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Friday, 8 May 1970


Mr Les Johnson (HUGHES, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The honourable member for Diamond Valley (Mr Brown) does not seem to be aware that throughout the length and breadth of Australia today there is a spontaneous concern about the situation in Vietnam and the escalation into Cambodia. He seems to be unaware that this phenomenon in Australia is typical of that which is developing right around the world. The moratorium is not about violence at all - in fact, the very antithesis prevails. Violence can result only if it is provoked by this Government, by its lackeys and by its provocateurs. Those of us who are here in this Parliament today, instead of being where we would like to be among the people who are seeking peace, are wondering what provocative actions are likely to take place. We saw for ourselves only the other day outside the front of this building the Nazi emblems being handed around, the crackers being let off and people doing their utmost to stir up trouble in what was a peaceful demonstration. The Moratorium and the policy of the Australian Labor Party are not about violence but about compassion, conciliation in international affairs and the brotherhood of man. I think it would interest the honourable member for Diamond Valley, who referred to various elements of the Labor Party's organisation, to know of the determination made by the highest forum of our Party in its recent meeting on 26th February about Vietnam and that troubled part of the world. The Federal Executive of the Party resolved, in part:

This Executive pays tribute to those in the community whose efforts are directed in a peaceful manner towards an awakening conscience and stirring compassion in the minds and hearts of the Australian people in the tragic horror that is Vietnam. We believe the time has arrived, indeed is long overdue, when all people, irrespective of politics or ideological outlook, should demand of the Australian Government mat we get out of Vietnam now.

That is where the Labor Party stands in a clear and unequivocal way. I believe that regardless of the technicalities of gallup polls the hearts and minds of Australian people are trending towards that end.

The honourable member, despite all his pedanticism about atrocities here and atrocities there - and the Opposition never loses an opportunity to condemn them wherever they may be and regardless of who is responsible for committing them - should recall the terrible human suffering and human devastation which is the story of Vietnam. Pedanticism is not good enough and effective enough to sweep away these important considerations, for above all else is humanity. Disclosures recently made in this House reveal that no fewer than 750,000 enemy and allied troops have been killed in Vietnam since 1961 - i million human beings. When one starts to weigh up the extent of the suffering - the sequel to that kind of human devastation - in terms of families affected, one can start to measure the tragedy of this situation. Australia already has lost 400 dead in Vietnam since our involvement commenced. The United States of America has lost 40,000 dead servicemen. South Vietnamese servicemen killed number 103,500. Then, of course, there are the untold thousands who have been wounded. So far 2,500 Australian personnel have been injured in this conflict. We are told that no fewer than 269,000 Americans have been wounded in the course of battle in Vietnam. The cost of war is terrible and appalling and we want to see the war terminated. We want to see a cessation of the war as soon as possible.

The honourable member for Diamond Valley has spoken of the signatories to the Moratorium. I ask him to go through the list of signatories which has been publicised in various newspapers in recent days. Whilst he may be able to find I or 2 known Communists or card carrying Communists, as he claimed, there is no question that he will find a very effective cross section of the Australian community. He will find distinguished journalists, such as Margaret Jones and Geraldine Pascall. He will find prominent architects, such as Don Gazzard, Ian Mackay and Harry Seidler. He will find outstanding writers, such as Thomas Keneally, Cyril Pearl and Colin Simpson. He will find distinguished artists, such as Gordon Andrews, Charlie Blackman and Bruce Petty. So it goes on. There are many other people under various headings.

It all adds up to an indication of public concern about the continuing drift to an international conflict which can assume proportions which we have never previously known. In the last published list of sponsors of the Moratorium, one finds 114 school teachers, 15 actors, 17 distinguished musicians, 28 leading Australian journalists, 47 student leaders, 81 prominent academics, 21 minister of religion - people of all faith - 26 architects, 25 writers and 52 artists.

In addition to these, of course, hundreds of trade unionists and, 1 am very proud to say, a number of members of the Parliamentary Labor Party have added their signatures to those of people who are calling for a cessation of this war.

