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Wednesday, 16 March 1977


Mr ARMITAGE (Chifley) - I do not doubt the sincerity of the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) but I doubt very much his wisdom. In his remarks about the People's Republic of China I do not know whether he is attacking purely this side of the Parliament or whether he is attacking both this side of the Parliament and his own side. Without a doubt, if one were to accept the remarks which he made, one would realise very obviously that they were directed as well to members of his side of the Parliament who have visited China. This is a pity- a tragedy, in fact- for future relations between Australia and China. Everyone must remember that there are 800 million people in China and that China forms a very great part of Asia. It is of very great importance for Australia to understand China and for China to understand Australia. For that reason I think it may be a great pity indeed that the honourable member for Mackellar has not had an opportunity to visit China. For example, I can recall speaking to Embassy officials in Peking after a visit to China by a delegation from this Parliament during the term of the Labor Government. The late Senator Greenwood, an Attorney-General in the previous Liberal-Country Party Government, led the then Opposition members in the delegation. The officials said that he gained a good deal from the visit; that he went to China with a lack of understanding as to what was really happening there and he came away with a far greater understanding, particularly of the need for the 2 countries to work together to understand one another. They felt that he benefited very greatly indeed, and I understood from the people who spoke to him privately that this was the case. Nobody would suggest that the former Attorney-General, the late Senator Greenwood, was a young radical of the Liberal Party- far from it. He was looked on as being one of the right wing members of the Liberal Party- and I say that without any disrespect because he had a right to express his own views at all times. Yet he went to China and he came back with a greater understanding of China than he had previously. I think it is a pity that the honourable member for Mackellar continues on with what I can only feel, with due respect to him, is fanaticism when he refuses to acknowledge anything which may be good as well as those matters with which he could validly disagree. I think all of us are in this category because sometimes we agree with some things and disagree with other things. I think it is a bad thing when one's mind is closed. Unfortunately I feel that the honourable member's mind is closed on this issue. I am not saying this facetiously or in order to score a point. I recall one night during an adjournment debate in this place bringing forward some Hansard quotes in which the honourable member had suggested military action against China. His reply was not apologetic in any respect whatsoever; that is what he believed should have been done. I think that very foolish talk. If he had taken what he suggested to its logical conclusion he would have realised the holocaust that would have been brought upon the world. As I have said, China represents 800 million people in Asia. It is, I believe, very important that we should get to know and understand China. China is one of the oldest civilisations in the world. It is a civilisation which over thousands of years has had the ability to bring to the world great wisdom, a great civilisation in itself, a great capacity in the arts and so on. I believe that it is a civilisation which can still give a good deal to the world.

I think that one of the great pluses of the Whitlam era during the period leading up to the election of the Labor Government in 1972 and during the period of its term of office from 1972 to 1 975 was that we were able to get rid of the isolation of China. I can recall very well the visit of Lord Attlee to Australia in 1 954. 1 can recall him addressing a group of people at a reception in the Sydney Town Hall. He said he had just come from China and he made the point then that he was very deeply concerned about the ignorance at that point of time of the leadership of China about what was happening in the world outside. He felt that the ignorance was dangerous and that it was very very important to involve China in the councils of the world. Fortunately, that is what the Labor Party realised in that year of 1954 when it first adopted as its policy at the Hobart Conference that not only should China be given diplomatic recognition but also that she should be admitted to the United Nations, to the councils of the world. That policy was adopted by the ALP. That policy received a great fillip from the visit to China in 1972 by the then Leader of the Opposition Mr Whitlam. Of course upon the election of a Labor Government in 1972 there was recognition of China by Australia, and not that long after the admission of China to the United Nations, to the councils of the world. I believe this was a step towards achieving greater international understanding not only between Australia and China but also between China and the rest of the world. I think it was a step towards world peace. I regret very greatly that there are people who have completely closed their minds to the need to get this understanding between China and Australia in particular and between China and the rest of the world. I have in my hand a copy of an article which appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald of 1 1 October reporting the result of an opinion poll. It says:

Most Australians fear the country will be threatened by military attack within 15 years . . .

It says that China was seen as the most likely invader. I do not believe that. If there is to be an invasion I am not going to suggest which country I think will be responsible for that because I think to do so would do a great disservice to the interests of Australia as a whole. But I believe that we on this side of the House very greatly regret that there are people who still inflame relations between this country and other countries simply because they are sitting on the fanaticisms of the past, the fanaticisms of the McCarthy era, that dreadful era of the 1 950s.

Looking back on history, one of the issues of which I am most proud as a member of the Opposition and of the ALP is that we were able to forge new links with Asia and the rest of the world. We were able to update our foreign policy to make it a policy of this era, of this decade, instead of still following the policies of the 1950s. That was a decade which saw great damage done not only to Australia's relations with other nations but also to relations between various other nations throughout the world. The Labor Government was able to update attitudes and policy and forge new links with the third world, that group of developing nations which will have such a tremendous impact upon the future of the world for so many years to come. If Australia is able to make sure that she is looked on, not as white policeman in Asia but as a country which is prepared to work with other nations, irrespective of their colour, their creed and their culture, it will have gained a great deal indeed.

One of the positive aspects of this debate is the fact that the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) was not as reactionary in his statement as the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser), who is still endeavouring deliberately to foment the Indian Ocean issue and who has already been virtually repudiated by the Carter Administration in the United States. The Carter Administration is today adopting a directly opposite policy to the policy espoused by the Prime Minister of Australia, who is not even being consulted when major announcements affecting this country, the Indian Ocean and United States relations with Asia are made. Australia is not being consulted. The Prime Minister is not being consulted because the policies he has been espousing are out of date with the United States. I think this is one of the great pluses which have been achieved. The former Labor Government, by espousing the new era in foreign affairs leading up to 1 972 and by its actual implementation of these new policies which brought so many other countries into association with Australia, has forged new links with Asia, with the third world as a whole and with the Association of South East Asian Nations. They have had an impact even upon the present Government or, particularly, upon the Minister for Foreign Affairs.

The statements he made yesterday were by no means as out of line with Labor Party policy as they would have been had they been made when the Government was in Opposition. In other words, the Minister has matured in the short period since his Government came to power and his policies are very much different to those which have been espoused by his Leader, the Prime Minister of Australia, who, in many respects, is still living in the past. But at least the Prime Minister has now visited other countries. He has been to China and his attitudes are in direct contravention of the attitudes expressed by the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth). I think that is very good for the future of the world. Those are the major issues which I thought I should bring up in the House today. I hope that this tendency towards greater understanding between nations will continue.


Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER -Order! The honourable member's time has expired.







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