Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Thursday, 25 March 1965

Senator McKENNA (Tasmania) (Leader of the Opposition [11.41]. - The Senate now has before it the statement made on Tuesday last by the Minister for External AffairsMr. Hasluck) , dealing with the world situation. His statement was repeated in the Senate by Senator Gorton, the Minister for Works, who represents the Minister for External Affairs in this chamber. Very properly, the Minister dealt with the situations in Vietnam and in Malaysia. They certainly are the most important aspects of world affairs at present, not only to us, but to everybody. On 18th August last we had before us a paper dealing in particular with events in Vietnam. The paper was issued at the instance of the Minister for External Affairs and dealt primarily with incidents that had taken place at about that time in the Gulf of Tonkin. Unfortunately, the debate was not pursued owing to the fact that there was a flood of end of session legislation from the Government.

I rely only upon my memory, but I think I was the only speaker on the subject, apart from the Minister who floated the statement. That may not be correct. I do not assert it with authority, but I think that was the case. At all event's, there was no adequate debate at that time on the problem. The position then before us was serious. The position today in our part of the world is even more serious. I think it justified the comment made by Mr. Calwell, the Leader of the Opposition, on Tuesday last when he said that Vietnam presents the most potentially explosive situation the world has had to face since World War II. I think that states the position accurately.

On 18 th August last I spoke at very great length on the internal situation in Vietnam and the events that led to the development of the Vietcong and the front for the liberation of South Vietnam. I feel that relieves me from the necessity- of traversing any of that ground again. But the situation has changed very greatly since I last spoke on the subject, in August. Some of the factors that come to mind are those: In the interim we have seen the political scene change time and time again in South Vietnam. One government- is removed and another one substituted within weeks, or even within days of each other on occasion. All this takes place primarily at the instance of generals in the South Vietnamese army. If they expended as much energy in overcoming the troubles that they encounter inside and outside their own country as they do in meddling in the establishment and removal of governments, perhaps we might have a happier situation in that country. The end result is that there is no political stability. The leaders who are directing operations are not chosen by the people. They are not elected. There are all the divided elements to which I referred in August operating amongst the South Vietnamese.

There is on the one side the Vietcong with its supporters - those who support it by conviction and those who are forced to support it through coercion and terror - and on the other side there are the religious groups and those with rival political outlooks. Together they make for a situation of complete instability which, after 20 years of war in that country, must necessarily leave the unfortunate South Vietnamese in a state of helplessness and uncertainty. It is a wonder to me that they can be marshalled at all to make any kind of reasonable effort. This is a factor which we have to keep in mind all the time when we consider the position in South Vietnam.

In the interim the Vietcong has become far more daring and, unfortunately, far more successful. Even in the last twelve months it has stepped up its operations attacking airfields and military installations in South Vietnam. I recall an incident when the barracks of American advisory personnel were bombed and blasted, and when many men were injured or killed. Those attacks have been intensified enormously. Until quite recently the Americans had in Vietnam personnel in an advisory capacity only. One must make an exception in respect of the incident in the Gulf of Tonkin, when America attacked North Vietnamese installations in reprisal for attacks on its warships on the high seas by North Vietnamese torpedo boats. The United States took the position that it had advisers in South Vietnam and that the South Vietnamese, under their Government - of the character I have described - were responsible for the war effort and were directing it. The view was that the Americans were not active participants, although they certainly suffered casualties. But that position has changed.

Following attacks on South Vietnamese airfields, there are now some 3,500 combatant American troops in Vietnam, guarding airfields and strategic posts. They will be involved in a very active military way. In addition, American fighter aircraft are giving protection to bombers from South Vietnam in their excursions over and their dropping of bombs on North Vietnam. We have the new development that, in quite recent times, South Vietnam has gone outside its own country. It is proceeding to demolish bases in North Vietnam and is dropping bombs on and strafing supply lines between North Vietnam and South Vietnam. That constitutes a decided stepping up of warlike activities in this area.

