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Thursday, 17 March 1966

Mr Malcolm Fraser (WANNON, VICTORIA) . - The honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) in the last few moments has made one or two fine emotional points, but they were points based on emotion and not on reason. This argument about wheat, to which the Opposition constantly refers, is one which just does not make sense in the circumstances of the present time. The only way in which it would be possible to prevent Australian wheat from getting to Chinese markets would be to stockpile it in Australia and to go on stockpiling it. If we said that we would not sell it to China., some other country would buy it as an agent for China and we would have no control over that, or Canada would fill the market for us.

Mr Reynolds - What do we do in war time?

Mr Malcolm Fraser (WANNON, VICTORIA) - In war time there is a navy and an ability to blockade their ports, but that is not the situation at the present time and there is not a blockade of Chinese ports.

The honorable member mentioned also that it was wrong that 12,500 Asian students should be in our universities and not subject to the call-up. What complete and utter nonsense it is when honorable members opposite bring the debate to this level. These are largely Asian students who have come here, many under the Colombo Plan, as a result of co-operation between the Australian Government and the governments of the countries concerned so that they can return to their own countries, assist in their development and help raise the standard of living of their own people. They are temporary residents of Australia. Yet the honorable member suggests that they should be subject to the call-up. This just does not make sense and I think the honorable member knows it. He mentioned again the question of volunteers. He said that there have been a great number of volunteers foi the Army but that the Army has not accepted them.

I do not know how many times it will have to be said in this House that the standards set for the Army are the standards laid down during the 1939-45 war and that if those standards were lowered it would cause grave damage to the structure of the Army.

Mr Galvin - Do the same standards apply to national service trainees?

Mr Malcolm Fraser (WANNON, VICTORIA) - They do. If lower standards were applied to people coming into the Army, in many instances the recruits could be an administrative liability and a danger to their colleagues. The education standard that has been set is Grade 4 in the Victorian education system - about the standard reached by a child of 9 or 10 years - and the intelligence quotient test is such that, if taken over the whole Australian community, it would exclude the bottom 3 per cent, of the community. This is not striking a standard which is unattainable or unduly high.

The Australian presence in Vietnam and the involvement of national servicemen in Vietnam requires an understanding of what is happening in Vietnam and South East Asia, and the nature of the threat this poses to Australian security. This, 1 believe, is the basis of the real difference between the Opposition and ourselves. I suspect that Opposition members say that the situation in Vietnam is no threat to us and, therefore, we do not need to do anything about it. But the best description of what is happening in South Vietnam is still to be found in the words of the British Socialist Foreign Secretary, Michael Stewart. It was he, among others, who pointed out that it was North Vietnam in 1959 and 1960 which made the decision to resurrect the Vietcong terrorist movement to overthrow by terrorism and subversion the governments of South Vietnam. He devoted some time to the methods of the Vietcong. He pointed out that, in 1963, 2,000 unarmed civilians - men, women and children - were murdered and that in 1964 that figure had risen to 2,800. He made it clear that this is not just or mainly a civil war; it is basically a war of aggression by North Vietnam, supported and supplied by China, against South Vietnam.

If the North Vietnamese regiments and the Chinese war materials moved by one stroke across the borders from the North to the South or down the Ho Chi Minh trail through Laos, there is not a person who could get on his feet and deny that this was plain, open, old fashioned aggression; but because the material and the regiments are infiltrated in over a period of time, quite slowly, over weeks and months and even years, there are people who get up and try to say that this is a civil war and nothing else. This, again, makes it difficult to understand that we no longer have the easy divisions between peace and war that were prevalent before 1939. Nobody can say that we or the world exist in a state of peace, but we are not at war in the full and complete sense as we were from 1939 to 1945. There are states between war and peace. This seems to be the normal circumstance for the world at present.

The Australian Government can develop and test its policies in this matter only against the facts of what is happening in South Vietnam; not as we believe them to be, not as somebody suspects them to be, but as we know them to be. These are the facts which honorable members opposite would deny. I think it should be pointed out that we have had considerable verification of the situation from our own people - from members of the Army training team in Vietnam who work with the Vietnamese in every corner of the country. I am referring not to a battalion, but to our training team, the members of which work in ones and twos with the Vietnamese. We have diplomatic sources, friends and intelligence sources. They all support the Government's view of the nature of the aggression from North Vietnam against South Vietnam.

If we want to examine the types of policy that Australia could pursue, having some agreement on the facts - an agreement which I think the Opposition would deny - there are only two policies that we could pursue. They are involvement in South East Asia or a policy of neutrality or non-alignment. I would have thought that most of us would now have come to understand, especially since India's experience of attack by China, that neutrality or non-alignment will not ever be a guarantee against attack or immunity from aggression.

If honorable members opposite are really arguing that we should have a policy of neutrality or non-alignment - the honorable member for Yarra (Dr. J. F. Cairns) is the only honorable member opposite who has said so but it is the implication of everything honorable members opposite say - they should come out and say it in blunt terms. They should examine the effect of such a policy on South East Asia, the United States and the United Kingdom and on the actions of those countries in this part of the world. There is not the slightest doubt that a policy of neutrality or non-alignment on Australia's part would cause great dismay in South Vietnam and in Thailand, already the subject of infiltration by Chinese instigated and trained people. A Thai liberation front has been set up and it has been said by the Chinese that once the war in Vietnam is over attention will be turned to Thailand.

