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Tuesday, 22 March 1966


Mr UREN (Reid) .- The honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) posed the question: Should Australia have troops in Vietnam? I make a positive reply to the honorable member: No. We should not have troops in Vietnam. The Government has no mandate to send young Australians to the hell of Vietnam. I support the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell). The Opposition disagrees with many aspects of policy which the Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Holt) put forward in his statement on 8th March. In my opinion, the two most important of these are Australia's involvement in the civil war in Vietnam and the ownership and control of Australian industries and assets by foreign interests. Many honorable members on both sides of the House could agree with Labour's view on the latter but they fail to comprehend that the two matters cannot be divorced. Foreign policy and defence go hand in hand with the foreign investment of the advanced capitalist countries.

I express my opposition to Australia's participation in the civil war in Vietnam. Labour opposes the sending of Australian regulars and conscripts to Vietnam. We have said that we will work to reverse the Government's decision in this regard. In an article dealing with participation by the United States of America in the land war in Asia, published in "Newsweek" magazine on 14th March, Mr. Walter Lippmann, the distinguished American journalist, said -

.   .the enemy is not at the gates. There is no enemy in sight of American territory, and even if the war party in Hanoi and Peking is encouraged, the security of the United States is invulnerable. The circumstances today are not in the least what they were when the American fleet was attacked in an American harbor in 1941. We are still free to debate our course of action in a war which is far from our own territory.

What we are called upon to debate is whether in this war we do not have objectives which, if pursued on and on, could provoke the Chinese, and whether we are doing what can bc done to avert that great Asian land war which the President so categorically rejects.

For a great Asian land war would be for us the kind of historic mistake from which nations can never make a full recovery: it would be a historic mistake similar in kind to that which the Athenians made when they went to war against Syracuse, that Napoleon made when he invaded Russia, that Hitler made when he in his turn invaded Russia, that Japan made when it attacked Pearl Harbor. Whatever the motives or intentions of the protagonists in these great historical crises, whether or not their motives were noble or ignoble, whether we are better men than they were, the point is that there are some wars which must be averted and avoided because they are ruinous.

Is our participation in this Asian war ruinous for us? Is it an historic mistake? Will we ever make a full recovery? This is Walter Lippmann's challenge not only to America but to the Australian nation as well. The Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Holt) and the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Hasluck) have said that it will be a long war. How long? The right honorable gentlemen have not told us. Have they estimated the financial, material and human cost of this war to Australia? If they have, they have not taken this House or the country into their confidence. In his statement to the House the Prime Minister said -

We arc there because while Communist aggression persists, the whole of South East Asia is threatened; while the Chinese Communist philosophy of world domination persists, the whole free world is threatened.

One might ask: Are these statements true? Are these the reasons why Australians are in South Vietnam? We then must ask: Why, except for a few New Zealanders, does Australia stand alone in support of the

United States? I hear an interjection that some South Koreans are in Vietnam, but let me quote from a report in the " Canberra Times " of 1st March 1966. That reputable newspaper is owned by the Fairfax group. Under the heading "Troops to be sent as part of bargain " and under the dateline " Seoul, Monday " the following article appeared -

The South Korean Cabinet has decided to double the South Korean force in Vietnam . . . The proposed forces are expected to number about 20,000 men - the number already in South Vietnam. Government officials said the U.S. Government, in exchange for the decision to send more South Koreans to Vietnam, had agreed to:

Increase the pay of Korean troops in Vietnam by 25 per cent.

Maintain its military assistance programme to Korea at the present level for the next few years.

Supply more modem arms and equipment, including F5A fighters to South Korea and to underwrite the activation of three reserve divisions.

Enable South Korea to sell as many goods and services as possible to South Vietnam under U.S. military procurement programmes.

Release to Korea ($133 (£66i million) in development loan funds as soon as possible.

That is the bargain. That is why South Korean troops are in South Vietnam. But the newspaper article does not say that all the forces of South Korea are on the payroll of the United States - are paid by the United States taxpayer. Where in South Vietnam are America's allies in the South East Asia Treaty Organisation? Where are the forces of Great Britain and France? Where are the forces of Pakistan, Thailand and the Philippines? Great pressure has been placed on America's partners in the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. Where are the military forces of N.A.T.O. Dean Rusk, America's Secretary of State, has made public and private appeals for the participation in South Vietnam of N.A.T.O. forces, but there has not been any response militarily to his appeals. Lester Pearson received a standing ovation in the Canadian House of Commons when he announced that Canada would not become militarily involved in the war in Vietnam. All Australians must ask: Why do we stand alone in support of the United States forces in Vietnam? I ask the Prime Minister to tell the truth, for he knows that the Chinese do not dominate the Vietcong or the Vietnamese people. He knows the history of the Vietnamese people. For 20 centuries they have opposed Chinese oppression and domination. If be does not know these things he should contact Australia's diplomatic advisers in South Vetnam.

I was in South Vietnam last October. It is a particularly sick society. The people whom I met - the Vietnamese and the Austraiian and American servicemen - told me that the struggle was an independent Vietnamese struggle. The forces of the National Liberation Front, or the Vietcong, as they are known in this country, are well aware of the anti-Chinese feeling among the peasantry and other people of South Vietnam. They know this for they are from the peasantry. They are from the people of South Vietnam. The Prime Minister and the Minister for External Affairs are aware of these facts, but they want to use fear of Chinese Communism as a political weapon. The Government's action might be to its advantage in the short term, but I warn the Government: History will condemn it. Walter Lippmann said: " The enemy is not at the gates ". The Chinese are no immediate threat to the United States or to Australia. We are spending huge sums of money, material and manpower in defending our so-called heritage in the north against this perplexed fear. However, every day we are selling our Australian heritage - Australian assets, Australian minerals, Australian industries - to foreign interests. In the same article Lippmann also said -

All the leading American military men of our time - Eisenhower, MacArthur, Bradley, Ridgway - have warned us again and again against being involved in war on the Asian mainland. General MacArthur told John Foster Dulles that any President who did commit American troops te a land war in Asia should have his head examined.

