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Wednesday, 12 April 1961


Sir WILFRID KENT HUGHES (Chisholm) . - Mr. Deputy Speaker, in the first place, may I assure the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Luchetti) that there was nothing at all sinister in the altered order of speakers this evening. As I happened to have a dinner engagement and could have been a few minutes late had I remained listed to speak almost immediately after the resumption of the sitting, I made a friendly arrangement with my friend, the honorable member for Phillip (Mr. Aston), who is Deputy Government Whip. Apparently, members of the Australian Labour Party are trying to see all sorts of things in this debate. This is unfortunate, because the subject-matter of the debate involves policies which not only raise questions of high principles but also are vital to Australia's security and our future development.

I think that the Government is to be very warmly congratulated on the statement made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), which, taken by itself as a document, could scarcely be the cause of any serious dissension. Some of the details may be arguable. For example, it may be argued whether the interpretation by the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of what happened and what will happen to the Commonwealth is correct or whether our own Prime Minister's interpretation is more correct. I do not think that anybody in this House will dispute our Prime Minister's account of his vist to President Kennedy, of the United States of America, particularly in view of the latter part of his statement in which he reiterated and reaffirmed the Government's policy with regard to red China. Every one agrees with the policy of disarmament, and we all hope that disarmament will come about, although I think few people realize the immensity of the problems involved, particularly when we have a country like red China in which practically every citizen is mobilized on a military basis.

The Opposition may make what political capital it likes out of the fact that there happened to be a Cabinet meeting called at short notice the other day. What is the important fact? Surely it is how Australia acted and voted at the United Nations. Does anybody disagree with what we did? Members of the Australian Labour Party, naturally, are silent when I ask that question. They do not disagree with what was done.

In view of what happened at the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference and what has happened since, the compilation of the Prime Minister's statement and the issuing of it required no mean courage on the part of the right honorable gentleman - and courage is a quality in which he has never been lacking. I think that he is to be congratulated on the statement that he made to this House. Unfortunately, however, the document cannot be treated as a separate statement entirely, because it is really only a further chapter in a book much of which has already been written. Again, unfortunately, in my opinion, the earlier chapters have done far more damage than this latest one can repair. It rs our job to repair the rest of the damage as soon as possible. I do not doubt for one moment that the earlier chapters which were written at the Australia Club dinner, at the press conference on 19th March and at the press conference at Sydney (Kingsford-Smith) airport at Mascot were written with anything but the best of intentions, but, unfortunately, they produced disastrous impressions which have travelled far and wide across the world. I only wish that the statement made in this House by the Prime Minister last evening could receive the same publicity as has been given to the other arguments and discussions. They were world news. Unfortunately, this debate will not be.

I think that I have said enough to indicate that I hope that the Opposition's amendment, which is in effect a want-of- confidence motion, is soundly defeated. Let anybody who may have doubts about whether this want-of-confidence motion moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) is anything but a hollow sham recall that, on 31st March, 1960, in the debate in this House on the riots in South Africa, the Leader of the Opposition said -

Every one with any understanding of South Africa's problems knows that the presence of the white man in that country is indispensable at the present time, and will be for many years to come, for the well-being and progress of the native peoples and for the development of the country. We have no sympathy with those who say that the white man must go. We have no sympathy with those who say that South Africa must be removed from the Commonwealth of Nations.


Mr Aston - Who said that?


Sir WILFRID KENT HUGHES - That was said by the Leader of the Opposition. He continued -

That would not solve any of the problems of to-day. It is far better that a proper relationship should exist between the races that are living together in South Africa, and have lived together there for 300 years or more . . .

As I have said, we want to see South Africa remain within the Commonwealth of Nations-

I emphasize the words " remain within ".


Mr Daly - On what date was this said?


Sir WILFRID KENT HUGHES - On 31st March, 1960. The Leader of the Opposition proceeded -

.   and develop a proper multi-racial form of society, which must be established if there is to be peace, understanding and tolerance in that actually and potentially prosperous land.

One may have a difference of opinion about how this or that opinion was expressed, but to say that in March, 1960, and to move a vote of want of confidence in the government of the day on the occasion of this debate is just to take a back-flip followed by a somersault. Who is accusing the Prime Minister of inconsistency?