There would be dismay in Malaysia. In the 1950's when Malaya was under Communist attack, the Opposition stood against our commitment there. Honorable members opposite at that time said very many of the same things they are now saying against our obligation and commitment in South Vietnam. They were proved wrong over Malaya and I believe they will be proved wrong over South Vietnam. We should also look at the effect of a policy of neutrality, not only on South East Asia but also on the United States of America and the United Kingdom. I believe that the effect on both countries would be identical. Non-alignment would mean that we would not help the United States and the Government of South Vietnam in South Vietnam. We would not help the British and the Malaysians against Indonesian confrontation.

Under those circumstances, the people who cry for withdrawal of the British forces from east of Suez and the few members of the United States Senate who seem tb imply that the United States should not be involved in South East Asia would be enormously strengthened. They would be able to say: " Look at Australia, a country like ours, with the same kind of traditions and way of life. They are not concerned about a possible downward thrust by China. They are not assisting us in trying to contain that thrust". As late as last May, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) said that China had to be stopped. But if the critics of the policies of the United States of America and the United Kingdom at this time could point to an Australia that was completely unconcerned about these matters and playing no part in them, I believe that the movements for withdrawal of both the United States and the United Kingdom from this area could well become irresistible with disastrous results for the whole region. This would leave us alone in a dangerous and difficult part of the world. If we are indifferent to the independence of other small nations, there may well be a time when someone will be indifferent to our fate. lt is now well recognised that in recent times the centre of the world power struggle has shifted from Europe to Asia. But how often must Opposition members be given the lessons that have been learned with such difficulty so many times? In the years since 1945, the Western world has been tested at least four times and has relied on the help that America has given. America gave Greece help against the Greek Communist movement that had been directed and supported by the Russians. The Americans gave support to West Berlin and ensured that Russian threats mounted three times against West Berlin failed. The Americans gave support to the United Nations forces in Korea when there was plain and open aggression by the North Koreans and the Chinese. Again we have the resolution of the United States which resulted in nuclear missiles being removed from Cuba. These attempts to probe the defences of the West were overcome because of the ultimate determination of the United States, which was known to the Russians, to use nuclear weapons if this should prove to be necessary. The threats have been overcome and as a result there is a less uneasy peace than there once was between the United States and Russia. But will Australia's determination fail now that the centre of the power struggle has shifted to South East Asia, to Vietnam, where it is no less important than were the previous threats in the world context but where it is infinitely more important to Australia? Events are now occurring in our part of the world where we must live till the end of time. If the events in South East Asia that are promoted by Peking and Hanoi, as I believe they are, are unchecked, in the medium term this will present a direct threat to the ultimate security of Australia. Believing this, any responsible Government must take steps to meet the threat. We have our alliances and our friends in the United States and the United Kingdom and in many Asian countries. But alliances and friendships are not enough. To be effective, they must be backed by action when action proves to be necessary.

In June 1964, in a statement delivered by the Minister for Defence at that time, the Government announced considerable improvements in the conditions for volunteers in the Australian Regular Army and the Armed Forces generally. This resulted in a steady improvement in the reengagement rate of regular soldiers. Our reengagement rate stands at 70 per cent, of those eligible for re-engagement, and this is one of the highest rates of any army in the Western world. But the rate of reengagement, with the number coming forward to volunteer, is not sufficient to supply the defence forces that Australia needs in the present situation. This circumstance is not peculiar to Australia. The number of people being drafted in the United States is running extremely high. It is interesting to note that more than half the total number of the United States troops in Korea came from the draft. A total of 1,500,000 men in Korea came from the United States draft. The number of United States draftees in South Vietnam is rising rapidly.

If we cannot get enough volunteers for the Australian Regular Army, are we to say that we will not bother, that we will not take the pains to establish an Army of the size we need? If this were the view of the Government, as it appears to be the view of the Opposition, the Government would be guilty of gross irresponsibility. Any government that took that position should certainly be rejected by the people of Australia. What reason is there for saying, as the Australian Labour Party does, that we are prepared to make provision to defend Australia, but only with volunteers?

What courage or bravery is there in saying that we will allow Australia to be defended only by volunteers; that we will hide behind the backs of volunteers; that we will not take the precautions and make the provisions that are necessary to secure the adequate defence of the country, but we will hide behind the backs of people with a very highly developed sense of patriotism and duty? That is the attitude of the Australian Labour Party. I do not think it is an attitude of which it can be proud.

I believe that there is a national duty and a universal obligation for Australians to do what the security of Australia demands. In the ultimate, the Government, which is responsible for Australia's security, must make the judgment as to what the security of Australia demands. This is not a question of asking national servicemen to fight in some far field of France, as was the case between 1914 and 1918. It is not a question a taking part in some distant war which is no concern of ours. It is a question of taking part in a conflict which we believe is very directly concerned with our own ultimate security. This is quite a different situation from that which might have prevailed at some time in the past. If Australia and the Australian people cannot accept the responsibilities, the difficulties, the sacrifices and the burdens that are involved in the present situation, the Government at some future time may be faced with the much more difficult task of protecting our wives and children from inside Australia.

Dr. 3.F. Cairns. - Mr. Speaker, I desire to make a personal explanation on the ground of misrepresentation. I have just had drawn to my attention a statement which is attributed to the honorable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes) at page 316 of "Hansard" and in which, referring to me, he said -

He was asked whether he was against guerrilla warfare. He said -

What is wrong with guerrilla warfare?

Neither on the occasion to which the honorable member was referring nor on any other was I asked whether I was against guerrilla warfare, and neither on that occasion nor on any other did I make any statement like the one attributed to me by him. I have never said: " What is wrong with guerrilla warfare? ".

Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes (CHISHOLM, VICTORIA) - Mr. Speaker,-

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