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Tuesday, 19 April 1966

Mr HAYDEN (Oxley) .- Before I press on to the points I want to make in this address I wish to refer briefly to the remarks of the Minister for Air (Mr. Howson). The Minister quoted from a periodical in such a way as to convey that the quotation would establish the point he was making. But he could have obtained an equally objective statement from " News Weekly ", the National Civic Council's newspaper. The Minister referred to a lack of affinity between North Vietnam and South Vietnam, historically or ethnically. What always amazes me is how honorable members opposite can adapt arguments to suit their own convenience. When Vietnam was a French colonial possession one never heard any arguments in favour of partition. In reply to the contention that Vietnam is really not one country I want now to quote from an article from "The Minority of One ", an American publication. The article stated -

The United States Government, through iti Under Secretory of State, Walter Bedell Smith, made its own unilateral declaration on July 21, 1954.

This was in connection with the Geneva Accords. The article continued -

In this declaration, the United States took note of the Geneva Agreements and declared that the United States would " refrain from threats or the use of force to disturb them, in accordance with Article 2 (4) of the Charter of the United Nations dealing with the obligations of members to refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force . . ."

Referring to free elections in Vietnam the United States' declaration stated:

In the case of nations now divided against their will, we shall continue to seek to achieve unity through elections supervised by the United Nations to insure that they are conducted fairly.

The Minister claimed that there was no affinity between North and South Vietnam, but here we have evidence that the United States at the time recognised that there is this affinity and that the separation of North and South is an artificial division carried out against the will of the people of those two areas. Implicit in that unilateral declaration made on behalf of the United States Government by Walter Bedell Smith was a guarantee to recognise the Geneva Accords. This is tremendously important because honorable members of the Government side of the House now argue that America did not sign the Geneva Accords and therefore has no obligation under them. But she has, as she conceded in the quotation I have just given. But then, having said that America does not have this obligation, honorable members opposite argue that we should return to the situation that existed at the time of the Geneva Accords. The history of events in Vietnam clearly shows that we departed from the spirit of the Geneva Accords not because of so-called aggression from the North, but rather because of the complete denial of the guarantees written into the Accords - to hold elections by 1956, not to decide whether the separations should continue but to choose one government for the whole of Vietnam.

It has been pointed out on numerous occasions that General Eisenhower, in his memoirs, said that the only reason why America did not allow free elections to the people of Vietnam was that 80 per cent, of the people wanted a Communist government. As the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) has said - he has been quoted publicly - if the people of Vietnam want a Communist Government surely they are entitled to it and we have no more right to deny it to them than has a Communist government to deny a democratic administration to a country in which a majority of the people want such an administration.

I turn now to the current issues of the Vietnam situation. I am not a traditionalist in opposition to conscription. The history of the Australian Labour Party shows that during World War II it showed a responsible attitude in introducing conscription to defend the shores of Australia. I would support such a system if I thought there was some imminent threat to the security of this country, but I refuse to accept that the situation in Vietnam poses such a threat. I believe, talking in military or strategic terms, that if the whole of the Western forces were pulled out of Vietnam there would be no greater threat to the security of Australia or to the rest of South East Asia. That is a point which I shall elaborate later.

At this point I am concerned about the situation that the Government is trying to develop in this country, an atmosphere of " my country right or wrong ", a super jingoistic situation. The Government is trying to establish a kind of veneration for the State, to elevate it above us instead of, as should be the case in a democracy, it being on a plane with the people in the community who appoint their representatives, the representatives themselves being only ordinary people and having no Godlike characteristic . of infallibility. I am distressed at the way in which the Government is handing on decrees which are a loyalty test for the population. Those who disagree have their character impugned and their loyalty questioned.

Part and parcel of this attitude is the way in which the Government conducts the campaign with slogans, slogans of convenience which suggest something without defining anything. They are dishonest because they explain nothing. Let us look at some of these slogans. One of them is that we are in South Vietnam to defend freedom. I have mentioned before just how wonderful freedom was under the Diem Administration and the particular case of Dr. Dan who was prevented from accepting his seat in the local authority assembly of Saigon after he had won an election even though Diem had poured thousands of troops into the electorate overnight to vote against the man. I have mentioned also the thousands of men who had become political prisoners because they had criticised or opposed the Administration but were not necessarily Communists. In most cases they were not Communists. In fact, Dr. Dan had a well earned reputation for being antiCommunist. If we are in South Vietnam to fight for these freedoms and if these freedoms are so extremely desirable to the people of South Vietnam, perhaps the Government can explain why there were 113,000 desertions from the ranks of the South Vietnamese Government forces last year.

