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Tuesday, 30 March 1965


Senator CORMACK (Victoria) .- Before I deal with the matters that have been raised by Senator Cohen, it is my duty and, indeed, my inclination to revert to the statement made by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna). I was very impressed by the Leader of the Opposition's speech on foreign affairs. It was calm and dispassionate and carried with it a sense of responsibility which undoubtedly the honorable senator has derived from his experience as a Minister of the Crown and his occupancy of the position of the Leader of the Opposition. As such, the honorable senator will be one of Her Majesty's Ministers if another administration is formed. I was pleased to hear him state the general attitude of the Australian Labour Party to its foreign policy because that implied that at long last the Labour Party has been able to sort out what its foreign policy is. That is at least a substantial step to a bipartisan foreign policy which should be the objective of every member of Parliament whether he sits on the right or the left of the Chair.

The Leader of the Opposition said- and I shall deal with this matter in more detail later - that responsibility lay with the United Nations Organisation as the ultimate peacekeeping forum of the world. He quoted the Leader of the Opposition in another place as having said that we should regularise our external obligations by having treaty arrangements with other countries in South East Asia. I will deal with those two aspects which are worthy of comment and worthy of praise.

Most senators on this side of the chamber were interested in Senator Cavanagh's speech. The honorable senator made a very thoughtful speech which conveyed to me his awareness of an enlarged responsibility that, perhaps, he did not understand when he first came to the Senate. Indeed, most of us do not have that awareness when we first come to this place. I want to take up a point, if I may, that Senator Cavanagh raised. This point is repeated, repeated and repeated until it becomes a slogan in a world in which foreign affairs seems to be conducted as a slogan. The point was that the advent of Communism, wherever it may be, is caused by the misery of social conditions as the result of which Communism eventually becomes the dominant ideology in a particular country or area. This belief is patently not true, because in the records of Communist imperialism, if I might use the word in that phrase, the Communists are shown to have arrived at power not because of misery in the areas in which they have achieved power, but simply because of the military capacity they have been able to exert in the area in which they want to take charge and which they want to overcome.

This situation is particularly clear in Europe where Communist imperialism - in this case Russian imperialism - overran Czechoslovakia, Poland, East Germany and Hungary. Those countries were not acquired as the result of the economic misery of the people who lived in them. Czechoslovakia is one of the most socially advanced countries in the whole of Europe. The Communists arrived in the position of power there not as a result of the misery of the masses of Czechoslovakia but simply because the country was conquered.

This is also true of South-East Asia. I recollect quite clearly that, when the debate on the events in the Gulf of Tonkin was taking place in the Senate last year, the Leader of the Opposition drew attention to the vast sums of money which had been poured into South Vietnam by the United States Government in an attempt - a partially successful attempt - to rehabilitate the economic conditions of the people in South Vietnam. It was not until this attempt was beginning to be successfully accomplished by the then Government of South Vietnam that, in defiance of the 1954 Geneva Agreement, the Vietcong began to make incursions into South Vietnam, So, the pattern in South Vietnam is the reverse of that which Senator Cavanagh has described. The success of an economic re habilitation in that area was the very thing that attracted the Communists into South Vietnam. It was certainly not the reason claimed, I suggest, by Senator Cavanagh.

Senator McKennaquite rightly said that the United Nations is the ultimate forum in which the peaceful affairs of the world should be kept. The Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Hasluck) has taken the piecaution, because this is inherent in the nature of the honorable gentleman, to deal with this particular subject. Of course, the problem lies in the inherent weakness of the United Nations itself. I think Senator Cohen might have done the Senate at least the service ' of turning to the " Notes on International Affairs ", supplementary to the statement made in the House of Representatives on 23rd March by the Minister for External Affairs, in which there is primed a statement made by the Minister when he attended the General Assembly of the United Nations in New York on 1 1 th December 1 964. The Minister said -

The Charter itself uses the word "obligations" more than once.

The Minister went on to say -

It is a condition of the entry of new members that they accept the obligations contained in the Charter and, in the judgment of the Organisation, are able and willing to carry out those obligations.

