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Thursday, 13 April 1961


Mr WARD (East Sydney) .- Mr. Speaker,the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) has said that the prime purpose of our presence in this Parliament is to protect our national security and safeguard Australia's interests. With that statement I entirely agree, and that is why I propose to vote for the amendment submitted by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell). At present, I know of no better way to protect Australia's national security and our interests generally than by removing the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) from the position which he at present occupies. Speaker after speaker on the Government side of the House has talked about this great figure in international affairs. If words could make him great, he would be probably the greatest man that this or any other country has ever produced. But when you look for specific evidence of the achievements of the Prime Minister in international affairs, you have to admit that in every respect he has been a colossal failure.

Twenty minutes is not sufficient time for me to say all that I should like to say about the right honorable gentleman and his activities, but I think that the time allowed to me will be adequate to enable me to convince everybody who is listening to the debate this evening that the greatest danger to the Australian community is the form of dictatorship which at present exists in Australia. This is only a one-man government. It is a government of one man who expresses, not the will of the Parliament or of his party, but his own personal opinion, in both domestic matters and international affairs.

Let us look at the Prime Minister's performance with respect to South Africa. I want to pay a good deal of attention to this aspect of his recent activities. It is only now that Ministers and other Government supporters talk about their opposition to the apartheid policy of the South African Government. Let them produce evidence on record in this Parliament or anywhere else that the Prime Minister, prior to the defeat of his efforts to support this policy at the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference, had ever said that he was opposed to the policy being followed by the South African Government. As late as 12th April, after the right honorable gentleman had made his statement in this Parliament, the "Sydney Morning Herald " declared -

There will be disappointment . . . that he touched only very lightly on the reasons why Australia made such a remarkable switch of policy in the United Nations.

Surely nobody argues that there has not been a switch of policy on the Government's part. On 31st March of last year, when this House was discussing the massacre that occurred at Sharpeville in South Africa, the Prime Minister said - . . this Parliament as a parliament and this Government as a government would be accepting a grievous responsibility if it sought to invade these policies of a domestic kind in another country of the British Commonwealth. That, after all, is the essence of what I have said from beginning to end.

At the United Nations, just as at the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference, it has repeatedly been said on the Government's behalf that it did not want this matter even discussed, because the Government regarded it as a matter of domestic concern to South Africa. This has been said at the United Nations since the South African policy of apartheid was first raised there in 1952. The Government first of all supported the South Africans in their attitude by preventing a discussion. Australia later abstained from voting on the issue. The Government has now declared at the United Nations that it is opposed to the South African policy.

This Government was long opposed to discussion of the policy of apartheid, and at a meeting of the Special Political Committee of the United Nations on 4th April last it gave the first indication we had seen that it was in any way opposed to this policy. Last Tuesday, referring to the speech made by Mr. Hood, the Australian representative, at this meeting, the Prime Minister said -

Our representative, Mr. Hood, made a speech which accurately expressed our ideas . . .

He said this - "... apartheid is repugnant to Charter principles . . . The provisions concerning human rights are one of the most notable objectives set out in the Charter, and any failure in their observance wherever it may occur is indeed legitimately a matter for the concern of all. . . . "

That was the first occasion on which the Prime Minister admitted that this was not a domestic matter of concern to South Africa alone and that this ill-treatment of the native peoples of South Africa was a matter of concern to humanitarian nations and statesmen all over the world. On 31st March of last year, the right honorable gentleman moved an amendment to a motion which had been proposed by the Opposition. That amendment was designed to omit certain words and to insert the following words: -

.   . this House profoundly regrets the loss of human lives occasioned in the recent incidents in South Africa; is distressed that such events should have occurred in a member country of the Commonwealth of Nations; expresses its sympathy with those who have suffered; profoundly hopes that order may be re-established as soon as possible; and earnestly hopes that the adjustment of all disputes and differences will be achieved by orderly and lawful processes for the common benefit of the people of South Africa.

There was not one word of condemnation of the policy of apartheid. How was law and order to be re-established in South Africa? Were the whip, the bludgeon and the oppressive tactics of the South African

Government to be the means employed to restore law and order in that country? The right honorable gentleman had not one word of comfort for the unfortunate natives and the non-whites in South Africa who were fighting for their very existence.

When the Prime Minister went to the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference he tried to prove beyond doubt that he had never expressed any opposition to this policy - and he had not, until he made his statement in this House on Tuesday evening last. Just before the conference of Prime Ministers, he said -

I am the only Prime Minister who, until this Conference, had never publicly offered an opinion on South African policy.

