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 BRYANT (Wills) .- What a shocking speech! To think that a member of the Australian Parliament could stand here and mouth such platitudinous nonsense about a great and searing issue! That is what the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen) has done. He spoke of the old Commonwealth founded upon the old sturdy unwillingness to propound a principle. What on earth does that mean? He said that the Commonwealth is now rendered useless because South Africa has departed from it. He also said that the Commonwealth ought to be reduced to the point where it consisted only of those who accepted allegiance to the Crown as a binding principle. What does that me?n? Tt would mean an immediate casting forth from the Commonwealth of those great nations that have declared themselves republics and. of course, a breaking of the very bonds that have been established by the great principles of the British Commonwealth in the past. These principles have given much to the member nations, and outstanding amongst them is the parliamentary system of government.

We on this side of the House regret that any great concourse of nations should be fragmented bv issues such as that which has led to the withdrawal of South Africa. But unfortunately we had reached the cross roads and it was impossible for South Africa to sit in the same assembly, discussing matters in friendly tones, with nations with whom it refused to have any diplomatic transactions. How can you sit around the table with nations that you refuse to recognize by ordinary diplomatic courtesies? Of course, the honorable member for Moreton this evening propounded hatred of one section of the world and I am very much afraid, from the terms of his speech, the phrases he used, and the platitudes he chose to wind into it, that he was preaching a kind of colour and racial prejudice. That of course is a serious matter to be raised in the Australian Parliament.

The honorable member for Moreton had a lot to say, as he always has, but he did not say much of substance. However, he did say that the record of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) was second to none and he was proud of it. Let us consider for a moment the record of the Prime Minister in the world of international affairs. Let us consider what he said some fourteen or fifteen years ago when independence for India was pronounced. At page 854 of " Hansard " of 19th March, 1947, the Prime Minister is reported as having said -

When I read in my newspaper that on the 20th February last the Prime Minister of Great Britain, Mr. Attlee, had made his dramatic and historic statement about India, my first feeling was one almost of shock.

He said later -

It may seem to me, as indeed it does, that to abandon control of a people who have not yet shown a real and broad capacity for popular self-government is to do a disservice to them.

So, he thought then that India was not ready for independence. But history reveals India as one of the great civilizations of this earth. To-day, it has a great international role to play and plays it nobly with its strong and sturdy sense of neutralism. Yet our Prime Minister was shocked at the thought of independence for India!

If we turn back to the time when the question of the veto in the United Nations was being considered - this is the very question that has bedevilled the United Nations since its inception, and particularly the Security Council - we find that the Prime Minister was in favour of the veto. He is a power politician when it comes to world affairs. Then, of course, we have the tragic episode of the Suez crisis of only three or four years ago. This was potentially one of the most disastrous episodes in modern history and one that brought us closer to the brink of war than has any other episode in the past twelve or thirteen years. The Prime Minister was the mastermind who said, " We must be robust, we must be firm, we must consider full-blooded economic sanctions against Egypt ". By his encouragement of the French, and particularly of the British, he brought to their actions an irresponsibility that could have destroyed civilization itself.

The honorable member for Moreton and all other members on his side of the House cannot dissociate themselves from these affairs. What is the history of our relations with the rest of the world on the South African problem? For the last ten years at least, the question of South Africa has been raised in the United Nations, and we have consistently voted with South Africa. We have continually associated ourselves with it and with its monstrous policies.

Mr Chaney - That is not quite right.

Mr BRYANT - The records are here; you can find them in " Hansard ". The honorable member for Perth has had his say. I am, of course, interested to see that he is in the chamber. If he has some information in his hands, we will be pleased to accept it later. However, my reading is that if we go to the United Nations and continually vote on the side of South Africa, we are associating ourselves with its policies.

Mr Chaney - That is not so.

Mr BRYANT - These facts have been quoted so frequently, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that you must know them by heart, but, of course, the honorable member for Perth may not have noted them. We have continually associated ourselves with South Africa and its policy in the United Nations, though the rest of the world has given decreasing support to South Africa. In the eyes of all nations of the world, we have associated ourselves with South Africa's policy, and there is no denying that. Every member of the Government parties must accept responsibility for it. Last year, we had the tragic episode of Sharpeville. Which :great political parties of th» free world, if I may use that term, remained silent while the whole world was shocked? Foremost among them were the Liberal Party, led by the Prime Minister of whom honorable members opposite speak in such flattering terms, and its satellite, the Australian Country Party.

