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Wednesday, 12 April 1961


Mr Malcolm Fraser (WANNON, VICTORIA) . - I should like to thank honorable members of the Opposition who, I understand, have co-operated this evening so that more members may speak in this debate than could otherwise have spoken. I thank the honorable member for Bonython (Mr. Makin) in particular for his co-operation. Perhaps this is the first occasion for a long time that he has sat down well before his time had expired.

I was glad to see in the statement by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) reference, not only to South Africa which is foremost in the minds of the people of this country and to the Prime Ministers' Conference, but also to the disarmament proposals which came out of the Prime Ministers' Conference. The Prime Minister drew our attention to the fact that, if disarmament is to become a reality, all kinds of weapons, conventional and nuclear, must be controlled in such a way that, in the process of disarmament, no one country will at any time gain an advantage. The Prime Minister also drew our attention to the fact that disarmament without inspection is a myth and that it could not happen. Consequently, inspection must go side by side with any disarmament programme. But this, to me, still seems to leave one essential element missing from any real programme of disarmament.

So far as I have been able to ascertain, in the councils of the world there have been passing references only by the United Kingdom and the United States of America to the third element which is the question of enforcement. In order to make disarmament and inspection of disarmament a reality some method of enforcement would ultimately be essential. Otherwise, after carrying out a programme of disarmament, there may be an argument resulting in one country beginning to re-arm. If there were no method of enforcement, other countries would then re-arm out of fear. The only difference between that and the present position would be that they would be starting from a lower base level of arms. I believe that this question of enforcement presents even greater difficulties than the actual disarmament and inspection over which the great powers have been unable to reach agreement. It entails political problems. Who would administer the enforcement body and how could it be maintained so that no one country would be able to get control of it and so that the commander of the force would not become a dictator of the world? There are problems that will have to be tackled if disarmament is ever to become a reality.

In regard to South Africa, I believe that the Opposition's attack on the Prime Minister's silence up to last night in regard to his personal opinion on apartheid represents a pretty shabby attitude. The reason why the Prime Minister maintained his silence was clear. If all the Prime Ministers had adopted the attitude of our Prime Minister and had not committed themselves in public beforehand to condemning apartheid I believe that their united and concerted efforts inside the Prime Ministers conference would have carried more weight because they would not have prejudiced themselves in the eyes of South Africa. This may perhaps be borne out by what happened in the event, because, in the event, the influence of the Prime Ministers in trying to change South Africa from its course was as nothing. I believe that the Opposition's attitude in not respecting the silence of the Prime Minister regarding his own personal feelings is pretty shabby and something that the Opposition could well have done without.

Honorable members opposite have made great play on the alleged differences be tween the United Kingdom Prime Minister and our own Prime Minister, but they have said nothing - and I have not heard any one say anything in this debate - about the essentials in connexion with this matter in which these two Prime Ministers are quite clearly as one. They both wanted South Africa to stay in the Commonwealth of Nations. They both worked to see that she stayed in if possible. At the same time, as I understand it, they both wanted the best thing for the subjugated people in South Africa, and they both deplored and abhorred the policy of apartheid that was being put into effect. On these essentials, the two Prime Ministers are as one. But, again, it would be too much to expect the Opposition to recognize these elements of the situation.

There are cogent reasons for keeping South Africa in the Commonwealth and there were also strong reasons for pushing her out, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I shall give the House first the reasons for keeping her in. The first, as has been said, is that the Commonwealth is a union of peoples and not of governments. Dr. Verwoerd is the head of a government that does not represent the majority of the people of South Africa and, at this time, that Government may not represent even a majority of the whites. But because of Dr. Verwoerd, South Africa and all its people, including the 9,000.000 members of the Bantu race, are out of the Commonwealth. Continued membership of the Commonwealth may well have exerted a moderating influence on South Africa over a period. Expulsion may well harden the hearts of the Afrikaanders and, indeed, there are some indications that this may occur. Again, expulsion, as I have indicated, takes no heed of the white opposition which wished to retain allegiance to the Crown, or of the Bantu, who are voiceless in South Africa.

