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Tuesday, 22 March 1966


Mr JEFF BATE (Macarthur) .- I have just returned from Vietnam. It was the first time that I had been out of Australia other than with a pack on my back. This Parliament is a place for forming opinions and solidifying facts. It is the duty of members of this Parliament, if they are able, to visit places such as Vietnam where many Australians are involved. When I got to Vietnam, I found that the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Uren) had been there ahead of me. I am pleased ta note the moderate approach he ha3 adopted to this problem since his return. The Australian troops have a high reputation in South East Asia.


Mr Reynolds - Everybody accepts that.


Mr JEFF BATE - I thank the honorable member. They have earned this high reputation because of the jungle training they have received in the Army and the aptitude for jungle warfare that they displayed during the 1939-45 war. The Australian battalion in Vietnam ought to be relieved in a special way. There are already many reinforcements in the battalion. The number of reinforcements could be increased and the men who have a long record of service there could be withdrawn. This would obviate the need for fresh Australian troops to go into the area and possibly incur heavier casualties.

This plan might be more difficult to carry out administratively, but it would be the right thing to do. We should leave there the battalion which has a good record, is feared by the Vietcong and is held in high honour by the South Vietnamese. It should be relieved not as a battalion or even company by company, but by reinforcements. We have heard that the Vietcong have not attained their objective. The captured Vietcong are dejected. They have not achieved what they were promised by the people who trained them or what the North Vietnamese Communists led them to believe they would achieve. The people of South Vietnam did not rise up on their behalf. They did not want to fight. Nobody wants to give the Vietcong arms or ammunition and they have had difficulty in getting clothing, transport and military equipment. Those who have been captured exhibit an outlook that leads me to feel that the Vietcong are beginning to collapse.

May I say with all humility that if the number of Australian troops, with the tremendous reputation they have, is trebled, then this in itself will deal a severe blow to the morale of the Vietcong because the South Vietnamese told me that the Vietcong do not like fighting the Australians in the jungle. They just do not like taking on the Australians. Already the Vietcong have reacted by saying that there will be a warm reception for the Australians. This, of course, is an old technique. It is the technique of trying to convince our own side that we are winning and trying to convince the enemy that he is losing. But, if we say that the war is unwinnable, then, of course, we are helping the other side. I believe from what I saw that maybe the Vietcong are beginning to collapse.

While in Vietnam I visited a fortified hamlet and investigated the method of election of the hamlet chief, the vice-chief, the sociological warfare chief and the vice-chief of the combat group. On looking into the elections I formed the opinion that arrange ments could be made in South Vietnam to hold elections for civilian government. This is no reflection on the type of government they have but it appeared to me that if this were important it could be done. It has no relation to the struggle itself and it has no relation to whatever kind of government they have operating, just as it is not our business how a government operates in Africa or anywhere else. But if it is important, I believe that free elections could be held in South Vietnam.

Regarding the social and productivity programmes, it is obvious that in Asia there is extremely low productivity. If you think of the richness of the Mekong Delta, of the volcanic soils of the Philippines, of what we know about Java and the kind of life that is led, and then turn to Australia where there are thousands of square miles without a drop of water, a blade of grass or an animal - an inhospitable desolate country - and realise that we have an export income of $2,600 million a year and that most of those countries have a net deficit and have to be assisted, you realise that the productivity of South East Asia would be tremendously increased. I believe those people are crying out to Australia to help them.

I had the privilege, as chairman of the Government members food and agricultural committee, to take the seeds of very productive Australian tropical legumes to the Philippines and to South Vietnam. In South Vietnam Mr. Chang of the South Vietnamese Government said: " We are already growing siratro, a tropical legume developed by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, and it grows four times as big here as it does in Australia ". He added: " I cannot show you the plant because it has been defoliated by the sprays. You will have to take my word for it." I handed him the various kinds of seeds that I had and he was sorry I had not brought a corn sack full of each. There is a tremendous job to be done to increase productivity so that the people in those areas can be self-supporting; so that they can have tropical herds - and suitable cattle are available in Australia; and so that they can enjoy the technological advantages of Australia. One gentleman in the Philippines said to me: "Australia will dominate the Pacific." I said: " You must be joking." He said that our energy, enterprise and ability to take up technological improvements in all kinds of production and industry showed that Australia would develop into a great nation. He said: "Would you help us with our beef herds, and our crops? Do you know that our rice production is 26 bushels to the acre and that yours is 134 bushels to the acre?"