In his address to the General Assembly the Minister stated -

We are all deeply concerned at the moment, and very rightly concerned, because in several parts of the world there is military strife and bloodshed. Nowhere is this more evident than in South East Asia, an area of great concern to Australia. Before we start seeking to find the reason for this in the failure or imperfection of the Organisation in its peace-keeping role, let us face frankly the fact that several of these situations would never have occurred and many of them would disappear if only individual members of the United Nations would honour their obligations. . . .

He also said -

It is the failure of members to honour their own obligations - a matter initially in the sovereign control of each of them - that creates the danger and we will be avoiding the basic issue if we start talking about improving peace-keeping machinery before each member individually faces up to the basic cause of the breakdown.

In stating this, the Minister drew to the attention of the General Assembly its own weaknesses. There is no person more able, more worthy or better able to handle the ultimate problems with which we are confronted today than the Secretary-General of the United Nations, U Thant. But how can he do so if the organisation of which he is Secretary-General has neither the will nor the capacity to enforce the edicts of either the General Assembly or the Security Council?

In the speech on international affairs which he made in another place on 23rd March last, the Minister, in discussing the power structure in which we are involved at the present moment, dealt with the very facts which have been raised in a condemnatory way by Senator Cavanagh. The Minister said -

Having spoken of power situations. I would talk of a fourth aspect of my own view of world affairs. I submit, Mr. Speaker, that power is not enough. In a world of power, peace is only maintained on a precarious balance and it is plain that recourse to power as a means of security is in essence a readiness to have recourse to war. There will never be full security for anyone unless and until the exercise of power is made subject to agreed principles of international conduct and, in a world of international states, that means that the possessors of power, will restrict, by their own pledges, their own use of power.

I cannot for the life of me see how Senator Cohen can complain or state - he did so state - that the Australian point of view has not been expressed. Australia's point of view has been expressed quite clearly, quite coherently, and quite cogently in the ultimate forum in which the international relations between states are conducted.

It would be tedious for me to discuss the levels at which the United Nations has failed or partially failed. For example, the current situation in Cyprus is a matter of enormous concern. Notwithstanding the United Nations' peace-keeping forces in Cyprus at the present moment, it is the power, prestige and ability of the United States of America that are preventing Cyprus from becoming a cockpit at this time. It is not the United Nations. It was the ability of the United States, for example, which prevented the entry into Cyprus in the past week of ground to air guided missiles, provided by Russia and coming via Egypt. The results of the United Nations' peacekeeping efforts in the Congo are hardly achievements to elevate my opinion of the ability of the United Nations to intrude effectively and enforce its mandate in South East Asia, because, in fact, the United Nations' peace-keeping effort in the Congo has failed for the simple reason that the national states mentioned by the Minister for External Affairs do not meet the obligation of members of the organisation to pay the levies which may be imposed in the terms of the Charter of the United Nations. This has been so held by the International Court of Justice.

I have to tackle the remarks which have been made in a most general way by Senator Cohen in relation to the events in South Vietnam. I thought that this matter had been debated almost until there was nothing but a frayed edge of string left. However, I believe that this point has to be restated constantly because it is constantly evaded in debates in this place on South East Asia. The events in South East Asia were brought, it was hoped, to a conclusion by the good offices, initially, of Great Britain at Geneva when an agreement was obtained which was known as the Geneva Agreement or the Geneva Accord. Russia agreed to become co-chairman of the Geneva. Conference with Great Britain. The agreement provided for the maintenance of peace in that area along the 17th parallel. It was a substantial and lengthy agreement. An international commission consisting of Poland, India and another country was appointed to observe whether there were any evasions of the Geneva Agreement.


Senator Wright - It was Canada.


Senator CORMACK - I think it was Canada. Since 1957 there have been constant evasions of the Geneva Agreement of 1954 on the part of the Hanoi regime in North Vietnam. The incursions of its forces into South Vietnam have been constant and remorseless. The stage has been reached where the Vietcong guerrillas, who have been maintained through the Ho Chi Minh trail in the west, control large areas of South Vietnam. I reject in the most vehement terms I can command any suggestion that the Vietcong forces are controlling large areas of South Vietnam because they have been able to persuade the peasant farmers that they have come to them as liberators. The fact is that they have established a reign of terror, murder and rapine throughout the whole of the area in question. It is in a state of terror.

