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
Wednesday, 16 March 1966

Mr GILES (Angas) .- We heard tonight from the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) one of his frequent efforts at personal abuse 'and abuse of sections of Australian society. It is totally unnecessary, as I see it, for an honorable member to single out individuals and comment on their expression or whether they are asleep. Let us face it: The honorable member asks for all of us to be asleep when he carries on with some of his socialistic dogma. I thought he gave himself away clearly tonight when he referred to commercial people in this country in words of some abuse and with some evidence of hate. Frequently, the Opposition urges that we should do more to encourage trade and more to improve our balance of trade. But what happens when we have a useful outlet for trade? The honorable member for Hindmarsh abuses manufacturers in scurrilous fashion as though they were behaving disloyally. If there is anything disloyal in this matter as it strikes the honorable member, it is, of course, basic. He does not agree with commerce. He does not agree with people who work to set themselves up to trade because be is a violent socialist. I will say this for him: He is sincere in this, and there are too few on his side of the House who stick sincerely to their beliefs. I would ask: Where are the Labour men of years ago when I was a small boy? Where are the lean jawed, big people who travelled the length and breadth of the land crusading sincerely for something in which they believed? The present members of the Labour Party have been in opposition for so long because they have lost their beliefs. They have nothing on which to pin a star.

They have no positive beliefs with which to go out into the countryside and crusade. In the present situation, the Opposition has frantically clutched at something which it thinks it might be able to get away with. Hitherto, it has had nothing on which to base a convincing argument to the Australian public. It is frantically clutching at a straw, trying to take advantage of the fact that Australia is in many ways still not part of the world - still a little inclined to be isolationist in its policies and thinking, as was the United States of America until quite recently. This attitude on the part of the Opposition explains quite a bit.

If I may depart from that thought for a minute, I would like to refer to some of the remarks made by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) in this debate. I think these are at the core of the new method of thinking which the Opposition has suddenly discovered. The Leader of the Opposition said that the traditional role of Labour has always been anti-conscription. That statement is a fallacy for a start, as anybody who has studied the history of these matters will know. But I believe that now we are in some ways hearing the truth. Where are the high-falutin remarks of the honorable member for Yarra (Dr. J. F. Cairns)? Where is the ideological thinking with which we have been berated by the honorable member for Yarra in terms of how we should learn to get on with the Asian people? All this highly mythical moral thinking has now gone overboard and we now have laid before us the bare truth that the excuse for all this hullabaloo is that the Labour Party is traditionally against conscription.

I believe that one of the really poor things ever to happen in this country - this matter goes back to the First World War and was a point well made by the honorable member for Bradfield (Mr. Turner) - was that volunteers were allowed to bear the brunt of defending Australia. One of the great things to have happened in recent years has been the realisation by more and more people that this situation has been unfair. We have heard a lot about the freedom of the individual and about national service trainees who are sent overseas having no vote. Society has always been that way. I think it was the honorable member for Bradfield who pointed out. for instance, that the first responsibility of a citizen is to protect his society. I maintain that we are in this chamber tonight to legislate, to put into effect laws which will ensure that society and every individual within it has some protection. If I might strike a quick simile, may I say that the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) sometimes makes me feel that I would like to hit him over the head with a mallee root. I do not expect that that would make much impression on him, but the point is that society protects the honorable member from being hit over the head with a mallee root by me. And this should be so. The point at issue is that society is protected by its laws. The freedom of the individual will always be qualified, so that, in effect, there will be actual freedom for operation at a level. This, I think, is basic to any argument on whether we should or should not defend this country properly and send troops, in this case, to the theatres of limited warfare in Malaya and Vietnam.

I see that the honorable member for Kingston (Mr. Galvin) is with us. I was interested to hear that whereas he agreed that China could to some extent be considered a menace to our country, he was at complete variance on this question with the honorable member for Hindmarsh. So if we throw these little matters backwards and forwards as debating points, let us remember that they are debating points. And there was very little sincerity behind some of the debating points I heard made by some members of the Opposition tonight. I think the basic mistake in the reasoning of honorable members opposite is that they refuse to accept that today we are involved in the concept of a limited war - that we are involved, to a degree, in police action. I am thinking now more of the theatre of war, if we consider it in that light, or the theatre of operations in Borneo than in Vietnam.

Speakerafter speaker on the opposite side tonight has made the point that either we are or we are not at war. Honorable members opposite seem quite unable to grasp that the local conditions that apply today should not be allowed to escalate into a full scale war. They seem completely unable to accept that it is very desirable indeed that we should be operating at this particular level. I support everything that the honorable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes) said tonight. 1 think he made an excellent speech on this point. If we consider whether we should be involved in a limited war, then 1 think we have also to consider whether this type of armed action has ever achieved anything at all.