Only on Monday of this week we learned, in rather startling form, about what was claimed to be the liberation of gases on the North Vietnamese and the dropping of incendiary bombs. There was a big emotional content in the way that that was presented to the world. I merely mention that matter now and will come back to it a little later. One further change in the situation was the explosion of a nuclear bomb by the Republic of China on 18th October 1964. That was a regrettable event. It was an event dangerous to the world. The extension of atomic power to a country of the magnitude of China, with its vast resources and vast population, creates an entirely new situation in world politics. That great power dominates the scene in Asia at the present time and its moves in any matter are of the utmost significance. These are all factors which have changed since we last addressed ourselves to the subject of SouthEast Asia.

It is exceedingly difficult to have knowledge, with certainty, of events that transpire in this area. We in the Parliament even have to rely very largely upon Press reports. From time to time they arc sensational and highly coloured. One hesitates to form a judgment upon them until, after a lapse of time, the truth gradually has emerged in official statements and in statements from quite independent sources.

One of the great difficulties that confronts anybody addressing his mind to the problems of South Vietnam is that it is so difficult to get a clear picture of exactly what is happening. At this stage I refer to two new developments in the area. We have been advised that the United States of America is moving its nuclear powered fleet out of the Atlantic Ocean and into the Pacific Ocean. The fleet - a great aircraft carrier and supporting ships - is being reconditioned and repowered and is to move into the Pacific area. That is a projection of vast power into the proximity of South East Asia and, perhaps, into the Indian Ocean. It is a major factor in the situation which is developing. It shows that America feels that the situation has quietened in Europe and that the centre to which we are now addressing ourselves is the real potential danger to world peace now and in the foreseeable future.

We were advised on 11th January that Britain is now to concentrate upon South East Asia. It was reported then in the Press that the British Government had decided to shift the full weight of its defence strategy to the Far East, particularly South East Asia, and that the Government had decided that, with European security guaranteed by the East-West nuclear stalemate, the first priority of its future defence policy must focus east, of Suez. The report said that the Government is now engaged in a sweeping review of its defence policy and strategy, and that decisions would be made known in a white paper' on defence to be tabled on 16th February. Of course, that involved a very drastic re-assessment of the world political situation. It was reported that, in the British view, the main danger to peace has shifted from Europe to the Far East, notably to Vietnam and Malaysia, and that Britain has built up a South East Asia force of 50,000 men supported by aircraft carriers, other warships and V-bombers.

Continuing on that theme, I now refer to the White Paper that was tabled in February. I shall quote two brief passages from the Statement on the Defence Estimates 1 965 ". On page 7, the following paragraphs appear -

9.   The only direct threat to our survival would be a major nuclear war arising from a direct conflict between East and West. This can be almost entirely excluded as a result of the present state of mutual deterrence, and bearing in mind the high risk that any conflict in Europe would escalate, deliberate aggression, even on a limited scale, is unlikely in this theatre.

10.   An evolution in both Soviet and Western thinking, brought about partly by increased understanding of the consequences of nuclear warfare, has therefore much reduced the likelihood of war between the Soviet and the Western alliances and gives grounds for hope of progress in the limitation and control of arms and of a still more stable relationship.

The other portion that I should like to read is under the heading "Peacekeeping outside Europe ", on page 8 of this document, where it is stated on behalf of Britain -

Outside Europe we have treaty relations and commitments which we must honour. We maintain substantial forces for this reason and because we have a major interest in the stability of the world outside Europe, in its economic prosperity and in its peaceful development. These purposes we share with our allies and our forces serve their interests as well as ours. Experience has shown that it is neither wise nor economical to use military force to seek to protect national economic interests in the modern world. Nor is it the purpose of our forces to hold overseas territory for Britain, as our record of decolonisation shows. In maintaining these interests in peace and stability, which our allies share with us, the British contribution is paramount in many areas east of Suez. Here, as elsewhere, we have obligations to our Commonwealth and other allies and here we have facilities in our bases at Aden and Singapore. Our presence in those areas makes a substantial contribution to international peacekeeping.

