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Tuesday, 29 March 1966

Dr FORBES (Barker) (Minister for Health) . - The honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser), in taking advantage of the courtesy extended to him by the House to permit him to speak for unlimited time tonight, has made a crude and contemptible appeal to emotion which does him and the Australian Labour Party no credit at all. if he really sees international events in such crude and uncomplicated terms as he has indicated and if his statement that we have not laid down the conditions for negotiations indicates the level of argument that he uses, then God help us if he ever has anything to do with the formulation of foreign policy in Australia. He knows as well as 1 do, and as well as every honorable member in this House knows, that we have not clearly defined the conditions of negotiation because there are no conditions. We have called for unconditional negotiations. It is North Vietnam and Communist China who have laid down conditions - conditions which are impossible to accept. After listening to the honorable member's speech tonight I came to the conclusion that the Federal Executive of the Australian Labour Party showed great perception when it heaved him off his Party's Foreign Affairs Committee and replaced him with the honorable member for Yarra (Dr. J. F. Cairns). It showed great perception indeed. At least the honorable member for Yarra has some intellectual integrity and some honesty of purpose of which qualities t'he honorable member for Eden-Monaro exhibited absolutely and precisely none tonight. I will have more to say about some of the points touched on by the honorable member for EdenMonaro as I proceed.

I would like to make reference to the s'.a ement that we are debating, made by the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Hasluck), which the honorable member for Eden-Monaro so utterly misrepresented tonight. This statement by the Minister for External Affairs was one of a remarkable scries of statements made by the present Minister since he took office. They are remarkable not so much because they recount the day to day international events which are the raw material of foreign policy - though he has done that - they are remarkable because he has used his powerful intellect and formidable experience to analyse and expand with great lucidity and insight the underlying forces which determine the course of present day international politics. He has done that in a way which has made it possible for him to lay down clearly and realistically the principles and guide lines by which we can interpret day to day events and produce a foreign policy which is in the best interests of this country. The Minister has not been deterred by the fact that in some quarters - those of the honorable member for Eden-Monaro clearly - it is regarded as dirty tactics to lay bare the facts of power and to make it clear that power is still the determining factor in international politics so that any policy which fails to take account of it is doomed to disaster. In particular, he made the point in his statement that the power and practices of China are the dominating factors for the interpretation of events in present day Asia and South-East Asia. Any conclusion about the Vietnam war for instance - to take one issue which is currently exercising the minds of many people - is bound to be erroneous if it fails to take account of China, Chinese power, Chinese practices and Chinese activities.

The Minister has been abused for emphasising the fundamental importance of

China. The honorable member for EdenMonaro joined the chorus tonight. "The Minister has a strange obsession with China " sneered one newspaper which I read recently. This appeared in one of the leading articles which the honorable member for Eden-Monaro despises. "The Government is trying to frighten people with the bogy of China ", is a parrot cry of the Opposition. This was emphasised again and again by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro tonight. " If the Government thinks China is so dangerous why does it not declare war on her?" That, specifically, was a phrase of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) but it was paraphrased by the honorable member for EdenMonaro. That was the incredible, irresponsible jibe of the Leader of the Opposition. The clear implication of this approach is that we have little to worry about, and this sort of evidence could be multiplied many times. It comes in many forms, but a clear thread running through it all is that the Government is just trying to frighten people when it stresses the importance of Chinese power and action and when it frames a foreign policy and a defence policy which take Chinese power and action into account.

Just because honorable gentlemen opposite refuse to recognise the menace to the security of this country from Chinese power and policies for reasons to which I will return later, does this mean that those dangers do not exist and that they should not be faced squarely and resolutely in framing policy? One of the most incredible things about opinion in this country today is the way well meaning people - and I say " well meaning " deliberately, because there are other people, the Communists and their friends in particular, who have an interest in playing down and obscuring the all pervading nature of Chinese power and its relationship to Australia - apparently refuse to believe the evidence of their eyes and ears on this issue. The way in which they refuse to take note of event after event and of evidence piled on evidence, and to draw the appropriate conclusions, is unbelievable.

Sir, letme refer to some of these events and to some of this evidence - events and evidence which point to the all pervading nature of Chinese power and its significance for this country. There was the Chinese intervention in the Korean war. There was the successful Chinese rape of little Tibet. There was the ruthless and unprovoked attack on democratic India. China is, and has been, actively organising, supporting and succouring the overthrow of established independent governments in Laos, in Thailand, in Indonesia, in Malaya and in South Vietnam, just to mention a few countries in Asia without reference to Africa and Latin America, where Chinese influence has become so evident lately. There is the provision by China of arms on an ever increasing scale to the Vietcong - and I have seen these literally with my own eyes in tens of thousands. China is, through De Doan, the First Secretary of the Communist Party in North Vietnam, strengthening the hand of those who refuse to negotiate against those who would like to do so before their country is completely razed to ruins. Are not these people aware of the great schism on the question of peaceful coexistence between Russia and China. Are they not aware that what this great schism means is a flat rejection by China of the rules of peaceful coexistence, the most elementary of which is to refrain from the use of force or the threat of it in the internal affairs of other countries? Are they aware that not only has China rejected the concept of peaceful coexistence but that the leaders of China by the spoken and written word and by their actions, espouse as an article of faith and policy actions which are the very opposite of peaceful coexistence?