The object of this exercise is to try to destroy the legitimate government in South Vietnam. The incursions of the Vietcong forces and the remorseless pressure that they have, been able to maintain on the people of South Vietnam have created the conditions that they sought to create - the total instability of any government in that country. The instability of the various governments that have been in office in South Vietnam has not stemmed from any instability on the part of the people themselves; it has been the result of the condition of instability that has been established by the Vietcong. In the eyes of the Vietcong or of the Chinese People's Republic, the war in South Vietnam is legitimate. In their eyes, it is a holy war. It has its own legitimacy, because, in the belief and in the dialect of the Communists, what is called a war of liberation is a just war. I repeat that in the dialect of the Communist party this war has its own legality and legitimacy.

What is the situation with the United States of America? The United States has poured treasure into South Vietnam; it has tried to help the people. The United States is seeking some method by which a settlement can be reached. Although Senator Cohen was at some pains to state that nobody was making any attempt to establish an accord or to re-establish the Geneva Agreement, the fact is that Mr. Wilson, the Prime Minister of Great Britain, which was one of the co-chairmen of the Geneva Conference of 1954, asked the Soviet Foreign Minister to travel to London to meet him. The Soviet Foreign Minister did so. Mr. Wilson suggested that, as cochairmen, Britain and Russia should convene a meeting of the Geneva powers to see whether it was possible to obtain some stability or some method by which this frightful war in South Vietnam, which is causing untold misery to millions of people, could be stopped. Senator Cohen did not say that Russia refused to have anything to do with the proposal.


Senator Cohen - I did not say that I would not support a reconvening of the Geneva Conference.


Senator CORMACK - I am just saying that, with a view to finding a means by which this bloody war could be stopped, Great Britain, as one of the co-chairmen, took the initiative in seeking to reconvene a meeting of the powers that met at Geneva in 1954. Russia refused to have anything to do with the proposal.

Then, quite properly, the Prime Minister of Great Britain sent Mr. Stewart, his

Foreign Secretary, to Washington to see whether it was possible to arrive at some accord whereby the war in South Vietnam could be ended. I have before me the text of a statement made by President Johnson which was issued in Washington, D.C., on 23rd March. These are the words of the President of the United States of America -

The United States wilt never be second in seeking a settlement in Vietnam that is based on an end of Communist aggression. As I have said in every part of the Union-

That is, in the United States of America -

I am ready to go anywhere at any time, and meet with anyone wherever there is promise of progress toward an honorable peace. We have said many times to all who are interested in our principles for honorable negotiation that we seek no more than a return to the essentials of the agreements of 1954 - a reliable arrangement to guarantee the independence and security of all in South East Asia.

That area includes not only South Vietnam. The President continued -

At present the Communist aggressors have given no sign of .any willingness to move in this direction, but as they recognise the costs of their present course, and their own true interest in peace, there may come a change - if we all remain united.

The President of the United States has spelt out in the clearest possible terms the fact that his country is seeking a means by which this horrible war can be ended. The United States asks that, as a preliminary step, there at least be a restoration of the agreement of 1954 and a withdrawal of all forces to the 17th parallel.

Having discovered that that was the attitude of the United States, I was interested in ascertaining what China, the great power that was referred to by Senator Cohen, had to say about the situation. I have with me an extract from the " New Statesman" of 26th March 1965. This publication is the Socialist Bible which the lunatic fringe of the Socialist party, the intellectuals and the egg heads, use constantly as reading matter. It is to be found under their pillows if not their beds. This is a report of an interview between Chou En-lai and Mr. K. S. Karol which was granted in Peking, I imagine, two or three days before 26th March -

It is true, replied Chou, that Britain and the Soviet Union are co-chairmen of the Geneva conference. If they wish to do their duly they should first of all oblige the United Stales of America to cease its violation of the 1954 Geneva Agreement.

He was referring to the current incursion of the United States north of the 17th parallel. The report continues -

This is also the view of the South Vietnamese National Liberation Front. They demand that the United States of America withdraw all its armed forces and military installations from South Vietnam so as to allow the South Vietnamese people to settle their problems themselves.

That means that apparently the Chinese, speaking from Peking, are not willing to return to the Geneva Agreement of 1954. All they propose to do is to say "Yankees go home ", and to leave the armed forces of the Vietcong in South Vietnam so they may settle the differences that exist in that country and take control of it.

