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
Friday, 3 December 1965


Mr BRYANT (Wills) .- I want to draw the attention of the House to something else which is irresponsible and about which I would not be speaking this afternoon had I been allowed to speak on the motion for the adjournment last night. It is the issue through the Prime Minister's Department and the Department of External Affairs to the schools of Australia of a very poor statement of the attitude of the Government on Vietnam. I believe it is one of the most presumptuous, arrogant and unethical acts this Government has perpetrated in its long years of office.

First of all, as the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Reynolds) pointed out last night, it places every headmaster who receives it in an impossible position. He has to make what one might call a valued decision about the use of this material in his school. If he refuses to use it, then he will be charged with political bias. It is a completely unethical disposal of governmental power and may be justly criticised on several grounds. The honorable member for Barton said last night - and I for one agree with him - that at certain levels students at Australian schools ought to learn to make a critical analysis of public affairs and to discuss controversial issues. The issue here is not perhaps so much the question of Government policy and the use of public funds in this way, but the fact that the material distributed presents a one sided view in a country which accepts bipartisan ship in politics; a country in which the party system is inherent in the whole system of politics, and a country in which the Opposition is recognised as being as much a part of the Parliament and therefore as much a part of the government of the country as the Government itself.

Firstly, I think that what has been done represents the unethical exercise of governmental power. Secondly, it is an imposition upon the State schools and, presumably, on the private schools. Thirdly, the information supplied is one-sided. The Government's action follows out the tradition which has been established over the last three or four decades by people like Hitler, Mussolini and the Communist dictatorships of Russia and China.

Let me deal first with what we might call the quality of the leaflet - it is hardly a booklet and it is hardly a pamphlet. It contains 23 extracts. The views of notable contributors to democratic thought in this country are quoted. It contains two statements from the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies), 18 from the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Hasluck), one from Senator Gorton and two from the Department of External Affairs. So one can hardly claim that it is an objective creation of the Department of External Affairs with a view to putting everybody's view before the community.

Let us examine the statements. Is this the kind of material that we are prepared to send out, at Government expense and with the imprimatur of the Commonwealth of Australia, to school children? For example, it contains a quotation from a speech delivered by the Minister for External Affairs in Adelaide on 2nd September last. I do not know to whom he was speaking. The speech was not made in this House. The minister said -

Up to date, the North Vietnamese, and behind them, China, have shown no interest in discussions of any kind.

This was issued within days almost of the publication from America and other sources of irrefutable evidence that the Government of North Vietnam had shown an interest in negotiation. So the Minister's statement is erroneous and it is completely irresponsible. I believe it is absolutely unethical to send this kind of document around the country at all. Is there anybody in this

House who does not know now that the Government of North Vietnam indicated its interest in negotiation as early as last year? The earliest mention I can find of that is, I think, in the " Manchester Guardian " of 11th August - a fortnight or so before the Minister for External Affairs made his statement. So the document falls to the ground upon its very quality. Right through it, one finds this element of inaccuracy. The Minister for External Affairs is also quoted as having said this on 29th April -

The Australian Government is now in receipt of a request from the Government of South Vietnam for further military assistance.

That was on 29th April. Who is the Government? What is it all about? That is the complete bias of the thing - skilfully written by masters of words, with all the techniques of what one might call imposition upon the public will behind it, with all the skills developed by the mastermind of propaganda brought to bear. Senator Gorton, explaining in another place why we are giving military aid and why the people of North Vietnam are the subject of bombing, said -

We must, if it be possible, allow countries and paris of countries to be the masters of their own fates and, without threat from outside, to develop . . .

The Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Hasluck) stated -

We have no desire to make war on North Vietnam but only a steady resolution to defend South Vietnam.

I wonder what the people of North Vietnam think about this, as the bombers thunder overhead with the kindly regards of the Prime Minister of this country, who says that this is an act of great moral courage. So if we turn back the pages we find that the people who sponsored this are notable contributors to mischief, dictatorship and misery in this world. Take " Mein Kampf " by Adolf Hitler, formerly Schicklgruber. Is this the document from which the Liberal Party receives its propaganda training -

AU propaganda must be popular and its intellectual level must be adjusted to the most limited intelligence among those it is addressed to.

This is surely the quality behind the document and characteristic of some of the thinking that we find enshrined in its pages. The extract from " Mein Kampf " continues -

Consequently, the greater the mass it is intended to reach, the lower its purely intellectual level will have to be.

Certainly the Libera] Party and its Ministry are fulfilling the criteria laid down by Adolf Hitler. We find in the document a statement about freedom, and what we are fighting for, that might well come from page 634 of " Mein Kampf **-

A nation, then, will - in our situation - be regarded as fit for alliance, if government and public opinion with equal fanaticism proclaim and uphold the will to fight for freedom.

That sounds like the honorable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes), advocating the bombardment of innocent citizens of North Vietnam. Then we come to the treatment of schools and the imposition upon the people of Australia in this way. This is what we read in " Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism ", a study of Communist domination in China -

This situation might exist, for instance, in a graduate school department of, let us say, economics, sociology, or literature, dominated by a forceful, authoritarian department head who is a single-minded devotee of one particular doctrinal approach to his subject and who considers alternative views " erroneous ", and " unscientific ".

The Prime Minister, in his statement that it is one government, and one point of view going forth, is sponsoring that very idea. In "The Context of Coercive Persuasion", another study of Communist procedures in brain-washing, we read -

One of the unique features of Chinese Communist rule is group indoctrination on a very large scale.

I believe that honorable members on both sides of the House ought to view with extreme concern not so much the issue of this booklet to the schools of Australia - while they might deplore the quality of it, they might consider its inaccuracies enough to damn the Government - as the fact that it is a one-sided view that is being forced upon the community. It is domination of the lines of communication, one might say, by the Government, using all the force and powers at its disposal. I take this opportunity this afternoon to raise this matter and have it on the record. I believe that the schools of Australia ought to be encouraged to be critical and to discuss controversy. I have said before, not only here but in other places, that I believe the secondary schools of Australia do not do enough of this. But the imposition by the Government upon them of one point of view, with the use of the resources of the Government to disseminate it - one might say, demanding that it be considered - is, I believe, completely unethical. It is outside the tradition on which we built the parliamentary system. I hope that honorable members opposite will consider this deeply and take action inside their own party rooms, at least, to have this attitude of mind and the whole procedure stopped. I regret that I have detained honorable members this afternoon, although it has been for their own good - particularly for the good of honorable members opposite. I have been careful to finish in time to enable honorable members to catch their aircraft. I simply remind the Government Whip that had he not used his coercive powers last night everybody would have been away 10 minutes earlier.

Question resolved in the affirmative.







Suggest corrections