We could take many instances of people in South Vietnam who, as distinct from the National Liberation Front, or the Vietcong or whatever you like to call it, have expressed their opposition to our presence in South Vietnam and have opposed the governments which we - when I say " we " I am speaking in the sense of the West - have propped up by military means. We had an example a few weeks ago when the Ky Government encountered a revolt against it. The Ky Government suggested this revolt was the work of Communists so we immediately had to attack Communist China.

I should like to read to the House some extracts from an article appearing in the 18th April 1966 edition of "Newsweek", an American international news publication. The article had this to say -

Iti the ancient imperial capital of Hue, 400 miles north-east of Saigon, 1,000 national policemen and some 3,000 soldiers of South Vietnam's crack First Division, led by their own officers, defiantly paraded with anti-government banners.

It went on -

And in the openly rebellious city of Da Nang, thousands of dissident troops barricaded themselves behind machine-gun nests and faced down a regiment of 1,500 loyal Vietnamese marines dressed in full battle gear.

While an incredulous Washington looked on with mounting concern, the protests suddenly turned blatantly anti-American.

There was a protest by students against United States imperialism and by Buddhists and the people generally who joined in the chant: " Down with Cao Ky ". This was the situation in South Vietnam, not a Communist situation as the daily Press indicated to us but an expression of general dissatisfaction throughout the community because although there were social, economic and political problems to be solved we poured billions of dollars worth of military aid into the country to answer the problems in a military manner. In terms of civil assistance for the development of the country, our aid is a molehill beside the mountain of military might.

Another slogan we have heard is: " We need powerful allies". Of course we do. No-one denies that we need friends and the friendship of all people in the world, but the point that strikes me is that in this sector of the world our nearest neighbours are Asian countries. They will still be there long after European influences have moved away because European countries are furthest removed from us. In any case, surely this slogan does not mean that we must become completely mute or that we must become yes men. Yes men are a danger in any organisation. They are a positive threat in the delicate field of international affairs. Anyway, just what kind of guarantees do we have if we become mute followers of these so-called powerful friends? I recollect the time when Indonesia received West Irian with the United States virtually presiding over the transfer of that country from the Dutch. We were not involved in that situation although we were expressing our interest in it. So much for these strong and powerful friends and the consideration that they extend to us.

Then there was the recent Honolulu conference, hurriedly called for reasons which are obvious to anyone who has followed the situation in Vietnam. It was called for reasons associated with a searching inquiry directed at the administration of the United States. The conference was tremendously important. It involved important considerations for this country because, after all, the Government has made it clear that we are totally in support of the United States in this war. Yet we were not advised of the conference or of its proceedings although it involved the top leaders of the United States and of the puppet government in South Vietnam. We were not told about it until some time later. Between the time of the conference and the time when we were finally advised about it I heard on an Australian Broadcasting Commission station a report from some A. B.C. reporter in Saigon in which he stated what Australia was going to do. At this time, honorable members will recollect, the newspapers were talking about a stepped up involvement of something like 1,500 or 2,000 men. No-one thought we would send 4,500 troops to South Vietnam. I heard this reporter mention not only that we would send about 5,000 troops but also the composition of the military complex we intended to dispatch. It seems that the people in South Vietnam, even the Vietcong - the National Liberation Front - knew before the Australian Government what we were expected to do and what we would do.

Then there is the bombing of Hanoi to which the British Government has objected as a matter of principle. A question relating to this matter was asked of the Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Holt) today. He was obviously flabbergasted and embarrassed by it and he was only saved by Mr. Acting Speaker's ruling that the question was out of order.

We have heard another slogan that we must fight this war in someone else's backyard. That is a disgusting argument. What we are saying virtually is that we want to spill blood on someone else's soil but we want to keep our own country clean. This is resented by a lot of Asian nations. It certainly is resented in several of the magazines I have read which come from Asian countries. When we talk about having to fight the war in someone else's backyard the matter seems to involve a mysterious undefined " them ". We hear that we must stop " them " somewhere. No-one ever knows who this " them " is. One might ask: " Who are these people you are talking about?" There is some vague concept of Communists, whether it be Chinese Communists or international Communism as a whole. There are many of these handy cliches but the people who use them are not quite clear about the matter. In fact they are confused, so the argument never develops. But it is a handy slogan because it is emotional even if it lacks a factual basis.

