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Wednesday, 7 April 1965


Senator BRANSON (Western Australia) . - I find it difficult to cross swords with a fellow ex-serviceman but Senator O'Byrne has made some statements which I cannot allow to go unchallenged. The honorable senator spoke of negotiations. This is a word we understand; but how do you negotiate with people who use the very time of negotiation to carry on a shooting war? To negotiate is good, but you can negotiate only if both parties are prepared to come to the negotiation table and act honourably. Senator O'Byrne said we must have some sort of an agreement with Indonesia and the peoples to the north of Australia. I was not surprised this morning - 'but I was very upset - to read a statement made by the Indonesian Foreign Minister, Dr. Subandrio, in Djakarta yesterday. He said that Indonesia would break its agreement with Holland and refuse to hold a plebiscite in West Irian. He said -

The plebiscite does not exist.

Indonesia signed an agreement to hold a plebiscite in 1969 in West Irian, formerly Dutch New Guinea. This is the sort of thing that Senator O'Byrne suggested; but what did the agreement mean to Indonesia? It was not worth the paper it was written on. Dr. Subandrio said yesterday: "We will break our word ". In other words he said in effect: "We never intended to do it ". This was a document signed under the auspices of the United Nations which supervised West Irian while the negotiations were proceeding. One of the basic points in the handover was that the people of West Irian would be allowed self-determination. What has happened? Dr. Subandrio said -

You just think there is no 1969. Leave 1969 to me.

I do not know how you can sign agreements with people like that. Indonesia has shown that it has no intention of living up to any of the agreements it has made.


Senator Ridley - The party which the honorable senator supports approved it.


Senator BRANSON - I am not saying whether it did or not. I say that the Indonesians signed an agreement to hold a plebiscite in West Irian in 1969 and now Dr. Subandrio has said that no plebiscite will be held. Senator O'Byrne took the Prime

Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) to task over his attitude to Vietnam. Apparently you cannot win. Because the Prime Minister has taken a strong, firm stand and stuck to it, he is now to blame according to Senator O'Byrne. If he had vacillated on this matter - for it one day and against it the next - Senator O'Byrne would have been the first to challenge the right honorable gentleman on a stop-go defence policy. 1 was delighted to read the statement by the Prime Minister to this effect -

I have heard suggestions that the United Slates, instead of fighting should negotiate - negotiate with an enemy that has violated a truce, ignored its international obligations; with people who will keep on shooting when the Americans have stopped shooting.

The Prime Minister concluded -

I shall continue to denounce this.

Is there anybody on the Opposition side who would not denounce the fact that these people are continuing shooting? The statement made by the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Hasluck) is one of the finest I have heard presented to this Parliament. It is a document that has the personal stamp of Paul Hasluck on it. It is something from the man himself; I do not think it was prepared by the Department. I would ask all interested Australians to read this statement and then re-read it. I would like to have said the things that Mr. Hasluck has said but I cannot aspire to express thoughts put so brilliantly and impressively.

If we look to the north of Australia, the prospect fills the average person with an awful feeling of impending doom because of the insidious way that Communism has been creeping further and further south through the years. People cannot be blamed for feeling pessimistic and for believing that to a certain extent we are . living on borrowed time. Perhaps we are. But that is a defeatist attitude. It is one that we cannot tolerate. We must look at this situation a little more closely. It was once stated that nothing new could be said, that things could only be said in a different way. I shall endeavour to say things in a different way because, as I said earlier, the Minister has said adequately what I should, like to have said and to have claimed as my own personal thoughts.

I maintain that the fight for Australia's existence and survival is being waged at this very moment in South Vietnam. That is our front line, and I believe that Malaysia is our last line of defence beyond the shores of Australia. So let me deal first with Vietnam. God forbid that South Vietnam should be overcome. But if she is, then Thailand and Cambodia would be next, followed by Malaysia and Singapore. Then would follow our turn. The Minister for External Affairs dealt with this aspect of the matter to a certain extent when he said -

Peking has recently served notice that Thailand, a peaceful country, is in danger of becoming the object of what might be called conquest by subversion. Chinese radio and news agencies are -now publishing the programme of an organisation describing itself as the "Thailand Patriotic Front " which, working from Peking, calls for the overthrow of what it calls the "facist" Thai Government. Radio Hanoi is also broadcasting the same material.