The statement goes on to say, in paragraph 20-

It would be politically irresponsible and economically wasteful if our bases were abandoned while they are still needed to promote peace in the areas concerned, though we recognise that they can be maintained only in agreement with the local governments and peoples. Our presence in these bases, our Commonwealth ties and the mobility of our forces permit us to make a contribution towards peacekeeping in vast areas of the world where no other country is able to assume the same responsibility.

Of course, looking at Britain's position in the Far East, we see it concerned particularly with India, Burma, Vietnam and the adjoining countries, and Malaysia - the newly formed, most recently decolonised Commonwealth country, which is in a good deal of peril and turmoil at the moment. I have given a broad picture of the great changes in the scene that have taken place in relatively recent months. We of the Federal Parliamentary Labour Party addressed our minds to this in Sydney on 18th February last when, following a meeting of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Party, the Federal Executive of the Party made a pronouncement on the situation as at that time. Even since that date the situation has changed quite dramatically. So whilst in some respects it may be claimed that the statement addressed itself to a different situation, very much of what was then said records the outlook of the Opposition in relation to Vietnam and Malaysia. I propose to read it to the Senate.

Senator Morris - What was Hie date of that statement?

Senator McKENNA - It was made on 18th February 1965. It has been circulated through our Federal Secretariat. It is readily available through the Federal Secretariat to anybody. It was not given the complete publicity that I thought it deserved in the Press of Australia. As it was the considered view at that date on the situation as it then stood, I propose to read it to the Senate. It is not short; it is some two pages long. In the interim the statement has been ratified by the Federal Parliamentary Labour Party itself. This was the outlook of the Party on that date. I shall take the position from there later. It begins -

In its statement to the Security Council on February 7th, reporting the air strikes against military installations in the south of North Vietnam, America insisted that its object in South Vietnam, while resisting aggression, is to achieve a peaceful settlement maintained by the presence of international peacekeeping machinery and that it would not allow the situation to be changed by terror and violence.

This statement of American purposes is unexceptionable and the case for the American action of recent days, as based on the aim of shortening the war and achieving a negotiated settlement, which would establish and maintain the rights of the South Vietnamese people, deserves sympathetic Australian understanding.

At this moment it seems clear that President Johnson is determined to limit the area of American retaliation to the factors believed to be assisting the Vietcong attacks, and that he is resisting the bellicose and lunatic urgings to launch all-out war against North Vietnam.

At the same time many responsible voices are being raised in America, notably that of the Democratic majority leader, Senator Mike Mansfield, to promote new efforts to halt the drift of war over Vietnam, and similar efforts are being made by world leaders, notably U Thant, the United Kingdom Foreign Secretary Mr. Stewart, who has branded the war as cruel and unnecessary, the Canadian Prime Minister, Mr. Lester Pearson, and the Governments of India and of France.

Australia should be supporting these efforts with all its might. It is a tragic fact that the Australian Government is not doing so but, on the contrary, is merely applauding the military measures, encouraging further military measures and persisting in the impossible attitude that Vietnam poses purely a military problem, which can be solved by a military victory alone.

The moment is propitious to use every endeavour to bring about a cease fire now. The possibilities otherwise, with retaliation and counterretaliation becoming progressively more massive and involving even more countries, are incalculable for the whole human race.

The Australian Government is betraying the Australian people by its refusal, or failure, to support the efforts of U Thant, United Nations Secretary General, in this direction as set out in his statement of February 12th " to shift the quest for a solution away from the field of battle to the conference table."

The difficulties which, as U Thant frankly states, stand today in the way of a United Nations solution to the problem, make it the more urgent that the Australian Government should be using its best endeavours to this end with all the Governments concerned.

Instead, the Australian Government appears to prefer to line itself with the mad-headed and extremist elements, both in America and in other countries, which are seeking to push their Governments to the very brink of total war.

On behalf of Canada, Mr. Lester Pearson has stated unequivocally that his Government would be glad to take part again in a Geneva-type conference to seek a peaceful and enduring solution to meet the object of the 19S4 agreement, namely adequate provision for the independence of all the former countries of French Indo-China. Australia should take its part in promoting such a conference, recognizing, as Mr. Lester Pearson has made clear, that the hopeless alternatives are to allow things to go on as they are or for the use of massive American and Vietnamese force against Communist bases in the north every time there is a Vietcong attack in the south or else a full-scale far-eastern Chinese-American war.

