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Thursday, 13 April 1961

Mr McCOLM (Bowman) . - The first thing I would like to do is congratulate the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Forbes) on the excellent contribution he made to this debate. It was one of the most thoughtful of all the speeches that have been made during the whole debate.

It is rather interesting to note that until a very few weeks ago, and over quite :i long period of time before that, the members of the Opposition have consistently claimed that there is no value whatsoever in the Parliamentary Foreign Affairs Committee. All of a sudden they have discovered that this committee has some great authority, that it has far greater authority, in fact, than it ever actually had. It has suddenly assumed an importance which honorable members opposite could not see a couple of weeks ago.

The members of the Opposition have attributed great importance to the speech made by the honorable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes) - and in my opinion they have over-estimated that importance - because he is the chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee. I would like to say a word about this because I disagree with a number of the remarks made by the very gallant and honorable member for Chisholm. I differ from him quite considerably, to start with, on the question whether the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Chaney) should have foreshadowed an amendment to the motion that the document be printed. I believe that such an amendment is necessary in the interests of Australia, and I certainly intend to support it wholeheartedly. There are times when people criticize the Government. There are times when people criticize the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies). I have never been backward in doing so when I have thought it was necessary. I believe it is equal!'' my duty to give the Prime Minister my full support when I am convinced that what he is doing and has done is in the best interests of Australia.

There has not been sufficient emphasis given in this debate to the things that the Prime Minister did outside the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference in. London. Insufficient emphasis has been placed on the very important work hi performed with President Kennedy, at the Seato Conference in Bangkok, and during the discussions on disarmament at the Prime Ministers' Conference.

To return for a moment to the importance of the speech made by the honorable member for Chisholm, it is my opinion from watching the events of a number of years, that there possibly is some truth in what the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Reynolds) has said; the honorable member for Chisholm would not necessarily be heartbroken if the Prime Minister was not doing his job. I think the House realizes that there is considerable personal feeling in some directions and I believe that some times colours the utterances of the very gallant and honorable member for Chisholm. I do not think that undue importance should be attached to his statements merely because he is the Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee. If this is done, equal importance should be given to the remarks of the honorable member for Perth, who foreshadowed that he would move an amendment, merely because he is ViceChairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee. Some very rude and unnecessary remarks have been made about the way in which the amendment of the honorable member for Perth has been brought before the House, but I know that the honorable member for Perth has been completely right in the whole matter and that the substance of his amendment is right.

I shall deal with one or two of the matters raised by the honorable member for Barton. He commenced his speech by saying that he wanted to talk about the gross incompetence of the Prime Minister in his capacity of Minister for External Affairs and went on to say that the right honorable gentleman had undermined the confidence of African and Asian nations. Apart from having quoted from the speech of the honorable member for Chisholm, I do not know where he could have found that statement, unless it was in the newspapers.

Mr Anderson - Of course it was.

Mr McCOLM - I think it was the honorable and gallant member for Hume who said that the whole of the argument presented by the Opposition has been based on statements made in newspapers. It is a pity that Opposition members cannot make themselves better informed, because I am sure that all honorable members, including the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell), know only too well that the newspapers for a considerable period have been conducting a campaign not only against the Government but against the Parliament. Some of the articles published in newspapers are equally as scurrilous as some of the statements made by Opposition members in this debate. There is such a similarity between the statements in the newspapers and the statements made by Opposition members that they must have a common source of information. These statements in the main are completely untrue and, as I say, some of them are scurrilous.

Mr L R Johnson - Which ones are you talking about?

Mr McCOLM - Quite frankly, there have been so many that 1 could not read them all in the time available to me. I shall refer to one that appeared in the Brisbane " Telegraph " on Monday last. It was a leading article, headed " Time to Get Out ". It attacked the Prime Minister for holding the dual portfolios and alleged that by his actions Australia had been harmed in SouthEast Asia and other areas. Without the slightest doubt, that is exactly what Opposition members have been saying, but it is completely untrue and is without foundation. That is proven by the statement made by the Prime Minister in this House. The Opposition's amendment is scurrilous. A previous amendment relating to international affairs, which was moved by the Opposition, was of such a nature that I would not have accepted it had I been in charge of the House; the wording of it was completely wrong.

The honorable member for Barton and other honorable members have touched on one of the important points emerging from the Prime Ministers' Conference, and that is whether such conferences in future will deal with matters which some countries may consider are within their own domestic jurisdiction. I gather that some Opposition members - not all of them - are more or less prepared to accept the idea that in future the Prime Ministers will have the right to discuss these domestic matters. I agree with the honorable member for Barker, who said that he hoped this would have been a unique occasion. I think the Prime Minister was completely right when he deliberately warned the other Prime Ministers that Australia would not tolerate interference in its domestic affairs. The honorable member for Barton a moment ago almost agreed that other countries should have the right to decide matters which are considered to be of a domestic nature, but I would like to see the honorable gentleman who would stand up and say: " I agree with this. I am quite prepared to have the governments of other countries tell the Australian Government what it will do in Australia." That will be the result of the pressures that can be brought to bear on these matters at Prime Ministers' Conferences.