So the pattern is there. The forces of the north are confident that they will win in Vietnam, and the heat is now being turned on to Thailand. In my opinion, Cambodia has virtually gone; she is the soft underbelly and is ready to take to Communism almost immediately.

What is the situation in Vietnam? This country has been attacked by Chinese Communists from and through North Vietnam. I do not think anybody disagrees with that statement. Yet we are told by the supporters of the Communists that it is for the people of South Vietnam themselves to establish a political regime which will withstand internal subversion. How can that possibly be done in the existing circumstances? We must remember that the South Vietnamese are dealing, not with a simple situation of local unrest, but with a large scale campaign of assassination and terrorism that is directed from outside the country. The Minister said - lt would be a dangerous thing to argue that, because subversive elements inspired from outside have achieved some success in creating instability within a country, these elements thereby earn the right to . become the government of that country. In Souh Vietnam one may ask what future security, freedom and religious tolerance there would be for the millions of people who have committed themselves to resistance against Communism

What will happen to these people if North Vietnam succeeds in its efforts to take over South Vietnam? The situation will be worse than some of the things that happened in occupied countries during the last war.

If I have any criticism to offer, it is that we are not doing enough in South Vietnam. We should tell America that this is as much our fight as it is theirs - that for us it is a fight for survival, because we are much closer to Vietnam than is any other Western country.


Senator Ormonde - Would they want us to do more?


Senator BRANSON - I do not intend to be sidetracked. They are very grateful for what we are doing.


Senator Ridley - Who is?


Senator BRANSON - South Vietnam. But surely they would be grateful if this help were extended.


Senator Ridley - Does the honorable senator mean the present Government of that country or the Government of tomorrow?


Senator BRANSON - I do not intend to bc drawn into an argument on that matter at this stage. The Minister for External Affairs went on to say -

If the United States did withdraw, the same conflict would be renewed somewhere else.

Of course it would. The present conflict is a part of the whole pattern. The Minister continued -

Within a brief period the struggle now taking place in South Vietnam would be shifted to Thailand.

That is what I said earlier. Then he said -

If in turn there was abandonment of Thailand, it would shift to Malaysia - to Indonesia, to Burma, to India and further.

The Minister did not say so, but the "further" would be Australia. To say that is to be quite logical.

The great tragedy of what is happening in Asia today is that the people concerned are not warlike. I am sure Senator Anderson, who is at present in the chamber, will agree with that statement. Both of us lived in this area for nearly four years. I lived with Malays, I lived with Thais, and I have had quite a lot of association with the Vietnamese. They are a gentle and kindly people who demand very little from life. They are quite happy to live their kampongs type of life. They have no territorial ambitions but just wish to be left alone to choose their own destiny. But the awful, insidious doctrine of Communism presses on inexorably, regardless of what the people think or want.

I am not a gloomy prophet, but, unless resolute action is taken now, I foresee the day when perhaps Australia will be engulfed just as the rest of Asia has been, or is being, engulfed by the Communists. I only hope to goodness, Sir, that the Americans remain firm and resolute in their present actions against the Vietcong. If the Americans weaken, it will be only a matter of time before our own fate is sealed and we see the sequence of events that I mentioned earlier. There are things that we as a nation can do to prevent that outcome. I say that, because I do not believe in negative criticism. I chide the Government for some of the things that have happened. I do not think we are doing enough to foster goodwill and to co-operate with other countries in Asia that are threatened, as we are. I refer to the Philippines, Formosa or free China, about which I want to say a little more later, Japan and South Korea, which are not involved directly now but which will become involved. Those countries are opposed to Communism.


Senator Dittmer - What about India?