So it ought to be beyond doubt that he had never regarded himself as an opponent or a critic of that policy. He did not even refer to it as apartheid, but said that it is a policy of separate development. Then, when he decided that world opinion was against him, and he had suffered another ignominious defeat in the international sphere, he came to this Parliament and said -

I am opposed to apartheid,It offends my conscience; it will not work.

At page 13 of his statement, he said -

I criticise what South Africa does about a problem which is its problem, not ours.

But he had never offered any criticism up to that point. Does the Prime Minister really oppose the policy of apartheid? I do not think he does, because apartheid in South Africa is supported by only 55 per cent of the white population of 3,000,000 and there are 9,000,000 or 10,000,000 nonwhites in the country - natives of the country who have no say in its government and no vote - and this Government has not offered one word of hope for the future success of their activities to secure for themselves the rights which every Australian citizen exercises here. The Prime Minister said he was concerned about the maintenance of the Commonwealth of Nations and that he regretted the withdrawal of South Africa. So does every other member of this Parliament regret the withdrawal of South Africa. But if you are concerned about the maintenance of the Commonwealth of Nations, would it not have been worse if South Africa had remained in and millions of these native people, who wanted to remain within the

British Commonwealth, found it impossible to do so? But according to this Government, it did not matter about the others - these new and rising non-white nations that were getting representation for the first time.

Although the Prime Minister said that he and his very dear friend, Mr. Macmillan, the Prime Minister of Great Britain, had no differences of opinion on the matter, the British Prime Minister said that South Africa cannot be a member of the Commonwealth of Nations until it alters its racial policy. Lord Casey, who was previously a Minister for External Affairs in this Parliament, said, " It is best that South Africa is out of it ", referring to the Commonwealth of Nations. So, evidently the opinion advanced by the Labour Party is shared in other quarters, by people other than members of our organization. I want to put a proposition to members of this Parliament. If they believe that anything which occurs within the boundaries of one country, which is a member of the Commonwealth of Nations, is a matter for that nation alone, I ask any one of them, in either the Country Party or the Liberal Party, to declare that if any British Commonwealth nation becomes Communist and decides to have a Communist government it should still remain in the British Commonwealth without any objection from any of this Government's representatives, on the basis that it has the right to determine its kind of government as a purely domestic matter. Of course they would not agree. They would be protesting and threatening to walk out of the British Commonwealth if another member of the Commonwealth which had decided upon a Communist government was allowed to remain.

In any case, the decision of the Prime Minister now to utter opposition to the policy of apartheid does not mean that he has changed his attitude. He is still unrepentant. Those words expressing opposition have simply gone out for public consumption because the great volume of Australian opinion is against the initial attitude of this Government in regard to the South African position. In a recent statement the Prime Minister said -

I know of nothing which has happened since May,1960, to convert the internal affairs of

South Africa into a matter warranting intervention by the Commonwealth.

Mr. Hood,speaking for the Government, referred to it, as I have said, as - a violation of the Charter of the United Nations and the Declaration of Human Rights.

Let us turn now to the Savoy Hotel address in which the Prime Minister said -

The whole genius of the British Commonwealth - and I believe in the British Commonwealth with a faith in my guts - has been that we are tolerant.

That was rather peculiar language to come from a Prime Minister of Australia representing us overseas. I believe that the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) was right when he referred to it as a mixture of old brandy and arrogance.


Mr SPEAKER - Order! The honorable member is not in order in making a reference of that kind. I ask him to withdraw it.


Mr WARD - I withdraw it. The Prime Minister went on to say -

I am old-fashioned enough to believe in tolerance, and in living and let live and in the virtues of Christian faith, hope and charity.

Fancy a statement like that by the Prime Minister of Australia when he is dealing with the intolerable situation which exists in South Africa. He said -

I don't moralize about South Africa's policy. All I say is that I don't think apartheid will work.

He did not have anything to say about the system of registration cards, where men and women who do not have the right to exercise a vote in the government of their country have to register and cannot move fromone point to another in regard to where they live or work without gettirg a government stamp on their registration card. He did not say anything about the arresting and imprisonment of people without charge and without fair trial. He did not say anything in regard to the enforced native labour on the white farm, properties by natives arrested for alleged offences, the nature of which they are unaware. Dr. Verwoerd is reported, in the Sydney " Sun " of 21st March last, as saying -

We did what God wanted us to do.

