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Wednesday, 9 March 1977
Page: 70


Mr NEIL (St George) -Some years ago many members of the Australian community, including well known members of the present Opposition, protested against the American and Australian involvement in the Vietnam war. Since that time, to the best of my knowledge, most of those persons have maintained a deafening and disgusting silence in the face of the grossest abuses of civil liberties occurring in Vietnam and in the face of atrocities, murders and inhumane acts in Cambodia that rival some of the worst liquidations of people in history. Where are those protesters today in Australia? Why do they not join the American anti-war protesters in their condemnation of the present regime in South Vietnam? Why do they not join Joan Baez and Allen Ginsberg, former leaders of the anti-war movement in the United States of America who recently signed a petition presented to the permanent Vietnamese observer to the United Nations condemning the Vietnamese Government for gross abuses of civil liberties, for suppressing free speech, and for filling prisons with civilians accused of nothing more than holding certain religious and ideological beliefs?

The communists in Vietnam are engaging in a grievous and systematic violation of human rights, including the detention of an estimated 300 000 people in so-called re-education camps, the suppression of cultural and political expression and the stifling of non-violent dissent. Who else besides Miss Baez and Mr Ginsberg protested? The others include Roger Baldwin, founder of the American Civil Liberties Union; Kate and Geoff Pope of the War Resisters League; Aryeh Neier, executive director of the ACLU: Paul O Dwyer, the Liberal New York City Council president; the Reverend Richard John Neuhaus, a founder of Clergy and Laity Concerned About Vietnam; James Forrest, who was imprisoned for draft resistance during the Vietnam war; and Theodore Jacqueney, a former State Department foreign aid employee who resigned in 1971 to protest United States involvement in South East Asia.

Where are the Austraiian protesters today to follow the honest, open and admirable attitudes of their American counterparts? Ninety petitioners who were leaders of the anti-war movement in the United States in the late 1960s and early 1970s condemned in the strongest possible terms what is occurring in Vietnam. Father Neuhaus emphasised that his protest at the war was not contingent upon approval of the alternative. He said that there were various choices. He said:

We wanted to believe desperately- so desperately- the pledge and the promises of respect that would be shown (by the Communists) towards human beings and human rights. We were told time and time again by them, 'We know your reasons (for suspicion), but this revolution will be different.

Of course, the fact is that the whole Vietnam war was a masterly tactical activity by the North Vietnamese and their backers. The Viet Cong were nothing more than a diversion in the grand plan. The war was mounted by the North as part of the general communist requirement for expansion in that area, and the American anti-war protesters obviously were duped and now have come bitterly to realise what occurred.

Where are the honourable members of the Opposition who marched down streets and who joined forces with Joan Baez, Allen Ginsberg and the rest? Where are they now that the 300 000 people in re-education camps have no voice? Where was their Government when the refugees from those countries sought entry to Australia? I notice that the Senate committee looking into this matter, which include Labor members, has reported to the other place that there was deliberate delay and deliberate action by the former Labor Government to prevent refugees from that part of the world from coming to Australia, because it sought to cover the shame that it had helped to create.

Australians served in that area. We saw the calibre of Australian soldiers only yesterday in another way when they put on a magnificent display for Her Majesty the Queen in the true traditions of the distinguished service of Australian forces during the Vietnam campaign and other campaigns. Where are the anti-war protesters from the Opposition today, now that there are thousands and thousands of dead bodies in the soil of Cambodia and in its rivers? There is hardly a person who had had any education left alive in Cambodia. Where are the students who were used in Asia by the communists, particularly in Laos and Cambodia? In Cambodia most of them are dead. In Laos the students were used as part of the infiltration which resulted bit by bit in so-called accommodations with the communists and eventually the so-called peaceful takeover of that country. The students were immediately banished and kicked out by the regime. Their friends were not so lucky in Cambodia, where most of the students and most of the persons with any education have been slaughtered. Anyone who will not go back to the fields and conform to the rigid disciplines of the Khmer Rouge will also be slaughtered. Only a month or so ago there was a despicable raid across the border into Thailand. The throats of numerous children were slashed by the Khmer Rouge forces. There is no doubt that those forces have in mind the total collapse eventually of Thailand.

If this country does not wake up to what is occurring there and does not take note of what is occurring this country eventually will find itself living in the midst of a gigantic communist sea. The people of this country want to know where the leaders of the anti-war movement now stand. They publicly want to know where those honourable members of the Opposition are today. Why do they not speak out? Why do they allow these dead to be buried? Why is their silence so shameful? Why do they not join their American colleagues in a display of honesty- or is honesty totally out of character with their personalities?







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