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Wednesday, 12 April 1961

Mr FAIRBAIRN (Farrer) . - Honorable members who have been in this Parliament with the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) for over eleven years, as I have, have not been taken by surprise by him to-night. His speech was notable for his non-stop method of delivery rather than the thought that he put into it. Indeed, it was a typical example of the buffoonery, burlesque and clowning that we have come to expect from him. Such a speech as that does not warrant a sensible reply, so I will not bother to discuss some of the points that he made. But let me remind him that he talked about the need for Australia to have a full-time Minister for External Affairs. The honorable member for Grayndler has just left the chamber. I am sorry that he will not stay to hear what I have to say. Even the Labour Party did not have a full-time Minister for External Affairs. It had a part-time Attorney-General and a part-time Minister for External Affairs. Further, the Prime Minister of the day was not a full-time Prime Minister; he was the Treasurer as well. Apparently the honorable member for Grayndler does not realize that there is an assistant Minister for External Affairs - Senator Gorton - who deals with a lot of the work associated with that portfolio. However, as the honorable member for Grayndler has delivered his speech and has run out of the chamber, T shall not bother to reply to any more of his remarks which I regard as nothing short of complete buffoonery.

One point that has emerged from the debate on the statement that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) delivered last night is the Opposition's lack of knowledge of external affairs generally. If there is a lesson to be learned, it is that members of the Labour Party should join the Parliamentary Foreign Affairs Committee and take an active part in it. They would then perhaps know a little more about the subject and could make a better contribution to a serious debate of this nature than has been the case with the honorable member for Grayndler. Why will the Opposition not join the Foreign Affairs Committee? Do honorable members opposite think that if they learn the truth it will affect their thinking and that they will not be able to make the speeches that they make now? The committee comprises members of the Liberal Party, the Country Party and the Democratic Labour Party. Why does the Australian Labour Party, as it calls itself, not see fit to join the committee also?

In the House of Commons, the Mother of Parliaments, there is a very close approximation to a bi-partisan foreign policy because there is a joint foreign affairs committee on which members of the Labour Party, the Liberal Party and the Conservative Party sit together. In the United States of America there is as close as one could ever get to a bi-partisan foreign policy. It does not matter whether the Republicans or the Democrats are in office, the foreign policy varies little. Would this great country of Australia not be better served if we could get similar co-operation here? But what does the Labour Party do? It attempts to drag down the Prime Minister as it attempted to drag down the previous Minister for External Affairs, Mr. Casey, as he then was, when he returned to Australia and made his reports to the Parliament.

Mr Beazley - You should have been here before 1949.

Mr FAIRBAIRN - I cannot see what that has to do with it. I was here in 1950 and I heard the present Leader of the Opposition call Mr. Casey the Bengal tiger.

Mr Beazley - There was no bi-partisan policy from 1945 to 1949.

Mr FAIRBAIRN - If that was so, it must have been because the Labour Party was so far to the left that the Liberal and Country Parties were unable to meet it on a common footing. We have to find a bipartisan policy with which we can agree. We could not accept one that would lay down, for example, that we were not to send any troops from Australia, or that we were to expel the Americans from Manus Island, or that we were to make enemies of the people of the Philippines by refusing Sergeant Gamboa the opportunity to come here to visit his wife. If there were a bipartisan policy along those lines, of course we could not accept it.

The debate has been nothing more than a crude attempt to embarrass the Government. It is a travesty of justice for the

Labour Party to blame the Prime Minister for the withdrawal of South Africa from the Commonwealth of Nations. The honorable member for Grayndler was trying to be humorous when he said that when the Prime Minister went abroad South Africa left the Commonwealth. Goodness me, if there was any man who went to that conference with the desire to keep South Africa in the Commonwealth it was the Prime Minister of Australia. He went out of his way to do everything he could to this end. Who will say that he was wrong in trying to keep South Africa in the Commonwealth?