Senator BRANSON - Yes, and India. I was speaking more of the area that lies to the east of Vietnam. Those countries are carrying on a fight against Communism. We are not doing enough to foster their goodwill. I believe that this Government has tended to ignore those countries far too much. We have a classic example of that in the fact that we have not reciprocal diplomatic relations with Taiwan, or Formosa as it is known to many people. To do that is to make a fatal mistake; it is one for which some day the Government might have to answer. I honestly believe that, if as members of Parliament we are ever called to account for our mistakes, the number one charge against us will be that to a large extent we have ignored our great friends in this part of Asia. Nobody will tell me that by ignoring free China we are doing anything to help in Asia. But we are quite prepared to accept the fact that that country has sent to Australia one of her top diplomats in the person of Dr. Chen Chih Mai. He has a brilliant diplomatic record and we accept him as the representative of free China today. But what have we clone? We do not even have a consulate in Taiwan. I think it is an insult to that country, and if its inhabitants were not such gentlemanly people I think they would tell us so in no uncertain manner.

There is a wealth of goodwill for Australians in these countries, but we ignore that goodwill because we are too timid to take a stand. Perhaps for too long we were tied to the apron strings of Great Britain. Great Britain recognises Communist China but we, to use the Australian vernacular, do not have the guts to stand on our own and say that we will send a diplomat to Taiwan - to free China.


Senator Ormonde - Does the honorable senator think that we can teach the British anything about diplomacy?


Senator BRANSON - I will not be drawn into that argument. I think power politics are being played. We are not prepared to accept the fact that the people of Taiwan are our friends and to send there a diplomat of standing equal to that of Dr. Chen Chih Mai, Taiwan's representative in this country. We are represented in other countries in this area. We are prepared to stand beside Malaysia and South Vietnam. Why do we not do something more positive in the one country that has shown some guts in taking a stand? Taiwan has taken on Mao Tse-tung and his forces yet we ignore that country diplomatically. When I was in Taiwan I was forced to hang my head in shame because we had no consulate there and I had to go to the American authorities. I believe that we are gratuitously insulting about 12 million people who have one of the finest armed forces in Asia today. I believe it is second only to that of Korea in that respect. The military efforts of Taiwan make ours look like those of a kindergarten by comparison.


Senator Ormonde - The honorable senator is pretty critical of the Government.


Senator BRANSON - I am being critical, because a country with 600,000 troops under arms, by its operations in the offshore islands, is preventing 80 per cent, of the Red Chinese Navy, 60 per cent, of the Red Chinese Air Force and 40 per cent, of the Red Chinese Army from moving away from the off shore islands to bring death and destruction elsewhere. I am very conscious of this fact. I believe it is an insult to a nation doing so much that we do not enter into an exchange of diplomats. I intend to be critical.

The logical way for me to proceed is to say that I disagree entirely with some of the sentiments expressed about the recognition of Red China. I was grateful to see that the Minister, at least, shares this opinion with me, because in his statement he said -

Some people are disposed to argue that we should facilitate the representation of Communist China in the United Nations. Certainly our long term objective must be the achievement of stable political relationships amongst all countries of the world. So long, however, as the Peking regime continues to threaten the Chinese Nationalist Government and the people of Formosa, to promote the export of revolution abroad and to construct nuclear weapons to back these policies contrary to the overwhelming voice of world opinion, one can hardly expect this regime to help to solve any of the major problems facing the United Nations.

The Communist Chinese have never had a moral claim to admission to the United Nations because they have betrayed every principle for which the United Nations stands. They are the people who raped Tibet. They walked in and took over Tibet. They invaded India and were the prime movers behind the war in Korea. They are the people who fed and sponsored Communist activities in Malaya from immediately after the last war until a few years ago. They have no right to join the United Nations because they are not prepared to live by the principles of that organisation.


Senator Maher - They also put the screws on Burma.


Senator BRANSON - -That is very true. I am unhappy that I must say what I am about to say about the United Nations. It was a wonderful concept of free people who looked to that organisation to solve the grave problems that confront the world about every 20 years. But today I think the United Nations could be a dangerous thing, because we in the West tend to look to it, to solve all our problems. We say: "We will go to the United Nations with this problem. It is the international body ". All honorable senators know what happens. The talk goes on and on for weeks and months and nothing happens. While discussions are proceeding the people who are opposed to the free world are steadily fulfilling their ambitions. They use the United Nations successfully to achieve their own ends. I am reluctant to say it, but I think the United Nations might be a danger to the free world because of the way it is used and exploited by the forces that oppose the ideologies of the Western world. The Minister was honest enough to say -

As honorable members are aware, the General Assembly was unable to proceed with its business. . . .

