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Thursday, 13 April 1961

Mr L R JOHNSON (Hughes) .- I have been interested to hear the views of the honorable member for Bowman (Mr. McColm) regarding the white Australia policy. We on this side of the House have always been extremely proud of the fact that it was the Australian Labour Party which initiated Australia's immigration programme, a programme which brought people en masse to this country from many parts of the world - a humanitarian programme designed to alleviate the great distress which prevailed in war-torn countries. It is important to recall as well that the present Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) was the initiator of that scheme. He may not have subscribed to all the high standards which revolve about the question of immigration at this time, but when he introduced his scheme he did so in the face of very solid opposition from many members of the community and from many sections of the community that are represented by those who sit opposite us. So we have no apology to make about our great record in respect of racial impartiality. I hope that what the honorable member for Bowman has said is true - there has got to be a very rational attitude in respect of these things.

I am sorry that the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Downer) has just left the chamber, because I am anxiously awaiting his decision on the matter of a particular application which was referred to him very recently, I believe, by his own department, after it had rejected an application from Hollandia. I know this case so well. It is that of a very fine agriculturist, accustomed to good standards in every respect, who came to Australia to visit his daughter, who is at present studying medicine at a university. Having arrived here, those people applied to stay here. This family is 75 per cent. Dutch and 25 per cent. Asiatic, and no one could quibble about this man's excellent standards in respect of citizenship, his accomplishments in life, and so on, but because of the colour content - I am satisfied there is no other consideration - he has been rejected. I sincerely hope that the Minister's administration of this department is as the honorable member for Bowman hopes it will be, and I am anxiously waiting to see what sort of attitude is manifested by the Government in this particular case. If it is a favorable one, I will be the first to compliment the Minister.

The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has delivered a report on foreign affairs following his visit to the Commonwealth Conference of Prime Ministers and other leaders of state. The Opposition has moved an amendment and, as has been pointed out, has declared its profound disappointment with the Government's attitude about a number of world trouble spots. Quite a number of them have been mentioned during this afternoon's debate. The Opposition contends that the best interests of the Australian people are not being served by a part-time Minister for External Affairs, who is not giving sufficient time to that work in the first place and who has not shown any outstanding ability in that direction. His attitude in respect of racial matters has been most provocative to coloured nations and can certainly not be described as being conducive to world peace. I was interested to hear the Prime Minister's brief references to the problem in Laos. Unfortunately, in his attitude towards Laos he seems to be following in the wake of the late Mr. John Foster Dulles, that discredited political giant who brought the world almost to the brink of disaster on so many occasions. Most of us in this chamber had hoped that the area around Laos, including Cambodia, would become a buffer area, a neutral area, an area which would separate the people who are pursuing different ideologies. Most of us would like to feel that it is an area in which emphasis is placed on conciliation, friendship, and mutual aid, an area in which the indigenous people would be free to plan their political destiny over whatever period they considered necessary, without pressure from the blocs that exist in the international political sphere.

The present difficulty in Laos has been precipitated by a very serious mistake on the part of the United States of America. All honorable members will recall that for some considerable time the United States of America had been pursuing a policy of encouraging the neutralist regime. Then the Eisenhower Administration became dissatisfied with that. It felt that the United States of America should be using Laos for its own purposes in connexion with the cold war. The United States of America wanted ;o take advantage of Laos, and so abandon:. j its support of the neutralist forces and threw its weight behind the right wing forces in Laos. As a consequence, this very substantial neutralist group moved closer to the left. The left wing forces then gathered strength quickly, and it was not long before trouble was brewing on a very substantial scale.

The United States of America has had the idea that Laos could well become a Seato base, and has been working towards that end. The Americans themselves do not deny now that over the last five years they have poured into Laos something like 250,000,000 dollars - some put the figure as high as 300,000,000 dollars - and that most of this money has been spent on armaments. The Americans have seen Laos as a bridge to China. They have never been satisfied with the situation in China, and have always had the idea that they would some day take active steps to retrieve the position. For that reason, they have been pouring armaments into Laos at a fabulous rate. They do not deny that in recent times they have been responsible for political coups in tha. country. And after having accomplished all these things, the United States has the temerity to accuse the Soviet Union of having taken provocative action in the Laos area! It is true that there has been some Soviet military aid, but that aid has been infinitesimal compared to the substantial amount of American aid which had pre.ceeded it. 1 understand that near the end of November last Russia did send in consignments of petrol, flour and sugar to Viet Nam, which was the subject of a blockade by Thailand at that time. 1 understand that three or four howitzers were also included in the consignment, but it was ascertained later that no one was able to operate these howitzers, and they were never put into service. But what is that amount of aid compared with the 250,000,000 o- 300,000,000 dollars' worth of American aid which had been poured into Laos over the long period before that?

We are wondering what is to happen about Laos, and we on this side see in the Prime Minister's attitude something that is typical of the stand he usually takes in connexion with these matters - a stimulation of the old Seato arrangement, the old sabre-rattling policy. We of the Opposition favour an alternative proposal which we believe will be more conducive to the attainment and maintenance of peace in the Pacific area. We hope to see established in this area, commissions similar to those established in connexion with Viet Nam and Cambodia in 1954 under the Geneva agreements. T point out here that those commissions have not met since 1958. and the United States of America has been most reluctant to encourage them to meet because they could operate as a brake upon the implementation of America's discreditable policy in those areas. Nehru of India, along with the Soviet Union, has been advocating the reestablishment of international commissions for some time, and has been endeavouring to induce the western powers to agree on this policy. Recently, he had some success in that he persuaded the United Kingdom to submit this proposal to the United States of America.