The Prime Minister has said, and I am sure that he is right, that we could do much more to influence the policies and actions of South Africa while it was a member of the Commonwealth because there could be frequent meetings and discussions. Further, as he pointed out, the fact that South Africa has now been excluded from the Commonwealth does not mean that only Dr. Verwoerd is out; it means that every one in South Africa is out, whether it is the 46 per cent, of the population which voted to remain under the Queen, or whether it is the Bantu. We shall never know for certain, but had the Bantu been given a vote in the referendum I think it is very likely that a majority of South Africans would have voted to remain in the Commonwealth under the Queen, and South Africa would not have been lost.

The Opposition has a curiously flexible outlook on this matter. This afternoon we heard the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) denounce apartheid and everything that has happened in South Africa. Of course, we disagree entirely with the policy of apartheid. We loath and detest it. But it is interesting to know that only one Opposition member had anything to say about any other country. The honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Luchetti) mentioned the policy of red China in Tibet. If one were to ask the Opposition its policy on red China I suppose 99 per cent, of honorable gentlemen opposite would say that it should be admitted to the United Nations.

Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes - They would have to ask Mr. Chamberlain first.

Mr FAIRBAIRN - Yes, they take their directions from Mr. Chamberlain. There is an extraordinary reversal of policy. On the one hand the Opposition condemns apartheid and claims that South Africa should have been expelled from the Commonwealth, and on the other hand it claims that red China should be welcomed into the United Nations. What is the difference in the two cases? Both countries are to be condemned but, as Dr. Verwoerd has pointed out, the Bantu in South Africa live in very much better conditions than do many of the natives in other African or Asian countries. More money is spent on them than on other peoples and they have better hospitals, a better standard of education ar d better housing. Red China, which the Labour Party would welcome into the United Nations, has 25,000,000 slave labourers. That figure has not been plucked out of the air. I can see the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Uren) looking a little puzzled. For his information, that figure was produced by an international body known as the International Labour Office which no one could call a conservative organization. It has even documented where the various labour camps are situated.

I have been following this debate as closely as I can, and it seems to me that the points of criticism which the Opposition has levelled at the Prime Minister and at the Government are these: In the first place, it has said that the Prime Minister was not strong enough in his criticism and condemnation of apartheid and that he should have said that he disagreed with it entirely instead of saying merely that it would not work. Secondly, the Opposition claims that the Prime Minister was wrong in maintaining that apartheid was solely a domestic issue and in saying, as he did, that the Commonwealth Prime Ministers do not sit in judgment of one another. Thirdly, the Opposition claims that the Government has done a switch by voting as it did recently at the United Nations. Fourthly, the Opposition claims that the Prime Minister broke confidences by mentioning in his speech at the Australia Club in London what had happened at the conference. Fifthly, the Opposition claims that the Government has been losing friends in Asia and Africa by its stand at the United Nations last year and at the Prime Ministers conference this year. Finally, the Opposition claims that there is a difference of opinion between Mr. Macmillan and the Australian Prime Minister, particularly in relation to whether South Africa was expelled or withdrew from the Commonwealth. I shall now deal wth those six points separately and indicate how the Opposition's claim in each case can be refuted.

First let me take this statement of the Labour Party supporters that the Prime Minister has not been strong enough in his condemnation of apartheid. I am sure there has never been any doubt whatever in the minds of the public of Australia and indeed the people of the world as to where the Prime Minister or Australia stood on apartheid. Last night, his speech was typical of many others that he has made. It was studded with phrases condemning apartheid. Early in his speech, the right honorable gentleman said that he would state his own condemnation of apartheid, and his reasons, categorically. Exactly the same thing has been said in the United Nations, first by our Ambassador, Mr. Hood, in the special Political Committee of the United Nations and later by Mr. Plimsoll in the General Assembly. Both condemned apartheid very soundly and stated in no uncertain terms what Australia felt about this racial policy of South Africa.

Secondly, the Labour Party has said that the Prime Minister was wrong in saying that this was solely a domestic matter. The Prime Minister has said that the internal affairs of members of the British Commonwealth of Nations are their own business. This debate, as we know, occurred with the concurrence of Dr. Verwoerd, but surely the Prime Minister was right in trying to get a precedent established. While this year you can have a debate on apartheid, next year you might have a debate on the internal policy of some other country. The following year, it would be a debate on yet some other country's policy. The following year, the discussion might centre on Ghana and whether the Opposition should be behind bars. The year after the debate might be on Ceylon and its treatment of the Tamils; or on Australia and our restricted immigration policy, or our policy on New Guinea.