That leads me inevitably to Senator Cohen's statement that Australia should take some primacy in trying to solve this problem. The question I ask myself is this: Who controls North Vietnam? Who in North Vietnam is responsive to pressure and could persuade that country to come back to the Geneva conference table? Has Ho Chi Minh become a puppet for Russia or is he a puppet of Peking? Which of these two great imperial Communist powers is the one able to exert pressure on Ho Ghi Minh, the Premier of North Vietnam? It seems to me that in this context it is not possible to get any kind of accord with North Vietnam, because I do not believe that country has the capacity to come to an agreement. It has to be subservient to the People's Republic of China or it has to retain an obligation it once apparently was under to the Soviet Republics. When honorable senators speak of signing treaties, having accord or establishing international communion with the people of North Vietnam, they should ask themselves: " With whom are we to establish this communion? Who are the people to guarantee that in future North Vietnam will honour any peace treaty and will not repeat what it has been doing since 1954?" Is it the People's Republic of China which will give the guarantee, or is it the Soviet Republics? How are we to obtain a guarantee that North Vietnam in the future - if it happens that an agreement is entered into with that country - will not break that agreement as it has been doing since 1 957?

North Vietnam has broken its agreement with Laos. I say that because Senator Cavanagh said last Thursday - and Senator Cohen has suggested the same thing - that

South Vietnam attracted the Communist incursion only because it allowed the Americans to enter that country. Clearly this is incorrect because although the Americans are not in Laos, North Vietnam has invaded and occcupied substantial areas of Northern Laos. Therefore, as the Americans are not in Laos, it indicates that the expansion of Communist imperialism is related, not to economic needs, but to power requirements. It seems to me that the focus of Communist power in South East Asia - at least on the surface - is Chinese at the moment.

I shall not say that I regard the situation in South Vietnam with equanimity. I have the same horror of the situation there as has any other senator. Senator Cohen in his speech raised two matters to which I wish to refer. These related to the South Vietnamese or general northern South East Asia problem. Senator Cohen said that we should provide a great deal more money to aid the social advancement of the people in that area. He mentioned that we give about half of one per cent, of our national income for this purpose, including contributions to Papua and New Guinea. It is an interesting proposition, but who is to administer this aid? A vast amount of aid is flowing into South East Asia from the United States of America, Canada, Great Britain, New Zealand, Australia and other nations. The United States has discovered that pouring in vast sums of money as aid does not necessarily provide a solution. We have reached the unfortunate stage that, notwithstanding the vast amounts of foreign aid that have been provided for the undeveloped countries, the situations in those countries are worse now than when foreign aid first began to flow to them. I do not believe that pumping money ad lib into these countries provides a solution. In this respect I shall deal with Indonesia in a moment.

The last point on South Vietnam in Senator Cohen's speech with which I wish to deal concerns the use of non-lethal gas in that country. The oddity is that this riot gas - or tear gas - was supplied to the South Vietnamese Government, which is not only the de facto Government of South Vietnam, but is the de jure Government of South Vietnam - the legal Government. The Government of South Vietnam used the tear gas for the first time, I think, on 27th January, against its own people in circumstances which can be described at least as riotous. Iri other" words, the South Vietnamese Government regarded the situation as a civil problem, and used means which have become recognised, by the police of New South Wales, for example, who use tear gas at times when they feel they should not expose the lives of their men to danger.

Tear gas was used by the Government of South Vietnam and not by the Americans. Apparently it was requested by South Vietnam and was provided to the legal Government of that country which used it against its own people. I think that has to be said, because the use of the gas has been surrounded by reports containing a great deal of error. It was not brought to public attention until about seven or eight weeks after the gas had been used. At that time, the reporting of the incident apparently suited some of the agencies that lend themselves from time to time to dubious methods of communicating news of events six or seven week after they have happened.

I turn my attention now to Indonesia. I regard the problem in Indonesia at least as equal in seriousness to the problems that exist in South Vietnam; not in the sense that Indonesia is subject to the bloody conditions that exist in South Vietnam, but in the sense that Indonesia, by its erratic course of behaviour in the international sphere at present fills me with alarm for Australia. I fail to see that the economy of Indonesia has suffered because of lack of aid. The Americans have given Indonesia a great deal of aid. Australia has given aid. We have helped Indonesia in the field of education and have provided that country with such items as machinery and spare parts for which it has asked. Therefore I say that the reduction in the capacity of the Indonesian economy cannot be laid at the doors of Great Britain or the United States.

