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
Tuesday, 29 March 1966

Mr Allan Fraser (EDEN-MONARO, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Monaro) . - Mr. Speaker, the House is beginning a debate on a statement made by the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Hasluck) on 10th March dealing primarily with the position in South East Asia. Although he made references to a number of countries other than South Vietnam, these were largely of a general and non-controversial kind. He concentrated his attention on the position in Vietnam. In this, I intend to follow his example. I begin by saying that the House is surely in agreement that the Australian people will always rally overwhelmingly to the cause of the freedom and security of this country.

Mr Turner - Hear, hear!

Mr Allan Fraser (EDEN-MONARO, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Hear, hear! Yet the Government has to conscript youths to make up the force of 4,500 men that it wants for Vietnam. I repeat: The people of Australia will always rally overwhelmingly to the cause of the freedom and security of this country. Yet the Government has to conscript youths to make up the force of 4,500 men that it wants for Vietnam. It follows therefore that the Australian people do not believe the Government's assertions that Australia's fate and freedom are now at stake in Vietnam.

In the statement that the House is now debating, the Minister for External Affairs once again played upon the theme that Australia's safety depends on the defeat of imperialist Chinese aggression in the present conflict. Yet, at the same time, the Government continues to demonstrate that it does not itself believe, in any sense of the word, that we in this country are engaged in a life and death struggle. If the Government believed that China was the enemy, it would not trade with China. One does not trade with the enemy. It is as simple as that. We either fight the Chinese or we feed them. It does not make sense to do both things at the same time. Yet that is the position that the Government would ask us to accept. It continues to trade very substantially with China in many primary products, particularly wheat and wool. It even traded substantially in strategic materials such as rutile sands until the Opposition exposed it. Then that trade had to stop. But it stopped only when the Opposition exposed the Government, not before. If China is now warring against us to conquer us, the Government is engaging in treason against the Australian nation by trading with that country.

If the Government believes what it asks the Australian people to believe, the Government itself is false to its trust. But, quite clearly, the Government does not believe what it asks the Australian people to believe. This is obvious from the fact that though conscripts are to be sent to Vietnam Australia itself remains entirely on a peace footing. If the Government believed its statement that we are caught up in a war such as 'it describes, it would regard the placing of Australia on a war footing as essential. lt does not do so and the lesson of its conduct is plain to the Australian people. The Government simply does not believe what it says or else - there is only one other alternative - it is repeating the betrayal by inertia practised in 1940-41 by the forerunner of the present Liberal Government. It must be one thing or the other. There is no other alternative. The Government is displaying to the nation a complete contradiction in that it is conscripting 2Q year olds in Australia for a merciless war but is not compelling big business in Australia to make any kind of war effort. The Government refuses - and deliberately refuses - to assume the wide constitutional powers that a situation of war danger such as it says exists would give it.

Mr Jess - Is the United States of America doing that kind of thing?

Mr Allan Fraser (EDEN-MONARO, NEW SOUTH WALES) - - There can be only one of two reasons for the Government's refusal to exercise those powers, and each of these reasons is discreditable. The honorable member need not try to dodge the issue by trying to pass to the United States the blame for the position of Australia under this Government. Either the Government does not believe that the situation is one of war danger such as it describes or else, no matter how urgent the need to support our fighting men - about which the Government makes a great parade - it will not upset the financial picnic of its big business friends by limiting profits, by fixing prices, by controlling capital, by organising industry or by developing resources for Australia's safety. Are we, then, less at war than is North Vietnam, which is on an austerity basis? Are we, then, less at war than is South Vietnam, where the Government is shooting profiteers in the market place? Here, the Government will not even impose any limitation on profiteering.

F.l 198/66.- R.- {29J

Mr Gibson - There has been legislation on restrictive trade practices.

Mr Allan Fraser (EDEN-MONARO, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Does the honorable member believe that that is all that is necessary in the context of war? This Government has constitutional authority now, if the war situation is as it asserts, to take up its wide constitutional powers to place Australia on a war footing and to control and mobilise all our resources. So why talk about legislation merely to restrict trade practices? The honorable member has indicated by his interjection that he believes that this job is necessary. If that is so and the Government has power to do the job, why does it not use its power? In a situation of war, the Government would have power to place Australia on a war footing and its duty to the Australian people would require it to exercise this power. But the Government does not practise what it preaches. If the people believed the Government, volunteers for this war would come forward not in thousands but in hundreds of thousands. As it is, the Government cannot even muster 4,500 volunteers for Vietnam. That indicates its prestige and status in the eyes of the Australian people. Its own conduct makes it impossible for the people to believe what it says. How can one believe a government that says that we are engaged in a desperate war and that the only action necessary for us to take to win this desperate war is to conscript a few thousand 20 year old youths? How can one believe a government that says to the Australian people: " Your danger is so great that we must conscript your sons and force them to fight in the jungles of Vietnam but at the same time your danger is also so small that we need do nothing whatever in Australia itself to support those lads "?

In general terms it is the role of the Labour Party to strive for change and progress, and, again in general terms, it is the role of the Liberal Party to strive to keep things as they are. That is one historical reason why the Labour Party is more often sitting on your left side, Mr. Speaker, in Opposition, and why the Liberal and Country Parties are more often sitting on your right, in Government. It is also a political dictum that a party of the left finds it difficult to win an election on foreign policy while a party of the right finds it difficult to win on domestic policy.

Mr Kevin Cairns (LILLEY, QUEENSLAND) - Professor Crisp is pretty old hat now, you know.

Mr Allan Fraser (EDEN-MONARO, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I think the statement is correct, whether you agree with it or not. Thus, as an election now approaches, the Government once again seeks to magnify and exploit an issue of foreign policy in an endeavour to create among the people the powerful emotions of suspicion, hate and fear and to minimise the issues of reason upon which otherwise the electors would probably decide against it. The fact that this course may prejudice friendship with our neighbours and may even fan the flames of war is ignored. This course by the Government is so injurious to the public interest that the Opposition must challenge it and seek to defeat it. And to the extent that the facts can be presented clearly to the people the Government will be defeated on this issue, because this is a warmongering Government.

Mr Hughes - You are an ass.

Mr Allan Fraser (EDEN-MONARO, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The honorable member for Parkes is a good representative of this warmongering Government. There is no reason why nuclear bombs must rain mass death upon this country. There is no inevitable reason why we must engage in war with China. It seems only yesterday that we heard it said that we must inevitably war with Russia, but today Russia is quite respectable. I think we were told that we had only two years before war would begin.

Mr Cope - It was three years.

Mr Allan Fraser (EDEN-MONARO, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Three years, was it? I believe the honorable member is right. Now we are told that the enemy is China. There is no justification for abandoning the effort to build the United Nations into an effective peace keeping force in the world. Yet where on the Government side does one find today any enthusiasm or any real support for the concept of the United Nations?

No interest of mankind anywhere is now served by war between nations. Indeed every way today, no matter how minor, carries the nuclear seed of mankind's destruction. We should now be building organised strength throughout our continent so that it will remain ours, instead of handing over our national resources - as this Government is doing - to foreign control while we dispose of our manpower in foreign countries. There are always malign interests which profit by driving nations to the brink of war. I do not suppose there is anyone on the Government side who would deny that. In this Parliament we see some Government members deliberately building a war atmosphere for the sake of a political profit that they hope to gain from it. They can be seen at their trade in this House day after day and night after night. It is a contemptible trade.

Mr Jess - Are you speaking as a member of the Labour Party's foreign affairs committee?

Suggest corrections