Once again, the memories of honorable members opposite are very short indeed. They forget the lesson of Munich in the last war. They forget that it is of no use appeasing, appeasing and appeasing. They forget that armed force to a limited degree has solved the situation in Malaya. It is remarkable to those who visit Malaya to see how Communism has been pushed back. A handful of people who were causing great confusion were finality rounded up or pushed further and further north until they were no longer a menace in Malaya. They are no longer a factor to be considered when thinking in terms of police force activity in that area. We can look also to Taiwan, which has been stabilised by the force of American arms. Cyprus, Cuba and Korea are other examples of what can be achieved by this type of action. We are apt to overlook this. It is of no earthly use the Leader of the Opposition rising in this House and saying that we are involved in a war which cannot be won and that the Labour Party will have nothing to do with it. That attitude shows completely outmoded thinking. It is like hiding one's head in the sand. It is the sort of thinking which Australia, as she advances as a nation, cannot afford any longer.

I am very pleased to note that the action of this Government, and indeed of the new Prime Minister, in this regard has been definite. There has been no shilly-shallying. May I add, at the risk of being critical of another country, that there has been no prevarication or doubt such as exists in New Zealand. A certain decision has been made. We believe that, in the interests of this nation, this type of defence action must be taken. We are very fortunate to have America as an ally, with her resources and her interest in this area and also a determination born of being morally right.

I had the very good fortune about three weeks ago to be in the Malaysian area.

While there I had an opportunity to look over Air Force and Army establishments and in particular the naval base at Singapore. I found the sheer immensity of these establishments to be amazing. I do not know how we could possibly duplicate these facilities on Australia's shores. No doubt modern thinking could achieve a rationalisation of the mammoth facilities that exist in Malaysia but I repeat that I was amazed at the sheer extent of these facilities. I shall not describe them fully tonight; probably this is not the time to do so. May 1 say, however, that it would seem to be very much to Australia's interests if Britain could be persuaded to retain Singapore as a base for as long as possible. If there was any degree of assurance that Britain would retain this base, it might pay us to subscribe a certain sum towards annual maintenance and running costs.

One thing we must consider very carefully is the fact that Britain's aircraft carrier force is not young; its life is limited possibly to the early 1970's. Whether Britain will regard it as being worthwhile to remain at this base much beyond then is problematical, lt is perhaps worth noting that, if the Americans had a base as near to the strategic area as Singapore is, possibly they could put their existing force into that area with only one third of the number of ships at present employed. In other words, in any thinking about the location of a base very many factors must be taken into account. Not the least of them is that, if we were to duplicate the Singapore base in Australia, we would have grave problems in the percentage of effective patrol time that naval vessels could spend in the area that we now regard as being strategic.

Perhaps I may point out that at present Singapore has a very grave problem in providing job opportunities. I gather that 50 per cent, of the population is under 21 and the population bulge is rapidly reaching such proportions as to make it necessary for Singapore to have a great deal more secondary industry if its economy is to remain viable. I believe that discussions on this point have already taken place between President Lee Kuan Yew and Australian Government officials. I regard this matter as grave, because without a continuance of the stability that now exists in the Singapore area, our defence thinking would have to be re-oriented to a considerable degree. I hope that the Opposition will at least agree that it is desirable that an adequate flow of trade with this area be maintained. I believe that we could perhaps help Singapore by establishing there plants to process Australian primary products. We might do well to accept a responsibility for this kind of activity.

I could hardly believe my ears when I heard an Opposition member say this evening, as I understood him, that Australian aid to countries in South East Asia should cease or be reduced and that we should start thinking of ourselves a little more. I can only hope that his words were not meant in the way that they sounded to me. I regret the sort of attitude that he seemed to be adopting. We would give ourselves away completely if we were to adopt that kind of insular and petty thinking.

Let me say finally, Mr. Speaker, that in my view there are very strong moral arguments, as well as arguments of other kinds which have been put so capably by previous speakers this evening, in support of the proposition that we should do what we can to protect any nation that is under threat of being overrun whether by invading armed forces alone or by an invading army combined with the infiltration of some detrimental political concept. I sincerely believe that we are adopting the right course by maintaining troops in South East Asia. I hope that the people of Australia will be sufficiently broad in their thinking to realise the utter necessity of this course. It seems to me that we can go too far with the line of thought that South East Asia does not concern us. 1 believe that history proves conclusively that if one is not opposed to a concept one will be taken as being in favour of it. This is exactly the sort of position into which, I believe, the Opposition has too frequently drifted, as has been pointed out by previous speakers on this side of the chamber. The Opposition has allowed itself, perhaps unintentionally, to be associated with activities and organisations that are not conducted in the interests of this country. May I take the matter a stage further and say that if members of the Australian Labour Party are sincere in their declarations that they are attempting to overcome Communist influence at trade union or any other level they should, in my opinion, think very seriously of putting an active group into the vacuum left in the trade union movement in the field that was once filled by the industrial groups. If members of the Labour Party are sincere in their claims, they must show the people of Australia that they are determined to have an individualistic policy of their own but not necessarily one that follows the line to which they adhere at present.

Debate (on motion by Mr. Duthie) adjourned.

Suggest corrections