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Thursday, 9 December 1965

Mr UREN (Reid) .- I do not wish to stoop to the gutter tactics adopted by the honorable member for La Trobe (Mr. Jess). The stench is so strong that we can smell it even on this side of the House. There were many inaccuracies in the honorable member's statements but of course I do not live in Victoria and have no way of answering some of the honorable member's propositions. The honorable member for Yarra (Dr. J. F. Cairns) may give an answer on the motion for the adjournment tomorrow, if he is permitted to do so. Of course he may not think it worth his while to give an answer.

I have said that there were many inaccuracies in the honorable member's statement. Let me refer to them. He said that the honorable member for Yarra had said that the pamphlet cost something like £600. It cost nothing of the sort for the initial printing. It is true that 30,000 copies were printed. But the initial publication was nothing like as many as 30,000. Subsequent publications were made because of the demand that arose. As revenue from sales came in more copies were printed. This pamphlet was published with the authority of the Victorian Branch of the Australian Labour Party. For the information of everybody I point out that the Party has six State Branches with complete autonomy. A foreword to the pamphlet was written by the Leader of the Australian Labour Party,

Arthur Calwell. This document had the complete support of the Party.

The honorable member for La Trobe directed a smear at an honorable member on the Opposition's front bench. The honorable member for La Trobe did not have the courage to mention the name of an Opposition front bench member who, he said, had dissociated himself from the statements made by the honorable member for Yarra. That was a smear and a stigma on everybody who sits on the front bench on this side of the House.

I leave that matter now, Mr. Speaker. Tomorrow this House will go into recess and will remain in recess until next March. There have been persistent rumours circulating to the effect that Australia's commitment in Vietnam will be increased. There have been persistent rumours that Australian conscripts will be sent to Vietnam. I wish to express my opposition to such a proposal. Although questions have been asked in this Parliament by both the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) and the honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryant) no information has been given to honorable members on this side of the House. The Parliament itself has been completely ignored. I am willing to lay odds that between now and next March young Australian conscripts will be sent to Vietnam. This Government intends to commit young Australians, against their will, to going to Vietnam to protect a corrupt government - a government that is not worth support. The socalled Government of South Vietnam is really only a military junta - a military clique that has not been elected by the people. Yet the Australian Government is prepared to support and to send young Australian conscripts to fight in support of this military junta.

Within the last two weeks a major-general who addressed a passing out parade at Puckapunyal told the young conscripts on parade that they must be prepared to go to Vietnam. I understand that they were asked to sign a document that embodied three propositions. 1 am not sure that I have the exact words, but I shall outline them as best I can. The first proposition was to the effect that (a) they should not disclose that they were going to Vietnam and (b) they should not disclose the timetable for their departure. The second proposition stated that they would be given pre-embarkation leave provided they pledged that they would return to their unit before the ship sailed. The third proposition is the great mystery. It was a statement that they agreed to serve overseas. I know of instances in which young conscripts have refused to sign this document and have been subjected to intimidation tactics. Pressure has been brought to bear on them.

There is something wrong in this whole business. Why in heaven's name is the Government trying these tactics of getting young conscripts in groups and saying, in effect: " Follow the leader. Come on, be in it."? Why is it adopting these tactics to induce young conscripts to sign an agreement to go overseas? Is it trying to whitewash itself? Why is it trying to get young conscripts to agree to serve overseas? It has conscripted them and it will have to take the responsibility when the coffins are being brought back to Australia. The Government has made a decision to conscript the youth of our nation and send our young men overseas. I consider that this is one of the worst actions by a government in our history. Sending of young Australians to Vietnam to support the military junta there in a time of peace amounts to interfering in the internal affairs of another country. The people of Vietnam do not support the so-called government of Vietnam. I should like to quote briefly from some remarks made by President Kennedy on 2nd September 1963. Referring to Vietnam, he said -

I don't think that unless a greater effort is made by the Government to win popular support the war can be won out there. In the final analysis it is their war. They are the ones to have to win or lose it. We can help them. We can give them equipment. We can send our men out there as advisers.