It is worth noting that the convening of such a new conference on Indo-China would be in conformity with the Declaration of the Cairo Conference of Non Aligned Nations in October, 1964'.

The demand of the Soviet Government for the immediate departure of all American and other foreign forces from South Vietnam would be in the interests neither of the people of South Vietnam nor the people of Australia. Its immediate consequence must be a Communist takeover of South Vietnam, snuffing out the hope of freedom and the democratic independence in that country and extending the area of Communist control closer to this country.

The presence of those forces is necessary and justified as a holding operation provided that all efforts are bent towards the objects set out by the American Government in its message to the Security Council. In other words, the presence of these forces is justified as a temporary means to an end and not an end in itself.

The object must be, at a proper time and in circumstances enabling the people of South Vietnam a free choice, to allow them to decide by their own votes on their own government and to ensure the physical independence of that government.

It is utter delusion to pretend that any such government now exists in South Vietnam or that the people have any chance of exercising such a free choice in existing conditions.

It is equally delusion to pretend that there is any real hope of attaining in South Vietnam the free and independent democratic government which Australia would like to see there unless Western support is withdrawn from the forces of reaction, oppression and tyranny in that country and unless a programme of full scale economic and social assistance is implemented without delay for its wretched people who have obviously no reason for interest or enthusiasm in taking sides in the struggle now proceeding there.

The position remains true that co-operation between Australia and America in these areas is of crucial importance and must be maintained. This in no way affects Australia's right and duty to ensure that the policies pursued in this area are in accordance with the principles of the United Nations Charter and the Declaration of Human Rights.

I think the Senate will agree that the Opposition really addressed its mind to the situation that was before it at that time.

Senator Mattner - The honorable senator forgets one thing - the attitude of North Vietnam. There is a treaty by which the North Vietnamese have agreed to abide by the division of Vietnam at the 17th Parallel, but they have broken it consistently.

Senator McKENNA - No one argues about that. North Vietnam has been intransigent and has been sending infiltrators and supplies into South Vietnam for purposes of subversion. She has caused the whole trouble. I am not arguing about that, but that is not the only factor in the situation. There is the internal situation in South Vietnam, which cannot be disregarded. There is no governmental stability, there are divided elements of all types, there is terrorism and coercion, there is internal subversion and there is vast difficulty in isolating the enemy and dealing with him. These are people of one race. They merge together, despite their differences of ideology and the rest.

Senator Anderson - Does not the honorable senator think that the statement he has read tends to over-emphasise the problems of South Vietnam and ignore the real threat of the aggressor from the north?

Senator McKENNA - Oh, no. The statement frankly acknowledges that threat. I was about to refer to what has happened since 18th February. That leads right to the point the Minister has raised. Since we issued that statement there has been an enormous stepping up of activity on both sides. As I said a while ago, the Vietcong has became infinitely more effective. lt is better armed, it has more modern weapons and it has become far more daring and, unfortunately, far more successful. On our side, there has been a stepping up of the bombing of North Vietnam which may well be designed, as we have been told, merely to halt the infiltration of men and the delivery of supplies from North Vietnam. If it has the desired effect and if it does succeed in stopping infiltration and the delivery of warlike supplies to the Vietcong, it will be proclaimed as a great piece of wisdom and a wise decision. When that happens, one of the mainsprings of the trouble will be eliminated altogether.

What we have to consider is this: If it fails and attacks on Vietnam are intensified to a point where they cause Chinese intervention and war with the United States of America, it will be the worst kind of world disaster. It is going to be very difficult for anybody to determine exactly where that flashpoint is - the point that might bring in Russian troops or Chinese troops and arms and extend the present situation into a world holocaust. That is a real danger. That is why we of the Australian Labour Party are so very concerned that our allies should move in that area with great caution and with great restraint.