Secondly, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I want to dissociate myself entirely and absolutely from the incorrect interpretation of the action of my very good friend, the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Chaney). I dissociate myself absolutely from the incorrect interpretation placed on his actions by the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) and one or two other members on the Opposition side of the House. Nevertheless, I must confess that I am at a complete loss to understand why the

Government has asked the honorable member to foreshadow a motion of confidence in itself. Perhaps I am out of date, but I have always understood, since I first became a member of the Victorian Parliament in 1927, that this sort of thing was a sign of uncertainty and weakness, and for that reason I hope that the Government will not proced with its proposal. Furthermore, the Prime Minister having had the courage to correct a grievous and unintentional misunderstanding, why should we have a motion which, in effect, would negative his action in making the statement which he made last evening? I can see no good reason for going on with the proposal foreshadowed by the honorable member for Perth. It seems to be most unwise, and I do not want to have any part in it. As I may be absent from the House when divisions are taken on the Opposition's amendment and on the amendment foreshadowed by the honorable member for Perth, if it is proceeded with, I want to make my position on both matters absolutely clear.

In this House, apartheid is universally condemned, and there seems to be no need to say anything more about that. But I beg to differ from the Prime Minister on the question of what is a domestic matter under present-day conditions. There may be some argument as to what are or are not domestic matters, but I do not think that that is really important in this debate. I consider that the policy of apartheid does not remain a domestic policy when it means that a majority of the citizens of the country in which it is applied can never look forward to anything but second-class citizenship. It is almost impossible - " Or is it possible? ", you ask yourself - to remain a member of the Commonwealth of Nations when you refuse any diplomatic representation to other countries which are members and when you will not even invite citizens of those countries to your own home town. This may have been going on for some time, but that is not to say that at the present stage of world development it can be continued. As the United Kingdom Prime Minister said, the Commonwealth was previously based on a common allegiance, and it must now be based on common ideals.

Again, I think it is rather unfortunate that any analogy between the policy of apartheid and Australia's immigration policy was made. Australia's immigration policy is based on assimilation and social and economic foundations. But nothing more need be said of this, because I think that a full explanation was given by Tungku Abdul Rahman, who is one of the great statesmen of Asia to-day.

Another difference of opinion may arise as to what is the future of the Commonwealth of Nations. Although I am very sorry to see South Africa go, I feel that in the net result, under the existing conditions, the Commonwealth will be strengthened. I call to mind the words of Wordsworth in his sonnet, " On the Extinction of the Venetian Republic ". He wrote -

Men are we, and must grieve when even the Shade

Of that which once was great is passed away.

I think we all were sorry to see the old British Empire change into the British Commonwealth of Nations. There are many who sigh for what they call the good old days, which, I often think, never were good. To-day there will be some who will grieve that the Commonwealth as we knew it has changed very considerably, but let us not waste our time on too much grieving for what is past and for what cannot be undone. Sometimes I think that we who spend so much time in concrete chasm:-, are inclined to forget the lessons that we can learn from, nature. An overgrown shrub can be properly pruned, and often can have new shoots grafted on to it, and as a resul show a stronger and healthier growth and produce better blooms. In this way ii:<.grand old British Empire, of which we were justly proud, was pruned and developed as the British Commonwealth of Nations and later as the Commonwealth oi Nations. This was a stronger and healthier development. To-day we can follow the same process, and in the conditions thai now exist we can set our hands to the task of again bringing into full bearing a stronger and healthier organization. If the organization is weaker it will be our fault, in that perhaps we have expected that no more effort, thought or action on our part is required.

As we know, human organizations are never static. They are always dynamic.

Therefore, on this question, I range myself on the side of the British Prime Minister, the Malayan Prime Minister and several others. We all hope that South Africa will one day return, but in the meantime let us set our hands to the task of rebuilding even better than before, with a wider perspective. Perhaps we can provide a broader foundation, which may ultimately result in what may be called, for want of a better name, a League of Free Nations. I make; this suggestion because if the Soviet has ils way it will either completely control or wreck the United Nations within the not far distant future. From the. Commonwealth may arise an institution which will prove to be better in the way of ensuring co-operation, and will lead to greater prosperity for a far larger number of people.