Sir, havehonorable gentlemen opposite, who are concerned to minimise the dangers of China, as the honorable member for Eden-Monaro tried to do tonight, read the remarkable article which has been referred to in this House by a number of my colleagues. It was written by Lin Piao, Vice Chairman of the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party, Minister for Defence and Vice Premier and titled " Long Live the People's War". If they have not read this article they should do so. It should be required reading for every Australian, certainly for every member of the Opposition who is attempting to minimise the influence of China in this area. In this article the author spells out, in phrases which a child could not misunderstand, the fanatical devotion of China's leaders to the use of force as the midwife of progress. He glorifies in Chinese power. He proclaims

China's mission to foment in every way possible, by force and by subversion, the Communist revolution in the underprivileged areas of the world, which means the area in which we are a part I have no time tonight to set out his detailed prescriptions, but they are there in the article for everybody who wants to read them. I have no time to mention them except to say that the course of the war in Vietnam follows these prescriptions laid down in this article in the minutest detail. Mr. Deputy Speaker, this article is not an academic exercise written by some professor for a learned journal. It is a deliberate statement of faith and policy, a prescription for action by one of the most powerful men in China, a man who before very long may well become the leader of China.

The activities of China in the postwar period which I have related are not some Jules Vernes fantasy, the product of an overactive imagination, as honorable gentlemen opposite try to suggest. They are facts. They are events which have been, and are, taking place. What conclusions can we draw? By any standard honorable members like to adopt China is an imperialist aggressor - an aggressor with the power and the will to extend her empire throughout South East Asia until it laps the shores of Australia. Do honorable gentlemen opposite deny that? Do they regard it with equanimity? Do they deny its relevance to the security of Australia?

Mr Bryant - How many troops has China outside China?

Dr FORBES - The honorable member for Wills can give us the answer when he speaks. China is no less an aggressor than was Nazi Germany. Indeed, because of her power, because of the philosophy she espouses and because of the technique she has developed for fomenting revolution and subversion, she is potentially a more dangerous aggressor. What do we do when we find a country starting on a path of aggression? There have been aggressors before. Do we take account of the lessons of history, or do we allow the aggressor to pick off his victims one by one until the whole world is in flames and the only way to save our country from destruction and subservience is to sacrifice the lives of tens of thousands of young men and years of peaceful progress? 1 utterly disagree with the honorable member for Eden-Monaro that it just was not possible to stop Hitler and Nazi Germany. I have not the slightest shadow of a doubt, nor has any responsible historian today, that if at the time Hitler marched into the Rhineland or into Czechoslovakia, if the powers that eventually became the allies had, with resolution and firmness, been prepared to put small forces at risk at a time that was officially called peacetime, the Second World War would have been avoided. Oh yes, a few young men would have lost their lives, but their sacrifice would have saved tens or. thousands - nay, hundreds of thousands - of others. Who can doubt that in the post war period in Berlin, in Korea and in Malaya, firmness and resolution and the willingness to put relatively small forces at risk in each case avoided a much wider conflagration and the certainty of a much larger loss of life? Australians lost their lives in all these conflicts, but they lost them so that the overwhelming majority of Australians can live out their lives in peace.

The Western presence in the Vietnam conflict is no less an exercise in deterrence of aggression than it was in any other place. Its object is to make it plain to the aggressor that aggression does not pay, to make it plain at an early stage before it escalates to a point where ever-y country and everybody in those countries is involved, to make it plain that we are determined to create a world in which countries are free to choose their own form of government and social system without the threat of being overthrown by violence and subversion. To those who say, as the Leader of the Opposition has said: " If China is so dangerous, why do you not declare war, why do you not bomb China, why do you not mobilise the nation, why do you not issue a clarion call to arms? ", I say that it is precisely to prevent the necessity for action of this sort that we and our allies are undertaking deterrent action in Vietnam. China is not an immediate physical threat to Australia. This has been made clear by the Government many times. Indeed, it has been seized on by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro to justify the policy of his party of doing nothing, of withdrawing from South East Asia. But surely any government would be criminally negligent if, in order to avoid imposing burdens in the present, it put the future in pawn. That is what the Opposition is doing, and we on this side of the House will have none of it. The pattern of Chinese policy is there, plain for all who want to see. We have no desire to bomb China or to declare war on her, to take up the crude and irresponsible phrases of the Leader of the Opposition. Our policy, in concert with our allies, is by firmness, resolution and limited military commitment to persuade her to accept the rules of peaceful coexistence, because unless she does there may be some hope for us but there will be none for our children and their children. Surely we in this House have some obligation to them.

Where does the Opposition stand in this situation? In the guise of a sterile exercise in semantics as to whether we are at war or not - were we at war in Berlin, in Korea, in Malaya? - the Opposition would withdraw our troops from Vietnam and would be happy to see United States troops go. This, of course, would give the country to the Communists. Presumably the same attitude would be taken when the spotlight turns on Thailand and the other countries of South East Asia. In the guise of an emotional appeal based on the possible risk of committing a small force of Australians in Vietnam, Opposition members seek to persuade the Australian public that they should be withdrawn or not go there at all. What a curious argument. Presumably they would agree that it is right to demand that young Australians serve their country after a world war has broken out and the lives of millions are involved. But it is not right, they say, when war has not been declared to demand that a small number serve their country to ensure that the conflict will not escalate to the point where millions are involved. I say this is nonsense.

If it is fair, equitable and reasonable and in accordance with the dictates of morality to require a proportion of Australian citizens to serve overseas in a world wide conflict, it is equally fair, equally equitable-, equally reasonable and equally in accordance with the dictates of morality to require a smaller proportion of citizens to serve in limited operations designed to prevent a world wide conflict breaking out. It is not only fair, equitable and morally right to do this; it is, I would have thought, in accordance with the dictates of prudence and common sense. I say to the Opposition quite deliberately that, given the nature of Chinese power and international Communism, by seeking to persuade the Australian public that we and the United States should not have limited forces in Vietnam, it is quite callously and no doubt for short term political advantage putting the lives not of a few but of millions of Australians at risk at some time in the future.

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