Now we have a new element in the situation - the use of gases and incendiary bombs. This is a vital matter even if we accept that these gases and bombs are as they have been described by spokesmen for the United States Government. In this context the Minister for Defence (Senator Paltridge) said only yesterday that the gases have been used only two or three times and most recently on 27th January. The Minister said that they were not lethal and that they had disabled only temporarily, and he added -

There is no confirmation as yet that phosphorus bombs have been used, although, of course, it should be understood that phosphorus is an element which is used in a variety of weaponry including, for example, smoke markers and illumiMating flare'! A phosphorus bomb is no different from any other type of incendiary bomb used to ignite structures of various types. It would appear, therefore, from what has come officially to notice that the gases which have been used have not been lethal gases. They have been gases of a type used to disperse rioting crowds in many places in the world. The gas has been used by the Vietnamese only.

That is reassuring as far as it goes. The Government has indicated that it has made approaches to official sources in the United States asking for exact information as to what has been going on with gases and incendiary bombs, particularly phosphorus bombs, and I believe the Government has indicated that it will make that information available when it comes to hand. 1 hope that some member of the Government will be able to rise in this debate and give us and Australia the fullest information upon this point because my own reaction to the news seems to have been pretty common everywhere. The news presented on Monday about phosphorus bombs and gases and the way it was presented aroused in me a terrific revulsion against the use of both.

Senator Wright - It was surprising that the news should flare up in that way on 20th or 22nd March in relation to incidents which we were told happened as far back as 27th January.

Senator McKENNA - I agree, but I feel that in commonsense, one must approach that aspect of the situation with restraint until the facts are established. The projection of news of that type in the form it came to us does a disservice because of its explosive effect on the emotions.

Senator Wright - If the news channels have distorted it, they are bordering on subversion.

Senator McKENNA - I agree with that entirely. The news was certainly presented in lurid fashion.

Senator Wright - If the Press representatives do not report this debate they should not be in the gallery of the Senate.

Senator McKENNA - I offer no comment on that but I do seriously put to the Senate that we should all reserve judgment on this matter until we know clearly the facts. We should not form emotional judgments.

Senator Morris - The trouble is that the Australian people are not permitted to do that because of these reports.

Senator McKENNA - If the reports are untrue or incorrect, a serious disservice has been done to the cause of peace all over the world because people will have erupted emotionally in all countries. There are signs of that everywhere. The onus is on the Government to bring to the people authoritative information on this matter at the earliest moment and I hope that some Minister will be in a position today to rise and convey to us the most complete information that is available to the Government on these aspects.

T put it to the Senate that it is quite clear that the United States of America cannot withdraw from South Vietnam and leave a vacuum that would be filled instantly by the Communist North supported by Communist China. The Americans simply cannot do that because the same process would be repeated in Laos and Cambodia. The United States refuses to negotiate, as I see the situation, until infiltration and subversion from North Vietnam cease. On the other hand, North Vietnam will not negotiate until the United States and all its forces withdraw. At that point the two sides come to a complete deadlock, but in the light of all the circumstances - the massing of enormous military potential in the area, the stepping up of activity, the emotive disturbances as a result of the recent Press campaign and information from the area - it is more than ever necessary that negotiations begin at an early date.

The power of the U.S.A. is well enough known and understood. It does not need a physical demonstration in North Vietnam to establish its power. Since it is well known and well understood, there is no need for a practical demonstration of it. lt might be necessary in the view of the Americans to drive the point home to the North Vietnamese people themselves, but there is always that flashpoint to be avoided and nobody can say with any degree of certainty just where it lies. That is the danger we see in this situation. It seems to me that, knowing the power of the United States, the North Vietnamese and those behind them are testing the will and nerve of the Americans. If one understands that, perhaps there could be saner methods of establishing the nerve, and will of the United States, other than by dangerous excursions. It is very difficult to know what to do. The Opposition regards the plight of those concerned with the action in South Vietnam with real sympathy. We appreciate the difficulties of knowing how to do the right thing and when to stop following a particular course of action. There have been calls from all over the world for talks on this situation, for the cessation of all hostile activities and for the commencement of negotiations. One of the leaders in that move was U Thant, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, who, as reported in the "New York Times" of 13th-14th February made a call for such talks. f regret that I cannot refer to the Senate a record of his televised address as published in any United Nations journal because I have not been able to locate it in the Parliamentary Library. Therefore I am relying on the reports published in the "New York Times" of 13th-14th February. The article reads -

Secretary-General U Thant called today on the parties in the Vietnam conflict to move " from the field of battle to the conference table."

