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Wednesday, 24 October 1973
Page: 2622


Mr GORTON (Higgins) - We are engaged at the moment in watching a most tragic occurrence, the conflict in the Middle East. In the course of that conflict, there has been considerable pressure brought on to the Prime Minister (Mr Whitiam) and on to the Government to condemn the Arab nations as aggressors in this latest instalment of fighting. The Prime Minister has refused to do this, wishing to say nothing which might diminish any influence Australia has or which might militate against our desire to help bring the conflict to an end. In this attitude, he has been completely supported by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden).

No one can deny, I think, that it is in our interests and in the world's interests to end this fighting now and to see that it does not spread into a world conflagration as there is always a possibility that it might. Now it seems that actual fighting might cease, not because of the United Nations but because the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and the United States of America both want it to cease. Therefore, it is surely time for us as a Parliament to say what we as a nation, or as a Parliament, would like to see happen after the ceasefire; what our diplomatic representatives should work for now and in the future.

It is clear that this latest fighting is not an isolated affair. It is a symptom of an endemic danger to whch my friend, the honourable member for Robertson (Mr Cohen), has referred. It is an endemic danger which is continuing and which has periodically in the past erupted into war and which, whatever happens now in the way of a ceasefire, will undoubtedly erupt in war again in the future unless the underlying causes are removed or the Soviet and the United States act in concert to prevent any future aggression and to maintain peace.

I would like to see the Parliament and the nation adopt as goals the achievement of justice and of continuing peace in this area, not only to avoid the bestiality of limited and endemic war but also to avoid the danger which such war poses to the world and, therefore, to Australia. In the first place, I believe that we ought to support the concept that Israel has the right to exist, that it must not be exterminated and that it has the right to so exist with security and with a guarantee of peace. She should not be subjected to constant and publicly expressed threats of destruction. I believe that we should support the concept that she should retain borders which are defensible and should have secure access to the Gulf of Aqaba.

I believe that there should be real and credible guarantees to all countries in the area against attack from any country in the area, including Israel. I believe that there should be a world effort to settle the Palestinian refugees and to see that they have a chance of a life better than that which they now have. I believe too that the only way in which these goals can be achieved in the short and middle term is for the United States and the Soviet Union to give such guarantees and to mean them; to refuse to arm and to train countries in the area to the extent that they could be posed as a threat to any other country, and to make it so clear that they are believed that if any future aggression does take place from any direction, they will act in concert to defeat it at once. If this could be done, in the longer term the growth of tolerance in the absence of war, the growth of relations of various kinds between the countries and the growth of understanding would be possible. Those things might develop. If they did, it would be the ultimate and real guarantee of a continuing peace after that time.

It may be that the approach that I suggest will be dubbed naive or idealistic. I hope it will not be dubbed divisive. It is not meant to be and I do not think it is. But if it is naive and idealistic it is at least an approach. What other possibilities are there, given the history and the existing situation and looking into the future, of preventing an outbreak of war in this area again? Three million Israelis will not allow themselves to be exterminated; nor should they. There is still, and will be for some time, an understandable feeling on the part of the Arab nations. If this is so, is there anybody here who believes that the United Nations itself - just the United Nations - could prevent an outbreak or stop an outbreak of war? Is there anybody who does not believe that the United States and the Soviet Union, acting in concert, could do that?

If it is idealistic, it is idealistic. But this nation should be prepared to try to reach an idealistic goal if that is the only goal which seems to offer a solution to a problem of such magnitude. And, who knows? Other problems which have seemed insoluble, other approaches which have seemed at first to be idealistic, have ultimately succeeded. Unless some other better approach can be suggested I would like to see Australia, through its Government, adopt the attitude and instruct its diplomatic representatives to try to bring about the goals which I have suggested; not from any partisan spirit but from a real belief that this is at the heart of a continuing peace in the Middle East and, therefore, in the world.







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