - "Perhaps you ought to leave before I start ". I gave him no paper, and I had no discussion with him except the precise words that I have uttered. I invite the honorable member for Macquarie who, in my experience, would accept my word, to believe that that was the entire incident. This has been twisted, not in the first place by honorable members but by a member of the gallery, into some rather sinister move. I had nothing to do with the drafting of any amendment. My entire conversation with the honorable member for Perth was as I have described.







Suggest corrections