In a statement, Mr. Thant said it was a matter of urgency to get talks started among the principal parties and to pave the way for wider and more formal negotiations.

The Secretary-General did not identify the parties he addressed, but his words obviously were directed at the United States, North and South Vietnam, Communist China and the Soviet Union.

The report continues -

The Secretary-General declared that a positive solution could be pursued " within or outside " the United Nations, but he pointedly recalled that several times he has urged a revival of the Geneva Conference held in 1954, when former French Indo-China was divided into Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam. Fourteen States, including Communist China, attended the Geneva negotiations.

Mr. Thantacknowledged his own powers under Article 99 of the Charter to ask the Security Council to take up the Vietnamese war as a conflict threatening peace, but he warned of the " many difficulties " in attempting a United Nations solution.

Neither Communist China nor the divided States of North and South Vietnam are members of the organization. Last August, North Vietnam refused an invitation from the Security Council to participate in a debate here on the incidents involving United States vessels in the Gulf of Tonkin.

There is a call from a man whose whole purpose in life is to help in preserving the peace of the world. He asks that there be talks whether within the framework of the United Nations or outside it. Countries such as France, through its President, India, the United Kingdom and Canada are calling for these talks. But the voice of Australia is silent. Even though we are intimately bracketed with our ally, the United States, surely we have a responsibility of our own to declare our position in relation to the institution of talks that will start a cessation of hostilities and lead to a conference table where the various powers - powers independent of the struggle being includedcan get down to discussion.

Senator Wright - Was not that the purpose of the United States message to the United Nations Security Council to which the honorable senator referred in the Labour Party's statement?

Senator McKENNA - Yes. The difficulty, as the honorable senator will know, and to which U Thant has referred, is the state of the United Nations today to act.

Senator Wright - But to recognise that by going to a peace table and ignoring the United Nations would practically certify its death. That is almost as disastrous as the crisis that the senator is properly impressing on us.

Senator McKENNA - All I can say in reply to Senator Wright is to repeat what U Thant is reported to have said. He said that this matter can take place either inside or outside the United Nations.

Senator Wright - The United States has tried to get this matter inside the United Nations, has it not?

Senator McKENNA - The United States has reported the incident of the Gulf of Tonkin-

Senator Wright - For the purpose of the Security Council taking cognisance.

Senator McKENNA - That is right. The United States reported that matter for the purpose of the Security Council taking cognisance and, if necessary, action. Unfortunately, it got nowhere. There was an opportunity for North Vietnam, if the Communist powers wished it, to come to that body and lay the facts before it. The matter could have been taken from there.

Senator Mattner - They would not come.

Senator McKENNA - I do not agree with the proposition. I would say to Senator Mattner that arrangements outside the United Nations in a matter like this made at the call of the Secretary-General would be disruptive to the United Nations, because the Charter itself provides for parties making regional arrangements and even engaging in active defensive action in certain situations without reference to the United Nations. So, I would not be alarmed if some of the great powers like Britain, India, France and others, sponsored a call to meet and were able, with back door diplomacy, first, to arrange for the parties to come together. I think it would be a very suitable thing. That is what we think ought to be attempted. Our criticism of the Government is that it is not in public using its endeavours to that end. Its voice ought to be heard on this matter. That is the view that the Opposition takes.

Senator Hannaford - Do you suggest that that would be within the Charter of the United Nations?

Senator McKENNA - No, I do not care which way it takes place, whether it is done by persuasion of the great powers or independent powers or otherwise, or through one of the agencies of the United Nations. We know the difficulty that the United Nations is in. It is bogged down at the present time. It is most unfortunate for the world that this is the case.