The other observation is that at the present time the General Assembly, and indeed the Security Council, cannot be relied upon as a significant and effective means of keeping the peace of the world. ls that not a tragedy? Would any small country in danger of invasion or acts of aggression against its sovereignty and territory be warranted in having full confidence that the United Nations would protect it? No, it could not have that guarantee. Small countries do not have faith in the United Nations because that faith has been destroyed by the actions of the forces of Communism which are doing their level best to destroy the principles for which the United Nations stands - for the good of mankind and the free world in general.


Senator Willesee - That does not make the United Nations a danger, does it?


Senator BRANSON - Only to the extent that we tend to rely on it and, to use Senator O'Byrne's expression, to go to it to negotiate the world's problems. Our opponents today, the Communists, tend to use the United Nations to further their aims. Perhaps I could give, as an example, Vietnam. If the Communists move into a country and set up a puppet government and, in the United Nations, can obtain 47 votes of the AfroAsian bloc, that puppet government then becomes the official government. Therein lies the danger of the use made by the Communists of the United Nations. The United Nations is a wonderful concept, but I wonder whether it is not being abused to the point where it could become a danger. In South East Asia today the people who trusted the United Nations are now turning to the armed strength of the United States of America to provide the protection that smaller nations should be able to get from the United Nations but cannot rely on today. The Minister said - . . in South and South East Asia, it is American armed strength which is the reality behind which the countries in that area have retained their liberty to choose their own courses.

That is so, not because they have the protection of the United Nations, but because they have the protection of American armed might. I am in agreement with the following statement by the Minister -

For us, neutralism is not a practical choice. We Australians must choose our side because in the immediate future we are determined to ensure the defence and the survival of our country and we want to preserve our right and our capacity to apply our own faith and ideals regarding human society in Australia.


Senator Ormonde - We have to be part of a team. We cannot initiate a war.


Senator BRANSON - No, I do not for one moment suggest that we should; far be it from me to do that. We cannot hide our heads and say that what is going on in Vietnam at this moment is not deciding or could not decide the future of this country. If we lose in South Vietnam, it will be only a matter of time before the Communists walk straight over Cambodia, because it will fold up. Thailand will put up a token resistance, and then it will go; then there will be Malaysia and then Australia. I hope to goodness that it will not happen, but it will happen unless there is some resolution and some strength such as America is giving today, but America must be supported by the very people that she is trying to save.


Senator Willesee - Any war in any place could contain the seeds of our destruction and that of the rest of the world.


Senator BRANSON - That is true, hut I believe that it is a lot closer than we thought 12 or 18 months ago. If one stops and thinks, he can almost feel the breathing down his neck, as a result of the tragic turn of events in the small divided countries of Asia. Senator Willesee has been there and he can probably speak with more authority than I of Laos and Vietnam. We as Australians are at the crossroads of our destiny. We are like l. child who has grown up a little too quickly. We have been forced to make decisions now, when we would like to have been a little more mature. The wheel of fate has turned quickly. We are a country that used to live in wonderful, splendid isolation. As an island continent we felt safe. We did not have to make such decisions, but they have been pushed upon us very rapidly. Time has been running out for Australia, so the decisions must be made.

In these matters the Government and the Opposition have fairly small differences of opinion really, because we are all dedicated to preserving a way of life in Australia as we want it to be. Every one of us in his quieter moments realises that this is a very serious time in Australia's history. After six years in the last war, I only hope and pray that the decisions that are being made today in Australia will be the right ones, because I am 'like the fellow in the film - like Adam, I have four sons.

Senator RIDLEY(South Australia) [5.4J. - 1 did not intend to take part in this debate not because I fail to appreciate the importance of it but because, as Senator Branson said in his closing remarks, there is very little difference between the Government and the Opposition on this matter. That is most certainly true. Anybody who has listened to the debate or who has read the record of it will be able to differentiate between the beliefs of the speakers and the thoughts that they expressed in trying to push a particular angle. I think that at least 50 per cent, of Senator Branson's speech was what he completely believed in and 50 per cent, of it was directed to excusing his support of the Government's policy which he does not believe in. One one occasion, in reply to an interjection, he said: " I do not care what the Government thinks. This is what I think."


Senator Branson - Over Taiwan. I reiterate that.







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