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Tuesday, 19 April 1966


Mr JESS (La Trobe) .- The debate on foreign affairs has extended over a number of weeks. Many different viewpoints have been expressed. On the Opposition side there have been various colourations or dis.colourations of Labour policy, as it is called these days, and there has been a divergence of views, although perhaps only in degree. I do not think anybody could disagree with much of what was said by the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. O'Connor). A substantial part of what he said in his resume of the situation as it has developed in Vietnam over the years is in accord with the facts. But just because there has been a lull in the debate today and because everything has been peaceful I do not think we can suggest that the debate should continue in this way. Many statements have been made in the last two weeks by members of the Opposition that call for comment before this debate concludes. Honorable members opposite have said little about moves by the United States and other countries, irrespective of whether they support South Vietnam, to bring North Vietnam and Communist China to the conference table. In the attacks that many honorable members opposite - not all - make on the United States they never refer to the efforts of the 17 uncommitted nations, of the Premier of India, of the United Kingdom Government, of the United States Government and of many other countries to get North Vietnam and Communist China to the conference table.

Let it be remembered also, because this matter is not mentioned by some honorable members opposite, that the Labour Government of the United Kingdom, through its spokesmen the Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary, supports the action being taken in South Vietnam by the United States and Australia. The United Kingdom realises that we have a case for being there and that there is a need to take the defensive against Communism in this area of South East Asia. Lest anybody needs to be convinced further on this point let me quote from the recent United Kingdom White Paper on Defence, which reads in part -

It is in the Far East and South Asia that the greatest danger to peace may lie in the next decade and some of our partners in the Commonwealth may be directly threatened.

Those partners in the Commonwealth are Malaysia, Australia and New Zealand. This danger to us is admitted in the United Kingdom, but listening to some members of the Opposition one could be excused for thinking that we had nothing to fear, that we had nothing to prepare for and that all we had to do was sit back, be quiet and accept no responsibility, allowing the tide to rise over us. This is a very convenient debating point which the Opposition takes but it may not be one which the Australian people will accept without being given further information by the Opposition.

I propose to quote the remarks of Mr. Gaitskell the former leader of the British Labour Party with regard to the situation in Berlin. Most people will realise that the Soviet was checked in Europe only when it was shown that the free nations were prepared to stand by West Berlin; when it was shown that they were prepared to overcome the blockade by the use of aircraft even if it meant war. The free nations were prepared at all costs to stand by the people of West Berlin. The stand taken against the Soviet has obtained a type of peace in Europe for some considerable period. The same issue is involved in Vietnam today. I will quote from a speech delivered by Mr. Gaitskell in Blackpool in 1961 when he spoke about unilateral disarmament and West Berlin. At the time he was under pressure from left wingers in the Labour Party regarding what he should do about compromising with the Communists and coming to some arrangement with those people who wished to put an end to democracy. Let the Opposition ponder his words. Let too the Australian people ponder them. Mr. Gaitskell said -

Can the United Nations today guarantee the security of its members? The answer is " No ". It has not the power, and if it had the power it is by no means certain it would have the united will. I hope and pray the time will come when the power exists; when there is a world authority and when people accept it, but it is not there yet. That is why nations, wherever they may be, are bound to rely on themselves ultimately for their own protection, either by such defences as they decide to erect or by alliances or by both. Our answer to the proposal that Britain should become neutral and give up her alliances is simple. We passionately believe that if Britain were to do this it would be profoundly dangerous for the peace of the world. If Britain walked out on the American people they would regard it as a terrible betrayal by their closest ally. What would the Russians think? One of the dangers of the Berlin situation is that they, thinking that the west is weak and divided - and if we walked out - would take their chance and seize Berlin. Let no-one regard that lightly, whether he cares for Berlin or for the peace of the world.

In that statement, for Berlin substitute Vietnam. For the Soviet let us substitute Communist China. For America substitute the United States and the free nations remaining in South East Asia. How many of the countries of South East Asia would trust us if we took the advice of the left wing members of the Labour Party who say to us: " Repudiate your treaties. Whatever the United States is doing is wrong. The United States is the aggressor. Australia should not be there. Australia should not play its part. We should get out as fast as we can and sit on our island in isolation."? If in place of America as referred to by Mr. Gaitskell we substitute the small nations of South East Asia, how many of them would trust us? The sole purpose of the Communist bloc and of those people in this Parliament who may be purveying the Communist line is to force the United States out of South Vietnam and out of South East Asia altogether. If this happened the countries of South East Asia would fall. Who then would protect Australia? This is a question which the Australian people have a right to ask the Opposition. Who then would believe our word? Who would ever again respect us? Who, we may ask, would eventually liberate us if the tide did engulf us, as some people experienced in international affairs and South East Asian affairs think at the present time could happen?