If there is a failure in the social hegemony of Indonesia - as there appears to be - no blame for this situation can fairly be attributed to us or to the United States. I believe that the instability of the Indonesian economy, which apparently exists at present, has nothing to do with the neo-. colonists, as the Indonesians describe us, or with the neo-imperialists, as they also, describe us. It is related to the situation inside Indonesia itself. The point was raised initially by Senator McKenna that we should negotiate a treaty with Indonesia'. Again I ask: With whom do we make a! treaty? 'I cannot see that there is in Indonesia at present the kind of government that we normally regard as a government It is a government of one man, a man who has broken nearly 'every international agreement he has subscribed to in the last 10 or 12 years. I fail to see how entering into a treaty with Indonesia will ensure that it will' be solemnly observed, if the past record of that country in relation to treaties is any indicator.

Members of the Opposition who say that we should negotiate a treaty with Indonesia should consider whether the Indonesians wish to make a treaty with us. It takes two parties to make a treaty. I am doubtful whether Indonesia would enter into a treaty with Australia for the simple reason that the President of Indonesia conducts the external affairs of Indonesia in terms of power. He regards Australia as of no importance whatsoever because he operates in terms of power and his foreign policy, and foreign commitments are determined according to power. He acknowledges that Australia has no power. It is suggested that we should enter into commitments with Indonesia although that nation has not at any stage, it seems to me, indicated that it wants to enter into an arrangement with us. Indonesia despises Australia. This statement can be verified by at least a dozen members of this present Parliament who have been received by President Sukarno when he has been at pains to point out to them at some length that he regards Australia as of no importance. It takes two to make a treaty. I have taken up a little more time than I had expected to take. As a result of Senator Cohen's statements, I have discussed the South Vietnam problem at greater length than I intended.

It is true that we have to live with the . people of Indonesia for the next 100 or 200 years. They are our nearest neighbours. But. what sort of neighbours will we have to live with for the next 25 years? Will Indonesia, during the next 25 years, be the Indonesia that we see now, .or will it be a nation of another quality altogether? Will it be a Communist nation? Will it be a Moslem theocratic nation? Will it be a nation at all?

Are the contradictions inherent in the Indonesia social organisation such that the whole Indonesian state, with a vast archipelago of 3,000 islands, will fall into a fragmented condition? As I asked in this Senate chamber some 12 years ago, is Communism the liquid grout of discipline that will fall into the cracks in the walls of the countries of South East Asia? Will a Communist government be the government of Indonesia in the next five years? What will happen when the present government of Indonesia - which is represented by one man and therefore depends upon the life of one man - changes? What sort of Indonesia can we expect when that man is no longer with us, or no longer lives in Indonesia and is no longer capable of keeping that country in its present state of curious disequilibrium or disequal equilibrium? What sort of society will then be the ruling society of Indonesia? This is a matter which fills me with the greatest of alarm.

I believe that the problem of South Vietnam is soluble, because there we are dealing - at least in the background - with people who are sophisticated and who calculate how far they should go before they risk the escalation of the war there. But whether we are dealing with Indonesia now or in the short term future, I cannot see us dealing with a sophisticated and calculating form of government. The attitude changes from day to day. But at least something is apparent. During the debate on the Gulf of Tonkin incident last year, I observed that it was perfectly clear te me that the President of Indonesia had made a re-assessment of the situation in South East Asia and had made up his mind that as Communist China was. going to be the dominant power in South East Asia he had better get alongside it while the going was good. There are all sorts of indications that that is so. Not the least of them is found in the statistics of the exports of rubber, tin and oil from Indonesia. There has been a marked increase in the volume of these stable products going to China from Indonesia.

I do not know what the end result will be in our relations with Indonesia. All I know is that at present the Indonesians do not have very much regard for us. They despise us as a power. I do not think we could make any treaty arrangement with Indonesia that would be worth making. I do not think that any extra money we could put into that country would enable it to overcome the difficult economic position in which it finds itself. The gross national product of Indonesia has increased, I think, by IS per cent, in the last 10 years or so, or since it obtained independence, and its population has risen in that time from 60 million to 100 million. There are factors in Indonesia which, it seems to me, can lead to disaster and it is this which fills me with great disquiet.







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