I emphasise the word " advisers ". President Kennedy continued -

But they have to win it - the people of Vietnam against the Communists. We are prepared to assist them but I don't think the war can be won unless the people support the effort.

The truth is that they are not prepared to support the Vietnamese Government's efforts. The reason why more and more United States troops are going to Vietnam is that the South Vietnamese are not prepared to fight against the Vietcong, which is also known as the National Liberation Front forces. Only the other night an American major who took part in one of the great battles that have been going on recently was interviewed on television. He said that the Vietcong were great fighters and he also praised the Americans as fighters. He added: " I prefer not to make a statement about the South Vietnamese forces." I was recently in Saigon on my way back from the recent InterParliamentary Union Conference. While in that city I shared a room one night with a young American who was a member of the special forces and who had been stationed at a camp near the border of Cambodia. He told me quite plainly that the Americans, who went out on patrol regularly, tried at times to get the South Vietnamese to go out with them but the Vietnamese would not go. He said that the Americans tried to shame the Vietnamese into going on patrol but still could not get them to go. This indicates the attitude of the South Vietnamese troops. When I was in Saigon the South Vietnamese Government admitted that there are more than 10,000 desertions a month from the government forces. This shows the attitude and loyalty of the Vietnamese people to the so-called Government of South Vietnam.

On this issue of Vietnam it is of no use for us to throw bricks at one another. Every one of us must try to do something to bring peace to that country. Many may ask: What can we do? We on this side of the Parliament have said that our position is clear and that we do not support the presence of Australian forces in Vietnam. We have pledged ourselves to reverse the present position and to work to have the Australian forces withdrawn. All members of this Parliament should do their utmost to try to bring peace to Vietnam. Surely we can speak out against escalation of the war. We all know that if the war in Vietnam is escalated as some honorable members opposite wish matters will get worse. The honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) wants to see the war in Vietnam escalate. He wants to denuclearise China. He wants to bomb installations in that country. Certain forces want to escalate the war by bombing Haiphong and Hanoi. I earnestly hope that the war will not escalate. If it does we shall find it more difficult to get the parties to the conference table.

We must put pressure on both sides to compromise. We must try to bring them together so that a peaceful settlement may be achieved. There can be no military solution to the struggle in Vietnam. The opposing parties must be brought together at the conference table. Compromise must be achieved, for this is the only way in which peace can be brought about. I am not trying to say that all the rights are on one side and all the wrongs on the other. In this bloody conflict there are wrongs on both sides. Surely for the sake of the peace of the world we all must try to stop this bloodshed. We must try to bring an end to this war because more and more young Australians will be committed to it. More and more of our youth will be committed to this stupid, bloody war in Vietnam if we do not stop it.

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

Mr Jess - Mr. Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.

Mr SPEAKER - Does the honorable member claim to have been misrepresented?

Mr Jess - Yes. The honorable member for Reid (Mr. Uren) began his illuminating address by stating that I had misrepresented and falsely quoted what the honorable member for Yarra (Dr. J. F. Cairns) had said about expenditure on the publication of his booklet on Vietnam. May I just read what I was referring to. At page 3804 of "Hansard" of 8th December, the honorable member for Yarra is reported to have said -

As the honorable member says, it was not-

Mr SPEAKER - Order! The honorable member will have to be more concise in explaining the misrepresentation. He is now entering into a debate.

Mr Jess - No, Sir, I am reading.

Mr SPEAKER - Order! The honorable member will make his explanation and cease debating the issue any further. He may quote the passage of the honorable member's speech in which he was misrepresented.

Mr Jess - The honorable member said that I had claimed that the expenditure was £600, and that this was incorrect. How can I prove that it was incorrect unless I can read what the honorable member said?

Mr SPEAKER - Order! The honorable member has now made his point.

Mr Jess - May I read what was said, Sir?

Mr SPEAKER - No. The honorable member will resume his seat.

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