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Tuesday, 29 March 1966

Mr McEWEN (Murray) (Minister for Trade and Industry) . - by leave - The issue being discussed now arose in a very simple form. The Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Holt) last night made a statement about certain words being removed from the policy of the Labour Party and certain other words being substituted at a different place. I am sure I am right in saying this. This has hurt the Labour Party and we have been treated to an exhibition of a slick use of words to try to prove that the Prime Minister was wrong - knowingly wrong - and that the Labour Party has altered nothing.

Mr Calwell - There is nothing slick about it. It is all true.

Mr McEWEN - Is it not true that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) and his Deputy (Mr. Whitlam) have set out to tell the House and the country that the Labour Party has altered nothing of its policy?

Mr Calwell - Nothing of substance.

Mr McEWEN - Nothing of substance. This is the issue. I do not want this to be the subject of a shouting match. I ask the Leader of the Opposition: Has the Labour Party altered something of its policy?

Mr Calwell - No.

Mr McEWEN - It is not a matter of argument or opinion; it is a matter of fact.

Mr Cope - What was wrong with the " Daily Telegraph " commenting on it? The Press was there.

Mr SPEAKER - Order! The honorable member for Watson, as well as interjecting, is out of his place.

Mr McEWEN - I have here the Labour Party's Federal and State Policy and Platform about which the Prime Minister stated - and the Labour Opposition agreed, of course - that it contained these words: " Labour will honour and support Australia's treaties and defence alliances." That is simple, unequivocal and unarguable.

Mr Calwell - And undeniable.

Mr McEWEN - It is equally undeniable that these words have been removed from the Labour Party's policy.

Mr Calwell - Transferred.

Mr McEWEN - Transferred? You cannot transfer an apple into a pear. They have been removed from the Labour Party policy. That is the simple truth; they have been removed. " Labour will honour and support Australia's treaties." Those words have been removed. It is true that some other words have been inserted in the policy. Let me read out the words claimed to represent the transfer of the words " honour and support " -

Australia must periodically review its defence treaties and alliances to meet new circumstances as they arise.

Mr Bryant - What is wrong with that?

Mr McEWEN - There is nothing wrong with it, except that it is the vehicle for withdrawing from the Labour Party's policy the statement that it will honour and support Australia's treaties. It is as simple as that. Why would Labour withdraw its proclaimed intention to honour and support treaties? Why would it, unless it intended not to honour and support existing treaties? Why would any party's political policy declare: " We will from time to time review treaties?" Every government in the world is competent to do that. Every government in the world all through history has done that. These words mean nothing. They are put in as a trick to enable a pretence to be made that there has been no alteration in the Labour Party's policy.

All that the Prime Minister is directing the attention of the country to is that Labour has withdrawn from its policy the statement that it will " honour and support " Australia's treaties and has substituted the statement that it will " periodically review " them. Who will review them? Who will advise on the review? The honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser)? Will he review? Will he advise? Or will it be the respected Attorney-General of South Australia, widely spoken of as the coming Premier of South Australia, if not (he coming Leader of the Opposition in this Parliament? That suggestion has been published. I do not know about its authenticity, but it has been widely published. Will he review and advise? Will Mr. Bob Holt, who is known as an aggressive Labour man, as a man who is anti-left in Labour, review and advise? Who will, review this? Who will advise the Labour Party? The honorable member for Yarra (Dr. J. F. Cairns)?

Mr Fox - He is out.

Mr Calwell - He should not be out while all of the honorable members opposite are allowed to remain in. He did very little compared with their behaviour.

Mr McEWEN - I am glad of a little lightheartedness, but this is not a lighthearted subject. There is not a thinking Australian who does not fear that the honorable member for Yarra is a very left wing thinker in the Australian Labour Party, and that the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Uren) is a very left wing thinker. I have listened in this House with close attention for years to the honorable member for Yarra and the honorable member for Reid, and I have never heard either of them express a doubt as to the validity of Communism - never.

Mr Calwell - The right honorable gentleman has not listened to them.

Mr McEWEN - Yes I have. 1 have listened with close attention. Of course, the third man who will assist the Labour Party to review its attitude to treaties is Senator Cavanagh. I refrain from canvassing the ideological views and record of the gentleman, but I say that many of us know enough to have real doubts.

Mr Calwell - That is a bit of a smear.

Mr McEWEN - That interjection from the Leader of the Opposition might be merited. He said: " That is a bit of a smear." He compels me to fill out my statement. I ask: Is it not a fact that the Labour Government prevented Senator Cavanagh from visiting the Woomera rocket rangs?

Mr Calwell - That is completely true; and the right honorable gentleman's Government allowed him to go when it came into office.

Mr McEWEN - I did not want to be distracted, but I do not like smears. Had I stopped at the point when the honorable member interrupted he would have been correct, because I had made a half completed statement. I have now completed it, and the Leader of the Opposition has conceded in this Parliament, and his statement will be recorded in " Hansard ", that Senator Cavanagh, now to be one of the prime advisers to the Australian Labour Party in the review of treaties, was once prevented by his own Party, while it was in office, from going to Woomera.

Mr Calwell - And was once allowed to go by the right honorable gentleman's Government.

Mr McEWEN - That may or may not be right. All that I am speaking about at the moment is whether the words " honour and support Australia's treaties" are really the same as "periodically review its defence treaties". Of course we cannot examine the alternative words " periodically review " except in conjunction with a study of those who will advise on the review. Some of those who would have advised were thrown out because they were not left wing thinkers. Blind Freddy could tell they were thrown out because they were not left wing thinkers and left wing thinkers were substituted for them. That is what the Australian people have to know.

Mr Calwell - Now, why do you sell wheat and wool to Red China? Does that make you a Communist?

Mr McEWEN - I am quite untroubled to discuss that subject, but I am unwilling to let members of the Australian Labour Party off the hot seat on which they have put themselves.

Mr Calwell - You are on the hot seat on conscription.

Mr McEWEN - You would like to think so. The cold truth of this matter is that, unless the view is to be taken that Australia will never again find itself in danger - it would be a bold man who would look into history and say that - Australia needs friends. We need powerful friends and we need reliable friends. The only circumstances in which we are entitled to have a friend is if we are a good friend ourselves. If we want a steadfast friend, we must be a steadfast friend. This is where Australia stands with the United States of America. We will not be a party ourselves to proclaiming in our policies that we want to review the A.N.Z.U.S. Treaty or any other treaty. If ever circumstances should so dramatically change that there should be a review, a provision in a policy is not needed to enable us to review it. These words are there for no other purpose than to cloud the fact that serious, unequivocal words were taken out of the Labour platform.

Mr Uren - I ask for leave to make a statement.

Mr Calwell - He was a prisoner of war of the Japs and you will not let him defend himself.

Mr SPEAKER - Order! I ask the House to come to order. The honorable member for Reid seeks leave to make a statement. Is leave granted?

Mr Harold Holt - No.

Mr SPEAKER - Leave is not granted.

Motion (by Mr. Calwell) proposed -

That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the honorable member for Reid making a statement.

Mr SPEAKER - Is the motion seconded?

Mr McIVOR (GELLIBRAND, VICTORIA) - I second the motion.

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