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Tuesday, 6 April 1965

Senator MATTNER (South Australia) . - Mr. President, on Thursday last when 1 had a few moments to discuss the matter before the Senate, I endeavoured to show the world that Australia's aims and ideals were to live at peace with its neighbours, to be able to assist them in their desire for self-government and to improve their lot, as it were. We are, and always have been, a friendly nation which resorts to arms only in the last extremity. With these objectives in view, I again repeat to our near neighbours and to the world in genera] that Australia has no territorial ambition, and has no aims other than to see that each and every nation can be governed and ruled according to its own free choice.

Because of this, we view with great alarm what is happening in South Vietnam, which is one of our near neighbours. Actually, what is happening there is that South Vietnam is subjected to every kind of violence from the north. South Vietnam is fighting for its very existence, to determine its own way of rule or government. To the Australian people who apparently have no conception of what is actually happening in Vietnam and to the people who say: " Go home, Yankee ", I make the suggestion that they go to South Vietnam and see for themselves the actual situation there. The aggression from the north against South Vietnam is not any sudden happening. It has been occurring since 1954. It has been increased to a great extent since 1962. It is true to say without any exaggeration that this aggression from the north by the Vietcong, or call it what you will, shatters the peace and prospect of peace for the whole of South East Asia.

Let us go back to 1954. We have heard a great deal about what should be done and about the negotiations that should be taking place. But in 1954 there were negotiations. These negotiations took place in Geneva at the end of the Indo-China War. Honorable senators will recall that the people from North Vietnam - call them Communists, conformists or whatever you wish - desired to take over all the former French territory in South East Asia. They made no secret of that fact. You can trust a Communist to try to carry out what he says he will do. Hanoi said: " We will take over South Vietnam ". That is what the Communists are endeavouring to do. I tell all those people who, here in Australia, are sheltering and being protected by America that if America gets out of South Vietnam they will not sleep so soundly or lie so easily in their beds.

We know that Vietnam was partitioned and that the line of demarcation was drawn at the 17th parallel. On either side of that line there is a demilitarised zone. On one side of the river the Communist flag is flying and the loud speakers are blaring: - "Go home, Americans. Get out of here, you imperialists." On the other side, you are in South Vietnam.

Let us look at the country in which these events are taking place. Events which perhaps have no parallel in the rest of the world are taking place, and have taken place, in Vietnam. We know that many of the people of South Vietnam fought with the Vietminh in the overthrow of French power. The French had 94,000 of their forces killed in defending their empire in this part of Asia. It so happened that when the Indo-China war ended in 1954 many of the South Vietnamese who had fought with the Vietminh were in North Vietnam and that thousands of selected Communist Party members were ordered to remain in South Vietnam to promote Hanoi's cause. Let us get that fixed in our minds. It was by a deliberate act of Hanoi that those Communists stayed in South Vietnam.

One might ask why the Vietcong are able to terroise South Vietnam. It is simply because, due to the guidance and farsightedness of Hanoi - do not let us underestimate the power of Hanoi - these cells were left in South Vietnam. Their arms and ammunition were stored away to await the party's call, and whenever the party in Hanoi called these people sprang to arms. Some of the party members rejoined their families, whilst others went into the jungles or mountain hideouts.

The great plain of the Mekong stretches from the coast to the mountains. It runs inland for various distances. It is the great rice bowl of South East Asia. The people living within that area are better fed, by their standards, than any of the other people of Vietnam. The mountains at the edge of the plain are ideal places for the hideouts of the Communists, of which they have taken full advantage. In 1954 Hanoi believed that both North and South Vietnam would fall under its sway. I have mentioned that just to the north of the 17th parallel you can hear the loudspeakers blaring: " Go home Americans. Let us unite, under Communist control, the whole of Vietnam." When people say that what is happening in South Vietnam has been caused by the Americans, that is just not true. We know that the Communists penetrated official and other agencies of South Vietnam in order to weaken the Government of South Vietnam. The people of South Vietnam wanted to choose their own way of life, and that is the sole cause of the struggle.

Sitting suspended from 5.45 till 8 p.m.

Senator MATTNER - Before the suspension I was speaking about the situation in Vietnam in 1955. I ask for leave to continue my remarks at a later stage

Leave granted; debate adjourned.

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