Against these arguments for keeping South Africa in the Commonwealth there are, as I see it, two powerful arguments for pushing her out, or for her withdrawing, according to the way one likes to look at it. The first is that the withdrawal of South Africa makes the Commonwealth a stronger moral force than it would be if South Africa remained a member. Secondly, South Africa's withdrawal could increase very greatly the strength and unity of the

Commonwealth in its essentials, and I believe and hope that this may happen. History alone will tell which group or which attitude of thought will be right in this matter.

Even though we are very close to the events, I think that we should try to understand them better than perhaps we do at present. If we 'do 'not, we shall find it very easy to misjudge the future. There are two main issues, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and1 I believe that an understanding of the elements of both is essential if we are to arrive at proper judgments. about the future. The first issue, of course, is that of apartheid and what it actually involves, its scope, the .extent of its administration, and whether it is an internal or an external problem. The second issue is the effect of recent developments on the Commonwealth, and 'what the Commonwealth holds or should hold for the future. Quite clearly, :the policy of apartheid is internal in that the South African Government does not intend or wish to try to .export it to other countries. But the conditions of this present age make this issue a unique one. The spirit and the emotion of our times are represented1 in the emancipation, freedom and self-government of coloured people. Anything that flies in the face of this spirit cannot stand and will be pushed aside in this present age. I believe that this was recognized by Australia's vote in the United Nations a short time .ago.

More precisely, the reasons why I believe that apartheid, although internal in its administration, is international in effect are these: Africans in South Africa are secondclass citizens without political rights. They are subjugated and often are treated in a brutal fashion. Their blood brothers or cousins - people who are racially the same - in Nigeria, and in the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland in particular, are completely equal and completely free. It is intolerable for the coloured people of other nations of the Commonwealth to see those who are essentially their blood brothers in subjugation in a neighbouring country on the same continent. The force of the emotion engendered by this issue is something that cannot be disregarded however much we feel that perhaps we should disregard it. To expect Asians and Africans to take a detached legal view of this matter is to expect too much. I do not think that there are many Australians who can "take a detached view of the white Australia policy. How much reason, then, have we .to expect Asians or Africans to take a detached >view of this other problem? I do not think that this element can be disregarded in the present circumstances.

Furthermore, South Africa's refusal to accept diplomatic exchanges with other African or Asian members of the Commonwealth surely, to some degree at least, translates this problem into the international field. The South African Government is trying to maintain in this regard an archaic viewpoint and to make a philosophy of action for the future out of something which the free world regards as wrong at the -present time. The Afrikaanders in South Africa are trying to march against the course of history on this issue. But perhaps the important point for us to remember in relation to this is that although we ourselves are not free from some of the prejudices or sins of the past in these matters - -1 do not think that any Commonwealth country is free from them - we hope and try, or believe we are trying, to rid ourselves of these inherited prejudices. Dr. "'Verwoerd and his party plainly are not, and they have said so.

Also, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I think it is not unreasonable for us to ask ourselves why apartheid arouses among Australians and many other people in the free world feelings which are much stronger than are the feelings which are aroused by events in other countries which are much worse in terms of suffering and of numbers killed and wounded. I think that there is a reason for this. Firstly, South Africa was a foundation member of the Commonwealth of Nations. She was a member of the British family. It is my belief, at any rate, that a crime committed by a member of one's own family is regarded in a much worse light than is a similar crime committed by somebody .whom one does not know. South Africa has ostensibly been a member of the free world and is heir - or some part of it is heir - to the British heritage. We believe that people who are heirs to the British heritage or who are members of the free world should set an example. South Africa has let the free world, and more particularly the Commonwealth, down on both counts. The Commonwealth has been likened to a family, and this is not the first time that a member of a family has been cast out because that member would not conform to accepted rules or accepted standards. That fact is worth noting.