The Prime Minister's intense and al.absorbing loyalty to the British Throne, the British parliamentary system and British justice, to which we all subscribe, is an excellent attribute provided one does not allow it to grow into a tradition complex which may lead to immutability and sometimes to immobility. By all means let us hold te that which is worth saving from the past - and a good deal is - but at the same time let us adopt and adapt the newer ideas and materials which are right and necessary in this changing world where almost every dawn brings a new challenge.

As the Prime Minister said, part of our sorrow at the departure of South Africa from the. Commonwealth is due to the fact that its soldiers fought alongside ours in the interests of freedom. So also did the Indians, the Pakistanis, the Malays, the Chinese and many others. They too are, and should be., our friends, " to strive, to seek, to find, and not tq yield " in search of a better world.

The immediate task that lies to hand is, therefore, as far as Australia is concerned, the rebuilding of our prestige and influence, which, I am sorry to say, has undoubtedly suffered quite considerably as a result of misinterpretations and. misunderstandings. It will not be easy, and for my part I honestly believe that it will be done far more quickly if we have a full-time Minister for External Affairs with, as I have suggested, a junior Minister to do the routine work. I would go even further and join with my friend, the honorable member for Perth, in advocating the establishment of a special post of Secretary for Commonwealth Relations. This position should be under the jurisdiction of the Prime Minister's Department. The work of the Department of External Affairs, in which the Prime Minister, whether he is the Minister for External Affairs or not, must always have the final say, at least on major questions, is steadily increasing. I believe we could do with far fewer Ministers in the Service departments, and that we need more ministerial representatives in the work of external affairs or of Commonwealth and international relations. In the world of to-day we can no longer leave the cold war to be attended to as a part-time job. We are living in a world in which the matter of public relations is assuming more and more importance, and in public relations, whether in respect of the Commonwealth or of the United Nations, we are still in the kindergarten class.

Furthermore, let us not forget that personal contacts are a most essential part of the building of goodwill and co-operation. How can a Prime Minister who, in the space of one month, has important conferences in Washington, London and Bangkok, handle the many and multifarious jobs which arise in his two offices? For all too long, I believe, we have dealt with these important cold war problems too spasmodically and erratically. Let me remind honorable members that there, are many people who are suggesting that South Africa should be expelled from the United Nations, but who, at the same time, advocate the admission of red China. When one thinks of what happened in Tibet, the happenings at Sharpeville appear very small indeed. Moral issues are important, but they should not be considered as a one-way traffic. Moral principles should he adopted right across the board.

Finally, I want to say something about Laos, the gateway to South-East Asia. In this connexion we see an outstanding example of the. impossibility of achieving the most effective results under the present allocation of ministerial duties. In June, 1959, the Government was warned of the shape of things to come, and it was warned again in June, 1960. On 19th September Prince Boun Oum stated, according to a report in the " Sydney

Morning Herald " of 21st September last, in unmistakable terms the increasing danger to his country, but he was unheeded. All eyes were on the summitry exercises at the United Nations, and our ambassador in Saigon was left to announce the recognition of the Phouma government and to state that he did not believe there was any danger of war in Laos. The Prime Minister, the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) and the Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick) were all in New York when, later, Marshal Sarit complained bitterly about the indifference towards Laos, which was forgotten in the discussions following the Congo tragedy.

By the beginning of November the disagreements between the Seato partners were common knowledge, and reports of them were published in the newspapers. Many Asian nations, in desperation, held a conference of their own in Manila, and in Laos the situation went from bad to worse. Finally, at the recent Seato meeting, any good that might have been done by the com.muniqué was dispelled by a leakage from Australian sources of information to the effect that the Prime Minister had acted as a broker between divergent views. Had America not taken a strong hand and sent technicians from the marines, and helicopters to Udorn in Thailand, it is unlikely that Russia would have even considered, the British Seato proposals which, except for the cease-fire proposal, were her own suggestions of four months earlier. Any one who is optimistic about the result should study the report of the broadcast of 10th April from Peking Radio. He can then decide whether he thinks the terms of the British proposals will be accepted, and whether a cease-fire is likely to be agreed to in Laos at an early date. Unfortunately, the Communists have said; very clearly that they have no intention of accepting the proposal.

A major share of. the responsibility for the present precarious position in Laos must be accepted by Britain, France and Australia. It is a long and sad story, and it underlines once again the plain fact that as long as the Ministry for External Affairs remains a part-time job, Australia's ultimate security will drift into greater and greater danger.







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