We are in South Vietnam not for territorial gains or colonial power. Being on the perimeter of South East Asia, Australia must play her part in stopping Communist aggression wherever it breaks out. To do this we must employ all the military and economic means at our disposal. We are providing economic and defence aid for the people of the free nations which wish to remain free, for we more than any other western nation in this area have the most to lose. Indeed, the Americans could go home. They could live within the borders of their own country. America is not under direct threat. The Americans could get out of South East Asia tomorrow. The United Kingdom could retire to Europe. It has been suggested that the United Kingdom would like to reduce its defence commitments in Malaysia and South East Asia. There is nothing to stop the United Kingdom from going back to Europe. There has been peace in Europe for a long time and it looks as if Europe will remain peaceful for some time. All the threats to peace are now on Australia's doorstep. It is the Australian people who must be prepared and the Australian Government which must be responsible. We must have strong allies if we wish to stand against the tides that may flow towards us at short notice. Let then the Opposition, which appears so close in the spectrum with the Communist Party, clearly spell out to the Australian people what its plans are for defence, because at no time in this debate has the Opposition proposed the alternative that it would give the Australian people.

The honorable member for Yarra (Dr. J. F. Cairns) has said that it does not matter if South East Asia goes to the Communists. " Let them take it ", he says. He says: " I, the strategist who has never been to South East Asia - who has never set foot in the area - can tell you how to defend it." He says: " AH you need is a fleet to sail in the waters to the north of Australia. He does not say whether he is referring to " Melbourne " that can do 22 knots, or to a fleet of about four destroyers. I fake it that he is referring to the United States Fleet. I say to the honorable member for Yarra, other members of the left wing of the Opposition, and also the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell), who say that they would withdraw our troops from Vietnam, that these statements may be designed to impress tine United States Government, but if I were the United States Government, I would tell them to go to hell very quickly and I would assure them that they had no right to make any claim on the United States for help to protect Australia. The members of the Labour Party should not just play on the emotions of people and endeavour to confuse the issue for political gain. Let them say how they intend to save not only the 20 year old national servicemen but every man, woman and child in this country if the situation should deteriorate further and we should come under attack. To say that this cannot happen is to ignore reality. For honourable members opposite to act as they are at present is merely to play the part of mouthpieces for Communism, and this will mean the eventual selling out of this country and its people.

Our foreign policy and our defence policy are based on a proper concern for the security of our nation and its people. The war threats are no longer in Europe and the Mediterranean, or on any other far flung battle line; they are here in South East Asia, and time is not on our side. If the Labour Party has a policy, then let it state it. If some religious leaders feel they have the divine power to save this country without our doing anything for our own protection, and that this power is invulnerable, let them say so. Let the academics who are so knowledgeable as to the future safety and protection of Australia get up and say that they will guarantee the safety of Australia and of our wives and our children if anything should go wrong and the Communists come down to confront us in Australia.

The honorable member for Reid (Mr. Uren) put the Communist line in opposition to the Government's policy at the recent conference of the Inter-Parliamentary Union. Let us remember that, although he earned the applause of the Communist delegates, there were no representatives of Communist oppositions present at that conference because the Iron Curtain countries do not have oppositions. Let it be remembered, too, that when there was a demonstration outside Parliament House against one of the leaders of the Soviet delegation that leader said that he was surprised that this sort of thing was allowed to happen in Australia because no demonstrations of that type were allowed to happen in Poland, the Soviet Union or other Iron Curtain countries. Let those who rise in this House and seek to place responsibility on America and the other free nations of the West spend some of their time telling us about the things that go on in the Iron Curtain countries which they seem to adore and admire. The Australian people want to know these things. Let the members of the Labour Party tell us also why they altered section XXIII of the Party's platform. That section originally read -

Labour will honour and support Australia's treaties and defence alliances. lt now reads -

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

The Australian people should be taken into the confidence of the Australian Labour

Party. The Australian people may be emotionally involved in conscription and all that it means, but it is up to the Labour Party to tell them what measures it would introduce to ensure the safety of this country. If the Labour Party's policy is to repudiate everything American, to repudiate America and all our alliances and treaties, then the members of the Labour Party must tell the Australian people whom they would substitute for the United States of America.

I am sure that the Australian people have accepted and are now accepting the fact that the phoney protests which are organised and arranged by the Communists in this country have only one objective - to deprive the Australian people of the power to resist the threats with which they may be faced. In fact, a great number of those who speak so much about freedom would be the very ones who would do most to see that we in Australia had little freedom indeed to enjoy.

Let me conclude by saying that, so far as I can see into the future, I believe that Australia must have conscription and that it must have forces and be able to plan for the best use of those forces. Australia must be certain also that these forces can be maintained. Those members of the forces to whom I have spoken after their return from Vietnam accept their responsibility. The representatives of the South East Asian nations to whom I have spoken also accept the fact that they have a part to play. They realise that they will be under a threat and that what is happening now in South Vietnam could happen also in Thailand, Malaysia and other parts of the world. It is only by demonstrating our genuine concern for their freedom that we can ensure that the people of these nations will cooperate with us and stay with us.

I give all credit to the United States of America for having been prepared to put its troops into this war not for gain but to protect the peace of the world. In doing this, the United States has taken over the role which was formerly filled by the United Kingdom v/hen it was the premier nation of the world. Instead of belittling the United States of America as some members of the Opposition and some people in this country are so fond of doing, I suggest they should get down on their knees and thank God that we have an ally which has power and which is prepared to use it against Communism in support and defence of the things which most of the Australian people hold very dear.







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