This is his record. Now we have this latest episode. Of course, it is a somersault by the Prime Minister. Of course, it is a change-about that has been caused by public opinion, and do not think that there is no public opinion. I received this telegram a moment ago -

This meeting of students SOO strong having marched from Melbourne University to State Parliament House urges the Federal Parliament not to vote for the motion of confidence in tha Prime Minister's action moved in the House on the grounds that they were totally unrepresentative of Australian public opinion.

The telegram is signed on behalf of the protest committee. That was a march of protest by 500 university students in Melbourne. The march was referred to in the press which keeps the honorable member for Perth in his seat in this place. Those students aTe fairly representative of the Australian public.

At this time when the world is in turmoil our Prime Minister accepts South Africa's withdrawal from the British Commonwealth as inevitable but later he spends his time wrapping up that withdrawal with apologia, legalisms and platitudes. That was the tenor of his speech on Tuesday night. The speech was negative in its approach to questions that bedevil the world. Our Prime Minister was legalistic as only he can be legalistic. I remind honorable members of the arguments that he advanced at the time of the Suez crisis. He claimed that it was right and proper for the British and French to use bombers to kill hundreds of Arabs and Egyptians - as they did. That is undisputed. He said that such action was justified because the British and the French had a legal right to the Suez Canal. Whenever humanity calls for assistance our Prime Minister turns to books or law. So his speech on Tuesday night was legalistic. It was also pessimistic. The Prime Minister's references to disarmament and .the abandonment of nuclear tests were superficial and platitudinous. He said -

We do not deal with the domestic political policies of any one of us, for we know that political policies come or go with governments and that we are not concerned with governments and their policies so much as we are with nations and their peoples.

What on earth does that sentence mean? What does the Prime Minister mean when he says that we are not so much concerned with governments as we are with people? How can you have any consideration for people if you ignore their government? The Prime Minister's remark was typical of the platitudinous nonsense that he placed before the Parliament as his excuse for the dreadful position in which his disastrous policies have placed, us. No honorable member opposite can dissociate himself from those policies. We are indelibly associated in the eyes of the world with the policies that have been expounded by our Prime Minister. He has brought the Commonwealth of Nations into disrepute. There is no gainsaying that he is one of its senior members. He could be one of its most prominent and formative members but whenever a mischievous, dangerous and bellicose policy is advanced he chooses to support it. If America decides to adopt a tough approach to China, he will support America, despite the attitude adopted by the United Kingdom. When the British adopted a bellicose attitude in the Suez crisis he supported them. Unfortunately when it comes to South Africa we are slow to fall in with the attitude of the rest of the world.

We cannot afford to be in this position. Honorable members opposite have continually claimed that Australia's security is the main consideration. Our security lies in the hearts and minds of the millions of people to our immediate north. If we support policies that are offensive to those people we will have to pay the penalty in the future. We are not concerned so much with the legalisms as with the Government's responsibility towards the welfare of this and future generations of Australians. This matter about which I have been speaking is a matter of common humanity crying out for recognition - recognition that has been ignored on every possible occasion by honorable gentlemen opposite. I remind Government supporters of the people whom they have chosen for their friends. I remind them of Syngman Rhee. We have heard honorable members opposite singing the praises of the former leader of South

Korea. He is the friend of the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Wight) and the confidant of the honorable member for Ballaarat (Mr. Erwin). What of the policies of Chiang Kai-shek? They are common knowledge to anybody who cares to turn back the pages of history, particularly to the events that took place in 1946, 1947 and 1948 when that gentleman occupied Formosa for the first time. Now we have the Prime Minister's praise of Dr. Verwoerd. The Prime Minister said that Dr. Verwoerd expressed his own case very proudly and he acted with very great dignity.

Mr Chresby - The United Kingdom Prime Minister said the same thing.

Mr BRYANT - The United Kingdom Prime Minister would not be admitted to any Labour Party branch in Wills. The United Kingdom Prime Minister must accept his share of responsibility for what happened at Suez. Fortunately, the United Kingdom Prime Minister wakes up a little quicker than our own Prime Minister. The United Kingdom Prime Minister comes in with the tide but our Prime Minister gets caught in the undertow. The Prime Minister said that Dr. Verwoerd is a man of singular integrity; a most impressive man. What pompous poppycock! What rot and rubbish to say of a man whose policy is offensive to all humanity! If we turn back the pages of history far enough we find what our Prime Minister said on 24th October, 1938, in an address to the Sydney Constitutional Association. He said -

If you and I were Germans sitting beside our own fires in Berlin, we would not be critical of the leadership that has produced such results.