I do not know, but I feel sure that the Prime Minister had in mind the inevitability of discussions at future Prime Ministers' Conferences on what is commonly called the white Australia policy. I wish we would call it a restricted immigration policy. The term " white Australia policy " is offensive to me and to many others. The Prime Minister could conclude only that this policy would be a subject for discussion at future Prime Ministers' Conferences. Those of us who attended the meeting of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association held here in November, 1959, know very well that some visiting delegates did their utmost to have the white Australia policy discussed. To my mind, it is inevitable, therefore, that this subject will be raised at a Prime Ministers' Conference at some time in the future. The Prime Minister's comment was very necessary, but at best it has only delayed a discussion of this policy for a few years.

I think the House knows that I have never been completely in agreement with the socalled white Australia policy. I was very much opposed to it until this Government liberalized it. However, not sufficient publicity has been given to this liberalization. I do not believe that we have told enough nations that within the last few years Asians have been able to become naturalized Australians. Many people do not know this and do not believe it. This liberalization was a very big step in the right direction, but it did not go far enough. As I have said before, I believe it is inevitable that at some time in the future we will have a very limited quota system. Nobody believes that we should open the flood-gates and bring in vast numbers of people. This would not help them and it would add tremendously to our problems. But I believe that a time must come when we will say to other nations: " There is not a country in the world whose people are denied the right to live in Australia. The numbers that we will let in will be very small, but we wish to take away from your minds completely the thought that because of colour or creed you cannot come to Australia."

I believe that will happen. I think that one of the tragedies of what happened at the Prime Ministers' Conference is that, in the future, pressure will be brought to bear which might influence an Australian government to adopt that policy. And the Australian government of that day, regardless of party, will lose the tremendous advantage that we could have had in the last few years by bringing in such a policy ourselves. That, to me, is one of saddest things about this conference, because I do not think that members of this House underestimate the tremendous emotion, not controlled by logic, which is inherent in our white Australia policy, as it is known. There is an ignorance about it; there is no question about that. I confirmed that fact to my own satisfaction last year in South-East Asia.

I have been told that when you go to these countries people do not raise the subject of the white Australia policy unless you first bring it up; and I think that, within limits, that could be accurate. They do not want to hurt your feelings, and that is why they do not mention it. But that does not mean to say that they are not thinking about it. I found that they are thinking about it in Korea, Japan, Formosa, Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaya. The statement which Tunku Abdul Rahman made at the Prime Ministers' Conference about there being a differentiation between race discrimination and our white Australia policy is, I believe, in his own case completely true. But the fact that he has said it does not mean that other people within the British Commonwealth will also say it or believe it. As I say, in 1959, we had a clear-cut indication at the Commonwealth Parliamentary Conference here that there are other people in the West Indies and in the African countries who have got this very much in mind. There is not the slightest doubt that it will be whipped up in their minds in the years which lie ahead, and I hope that we will press on with liberalizing our immigration laws and policies at a more rapid pace than we perhaps might have intended. I still believe it is inevitable and I congratulate the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Downer) and the previous Minister (Mr. Harold Holt) for the great easing which has already come about in those laws in more recent years.

In the minds of the Australian people there has been some doubt not largely created but certainly largely fostered by certain sections of the press concerning the sincerity of the Prime Minister in his approach to some of his work overseas. I feel quite confident that after the statement he made in the House the other night, there is no such doubt in the mind of any thinking, honest Australian, which makes all the worse the amendment that has been moved by the Leader of the Opposition. To suggest at this time that -

In the opinion of this House, the speeches and statements made by the Prime Minister on the question of South Africa, following the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference, have done great harm to Australia's relations with other member States in the Commonwealth, and with the nations of South-East Asia; have aggravated the position he created at the United Nations meeting in October last year; and do not represent the views of the Australian people - is, I believe, completely to disregard the true nature of the responsibility of members of the Opposition. That attitude on the part of honorable members of the Opposition is not surprising when we recall the ideas of the present Leader of the Opposition in respect of foreign affairs, which he so ably, for himself, exemplified in the cases of the Manila girls, Sergeant Gamboa, Mrs. O'Keefe and the infamous statement that " two Wongs do not make a white ". That is the foundation upon which the Opposition obviously wishes to base its future international policy. I shall have the greatest pleasure in wholeheartedly supporting the amendment that has been foreshadowed by the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Chaney).

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