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Thursday, 13 April 1961


Mr HASLUCK (Curtin) (Minister for Territories) . - A debate on international affairs naturally is as wide as the world, so any speaker whose time is limited has to choose between trying to make a very rapid survey of the whole scene, as the honorable member for Hughes (Mr. L. R. Johnson) has done, or selecting one or two questions for particular attention. For my part, I propose to talk only on two questions. The first of these is the impact of racial issues on international affairs.

The objective of all of us surely is to prevent differences of race from becoming an issue between nations and a cause of conflict in the world. If we look at this aspect not simply from the point of view of Australia, but having regard to the interests of all the people of the world, we can surely see any division of the world along racial lines as being an impediment to the welfare of mankind and an obstacle to the achievement of international peace.

On reflection, too, I am sure that all of us will agree that there is no substantial reason or principle for dividing one nation from another or from joining one nation in alliance with another simply because their peoples happen to be of the same colour or of the same race. Surely the reasons why nations join in alliance with one another, or, regrettably, oppose one another, derive from the fact that they hold the same or opposing principles. Nations that seek the same purpose or resist the same dangers will tend to become allies.

Within the borders of any single country a division along racial lines is objectionable to all of us, and in the world at large a division of nations on racial lines is equally objectionable. That is my first proposition. From it I want to proceed to the proposition that part of the special value of the Commonwealth of Nations - what used to be called the British Commonwealth of Nations - is that it is a multi-racial association of independent sovereign States each responsible for its own policies. Because it is a multi-racial association and because of the special spirit and structure which have been evident in the Commonwealth of Nations, it has been one of the few places in the world in which racial issues have been of less importance than elsewhere, and where it has been possible to resolve these issues and to compose any differences that might arise from them in an intelligent, reasoned and calm way.

The great service which our Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has done for the Commonwealth and all its peoples, and the great service which we believe he can continue to render, is in the preserving of the Commonwealth of Nations and its spirit and structure so that it can continue to serve this purpose in the world, a purpose which unfortunately cannot be served by any other international organization to-day. Are his efforts to preserve the spirit and structure of the Commonwealth of Nations to be made the ground for criticism? Surely it is a purpose upon which all parties in Australia can unite. Instead of us trying to stir up racial issues, surely we can see that, in spite of present difficulties, we Australians can agree that the

Commonwealth of Nations, both for us and our fellow members of that multiracial association, offers hope of composing differences greater than the hope that is offered anywhere else; because in the Commonwealth of Nations, people of many races can and do share a common purpose. They can and do reach a common understanding with complete respect for each other on many of the great issues before the world to-day.

What are those great issues? Honorable members will recall that one of the practical matters for discussion at the recent Prime Ministers' Conference was disarmament. Is race of any relevance to the question of disarmament? We know quite well that an Indian, an Australian or a Ghanian will die the same death in an atomic explosion. We know that atomic fall-out makes no difference to an Asian, an African or a European, for biologically we are all the same. We know that disarmament is a process that does not belong to any chosen race. This is a great world issue to-day, and it is an issue on which race is completely unimportant and to which race should have no relevant application.

Let us look at the great goals we all seek in international affairs - peace and prosperity, all that can be summed up in the welfare of societies, all that can be summed up in the hopes and aspirations of individuals, and in human rights. None of these things is peculiar to the inhabitants of any one continent. None can be achieved except by the concerted efforts of people of all continents. .Not one of them can be helped in the slightest by a racial line-up and, indeed, most can be impeded and destroyed if racial divisions become a principle for political decision, either domestically or internationally, in the modern world.

Having said that, one can understand, of course, that because of historical events and circumstances in some parts of the globe, there will be strong feelings among peoples. There will be a feeling of resentment. There will be felt a need to make a protest or a struggle to overcome a present disability. That sort of situation, due to historical causes, may lead the nations of Asia or Africa to combine on no other ground than that of race; but One hopes that they and the other nations such as ourselves will realize that racial division is not the key which opens the door to peace and prosperity or a fuller life for the individual of any continent. We can understand that they make a protest. We have to pin all our endeavours and all our hopes in ensuring that the people of the other continents will take care not to widen the gulf by making that protest their only goal in international affairs.

I regret that in some of its aspects this debate might not have helped the point I am trying to make. The real issues in international affairs to-day are those concerning the terms and methods by which we find peace and prosperity. In my view, those issues present themselves most clearly in a contest for power in which the Soviet bloc, the Western democracies and mainland China are the chief contenders. They also present themselves in a contest of ideologies; but I am myself inclined to believe that the ideological conflict is not the originator but is rather one of the aggravators of the power conflict.

We have no doubt that there is in the world to-day something equivalent to a religious war. That religious war, I think, is being used for national and imperialistic ambitions by the Soviet Union. It is a regrettable fact. Much more regrettable and much more unfortunate in its effect on the sufferings of human beings is the fact that now a racial war as well as a religious war is starting to aggravate pert of the over-all power contest. One cannot escape seeing the signs in various parts of the world that this racial issue is being stirred up and fomented and is being used deliberately in order to aggravate and make more difficult the resolution of the great contest of power that is taking place in the world. It is one of those things that we who hope for peace and work for peace and who have dedicated ourselves to the advancement and the welfare of all peoples should try to remove from the field of international affairs. We should try to avert this racial war which seems so imminent.