This is the situation. In the Da Jong province in the Mekong Delta there is a sect called the Hoa Hao which has wiped out the Vietcong. This does not mean that the Vietcong are wiped out everywhere because they are strong in other parts. Because there is comparative peace in the Da Jong province, the first of the four big sociological and economic programmes sponsored by the Americans after the Honolulu talks will go into Da Jong. There will be schools, hospitals, roads and bridges. Here is a place in this incredibly -rich delta of the Mekong River covering an enormous area - you seem to be able to fly over it for hundreds of miles - where Australians and, possibly, American advisers from Taipei can help with higher productivity. This would be a model of economic advancement to those people. Here is a place from which the Vietcong have been removed by a very strong sect. I believe that there are hundreds of Buddhist sects in that country and that the Buddhist Association represents 75 per cent, of" the people. This one has got rid of the enemy. Criticism of Australian immigration policy in South East Asia is completely a myth. When I was in the Philippines - the third largest English speaking country in the world, with 31 million people - I was able to obtain eighteen different English language newspapers. There was no mention in them of our immigration policy. When I got an Australian newspaper there I read -

Filipinos are rip roaring mad about the Locsin case.

No Filipino, roared or ripped and no one mentioned the Locsin case. Nor, as I said, did the 18 English language newspapers, copies of which I have here for anybody to see. No wonder some Australians get a bit mixed up when they read only things of discredit to Australia. At the same time as this was happening a leading Filipino lawyer said: "Australia will dominate the Pacific". Another one told me, when this was going on, that his son had been four years at school in my electorate. He asked why Australia does not help the Filipinos. He asked why it does not use its enormous technological knowledge, gained in its own desert areas, to help them in their own extremely rich areas.

Australian prestige is extremely high in South East Asia. To realise why, one has only to meet people like the Australian ambassador in Saigon, who is a dignified and intelligent individual, and his First Secretary. Mr. Anderson is the ambassador and others in the embassy are Mr. Fernandez, Mr. Mack Williams, and Mr. Hincksman. To meet these men is to know how our prestige stands in this place. The four aircraft that we have there are doing more than the other 22 aircraft of the formation. Seven days a week they are making four sorties a day. Millions of pounds of material, military personnel, ammunition and all sorts of things are being carried to the special forces all over the place. These aircraft land in impossible places. Four aircraft are doing more than the the other 22 in the formation. The Americans want to decorate our airmen, but, of course, our regulations do not allow this. The Army personnel I saw there are fine Australians, conscious of their superiority but ready to be generous to all others, because this is important in their relations. These men '- -ve that little bit extra. The Army made a right decision in giving them the superb training that it did.

When I came back to Australia I heard the Prime Minister say that the Government had decided to treble Australia's commitment in South Vietnam. When in Vietnam I was able to address a village of about a thousand people, to whom my speech was interpreted. I told them I believed that the Australian commitment in Vietnam would be increased, that more troops would go there. I told them that I believed that we could help in their sociological programme and with plants and seeds. The whole of that village of 1,000 people applauded, and gave us a salutation similar to that given by the Hindus and others. They put garlands of honour, as they call them, round the necks of the Australian visitors. They took us on a visit to their popular forces, their combat youth groups. Allow me to say that the man in charge of the combat youth groups was the most handsome individual I have ever seen in my lite. The villagers themselves, and the people of Saigon, are about the most relaxed and the most contented people I have ever seen. When people in Australia get into a traffic jam they give the appearance of hunted people; but these people in Vietnam are contented. If you were to say to anybody in Saigon - to the Australian troops or anybody else - " Are you doing the right thing in fighting the Vietcong? " their reply would be: " You must be joking. The Vietcong are vicious and brutal." I flew over one road in a helicopter. I was told that the road was closed. I asked why and I was informed that three Americans had tried to get through along that road but the Vietcong had caught them. One of them got away, but two of them were crucified on trees. Yet honorable members opposite say that the Vietcong are people to whom we should talk.