It is an historic mistake for Australia to involve itself in this civil war in Vietnam. The Australian Government and its supporters contend that it is not a civil war. On Tuesday evening, 8th March, the Prime Minister said -

As pressure on the Vietcong has increased, North Vietnam has sent in reinforcements of regular North Vietnamese troops on a very substantial scale.

The Prime Minister did not say what substantial scale, but figures are available. Last November President Johnson wrote to Senator Mike Mansfield and asked him to lead a delegation of five to make an on the spot survey of American participation in South Vietnam- A report of that mission is available in the Parliamentary Library.

It is dated 8th January, 1966 and is published by the United States Information Service. Senator Mansfield is no stranger to South Vietnam. He was there in 1955 and again in 1962 when he led a Senate investigation committee at the request of President Kennedy. He returned and reported that there was corruption and intrigue in Government circles in South Vietnam. He said that despite the spending of $2,000 million of American taxpayers' money no progress had been made in South Vietnam since he was there in 1955. He was in South Vietnam again in December 1965. He has reported that there are 635,000 troops on the pay roll of the South Vietnamese Government. I might say that the American taxpayers are paying for these 635,000 men. This number is made up of 300,000 regulars of Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines - 88 per cent being Army troops and the remainder including members of six fighter-bomber squadrons; 120,000 regional forces that act as constabulary in 43 provinces; 140,000 popular forces recruited locally and equipped with light arms; 25,000 in the civilian irregular defence group; and 50,000 national police.

Senator Mansfieldreported that at December 1965 there were 170,000 United States troops in South Vietnam. We know that there are now well over 200,000. The United States Seventh Fleet is cruising off the Vietnamese coast, and bombers and fighter planes are operating from aircraft carriers and bombing and strafing both North and South Vietnam. There are 10 United States Air Force squadrons of bombers and fighters stationed in South Vietnam and B52 bombers are operating from Guam against North and South Vietnam.

The National Liberation Front - the Vietcong - have 230,000 troops in all. Of these 73,000 are front line troops, including 14,000 North Vietnamese regulars; 100,000 are militia personnel; 17,000 operate lines of communications; and 40,000 are in political cadres. Let us place these figures on a scale. It will be noted that Senator Mansfield said that there is not one Chinese to be found in South Vietnam. In fact, there were very few North Vietnamese in South Vietnam until about the middle of 1963. For confirmation of this honorable members can read the " Washington Post " of 6th March 1963 in which is published a statement by General Paul Harkins who was then General Commander in Chief of the United States Forces in South Vietnam. He clearly stated that there were no North Vietnamese forces in South Vietnam. In fact, the arms used by the Vietcong were captured and were either American, Japanese or French. Some were home made. I ask honorable members to note that of the 230,000 Vietcong only 14,000 are North Vietnamese. This confirms the figure of 6 per cent, that the honorable member for Yarra (Dr. J. F. Cairns) has publicly stated. Compare the Vietcong numbers with the 200,000 American forces and 635,000 servicemen on the payroll of the South Vietnam Government. This is a civil war. Of course, other outside influences are now becoming involved in it, and as it proceeds more and more forces will become involved. The Vietcong have no air force and no navy, but have the overwhelming support of the people of South Vietnam.

The Leader of the Opposition has said that we opposed the recommencement of the bombing of North Vietnam. We support those United States senators and other world leaders who have called for peace talks in South Vietnam. We join them in that call. World pressure from both sides in this ideological struggle should be brought to bear to bring the conflicting parties to the conference table. I support Senator Robert Kennedy's proposal that the Vietcong should be recognised as one of the negotiating parties in future peace talks. On the other hand, we do not support the proposal that American forces and installations should be withdrawn from South Vietnam before peace talks commence. We want to see a cessation of war in Vietnam. To expect the Americans to withdraw before the peace talks is unrealistic. However, there should be an undertaking that all foreign troops should be withdrawn from Vietnam as soon as possible after the peace talks to allow the Vietnamese to determine their own affairs. Elections could be held under the supervision of an international body similar to that which was set up under the 1954 Geneva Agreement. Honorable members will recall that the International Control Commission comprised India, Canada and Poland. A similar body could well supervise elections within Vietnam.

I want to stress a point. Government supporters criticise the Labour Party as being anti-American. If by condemning those in the Pentagon who want to escalate this war we are anti-American, then we are antiAmerican; but if we see hope for the world in courageous liberal leadership by men like Senators Mansfield, Fulbright, Church, Gruening, Morse and Robert and Edward Kennedy, then we are pro-American. We are against escalation of bombing. We are against the bombing of Hanoi and Haiphong. We are opposed to the lunatic fringe in the Australian Parliament and elsewhere who want to denuclearise China. We stress, and over stress, the necessity iol pressure to be brought on both sides to meet at the conference table to end the Vietnam conflict. What is the alternative? The alternative is escalation and nuclear war in which millions will die and which will set civilisation back thousands of years. We condemn the Government for committing young Australians to the hopeless civil war in Vietnam. We condemn the Government for selling out our heritage to foreign interests.







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