It may seem that I have been trying to preach to the peoples of other countries. I would, of course, rather preach to my fellow Australians, and as an Australian I have some title to do so. I would urge on my fellow Australians the importance of keeping our minds clear and unclouded and free from passion and sentimentality on these questions. I think that very happily to-day most Australians are free from race prejudice. Any one reading the report of the debate that has taken place in this House will find that occasional foolishness has come chiefly from speakers who, in professing warm sympathy for Africans, have distorted the issue. I would ask them to remember one very simple thing - the rights of these people do not arise from the fact that they are black; their rights arise from the fact that they are human beings. We, in our sentimentality and sometimes in our passion, place too much emphasis on colour and not enough emphasis on humanity. Their humanity and human rights are not of a special kind; they are the same as our humanity and our human rights. Those speakers who keep harping on race, race, race, are revealing a silly sentimentality that is neither creditable to their own thinking nor fs likely to be acceptable to the people who live on the Asian and African continents. I do not want myself to insult any Asian or African by showing tolerance to him. I want to show respect to him by accepting him as he is - not a coloured person but a fellow human being. I think we would see these things more clearly if we saw them in those terms.

The second point to which I wish to turn in the few minutes remaining to me concerns the issue of domestic jurisdiction. This has, of course, a long history in international affairs, but I think the discussion of it came to a head most acutely of recent years in the circumstances of the founding of the United Nations Organization. If one goes back to the debate of the San Francisco conference, one will find that the Australian delegation, particularly the Minister for External Affairs of that day, Dr. H. V. Evatt who was then the right honorable member for Barton, did take a leading part in the discussion on this issue. As he has passed from our midst, I want to express what may be a qualified admiration for the contribution Dr. Evatt did make at that time in the resolving of this issue. He has, as we all know, a great capacity for seeing an issue. It may be regrettable that, because he walks through life by the flashes of his own ambition rather than by any other illumination, he does not always see various issues steadily, or see them in their relation ship one to another, but in the detecting of a single issue he has a mind that is both brilliant and perspicacious.

The dilemma at the San Francisco conference was something like this: The participating nations said to themselves, "We are creating an international organization which has, broadly, to do two things. It has to try to preserve the peace of the world by enforcement measures, and it has also to try to promote the welfare of the peoples of the world by economic, social, cultural and other measures. In order to do both of these things the organization needs to have some right of binding the nations to do things, not by their own choice but in response to international agreement. It also has the task of trying to find some way in which the organs of the international organization may be able to intervene to some extent in the affairs of members." The position was that on matters of enforcement measures the great powers wanted rights of intervention, and the small and middle powers, which did not possess the veto in order to protect themselves, resisted intervention for enforcement of peace. On the other hand, in the preparation of the proposals for the General Assembly and the Economic and Social Council the smaller and middle powers urged intervention in domestic affairs and the great powers were nervous about it. If I have time to do so I should like to make two or three rapid quotations which show the Australian attitude at that time in facing this question. On the question of the powers of the Security Council, the Australian point of view was stated as follows: -

If a situation calling for preventive or enforcement action . . . has arisen out of a matter which, by international law, is solely within the domestic jurisdiction of the State concerned, the Security Council shall not make any recommendation or decision which would curtail that State's lawful freedom of action.

Passing from consideration of the Security Council to consideration of the powers of the General Assembly, Dr. Evatt made the point that nothing "should deprive the Assembly of the right of free discussion ". He saw the right of the General Assembly for discussion as being almost unlimited. But then, at a later stage, when some possible outcomes of such discussion were presented to him, he is also recorded as expressing the view that the "prohibition against intervention in matters of domestic jurisdiction overrides all other powers granted to the General Assembly ". One could make similar quotations in respect of discussions on the Economic and Social Council. So you see the dilemma - the desire to make advancement in international affairs, to give powers to an international organization which would make it effective, and yet at the same time to protect the responsibility of each member nation and to prevent an intrusion into its domestic affairs which would be dangerous to its sovereignty. The way out Of that particular dilemma was expressed by the Australian delegation in this way -

The line between matters of domestic jurisdiction and matters of international concern is not fixed and immutable. It is being altered all the time as States agree, formally or informally, to handle more and more of their affairs in concert.

The lesson of that - and this is the point which is relative to our present situation - is that there will be, and necessarily should be, a gradual expansion of the field of international concern and international action, but unless there is to be an abrupt and altogether undesirable breach of all the principles of national sovereignty, that can only take place by the agreement of the States to act in concert. It cannot take place by the coercion of other nations saying, " This is what we want you to do ". It can take place only by the agreement of a national State, in matters within its own jurisdiction, to accept new obligations.

In conclusion, I want to make, this point: These principles are of supreme importance to the preservation of international peace and to the growth of international relations. One of the great services that our Prime Minister has done during the whole period of his occupancy of the Prime Ministership, and before, has been to maintain, through thick and thin, these international principles of conduct which are our chief safeguard in the world to-day.


Mr SPEAKER - Order! The Minister's time has expired.







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