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
Thursday, 13 April 1961


Mr REYNOLDS - I suggest that the Prime Minister's incompetence in this respect derives, first of all, from the fact that he has too many responsibilities. I do not say this in a spirit of personal venom. I am concerned here with our representation abroad, which is a most important matter and will probably never in our history be more important than it is now. The acceptance of too many responsibilities, of course, is a particular trait of the Prime Minister's character. Apparently, even with a record majority in this Parliament, he is not able to delegate to other members some of the responsibilities that he has taken upon himself to the detriment of Australia's representation abroad. He is out of contact with external affairs. That is patent. As a result, he gets himself into these awkward situations.

The Prime Minister is out of contact also with a number of the responsibilities that he has at home. I am talking now not just about the general economic issues but about some of the right honorable gentleman's specific responsibilities. He is the Minister responsible for the Public Service. We all have seen the anguish among some of the public servants in this community as a result of the raw deal that they are still getting after two years or more of agitation. The Prime Minister also administers the Office of Education, which should be doing a tremendous amount of work in order to bring education in Australia up to scratch.

These matters are not getting the attention that they deserve. I am sure that they could not get it from a man who accepts all these responsibilities in - I hesitate to say it - what appears to be an arrogant manner which gives an impression that the Prime Minister has an exaggerated sense of his own importance. The effect of this is accentuated by the fact that he cannot delegate responsibilities to other people.

Mr Mackinnon - The honorable member is like a snarling terrier.

Mr REYNOLDS - Why has not the

Prime Minister been prepared to allow other people to share these responsibilities? Perhaps the honorable member who has just interjected will dwell on that.

I suggest, secondly, that the Prime Minister's incompetence derives from his own out-of-date attitudes and prejudices. He lives still in the days of the old-world diplomacy, when it was all very nice because the traditionally recognized powers were present at the conferences and there was more or less a homogeneity of outlook, of race and of background, and when there were not the sharp issues that now arise at these conferences with the attendance of people of new aspirations, different backgrounds and different racial origins. The Prime Minister has not been able to adjust himself to the new order of things. He still brings to bear in international affairs this old-world outlook - this idea that you can, at the end of a conference, release a statement that contains a whole lot of platitudes but suggests only the minimum of commitment to action. That is another difficulty for our Prime Minister.

I suggest, thirdly, that his own temperament makes him unsatisfactory for this job of Minister for External Affairs. I have already mentioned his petulance in the face of opposition and rebuff. We have seen his woeful indiscretions. Knowing that there were present at the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference people with strong feelings who had racial kinship with the natives in South Africa, who are being treated as they are treated under the policy of apartheid, our Prime Minister went out of his way to praise the Prime Minister of South Africa. At his press conference in London on 19th March, he said -

The South African Prime Minister says and with great sincerity - he is a man of singular integrity, a most impressive man . . .

I wonder what integrity really means in this connotation. Does it mean a lack of self-deception? Does it mean honesty of purpose? Suppose it does. Using the criteria of honesty of purpose, lack of selfdeception as to one's purpose, and selfconsistency, I suppose one could have said the same about Hitler and about Stalin as the Prime Minister has said about Dr. Verwoerd. They also had honesty of purpose, lack of self-deception and consistency of aim, if that is what integrity means. But to the people I have spoken about those words of the Prime Minister were provocative and they cannot, I am sure, have done otherwise than prejudice this country's relations with the peoples of those other nations.

The Prime Minister, in his petulance and frustration, had to go on and taunt these people. Having said that he thought apartheid would not work because he believed it to be impracticable, he went on to say, " I have not, like some, moralized about this matter ". If ever there was a matter deserving of moral judgment, surely this is such a matter. However, I leave the Prime Minister and his alleged incompetence to the judgment of the Australian people.

The next issue I wanted to raise was that of the whole concept of national sovereignty, of a country being able to run itself in the way it sees fit, without reference to other countries. This has been an issue right through history, even as far back as the days of the ancient Greeks. There has always been the question of the right of sovereign states to act without reference to other people. On this occasion the question arose, of course, from the Prime Minister's insistence that what has been done in South Africa is a domestic issue. Right up to the last minute he has stuck to this assertion, and I think he sincerely believes that he is right, despite the kind of vote that was registered in the United Nations. This raises in my mind, as it must do in the minds of others, the question of what are going to be the criteria to determine whether an issue is a domestic one or is not. We all subscribe, nominally at any rate, to the United Nations charter, in which figures prominently the code of human rights. One wonders just when this code of human rights applies. If a country is to retain to itself the right to run itself in just the way it likes, how can the code of human rights be applied to people in that country?

Mr Hasluck - That is not in the charter.

Mr REYNOLDS - The code of human rights gives freedom of belief, freedom of faith, freedom of religion, freedom of worship and freedom of congregation, and these things are all guaranteed under the Charter of the United Nations. In the face of this insistence upon domestic sovereignty, how can those rights be effectively secured? How can sanctions be imposed upon people who insist upon such sovereign rights and regard everything done within their own country as a domestic issue? If one follows this kind of principle of national sovereignty, then one must say that Hitler's extermination of the Jews, so long as it took place within Germany, was a domestic matter, in which the councils of the world had no right to intervene. That is the kind of proposition that we might have to concede. I admit that it is putting the matter to a fairly extreme test, but one of the questions with which we must confront ourselves is: Just where is this line of demarcation to be drawn? Just how far can a nation exercise sovereign rights without acknowledging any adherence to any kind of universal code of human rights or any kind of world authority or code of law?

This is the kind of question that was raised even back in 1943 - and, of course, it was raised many times prior to that. But at that time, when we were involved in war, Dr. Friedman, Lecturer in Laws, University College, London, wrote an important book, " The Crisis of the National State ", in which he raised this very issue. He said -

Unless there is international agreement and a concerted international policy on fundamentals, and unless the agreement on policy is supported by a corresponding internal policy and organization, chaos will again triumph in the name of the sovereign and self-determining State.

I remember interjecting during a speech made by the Prime Minister last year, when he asked what right other countries had to judge us on our white Australia policy. I believe, quite frankly, that they have every right. Whether we concede that they have such a right or not, I am sure that they believe they have it and that they are going to exercise it. In fact, they are exercising it at the present time. We must realize that this is a world of change. It is a shrinking world. No longer is it a world in which it is remarkable to journey " around the world in 80 days "; yesterday we had the spectacle of a person going around the world in 80 minutes. It is a shrinking world, in which people move readily over international barriers. In social affairs there is always this inter-flux with other nations. It is in this context that we must have some code of law that will override, in particular respects, the domestically determined laws or policies of particular countries. If this is not achieved we will not have international peace. We can never hope for continuing international peace while each nation makes up its mind what policies it will pursue, without consideration for any world authority.

The whole trend of developments in the world has been towards world government. People have been working everywhere for a world code of laws, a world code of ethics. The Prime Minister and the Government, apparently, are having great difficulty in making their way in this kind of transitional stage in which so many new nations are coming into being, so many socalled independent sovereign states are being formed. It is in these circumstances, with so many new states coming into being, all with their sovereign powers, that it becomes so necessary for nations to give up some of their sovereignty in the cause of some kind of universal law and universal jurisdiction.

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

Suggest corrections