I have spent far more time on Vietnam than I had intended. I should like, before I conclude, to refer to the position between Indonesia and Malaysia. I spoke on that matter on 18th August and, accordingly, I can be briefer than I otherwise would. Here again, we see enormous changes since we last discussed the matter. There is the very regrettable withdrawal of Indonesia from the United Nations announced on 31st December last and given effect on 21st January of this year, just over two months ago. This withdrawal was put on the grounds of objection to Malaysia being given a seat on the Security Council, a matter that had been prearranged. It was put on grounds also that the United Nations was merely a tool of the neo-colonialist powers. It is most unfortunate that Indonesia should have taken that course and stepped outside the United Nations. Allied with that would appear to be the greater and closer alliance that Indonesia, in the meantime, appears to be building with Communist China. Nobody at the moment is able to gauge the full impart of the frequent and more ready contact between the two countries. But it is not a cheery prospect for Australia to look at.

We are now in the position where, in the interim, Australian troops are involved in Borneo in active confrontation of Indonesian troops across the border. I am quite sure that we all deplored the news that we received last night that an Australian sergeant was killed and a number of our men were injured in a bomb explosion from a booby trap or something of the kind. This has introduced a significant and new element into the situation. The United States has expressed its disapproval of Indonesia's aggression but quite obviously leaves it to Great Britain or members of the Commonwealth to provide defensive action. We have seen, too, in the interim, the taking over in Indonesia of foreign owned assets such as rubber plantations and oil installations on terms that are not precise or clear to us at the moment. We do not know whether any kind of compensation to the people who were dispossessed is contemplated. This action aggravates the feeling between countries like America, the United Kingdom and others against Indonesia. It widens the breach. It creates international tensions and troubles. One cannot but have sympathy for a young emerging nation which is in economic difficulties from a desire to acquire and exploit its own natural resources. One must have a degree of sympathy for it, but one expects that type of thing to be done without violence or in consonance with the principles of justice. It is a new element that has arisen acutely in the meantime.

We have had unfortunate and uncivilised behaviour in the form of attacks on United States information centres in Indonesia, with the result that America has now completely withdrawn those centres from that country. These are all things that have worsened the international situation generally. I have already referred to the great strengthening of United Kingdom forces in the area and the fact that the United Kingdom is concentrating increasing power in the area. The United States of America is doing likewise.

On 12th January last our leader, Mr. Calwell, suggested that, having regard to the fact that Indonesia's hostility to Malaysia rested at least partly upon her claim that she felt herself to be encircled by Malaysia, which is a Commonwealth country, by the United Kingdom which has bases in the area, by Australia and New Zealand to the south, and by British and American aircraft deployed around the Indian Ocean and the seas within the proximity of Indonesia, some of the great powers involved - that is, Britain, the United States of America, Australia and New Zealand - might at least answer that point by saying to her: " Stop aggression and we will join in guaranteeing your territorial integrity". When Mr.

Calwell advanced that proposal he said that he was not optimistic about its acceptance, but its significance lay in the fact it pointed out to the world what the powers that President Sukarno professed to be fearful of were prepared to do. If accepted, it would have killed one of his great propaganda points. It is quite clear to us that none of the great powers that I have mentioned, including Australia, has the slightest interest in Indonesian territory nor any desire for other than the utmost friendship and goodwill. We take exception to only one thing - Indonesia's unprovoked aggression against Malaysia.

Senator Wright - Has not each of those allied countries announced that attitude?

Senator McKENNA - Yes, but Mr. Calwell suggested that it take the form of an offer to enter into a formal treaty with Indonesia. I noted with very great pleasure that the idea was applauded in Press editorials throughout Australia. I was disappointed when the Minister for External Affairs said that he had no comment to make upon it at the time. He has since made no comment upon it, not even, as I recall it, in the statement that is now before us. To make such an offer is one thing which could be done. It would be evidence of good faith to put that to Indonesia and to do so before the world. I ask some Minister to state whether the suggestion has been seriously considered by the Government and, if so, whether it has been rejected or whether the Government will act upon it

It might not be difficult to get those four allied powers together; but it might be difficult, as Mr. Calwell acknowledged, to arrange a meeting with Indonesia. At least, if the offer were made it would take away one of Indonesia's great propaganda points. One realises that Indonesia would not like to accept largesse, as it were, or aid or comfort from powers which she has described in very bitter terms as being neocolonialist. That does create a difficulty, but in the situation that has arisen such an offer would be a very useful propaganda item. We must remember that war does not consist entirely of fighting. It includes also the winning of the minds and the wills of men. In relation to the South East Asian situation, it is necessary to win the minds and the wills of the people of Africa, and Asia - indeed, of the whole world. As has been said so often, peace is indivisible. If there is war anywhere, sooner or later everybody becomes intimately and personally involved.

