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Wednesday, 24 October 1973
Page: 2620


Mr STALEY (Chisholm) - It is an odd and somewhat unnerving experience for an Australian to travel overseas at the moment, as I have just done to a Commonwealth Parliamentary Association conference in London, travelling through 4 South-East Asian countries, the United States of America, France as well as the United Kingdom. The reason why it is odd and somewhat unnerving for Australians to travel abroad at the moment is that there seems to be more than a little uncertainty about the direction that this country is taking in world affairs and in our region. A feeling of untrustworthiness is developing about the activities and the intentions of the Australian Government. It is quite clear that what is getting across to the world is not the independent stance which some members opposite had intended, but a sort of arrogant isolationism. This attitude bewilders many of our friends and old allies and again and again one is asked overseas: 'Are the Australian people really like that, or are the Australian masses really like that?' This is all the more marked because so much had been expected in a way of the new Labor Government of this country.

We on this side of the House have had our difficulties in recent years. We had not always uttered a clear line in foreign policy thinking. So, there was a very considerable interest overseas in what might happen here and the sort of new face we might turn to the world. I think I can say that the stages through which our allies and neighbours have gone in looking at us are something like this: The stage of being interested, - then excited, then amused, then bored, then anxious and finally amazed. They showed interest at first in some of the ideas of the new Government and an interest in how the new Government would go and what sort of difference it would make. They were excited by our 2-man dictatorship because we were trying out a pattern that has been fairly well tried around so many parts of the world.


Mr Daly - That is what you and Jim Forbes were.


Mr STALEY - They were amused at the antics of the Government, as illustrated just then by the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly). Our neighbours and allies were then bored by the Government's childishness and by the sort of early adolescent behaviour which its members were displaying. After that I would say our neighbours were anxious at the behaviour of a country which was an old ally and an old friend. I think finally they have become amazed at the new Australian ugliness which the Labor Government has been per petuating around the world and at home, an Australian ugliness which, as I suggested to this House the other day, would leave the best efforts of our most notorious tourists for dead.

The Americans sum up the position pretty well by asking: 'What in the hell is going on down under?' The Americans know that they are in awful trouble. They have a quaint, oldfashioned feeling that maybe in their time of trouble they may have been able to rely on their friends. Again, they have a quaint but perhaps old-fashioned belief that Australia is their friend and that there are few nations which have more bonds than the United States of America and our country. They had a feeling that we might have been one of those nations which would not have indulged in cheap smears and sneers in their time of trouble. The Americans know the trouble they are in. They do not need our Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) to tell them. They have seen Australia as a sort of last frontier. Many Americans still see Australia in these terms, not unnaturally, because their frontiers are disappearing. They have seen Australia as a sort of last frontier where there are certain basic values which they have cherished. They have seen Australia as a free country and they are astounded that those things which Australians cherished - the freedoms from too much government, from too much arbitrariness and from interfering nonsense - are in the melting pot if they are not out of the window today. The Americans understand Australia's desire to have a clear, strong and uniquely Australian voice, but they rather fear, as so many around the world do, that we have gone a good deal further than that. The Americans will have to live with their troubles for a while yet and therefore something will be asked of us.

Watergate is far from over and it goes, as we all know, so deep. Of course, Watergate has helped some people, as I discovered in South East Asia. It is doing great things for the cause of corruption in developing countries. It is also doing something for the British monarchy and doing great things for the parliamentary system. Everywhere in the United States of America the point is made: If only we had a little bit of your accountability. Some thought that the Lambton affair, with its repercussions around the world, might have let the Americans off the hook. But even the Lambton affair made the situation all the worse because the Americans remarked on how expeditiously those little problems had been handled.

It was very odd to visit Paris and to be asked by so many people in France: 'Is it true that the Australian people like the Communist Chinese more than they like the French, or is it that they are just a little hypocritical in their attitudes to bombs?' I was able to tell the French that the postal workers' boss, when asked whether he would also put a ban on Chinese mail as well as on French mail, said that he would not. He was asked the reason and he said: 'Well, the point is that in the one case they have let it off in their own territory and in the other it is in our neck of the woods'. That answer did not satisfy the interviewer who pushed the postal workers' boss a bit further. The postal workers' boss said: 'Well, one is an imperialist's bomb and the other is a working man's bomb'. The point was fairly well taken by the French.

The British, bound still by so many bonds to Australia - bonds of history and kinship - are not altogether surprised at the behaviour of the new Whitlam Government. They feel that they have seen it all before in the behaviour of the now dead Wilson Government.

The Singaporeans are waging almost daily verbal war on Australia, particularly through their official organs and frankly they despise the Australian Government's approach. On the other hand the New Zealand Labor Government has seen its opening and is leaping in to create even stronger ties of goodwill in the region where the Australian Labor Government is sacrificing them. The South Vietnamese want to know whether the Australian people want the communist aggressors to win. The Malaysians and Indonesians reckon that we do not know we are alive. Our strutting, our crudeness, our know-all qualities, our apparent innocence but our questionable credibility on the nature of the region and its problems, our unwillingness to listen - all these features of the behaviour of the Australian Government are making their mark on our reputation in our region.

In South Vietnam the war is going on. Every day northerners are infiltrating and skirmishing and a major attack is expected. All of our neighbours face major problems of subversion. They look with the wariest possible eye on the activities of the major powers. The great reason why they did not want us to leave Vietnam is that they felt we might be replaced by less friendly powers in the region. The new accords with China, the so-called detente between the super powers, impressed them not one bit. They are more inclined to believe the views of the Communist Chinese Government than the views of the Whitlam Government on matters like this. They believe along with the Chinese Communist Government that the detente is a lot of hog wash and that the revolution is on the march as much as it ever was. If anyone would doubt this I refer to Mr Chiao Kuan.Hua's recent and major address to the United Nations. The point is that they believe the Australian Government is building a fool's paradise down here. They understand the tragic necessity of preparing for the worst while hoping for the best.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Locock)Order!The honourable member's time has expired.







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