Those results are now being closely examined to-day in a court in Israel. Our Prime Minister has associated us with all the world's nasty characters of the last 20 or 30 years. He always wakes up too late. He is prepared to fight to the last gasp as he did for commercial interests in connexion with Suez, but he is pussy-footing, cautious and tolerant where 10,000,000 human beings in South Africa are crying out for help. It is disturbing to think of the way our Prime Minister's actions will be interpreted by India, Pakistan, Ghana, Nigeria, Ceylon and Malaya, which are the corner-stones of this great Commonwealth. South Africa has refused to have anything to do with those countries. How can Australia continue to sit in a club, to use a term which must be dear to honorable members opposite, which excludes from active membership so many other countries?

Africa has been ripped, ruined and bedevilled by racial strife over the last three of four centuries in particular. Policies of racial discrimination and racial persecution make up the blackest pages in history. We must not have a bar of those policies. As British people, we cannot fail to be proud of Britain's stand in relation to slavery. The principle of common humanity is one of the treasured ideals in British history. The British Parliament some 120 or 130 years ago took steps to abolish slavery. That was one of the great humanitarian moves of history. While other nations were ravaging the coast of Africa and carrying shiploads of slaves to North America for sale, the British Parliament was prepared to spend, I think, £30,000,000 to liberate slaves in the world. That is a tradition that we should be expounding in this Parliament, not the tradition of sticking together just because the dead hand of history has written it that way. Our Prime Minister has associated us with one of the worst political policies of modern times. He sees no moral issue in that policy.

What does apartheid mean in human terms? It means a denial of civil rights and all the indignity, suffering and humiliation that flow from that denial. Imagine what it means to a fully grown man to be treated as less than a man. That is happening to something like 10,000,000 people of South Africa to-day. They are being treated as inferiors and placed in a humiliating social position. Why should grown people be treated that way? How can we remain silent when our voices should be raised to encourage the South African Government to change its policies? Apartheid means the isolation of the African people to the remotest parts of the Union - to reserves set aside for them in the worst parts of the country. They are given the worst working conditions, the worst housing conditions, and the worst educational facilities. Above all, they are placed in an inferior and humiliating social condition - a condition in which no human being can be allowed to exist if we mean what we say when we talk of the Charter of the United Nations.

Where ought Australia to stand in these things? Ought we not to be leaders in the world of thought when it comes to humanity and co-operation? Is not this the nation of Eureka, of adult suffrage and of the common man? Is not the present the time of the common man and of the small nations and people speaking together at the United Nations free of all these oppressive and humiliating social attitudes? Unfortunately, the great political parties which constitute the present Government of this country have put every one of us in a position in which in the eyes of the world wc are associated with oppression and humiliating social attitudes. We cannot afford to continue in that way.

There has been raised the question: What is a domestic issue? We on this side of the House say that there is no such thing as a domestic issue when human beings are being oppressed and persecuted and their wellbeing is at stake. The Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) asked this evening what we would do if representatives of other countries or the United Nations came to scrutinize our affairs. He did not put it quite that way, but that is what he meant.

Mr Anderson - They would have good reason to scrutinize compulsory unionism as it operates here.

Mr BRYANT - The honorable member for Hume seems to be ashamed for Australia at the thought of anybody examining our policies. Apparently, he would be afraid of international commissions visiting this country. If they have something to offer, we should welcome them. If we have something to learn, we should look for the learning. We ought not to stand upon pride, upon prestige or upon status. Those things are gone. This is a new world in which some 100 nations now speak for themselves in the United Nations. Some of them may be small, but some of the new nations will be powerful in the years to come because of the weight of their numbers. Australia must learn to speak with an independent humanitarian voice in world affairs.

The Prime Minister, having chosen to take upon himself the office of Minister for External Affairs and to be our spokesman both in that capacity and as the titular leader of this nation, has put us in a disastrous position. Therefore, we on this, side of the House honestly and conscientiously believe that the Prime Minister can no longer b allowed to play the dual roles of Prime Minister and Minister for External Affairs. We can do very little about his position Prime Minister until the next general election, but we can make clear what we consider is the honest, the expressed opinion of the Australian people. That opinion is that this man does not stand for us and speak for us, that he is against the Australian spirit and that he talks so much poppycock when he speaks of tradition and prestige and status and the immense integrity of D.. Verwoerd, that he must be removed from his office of Minister for External Affairs.

Suggest corrections