This is what the Australian Labour Party said on 18 th February last on the subject of Indonesia and Malaysia -

Indonesia is the aggressor against Malaysia and is not respecting Malaysia's independence.

Whatever Indonesia's case and although the scale of aggression is small, the violation of Malaysian territory by force must be opposed.

The matter is one for the United Nations to keep the peace and to act as mediator, and the world needs the strength and authority of the United Nations in these matters.

The action taken by Australia to assist Malaysia's defence up to this point is justified.

Continuance of such action requires the negotiation of a clear and public treaty between Malaysia and Australia with all possible speed.

Australia should initiate measures to restore peace and good relations in the area.

The Australian Government should offer its good offices in the arrangement of a conference for this object, a cease-fire being a condition precedent to the commencement of negotiations. Australia should seek the co-operation of the United Kingdom and New Zealand in these steps, and as the Tunku has already stated Malaysia's willingness to confer on this basis, the Australian Government should use its utmost diplomatic endeavours in Djakarta to this end.

Further, the Australian Government should give active support to other proposals for mediation in this dispute, in particular that made by the Japanese Prime Minister.

Not only should the Australian Government make continuously plain to Indonesia its determination to resist aggression in this area; it should also be outspoken (1) in deploring Indonesian withdrawal from the United Nations and in persuading Indonesia to reconsideration of that ill-fated decision; (2) in condemning reckless provocations in speech and action by Indonesian leaders as have brought about the burning of Embassies and other outrages against civilised behaviour in Djakarta.

All Australian initiative should be exercised in the light that Indonesian-Australian friendship is not only possible but essential to the well-being of both countries, and we should press an offer to negotiate a friendship, trade and non-aggression pact with Indonesia at the earliest appropriate time.

To relieve Indonesian fears of encirclement, the proposal for a four-power guarantee of Indonesian security and independence, as put by the Leader of the Opposition, should be urged and we endorse the whole of Mr. Calwell's statement in which this proposal was made. Such arrangements and guarantees should be regional pacts within the framework of the United Nations.

In the present situation, all present forms of Australian economic aid to Indonesia should be continued. Only where it is decided that such aid would clearly help Indonesia militarily against

Malaysia should it be discontinued. The overriding consideration should be the object of maintaining economic stability and assisting the Indonesian Government in raising the living standards of it people.

That is the viewpoint that we expressed quite recently and it has been affirmed by our Party.

In the time remaining to me I wish to quote several statements made by Mr. Calwell on Tuesday last. He said, speaking of our ally, the United States -

We want the American presence, strong and powerful, in Asia and the Pacific. We want it, because Australia needs it until all nations are prepared to disarm. It is precisely because we do not want America to be humiliated, because we want America to be in a position to negotiate from strength, that we are concerned about the dangers of her present course. We rest upon the repeated assurances given by President Johnson that he seeks no wider war. The Minister himself has quoted the President's statements on this matter. A wider war can only have disastrous consequences for South Vietnam itself, for America and for the world.

Let me sum up. The war must not be widened. The United States must not withdraw and must not be humiliated in Asia. Therefore, there must be negotiations while there is lime to prevent both the widening of the war and any humiliation of the United States.

On three great issues, there is agreement between the two parties. These issues are: The American alliance, opposition to Communism, and the common determination to keep Australia safe and inviolable. But as to the means of achieving the best results on these issues, there is almost total disagreement. The foreign and defence policies of the Menzies Government are totally inadequate and, in most cases, not properly orientated, if the three objectives I have stated are to be achieved.

I commend those thoughts to the Senate.

Suggest corrections