I have risen in this debate, which is a debate on supply, to express my concern at the diversion of funds in this country from purposes which are essential to the welfare of the people to causes associated with the Vietnam war. In view of the extent to which our own people are suffering - though in a much lesser way than those who live in Vietnam - we can only be concerned at the indifference of the Government and its failure to be more positive, or positive at all, in the pursuit of peace. In the debates that have preceded the present debate we have applied ourselves to the consideration of questions concerning the nation's health and the housing and education of our people, and in every regard, no matter what test one applies, this Government is found wanting, that it has let the Australian people down. There is grave dissatisfaction throughout the countryside. People are marching and meeting in order to get a better deal from the arbitration system. Farmers are marching through Melbourne in their thousands. When we look at the cost of the Vietnam war, we can understand the reason for this. So it was with some gratification that last night we received an indication that the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) had had second thoughts about his enthusiastic embracing of the unhappy developments in Cambodia. Accordingly, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard) has caused the Parliament to apply itself to the consideration of the Prime Minister's important statement. The Prime Minister, in Tokyo yesterday, is reported to have said:

It would be in the interests of peace there . . .

He was referring to Cambodia: if the North Vietnamese, the Vietcong, the South Vietnamese - all those in Cambodia - were to withdraw and allow a truly neutral Cambodia.

The effect of the amendment moved by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition is to support the Prime Minister. We will be

Interested to ascertain the extent to which the Prime Minister will be left out on his own by his henchmen in this place.


Mr Giles - That will not get you off the hook.


Mr Les Johnson (HUGHES, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The honourable member for Angas is interjecting. Is he doubting the authenticity of the report? lt appeared today in newspapers throughout Australia. One would have thought that it would have been regarded so significantly that the Minister for External Affairs (Mr McMahon) would have been on his feet giving further amplification of this apparent change of heart. We have moved the following amendment: . . this House supports the Prime Minister's call for the withdrawal of Vietcong, North Vietnamese and South Vietnamese troops from Cambodia and for the neutrality of that country to be guaranteed through the revived International International Control Commission or through the United Nations.

This is in keeping with what the Prime Minister has advocated in Tokyo. Anyone who cares to check my contention will find the report in today's Australian Press. In moving the amendment the Deputy Leader of the Opposition voiced the official policy of the Labor Party, which involves not only the withdrawal of the South Vietnamese and North Vietnamese from Cambodia, but also the withdrawal of all foreign troops not only from Cambodia but from the lndoChina region, lt seems to me that the Prime Minister's change of heart must be evidence of the public opinion which is taking its toll of distinguished people and world leaders in many countries.

The concern for world reaction to the United States escalation in Cambodia has manifested itself in many dramatic ways. For example, it. has manifested itself in the way 1 have indicated - by full page advertisements by distinguished people in this country appearing in the Press, by demonstrations in Australia and by the action of the heads of 200 universities and colleges in the United States who have asked to see the United States President in order to seek an explanation from him as to his unjustifiable action. There does not seem to be any likelihood that an Australisn Prime Minister would speak with 2 voices on this matter. The belligerence which he displayed for local consumption in his contribution on Tuesday night to the debate on Vietnam was in a changed situation.

It seems to me that this is one of the most unhappy developments that has occurred in the Indo-China situation. Cambodian neutrality, held by Prince Sihanouk, has been the great hope of Indo-China. The neutral leadership of the Prince was worth upholding as the only hope of preventing escalation of the war. We have a right to speculate as to who had an insufficient appreciation of his worth and who organised the coup. For many of us there seems to be far too close a pattern concerning the deposing of the Prince in Cambodia and the manner in which discredited puppet leaders of South Vietnam have been deposed in previous times. The unfortunate thing about the Cambodian war and recent developments is that there had been an indication that the nations and factions concerned in this unhappy war were about to realise the benefits and value of coming back to the conference table. I was interested to read in the 'Age' of 20th April 1970 an article under the heading "Hanoi may be ready for wider peace talks'. The article stated.

The Nixon Administration is watching closely what might be the first indication that Hanoi is ready to reopen negotiations for a settlement of the Vietnam war in a wider forum.