Then we get to the domino theory and the threat of China. The Minister for Air said there were some powerful arguments involved in the domino theory. I said before and I still say that, in terms of military strategy, the whole of the Western forces could pull out of Vietnam and there would be no threat to Australia or the rest of South East Asia. Why should Vietnam be a threat? In fact, Vietnam is the weak point in the defensive armour of American military strategy. America, first, has her tremendous Seventh Fleet, the biggest armada the world has ever known, and, secondly, her ring of air and military bases which come right down from Japan and put a ring around Asia, to contain and isolate Communist China.

Let us talk about Communist China and the fearful spectre of this huge country of 700 million people all of whom are going to flood down onto Australia and take us over overnight. This attitude seems to be a hangover in this conception of our fear of the coloured hordes which goes back to the early days of the white Australia policy. Let us look at China which has 2.7 million men under arms. They are poorly equipped; they are equipped for a defensive role; and they consist almost exclusively of infantry. It has extremely poor mobility as an army. Let us look at its navy. Surely if it is going to be a threat to us it must have ships to transport its power and resources of power. It has 4 destroyers and 4 destroyer escorts of World War II vintage. It has 700 patrol boats, but I understand that they are coastal patrol boats of very short range. What sort of threat is this? What sort of transportation could these vessels undertake? It has 30 submarines which would not be capable of carrying many troops. I have heard the honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryant), an ex-serviceman who was involved in military front line landings in the last war, point out out that it takes a tremendous amount of shipping to move an attacking force. Let us look at China's air force. It has Korean War vintage MIG 15s and 17s, obsolete Soviet bombers and a fairly large number of assorted propeller driven aircraft. This is the structure of the Chinese military might. It is largely a defensive one.

From my reading of magazines from Britain and America, and some from Australia, of course, it seems to me - the Americans are now prepared to concede this - that China is tremendously fearful that America is going to make an attack against it on Chinese soil. This fear conditions its whole concept of military arrangement. It is not an attacking arrangement in terms of conquering the whole of South East Asia but is rather a defensive arrangement. Again, China having such a tremendously weak industrial base, how could it marshal or mobilise a major attack or assault as would be necessary against a developed country like Australia, with our industrial base so far away from other countries? One other point for the Country Party - we have heard this often before - concerns the way we trade with Communist China.

Mr Nixon - Stop apologising for Communism.

Mr HAYDEN - So far as I am concerned I would trade much more with Communist China than the Government does. But if the Government supporters are so virtuous on the threat of China, why do the members of the Country Party allow the subsidisation of wheat sales to Communist China? Under the wheat stabilisation plan, when the world price for wheat is lower than the domestic price the difference is made up from internal revenue. The Australian taxpayers are subsidising wheat sales to Communist China. Let us face the fact that Communist influence in Vietnam or any other of the Asian countries is a home grown thing, an internal thing which has grown out of the deprivation, the exploitation and the suffering of the people, and out of our refusal to face up to these problems. I do not raise the subject of trade with Communist China to suggest it should be halted. On the contrary I feel there is much to be achieved by increasing trade with this country. I merely raise the point to question the sincerity of the assumptions upon which the Government bases its arguments.

Now let me move on to the treaties. There is the S.E.A.T.O. Treaty and the A.N.Z.U.S. Treaty. The S.E.A.T.O. Treaty is not worth the paper it is written on. We arc told that we are in Vietnam honouring our obligations, but Britain, France, the Philippines, Thailand and Pakistan are not there, even though Vietnam is a protocol State. The Philippines, of course, is going to send troops in, but it is an awfully belated decision and comes only because of a change of administration. This is an important point. Decisions under S.E.A.T.O. and under A.N.Z.U.S. also are subject to any alteration in administrative outlook on foreign policy. Finally - unfortunately I must end here - what about our obligations under the United Nations Charter about which I asked the Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Holt) today and about which he obviously was embarrassed and at sea? Our obligations under the United Nations Charter are superior in their demands to our obligations under S.E.A.T.O.- and S.E.A.T.O. acknowledges this - and, it is agreed, to our obligations under A.N.Z.U.S. I cannot understand, therefore, why we have not carried out these obligations under the United Nations treaty. The United States observed these requirements in Korea in 1950 and insisted on Great Britain observing them in Suez in 1956 and the United Nations maintaining them in the Congo in 1960. It conveniently forgot them in 1964 in South East Asia. Let us negotiate and let us involve Moscow. Peking, Hanoi, the Vietcong, the National Liberation Front or anybody else who is involved in this war. If there are to be conditional negotiations, let them be in fact conditional negotiations.

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