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Thursday, 13 April 1961

Mr WARD (East Sydney) '. - I want to express my opposition to the amendment that has been submitted, and in case there is any doubt as to how I will vote, I will record an open vote. This amendment is not in accordance with fact. It holds up the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) as a great international figure and a gentleman who has met with unbounded success in his excursions overseas.

I shall go back a little way into the past. My first recollection of the Prime Minister in the international sphere is when he was excluded from Westminster Abbey at the time of the coronation rehearsal because he arrived wearing the wrong pants. What has the Prime Minister achieved overseas? Does any one still regard his activities in the Suez crisis as a great success? I remember the Prime Minister telling us that the Egyptians could not possibly operate the Suez Canal because it would take years to train pilots to a sufficiently high efficiency standard to do so. He predicted that it would take years but it actually took weeks for them to begin to operate the Suez Canal.

If you care to go back a little you will remember that this gentleman was eulogizing Hitler and Mussolini and the policies which they pursued in the international sphere. Is that a reason why we should now eulogize him? His judgment has been completely at fault and he has met with successive defeats overseas. What about the incident last year at the United Nations? Ministers came back to Australia and talked about the great speech that the Prime Minister had made. He is always making nice speeches, but when we came to judge the effect of his speech at the United Nations we found that he was able to muster, in addition to his own vote, only four other votes out of 99 nations. If the Commonwealth Electoral Office had been controlling the election at the United Nations the right honorable gentleman would have lost his deposit! I have some friends overseas, too.

Mr Chresby - I bet you have.

Mr WARD - I have, and they keep me pretty well informed about what is happening in particular spheres of activity. I will say this for the Prime Minister - he must have a marvellous press officer because he is losing all his fights but is still being declared by his supporters to be the champion of the world. Do honorable members know what he is called in the United States of America? He is called the horizontal champion from Down Under. He has never won a bout.

Let the right honorable gentleman speak for himself. He says he does not want to address himself to the amendment. He does not intend to vote for it. I think that he should at least draw the line at voting for an amendment that he framed. Honorable members on the Government side are afraid to record their honest opinions and their honest feelings. Take the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth), who is hiding in his seat because he does not want his colleagues to see how he votes. I remember that not very long ago the honorable member said that the greatest service that Mr. Menzies could do to the people of this country would be to retire permanently from politics. We remember the remarks that were made on one occasion in this Parliament by the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page). We also know that the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen), the right honorable member for Cowper, and other members of the Country Party some years ago refused to serve in a government under the leadership of the present Prime Minister, ls this the gentleman who is being lauded to-day as a great international figure, and for whom a unanimous vote of the Parliament is sought? Is it not rather significant that the honorable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes) is not here? I do not worry about the views that he expresses in this chamber, but it is well known that he was dropped from the Cabinet because of a disagreement with the Prime Minister which goes back to their days in State politics. The honorable member for Chisholm has shown what he thinks about this amendment, which he knew was to be proposed, by going from this Parliament. He refuses to vote for the amendment. At least, the honorable member for Chisholm is honest in his attitude. Although he is chairman of the Government's Foreign Affairs Committee, he has so little regard for the capacity of the Prime Minister that he leaves Canberra rather than record a vote for this amendment!

I do not think a secret ballot on this amendment would help us very much. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) has indicated what would happen. As he said, honorable members opposite would be attaching their visiting cards to the ballot paper. If the Prime Minister wants to test whether the people of this country have confidence in his handling of international affairs, let them have a vote on the issue. Let us have a general election. Let the Government get out, because it is endangering the security of this country. Since the Prime Minister has been in office, he has been an utter failure. I often wonder whether it is better to have him in Australia or overseas. When he is in Australia, he makes a mess of our economic affairs. When he goes oversea, he makes a mess of our international affairs and damages our relations with other countries. I am quite certain that although Labour has not the numbers in this Parliament to defeat the amendment at least the people outside will be able to assess the genuineness of the amendment, which only eulogizes the right honorable gentleman for the succession of failures that he has encountered overseas. Even though the Government has the numbers in this Parliament I am quite certain that it has not got them in the Australian community generally.

Motion (by Mr. Downer) put -

That the question be now put.

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