T wonder whether the Prime Minister agrees with that statement of his friend, Dr. Verwoerd. Does he agree that what Dr. Verwoerd regarded as the will of God conforms to his own beliefs as a simple Presbyterian, as he once described himself in this Parliament?

Let me turn once again to the statement by Mr. Hood to the United Nations Political Committee. He said -

The Australian Government has stated that it feels a most serious disquiet at the racial policies which have been practised in South Africa.

If it did feel a serious disquiet, why did it not express it? Why did not the Prime Minister have something to say about that policy? We know now that this Government switched its policy and where previously it said this was not a matter to bt. discussed in this Parliament or at the Commonwealth Conference of Prime Ministers, and that it was not a matter to be discussed at the United Nations, Australia has now voted to support a resolution put forward by Ceylon, India and Malaya, but did so with certain qualifications. The resolution also deplored South Africa's racial policy of discrimination and affirmed that such a policy violates the United Nations Charter and Declaration of Human Rights. But when the committee called for action te bring about the abandonment of the apartheid policy, the Australian representative strongly opposed those sections of the resolution which he had already supported by his vote. The Prime Minister was against the application of sanctions against South Africa; but, as members on the Labour side of the House have pointed out, he adopted an entirely different attitude when he wanted sanctions against the Egyptians over the Suez position, because there it was property and investments which were concerned - property and investments which are so dear to the heart of the Prime Minister. But when it is a matter of deciding to take some action to assist human beings and relieve their suffering, he says that is a matter of domestic concern only.

The Government has not changed its attitude. The Prime Minister has done a distinct disservice to this country. Let me tell the House what he is doing. Here we have a great continent with a little over 10,000,000 people and surrounding us are non-white neighbours numbering 1,500,000,000. The Prime Minister has antagonized and insulted those people by his eulogy of that racial fanatic, Dr.

Verwoerd, the Prime Minister of South Africa. His concern is not only about human beings who are involved in this struggle in South Africa; he is worried only, as he always is, about the private investor- the £1,000,000,000 invested in diamond and gold and other mines in South Africa which depend for their profits on the ruthless exploitation of non-white labour. That is all the Prime Minister has ever been concerned about.

Let me turn to the Opposition's amendment, because the Government would have people believe we are the only people in this country who believe that the Prime Minister is unfitted for the position he now occupies. I shall quote a passage from a church journal, the " Anglican ", of 7th April, which in my opinion describes very faithfully the views that I and other members of the Labour Opposition hold. It reads -

The more speedily Mr. Menzies is removed as far as possible from public life the better . . .

Our view arises . . . from a gnawing anxiety about the future of Australia under the near dictatorship of one who truly terrifies us every time he utters a word on economics, or on British Commonwealth or international affairs . . .

Some might ask whether a Christian newspaper is an appropriate forum for the expression of such views as these and those that follow. The answer is that even a Christian is entitled to try to save his life and beliefs if they are menaced, and it would appear to many Christians that Mr. Menzies is perhaps a more lively threat to both than certain forces and powers abroad . . .

His conduct of external affairs must be considered as humorous in the extreme.

The journal refers to the Prime Minister as being emotional and confused. It continues -

Who could seriously hold that the policy of apartheid was a matter of domestic concern to the Union of South Africa?

Only our Mr. Menzies.

This preposterous poseur is not only uninformed on the substantial issues of international relations, but he is hopelessly contemptuous of Australian public opinion.

That just about describes the situation.

Now let me turn to the viewpoint of some of his colleagues. Here is an opinion expressed by one honorable gentleman, with which I agree -

Having reached an impeccable conclusion by faultless logic, and demonstrated the argument clearly to the public, he had a sense of achievement, and an expectation that from that conclusion the inescapably correct consequences would flow. Of course they seldom did.

That opinion was expressed by the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) in a history of World War II, which he wrote. A gentleman who represented the electorate of Martin in this House referred to the Prime Minister as being a man of eloquent inaction.

I now wish to give the House an illustration of the effect of his work overseas and the kind of speech that he makes. At an Australian Club dinner at the Savoy Hotel in London on 31st January, 1955, the Prime Minister said - . . in your-

He was referring to the Duke of Gloucester - sight and presence and hearing, Sir, I believe I made a speech.

You looked at me rather incredulously throughout the entire performance-


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







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