It goes on to indicate that Mr Jacob Malik, the Soviet Union's chief delegate to the United Nations, had said that a Geneva conference could bring about a fresh solution and a relaxation of tension in the Indo-China peninsula. There seemed to be an indication of a conciliatory attitude on the part of the Soviet Union at that stage. The Minister for External Affairs, prior to the entry of the United States into Cambodia, seemed to give some indication of satisfaction with the developing situation. At Bangkok on 16th April he was asked this question:

How would you see the future of South East Asia, once the Americans pull back forces from South Vietnam?

The Minister replied:

That, as you know, it is too speculative. 1 feel so far as South Vietnam is concerned the process of Vietnamisation is proceeding satisfactorily. I couldn't go any further and I would not. under any circumstances, try and speculate about the long term possibilities there.

But the point is that he was indicating his satisfaction with the processes of Vietnamisation. I was interested to note that some hope was also being expressed by the Indonesian Foreign Minister, Mr Malik, who was reported to have said on 2nd May that he regretted Mr Nixon's decision to permit the joint United States-South Vietnamese advance into the Parrot's Beak zone of Cambodia. He went on to emphasise that the decision would jeopardise the Asian and Pacific conference to be held in Indonesia. So he was obviously disturbed at the development which took place as the result of the escalation of the war into that country.

The great value and hope of the conference which was being proposed by the Indonesian Government, through its Foreign Minister, is expressed in the agenda. The most important item on the agenda is the independence and neutralisation of Cambodia. The initiative for this conference was taken by Indonesia. The second agenda item also has some significance. The second agenda item concerns non-intervention and re-activisation of the International Control Commission for Cambodia. That is what the Minister for External Affairs in this country indicated was to be the subject of discussion. Yet soon after this was embraced so willingly by the Minister for External Affairs on 27th April, the Prime Minister followed on 5th May. Of course, the statement by the Prime Minister virtually torpedoed all prospects for the success of the conference in Indonesia. We wonder why there is always a willingness to do the wrong thing in these critical situations. I was most interested to read the following question concerning Cambodia that was asked of the Minister for External Affairs on his arrival at the Sydney airport on 22nd April:

Can you see a position where Australia, representing Cambodia and also serving to a large extent the interests of South Vietnam, could be in a position where these interests could conflict?

The Minister said:

But we don't represent Cambodia now. We represented the US Government. We are not the direct representative of the US now. I cannot think that we arc in a position where our interests can conflict. In fact the representative of the Pnom Penh Government in Saigon is the Japanese.

Concerning this statement, he has sub.quently said:

Later I corrected this to say that we did represent the Cambodian Government in SouthVietnam. It docs not involve a conflict of interest.

So we do represent the Government of South Vietnam. Admittedly the Minister for External Affairs has not been long in his job. One would have thought that even if he had not known whether Australia represented Cambodia in South Vietnam before departing for his Asian tour he would have known by the time he got back. One wonders what the consequences of this incredible blunder might have been in terms of the development of the Cambodian situation and the escalation of the war. The Minister did not know that Cambodia was represented by Australia in South Vietnam. This is the most alarming ineptiness on the part of a Minister for External Affairs that could be imagined. It involved at a most critical time of that disastrous development a breakdown in communications, in fact a denial of responsibility, and certainly a loss of obligation on the part of the Australian Government to do its job effectively in representing the Cambodian situation. Perhaps if there had been proper representation at that critical time we might have been able to have avoided the development of the Cambodian crisis.

This month marks the anniversary of Australia's dispatch of troops to Vietnam. But this war did not start when Australia went there; nor did it start in 1964 when the United States became involved; nor did the Japanese spark off the spirit that is Vietnam through its occupation in 1941. Even the long and sometimes torrid period of colonialisation by the French, starting in 1847, cannot be identified as the beginning of the struggle for independence in Indo-China. This war started even before Communism prevailed as a political philosophy in that region or in any other region in the world. Foreign invaders have always been repelled by the people of Vietnam regardless of the cost. In terms of human suffering and human lives the sacrifice of this people has no parallel. In the 10 years after the Japanese occupation, the French between 1945 and 1954 killed more than half a million Vietnamese. The United

Slates, Australia and its allies have taken toll of I million Vietnamese lives since that dale.