For all these reasons, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I believe that apartheid is unique in effect, and therefore I do not think that the consideration of it opens the door to the wholesale discussion of the internal problems of nations which are members of the Commonwealth. If this belief is not fulfilled, though, the future of the Commonwealth may well be in jeopardy. Some support for this view is found in the views expressed by the British Prime Minister and by Mr. Duncan Sandys, who is Minister for Commonwealth Relations in the United Kingdom Government. Mr. Macmillan said that the precedents were not broken, because Dr. Verwoerd agreed to the discussion. Mr. Sandys said that South Africa itself transferred this problem to the international sphere by refusing to accept diplomatic representatives from the Asian and African countries which were represented at the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference. We have had some concern over our immigration policies, and the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) devoted an article which was published in the " Canberra Times " to this point. There has been some concern that our immigration policies will be discussed. I do not believe that if our diplomacy is sound we need have any fear over that. These policies can be well defended, and I believe that members of this Parliament all support them and defend them. We have had support overseas for these policies, notably from the Prime Minister of Malaya, who recognized them as sound and justified in present circumstances.

Recent events have thrown the nature of the Commonwealth into sharp relief. This is something that is not always well understood, and sometimes not understood at all. This is, perhaps, because the Commonwealth has never been quite the same organization for more than a few years at any one period. It has been constantly changing and evolving. It is often depicted as a cozy group comprising the United Kingdom, South Africa, Canada, New

Zealand and Australia. This is certainly far from the truth to-day, and, indeed, it is doubtful whether it has ever been the truth. We must remember that Prime Ministers conferences, as such, have been held only since 1946. Before that date what were called Imperial Conferences were held. The group attending Imperial Conferences was not restricted to the countries I have mentioned. In 1917 and 1918 India, although not a full dominion, was allowed full and proper representation at the Imperial Conferences. So that even though there were no coloured, or non-white, dominions in the Commonwealth before the war, there have been for a very long time non-white representatives within the Commonwealth meetings.

The Imperial Conferences were formal affairs with fixed agendas, and votes and abstentions which were all recorded - quite unlike the Prime Ministers' Conferences. It is worth noting that in the minutes of the Imperial Conferences as far back as 1911, it can be seen that the Crewe memorandum directed attention to the embarrassment caused, chiefly by South Africa but by other dominions as well, to the Government and people of India because of the internal policies of those countries. In 1917 and 1918 this was taken a step further, and a resolution was unanimously passed by the Imperial Conference recognizing the distinction between immigration policies which the conference at that time recognized as being completely under the control of one country, and policies affecting races already inside one country. The resolution, although in fairly watery terms, as one could imagine would be the case at that period, was the first effort by what was to become the Commonwealth of Nations to try to ensure equality of treatment for people of different races in one country inside what was then the British Empire.

If we have a look at the nations of the Commonwealth up to 1948 we find that they were probably united by allegiance to the Crown, by the fact that all had been governed at one time by the United Kingdom, and perhaps by what was probably even then an outworn concept of defence. But the most important factors for Australia were allegiance to the Crown and a common heritage. But in 1948 India became a republic and remained within the Commonwealth as such. Since that time members have not been bound by common allegiance to the Crown, by defence agreements, by race, colour or religion. They are not bound to a power group, and certainly they do not all possess a British heritage. The common factors are that all had been governed at one time by the United Kingdom, and all professed to strive for racial equality, except South Africa, which is now out. There is only one possible common denominator for members of the Commonwealth at the present time. It is a set of common ideals based on racial equality. If we cannot work for that principle and with that principle, we cannot work with anything. This does not mean that we are all perfect in pursuit of these ideals, but it certainly does mean, I think, that we all try to work to shake off the shackles of the past in this regard.

I regard the Commonwealth as a bridge between the people of different races and colours, and we must try to maintain this bridge. Having regard to the circumstances I think it was inevitable that South Africa would have had to go, however deplorable I may consider the event. Recent events cannot have done other than arouse some uneasiness for the future. I am convinced that we must make the Commonwealth work If it cannot be made to work, then I believe the world cannot work and that there will be little hope for us.

Debate (on motion by Mr. Reynolds) adjourned.







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