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Thursday, 1 April 1965


Senator WILLESEE (Western Australia) . - When the debate was adjourned two days ago I was discussing various points in the statement of the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Hasluck). I had confined myself first to the possession of nuclear power and, secondly, to Indonesia.I then made some observations on the situation in Vietnam, particularly to the changed circumstances there which have given rise to headlines which have become even more interesting in the last couple of days. I had said that like all wars, the war in Vietnam must some day end. I had said that if it were not to end in surrender then, at some stage, sooner or later, peace talks must be held. I had pointed out that both sides must negotiate together and that for this to happen, a situation would have to be created which would cause the North Vietnamese to realise that they could not win the war; or to use their own term, that they could not liberate South Vietnam. Then the Allies - mainly the Americans because of their numbers - including the South Vietnamese and Australia because of the representation we have in Vietnam, must realise that the use of force must end so that an agreement in the form of the 1954 Geneva Agreement could be reached. But above all, we must be sure that any agreement reached would work effectively.

As far as I am aware from a study of the American statements there has never been any suggestion of surrender. The alternative, therefore, is negotiation for peace. Peace must be negotiated in such a way that the rest of South East Asia, as well as Vietnam, must be placed in a position so as not to be forever looking over their borders to see whence aggression is to come. The people of South East Asia should be able to look forward to the development that must take place and at long last come to live in a period of peace and development and prosperity.

For the last few weeks, undoubtedly, there has been tremendous pressure on President Johnson. This pressure caused the President to decide to escalate the war, to use a modern term which has crept into the phraseology of the times. President Johnson, because of this pressure, decided to take the risk that commentators have been saying for some time could bring the colossus of Communist China in on the side of the Hanoi Government. That would mean, of course, the use of greater naval power by the Americans, as they used it in the Korean war. If the war is to be prolonged, it will be necessary to have some form of order in pushing back in Vietnam.

PresidentJohnson has now said that he will go anywhere at any time and talk to anyone, and that the Americans will not be left behind the door if it is possible to bring the vicious conflict in Vietnam to an end. But other people could be bringing pressure to bear on the North Vietnamese. It has been said several times during this debate that it takes two parties to make a contract and the two parties must primarily be those who are involved. Russia is in an interesting situation. I do not wish to discuss at length the problems of the Communist world and the extent of Russia's interestin the Vietnamese war, but they have a great interest and ought to be able to exert pressure both on Communist China and on the Hanoi Government.

President de Gaulle of France has made many pronouncements on South East Asia. Only a few weeks ago, France renegotiated her annual trade agreement with Hanoi and extended credit to the Hanoi Government so that North Vietnam could buy French goods. It appears from this distance that France has at least a toe in the door and may be able to use her diplomatic influence in an attempt to bring the parties together to negotiate peace. England and Russia were co-chairmen of the 1954 Geneva Conference. It may be possible for that arrangement to be exhumed and an attempt made to return to the situation that we thought would be a success away back in 1954.

So we have the situation that one side wants to talk. All sorts of pressures have been brought to bear on the President of the United States of America. We are all vitally interested in this dispute but it is time that the great powers, particularly England, Russia and France, began putting pressure on the Hanoi Government to get down to talks. We all hope they will do that and, for all I know, they are doing it. From time to time the Australian Labour Party has said that the final settlement of this dispute will be found not in guns but in economic and social development, and this has given rise to a fair amount of derision.


Senator Wright - Is there any real difference between the two points of view?


Senator WILLESEE - Between that of the Government and that of the Opposition?


Senator Wright - Yes.


Senator WILLESEE - I have never been able to see why there ought to be a difference; and I do not know that, basically, there is a difference. However, the honorable senator will agree that, particularly at election times, Government supporters have been tremendously vocal about this matter. In the debate last August a Government senator asked how economic and social progress could stop the Communist hordes.


Senator Wright - Without defence.


Senator WILLESEE - We have never said that economic and social progress alone would be sufficient. 1 will not leave that thought in the mind of the Senate today. I made the comment during the debate in August that the honorable senator to whom 1 have referred, in saying that, was not very far away from Mao Tse-tung's dictum that political power grows out of the mouth of a gun. It is wrong to assume that we have said that economic and social progress alone will be sufficient, but some Government supporters have suggested that the solution to the dispute is to be found only in guns. I do not see how anybody could suggest seriously that economic and social progress alone are sufficient when a war is raging. War always stands like a colossus and says: " Until you dp something about me there will not be any progress ". That has been the history of all wars.

Because of the backwardness of the people of Vietnam - this region has never been properly developed - I think we must hold out some hope to them. If there is to be a permanent improvement, pacification and development must go on almost simultaneously. An analysis of the situation in South Vietnam shows that the greatest progress there was made in the days before the Communist attacks of 1957 and following the 1954 accord, when, under the Diem Government, strategic hamlets were set up. That was when we did the very thing that Senator Wright suggests, and with which I agree. While the spreading of the war was being prevented and while the aggressors were being pushed back, strategic hamlets were being set up and economic and social progress was being made. That continued until deterioration in the situation took place. I do not want it to be thought that this was just an airy-fairy idea, with people saying: " Give them Point Four aid or aid under the Colombo Plan, or do what some of the text books say ".

