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Monday, 26 November 1973
Page: 3839


Mr WENTWORTH (Mackellar) - I join with my colleague, the honourable member for New England (Mr Sinclair), in supporting the High Commissioner (United Kingdom) Act Repeal Bill but there are one or two remarks I would like to make. Firstly, I agree with what has been said in regard to the technical aspects of the Service and the way in which this Bill can make improvements. I regard this as a good thing. But I would regard it as a bad thing if this Bill were to mark any further diminution of the special relationship between Australia and the United Kingdom. I say this with full consciousness of the need for furthering our Australian identity and for creating in Australia a nation of independent outlook. I think nobody in this House more than I would be able to say that.

I remember moving, I think in 1952, in this House a motion regarding the takeover of a large section of the Australian broadcasting network by British Press interests. The Labor Party supported that foreign takeover at that time. I moved, and was successful in getting through this House, a motion regarding that action.

Although I am not opposed to all foreign investment by any means, I have always stood opposed to the excesses of foreign investment in Australia. I would have, I think, in this regard, a longer and more consistent history than probably anybody on either side of this House.

I return to the special relationship between Australia and Britain. Let me come back to taws in this respect and put things squarely on the line. It is customary for us to say that Australia is safe, that we have no enemies, that no one will attack for 15 years and that physical violence against us is unthinkable. I wish that this were true but I do not necessarily believe it to be true. With New Zealand, we could be isolated in this region of this hemisphere. It will be well for the existence and continued identity of Australia if the special relationship with the United Kingdom were continued and, indeed, intensified.

The British Commonwealth has now become so diluted as to be devoid of its old meaning. 'Almost meaningless' would perhaps be too hard a term but the British Commonwealth is not what it was. But between the

United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand and Canada there may still be - I hope there still is - a special and inner link. Canada does not need for its defence a special relationship with the United Kingdom, because geographically it shelters under the umbrella of the United States. Australia does not. It is regrettable, I think, that many forces in Australia have been urging, through their propaganda, isolationism on the United States and have been saying to the United States: 'You are not to intervene on this side of the Pacific' These are voices from people who might well need that intervention.

British intervention on our behalf might be surer if we kept this special relationship.

It may be that British power is not so great east of Suez as once it was but at least there is still - let me say the brutal truth again - a British nuclear capacity which might be essential at some stage for the survival of Australia. I would hope that both the United States and Britain would give us that ultimate protection if ever we needed it. But I would place more reliance on Britain than I would on the United States if that final showdown should ever come. I do not mean that the nuclear weapon would be used. What I suggest is that the capacity to call on the nuclear weapon would mean that it would not be used and it would mean that the identity and security of Australia could still be maintained.

Thus, while this is a trivial Bill and it can be supported for trivial reasons - and it will be supported for those trivial reasons - I hope that we do not at the same time tear up a much more vital and special relationship. I hope and trust that the passing of this Bill will be consonant with the maintenance to the full degree of that special relationship with the United Kingdom and with the Crown which we hold in common with the United Kingdom. I hope that people will realise that the security of Australia and New Zealand may still in the last ultimate horrible reality depend upon the maintenance of that special relationship.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time.







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