Sixteen years ago the Geneva Convention resolved to end the blood bath and to recognise that the people of Indo-China were determined to remain unaccommodated to any foreign power, even to China, the greatest, strongest and most numerically powerful country in that region. The ballot box was to be the new arsenal for independence, and its use was not conditional on any domino theory or subject to the consideration that one side or the other would win at the polls. Here was a nation of 30 million people claiming for itself what every Australian regards as his birthright - the right to vote and the right of self-government through the ballot box. At the instigation of this Government, we have gone 7,000 miles across the sea, far beyond our bona fine interests, not to uphold the flame of democracy but the extinguish it. Our professed role is to contain Communistm, which we never distinguish from the nationalistic aspirations of the United States in Indo-China The illiterate population of that unhappy region can hardly read the comic cuts, yet they have attributed to them the capacity to write and understand the works of Marx and Lenin.

Worse still, this Government has added insult to injury by the immoral and inconsistent reasons it gives for Australian involvement. Our half-hearted participation is not designed to win the war in Vietnam but to slavishly acquiesce in subjective sycophancy with a great and powerful friend. Who can claim that the Australian war effort is what the enthusiasts for the war would expect to see? We still wax fat on the stock exchange. We flake out on the beaches. We stack up to expend our substance and affluence in the pubs and clubs from one end of the country to the other. We send a burnt offering. Our concession to the war in Vietnam is but a token burnt offering, a human sacrifice in the form of a few battalions of conscripts. I ask. Why should this Government be talking about withdrawing troops. Does it not still accept the basic justification of this war, which is still upheld and supported by Sir Robert Thompson, that the domino theory prevails and that after one country falls another follows? What justification is there for this Government to speak with 2 voices and to talk about withdrawing troops in the present situation?

We have been warned on countless occasions about the yellow hordes pressing down unrelentingly to Australia to gather up our women and children. Does not this compromise still hold? One wonders why it has changed at this point of time. Are we not involved in Vietnam, according to the Government, to stop the Chinese who are pressing down through the Asian countries steadfastly to Australia? What has changed to justify the withdrawal of troops? Are we not committed to the policy of the Returned Services League, with its sabre rattling and cry of. 'Up guards and at them'? Have we nol always been synchronising Government policy with that point of view? Are we not still committed to all the way with LBJ' or 'all the way with the USA', or has the Government decided to deviate with this talk of withdrawing troops? The justification that we are there to prevent the rape of a sovereign nation cannot be upheld, with the withdrawal of troops. We are told that we are there to promote democracy, but apparently we are willing to get out and leave the country in a undemocratic state in terms of the Government's attitude. We are told that we are there to uphold our SEATO obligation and our ANZUS obligations. We now know that there was no SEATO obligation al all. Britain, France and Pakistan, principal signatories to the agreement that established SEATO, never contemplated participation in that war. We are there to win endearing support from the United States of America, although we enjoyed it by way of a treaty anyway. One starts to wonder how honourable members opposite can condone what they have done in the past and what they propose to do in the future. Our leaders are deviating in 1970 from the declared objectives which sent us into Indo-China. They are deviating from the old shibboleths and the old cliches. They are hearing the voice of the people. I believe that they really see their own position as in jeopardy, and it is for this reason that we are finding this attitude of compromise today.

I conclude by emphasising that the proper way to bring some assistance or some worthwhile aid to the people of the region of Into-Ohina is to support in greater measure the concepts of economic aid which other countries have been contributing in greater measure. In the period 1965-68 $1,200 billion has been spent on aid in Asia. The Vietnamese share was $429 billion. That is to say, one-third of all the aid to Asia is provided to South Vietnam, a country with but one-fourteenth of the population. The United States share of the total of $429 billion was $420 billion. Australia contributed only SI. 9m. The cost of Australia's involvement this year in the Vietnam war has been no less than $42m. I think those figures on their own indicate the poor scale of values that prevails in the minds of members of the Government and which the Moratorium







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