South Vietnam is eminently suitable for tremendous development on an area . basis because it has one thing on which you can base progress - a fairly even distribution of water. Looking at the United States of America and Canada, we can see that where water flows fairly evenly across a continent there is decentralisation and the kind of progress which depends basically on water. How often do we think about the problem caused by a lack of water in our own continent? In South Vietnam there is the tremendous Mekong River. Only three or four years ago we dealt with a Bill to enable some of our people to be sent to work on a project there. It is true that the Mekong River flows through Laos, Cambodia and some parts of Thailand as well as through the two Vietnams, but the presence of the river means that if it is possible to secure peace in South Vietnam or to push the aggressors back and start work on development at long last, here is an area in which great progress can be made in the field of national development. On second thoughts, I do not want to use the word " national ", because I do not think this should be national development. What is really needed, on an area basis, is the kind of development that is eminently suitable to the Vietnamese style of agriculture, based on the villages, and the kind of living conditions these people are used to. I do not think we should draw a line at the 17th parallel - or wherever it might be fixed on the next occasion when there are peace talks - and then simply say: "We have fixed the war situation. Now you must all be good boys, and we will again leave you to your own devices ". In this area, many peoples already have blueprints for the development of the Mekong River. If these projects brought economic development on an area basis, social progress would follow. If such development was possible in the case of the Indus River, with the dispute between India and Pakistan, it is possible here.

Let us look at what happened in the case of the European Common Market. Who would have thought that after the last war Germany and France would have been the leaders in a scheme which was to benefit every nation in their area? For once, carrots were used instead of coshes. Coshes are all that the South Vietnamese have experienced for as far back as the younger people can remember.


Senator Wright - Does the honorable senator accept the view that the only thing that is disturbing the equilibrium there is the aggression of the northern Communists?


Senator WILLESEE - Of course. 1 said that a few moments ago when I mentioned development on the basis of the strategic hamlets. One cannot ignore the facts of the situation, but I am trying to look further ahead. In South Vietnam we have an area where we can work for development. I think of an organisation such as the World

Bank, which did splendid work and showed splendid initiative in the Indus River scheme. We have the ingredients for similar work in South Vietnam. There are the same common denominators - racial, regional and religious and an economy based on villages. There is also the common denominator of fear, which is still with the people of South Vietnam. They should be given the common denominators of something worth living for, the removal of fear and, finally, peace. I know the difficulties that must be overcome, but this is the sort of thing we should be aiming at. The situation should be handled by many nations, rather than one - the United States. It should be possible for organisations like the United Nations, the World Bank and others to deal with the situation. This would be a great ingredient in any peace talks, because it would give the Vietnamese people some hope for the future. They have never had any hope, and they are at present fighting for their very existence.

As I said last August, there is still a possibility of retrieving the situation in South Vietnam. The situation there is, after all, very similar to that which obtained in Malaya or the Philippines. In the Philippines the problem was solved by attacking the aggressors and maintaining a defensive situation in the villages for 24 hours a day. The defenders did not guard the villages during the day and knock off when the whistle blew, allowing terrorists to come down from the mountains at night. In the Philippines, while fighting the Huks, the Government forces not only protected the villages but won the confidence of the villagers, who knew that at no time could they be attacked by terrorists. At the same time, the villagers saw development going ahead. Then the former leaders of the Huk terrorists began to come back to their villages because they saw that they were coming back to a peaceful society, with land to work and a future for themselves.

We should have peace talks in the near future; I do not see any other way. We must go into the rice areas where food production is so vitally important. We must clear aggressors from those areas, establish a system of protection, and maintain that protection by night as well as by day. We then must have big thoughts about the tremendous opportunities in the Mekong River area. It has been stated that Colombo

Plan aid is valuable to the area. I am thinking in terms very much greater than those of the Colombo Plan. There must be big thinking and a lot of money must be provided. The approach must be the same as that which is bringing some sort of peace to other areas.

As I said last August, the situation in Vietnam is part of the power struggle, lt is easy to get confused on what this is about. It is part of the cold war; it is the hot section of the cold war. Some Communists believe in the truth of the old Communist theory that they can control other countries and that they finally will dominate the world. Members of the Western bloc say that that is precisely what is not to happen. We have not only to fight the Communists but also to remove some of the conditions that allow this type of struggle to take place. The economic potential of the area presents us with a unique opportunity to raise the living standards of the inhabitants. Allied to peace talks, economic development would hold out great hopes for the future. It would not only remedy the local situation but also affect the area situation. Asians are proud of being Asians. It would be very valuable indeed if they were given an opportunity to build up a bloc. A foundation might be laid for a common market, about which we hear talk from time to time.

The war must eventually come to an end. We must show that we are bringing something that is worth fighting for, which will provide a new order for those people. These innocent, humble people have suffered much as a result of causes quite apart from anything that they desire and which they would not understand. Some of them have sons fighting in both armies. They hear bombs dropping and pray that they are not dropping on their own villages. If we could not only bring about peace but also simultaneously give hope we would ensure as far as we possibly could that the innocent dead had not died in vain.







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