As the Prime Minister pointed out, once you open such a debate at the Commonwealth Prime Ministers conference the country concerned loses its right to self- government. Are we not to be told by people who have only recently taken over the government of their countries, and in some cases have not shown great success in doing so, that we are to alter our policies? Are they to tell us how our policies should be altered? Many of these people have never even been to this country. Let us stick to the policy that we are self-governing and that we will not allow matters affecting our internal policies to be debated. As has been pointed out, if we permit any other policy, eventually there will not be any British Commonwealth left. I think we should stick to the old biblical injunction at the next Prime Ministers conference -

.   . cast out first the beam out of thine own eye, and then shalt thou see clearly to pull out the mote that is in thy brother's eye.

We might also say, in the words of the Bible-

Judge not that ye be not judged.

Let us not get down to internal affairs at these conferences. The Government has been criticized for changing its mind. Is there anything wrong with changing one's mind? The Opposition has changed its mind frequently. I sat in this place in 1950, and I have never seen so many changes of mind as the Opposition had on the Communist Party Dissolution Bill. First it opposed the measure, then it voted for the bill, and then it went out and opposed the measure on the hustings. The Opposition has changed its policy on many things, and we have the right to change ours.

In the past, we have regarded apartheid as an internal affair affecting South Africa, but the events, particularly at Sharpeville, and the gradual build-up of the workings of the policy of apartheid have shown it to be really something that transcends the bounds of one country's administration. It is something in which the whole world must engage itself because it is completely opposed to all the principles of the United Nations Charter. What did we do? We altered our vote at the United Nations from abstention the previous year to a vote against South Africa; but we explained that in voting that way we were not prepared to put sanctions on South Africa, nor did ve feel that the South African affair was endangering world peace. Having made our position clear, we supported the motion opposing apartheid in South Africa.

My next point is this: The Labour Party said that the Prime Minister in some way broke a confidence after the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference by disclosing some of the things that had taken place. All I can say is that, having read the press in London and Australia, I believe the Prime Minister was about the last one to break any confidence. It appears that a tremendous leakage from the conference was going on constantly. It is rumoured that daily press conferences took place between some of the Prime Ministers and either their press attaches or members of the press. Supporters of the Labour Party should be the last to talk about breaking confidences of this sort. Every Wednesday morning they hold a party meeting and within half an hour we know exactly what took place in any of those meetings. The Prime Minister did not break any confidence on this occasion. Beyond stating what Dr. Verwoerd's position was, the Prime Minister did not divulge what any other Prime Minister said. He said that two people later in the conference took a certain position. He did not say who they were, and he has been exemplary in maintaining silence on what happened there while still being able to set the record straight so far as he could.

We have been accused by the Labour Party of losing friends. Do members of the Opposition think we should jump on the band-wagon and because everybody else is sticking the boots into South Africa, we should get in for another kick and by so doing immediately gain the support of our Asian and African neighbours? Of course, it is absurd to suggest that you should kick a man when he is down because if you do not do so, you will not get the support of those who are attacking him. The Opposition has also stated that our Prime Minister has been in disagreement with Mr. Macmillan. The Labour Party is like a drowning man clutching at a straw. It claims that Mr. Macmillan said that South Africa was not expelled from the British Commonwealth of Nations but withdrew, while our Prime Minister said it was expelled. Let me extend the simile and say that the Labour Party is splitting straws because I cannot see any difference between being expelled and withdrawing under pressure which is so strong that if you do not withdraw, you will be expelled.

It is futile for the Labour Party to say that there is a difference of opinion between the two Prime Ministers. It is a narrow and legalistic difference, and the result has been the same in the long run anyway. South Africa has left the British Commonwealth of Nations.

My time has almost expired. I had intended to say a little more because I feel that if any criticism could be levelled at the Prime Minister it would be to the effect hat he did not deal as fully as he might have done with affairs in Laos. I can understand why.

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

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