We on this side do not favour Seato action in connexion with Laos; we favour negotiation. We do not want sabre rattling. We do not want to open up the probability of an atomic war. We say that the sensible attitude is to re-establish the international commission which, after all, is an integral part of the policy of the United Nations.

We suggest that the first duty of the international commission should be to bring about a cessation of hostilities. After that, it should look into the facts, realizing that a satisfactory solution can never be obtained until China is taken into consideration. Whatever commission is established, whether it be of the type of those set up under the Geneva agreements, or whether it be set up under some other arrangement, it must realize that the Chinese Government represents 600,000,000 people, who live in an area that is of vital concern to Australia. No solution of the Laos problem which could be satisfactory to Australia can be arrived at until it is admitted by all sides that the Chinese Government is entitled to have some say in arriving at that solution. Steps should be taken also to ensure that the United States of America ceases to equate neutralism with communism, as it has been tending to do over recent years. Such a commission should also be. concerned with the need to channel all economic aid through the United Nations organization, because too often in the past we have seen that assistance to neutralist countries, such as Cambodia, takes the form of persuasion. No country should be allowed to offer assistance, whether it be economic or otherwise, merely to gain kudos for itself. In order to avoid this, such aid should be channelled through the United Nations organization, and for that reason we are looking to this Government to adopt a realistic attitude towards Laos.

We on this side are interested in the whole question of Seato. We are not prepared to rely completely on Seato in the future, for we feel that in the past there has been a tendency to over-militarize it, and to reduce to a minimum the provision of economic aid. After all, we must remember that we are living in an era of potential devastation. We cannot tolerate any situation under which international conflict could become possible. Only a moment ago, I was interested to glance at a statement which was signed by 720 of the leading scientists of the world. Included in those 720 were 39 Nobel prize winners. That statement was an appeal to all nations to stop the spread of nuclear weapons, to abandon the testing of nuclear weapons, and so on, for to continue with them could lead to the extermination of mankind. In all these circumstances, it is obvious that Seato is outmoded. It bristles with aggressiveness. We must all recognize that in the next five years nuclear club membership, even in the Pacific and Asiatic areas, could extend considerably. Australia no longer can depend on Seato if it is concerned with survival because we are well aware of our inability to defend ourselves even against conventional arms let alone the new techniques which have been evolved.

We would like to see a new treaty between Pacific and Asiatic countries providing for the establishment of a zone of disengagement. This arrangement could be developed even now while Seato is in operation and gradually Seato could be allowed to peter out as the new organization took over. The arrangement would have no interest in war but would be devoted to the idea of peace. It would be an agreement involving a number of signatory nations with the proposal that they exclude from the area all military bases, whether of the Western bloc or the Communist bloc. We would devote ourselves to the idea of peace and mutual aid and we would declare the Pacific and Asiatic region as a non-nuclear area. That would be an extremely desirable thing. Would not Australia be held in high esteem among the Asiatic countries such as Indonesia, India and our other neighbours if we went forward with a proposal of this kind? Australia could say to them, " None of us can afford to meet the high expense of preparation for war which could lead to our annihilation, so let us encourage the idea of this Pacific-Asiatic treaty, involving all countries in the area and nominating it as a zone of disarmament ". This could be done, and we could prevail upon the United States, the Soviet Union, China and all the great powers to respect the new arrangement. We would hope that they would become honest brokers in this matter. The Prime Minister would have served a more worth-while purpose overseas if he had pursued an idea of this kind.

If we are to have regard for the seriousness of some of the crises which have arisen around Australia and which concern us, we must look at some of the recent precedents. There is the Congo situation, which is a very good example of a national disaster of the kind that could beset countries in close proximity to Australia. The Congo situation quite easily could have precipitated a world war. It is similar in many respects to the situation in Laos, which also was exploited by all and sundry, both the Western bloc and the Communist bloc. We should be able to learn some lessons from it.

We know the way in which Belgian commercial interests exploited the unfortunate people of the Congo. The United Nations did not fulfil its responsibilities in that country and the Belgians walked out in 1960, but when they walked out they felt that they had left behind a stooge who would be able to take their place. Unfortunately, the Belgian plan failed. They had not prepared the area for selfgovernment or for independence. Among the 12,000,000 native people in the Congo, there was not one commissioned officer in any of the defence forces; there were only sixteen African university graduates; there was not one doctor, one engineer or one lawyer. The Belgians walked out in the face of gathering world pressure because they thought that they had a stooge who would take their place and serve their purposes. However, the stooge failed when the elections were held.

The Congo has six provinces. The wealthy ones are Katanga, which has great deposits of copper and uranium, and Kasai, which has great deposits of metals and diamonds. In the area also were two potential Nato bases, and this fact gave rise to grave concern. The Belgians nominated their stooge, Kasavubu, but when the elections were held he did not come anywhere near Lumumba, the outsider, who won the race. The Belgians had tried to put down Lumumba by burning his newspaper, but despite all kinds of unprecedented actions by the Belgians he won the day. In the elections Kasavubu, the Belgian stooge, won only twelve seats and Lumumba won 40. When Lumumba was elected Prime Minister the rot set in. Katanga declared its independence. Lumumba appealed to the United Nations and the country was flooded within a week with 10,000 African soldiers. The Congolese were called on to surrender. Their radio station was closed down and Mobutu, an agent of the Belgian Government, moved into Leopoldville with an army. Eventually Kasavubu became the President. The United Nations failed to sustain the democratically elected government in the Congo and big business interests from Belgium prevailed.

The possibility of a similar situation arising in Laos and in many other places exists, and we must ensure that we create an atmosphere and an environment which is conducive to a far more satisfactory solution of these problems than the dreadful blood-bath which took place in the Congo. Many issues of the Congo variety can develop very quickly unless we create a national atmosphere and environment which is distinctly different from that which existed in bygone days.

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