On the issue of national service training I should like to refer to the extremely clear lessons we have learned in two world wars. We know, and the Australian troops know, that prevention is better than cure and that the aggressor has to be stopped in the early stages. Our troops clearly understand this, because they are realists. They are not a band of heroes, as we hear some people say; they are practical realists who understand the situation. They know that we should not allow an aggressor to reach our shores before taking preventive action, but should stop him in the early stages of his bid for world conquest It is realised by members of the House that in the 1930's we stood by and let the Sudetenland and ultimately the whole of Czechoslovakia go, and as a result Hitler initiated World War II in which we paid a terrible price in defending the free world. We paid that frightful price because we did not go in when it was early enough to stop Hitler; in effect we encouraged him to carry out his plans. Now the free world is firm. We have stood steadfast in Berlin, in Korea and in respect of Cuba, with the result that Russia has modified its demands.

It is certain that no nation in South East Asia wants Communism. No nation wants to go under the heel of Communist China, whether it be Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore or the Philippines, and it appears now that Indonesia is also falling into line with those other countries. General

Liau Chu said that if a peasant-based guerrilla army could win a war of the kind now being waged it could conquer the world, and we must remember that such ambitions must be curbed. If we allow the aggressor to get to our doors it will be too late. The Labour Party showed its appreciation of this in 1942 when it imposed conscription in Australia.

Our efforts should be three-pronged. First, we should aim for the maximum development of our continent and the rapid growth of our population; secondly, we should promote good neighbour policies and alliances throughout Asia. Asia is crying out for these. I believe that all colonial nations view Australia as a brother colonial nation and are ready to talk to us. Thirdly, we should have well-trained, modern mobile defence forces capable of immediate commitment.

The situation at the present time is quite unlike those which obtained before World War I and World War II. The demands of our national development programme, combined with our tremendously expanded educational facilities, constitute a compelling attraction for young men. Voluntary recruiting, therefore, would be quite inadequate. It would also be grossly unfair to expect one man to volunteer while another one remains at home and gains a lead on the man who enlisted. The system we have adopted is the only fair one. The threats of brush fire wars or guerrilla wars or limited wars - whatever one likes to call them - leave no time for the leisurely recruiting and training of additional forces. It takes almost a year to train a soldier fully. The two World Wars have demonstrated the tragedy of unpreparedness.

In times of record full employment, if we are to have a sufficient number of fully trained troops, selective training is necessary. It is also essentially fair since it spreads the burden of service. We must remember that the United States defence forces, which carry the main burden of defence of the free world - and, therefore, the defence of Australia - are, in the main, selective service personnel. We must also bear in mind that this war is of much more immediate concern to Australia than it is to the United States.

If the principles of the Australian Labour Party, which the members of that Party propounded in World War II, were adopted, it would mean that our troops could serve in South Borneo but not in North Borneo. They could serve in New Guinea, Timor, the Celebes, Java and half of Sumatra, but not in Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand or Vietnam.

The war in South Vietnam is not a civil war. It is not like a conflict between East and West Berlin or between North and South Korea. In the two years following the 1954 cease fire North Vietnam became a one-party Communist state. With a oneparty Communist state such as Russia, East Germany or North Korea any thought of free elections is impossible. This is the situation in North Vietnam. More than a million refugees fled from North to South Vietnam to escape from Communist terror. This alone was sufficient to create huge political problems of resettlement. The fact that South Vietnam has not had stable government, or that its government has not been democratic, does not in any way detract from the justice of the South Vietnamese cause. South Vietnam is not a one-party state. There are many political parties involved - at least 70 of them. They may differ in their ideas of how their government should be formed, but they are united in their determination to drive out the Vietcong aggressor. Buddhists and Christians alike know that the Communists are determined to wipe out all religion. The South Vietnamese are equally determined to resist this threat to their lives and freedom. There have been free elections in South Vietnam in the past year - free elections in the provinces in which the majority of the people voted. This is proof that, given freedom from Vietcong terror, free elections can come to South Vietnam.







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