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Wednesday, 5 May 1965

Senator PALTRIDGE (Western Australia) (Minister for Defence [4.21]. - Mr. President, I have listened with more than my usual attention and interest to the Leader of the Opposition in this placeSenator McKenna) putting what are presumably the views of the Australian Labour Party on a question of great national importance and which may well increase in importance as the months go by. I have always felt that the Labour Party in its approach to this problem has had yawning gaps in its appreciation of the position in South East Asia. It stubbornly refuses to see the situation in South East Asia as flowing from an aggressive expansion generated by the forces of Communism and carried out by revolution, subversion and armed attack.

I believe that the great weakness in the general, approach of the Labour Party to this problem is its refusal to see the real enemy and the real motivation of what is happening in South Vietnam today and in other South East Asian countries. Senator McKenna today exacerbated that weakness. He said that he wanted me to show him where Communist China is aggressive and where it has military capability. I hope as I proceed with my speech that I will be able to do that, at least to the satisfaction of objective minded people.

Senator McKennafurther showed how little the Labour Party understands the situation by referring to the position in South Vietnam as, in effect, a civil war. The Labour Party does not understand the nature of the problem with which we are confronted. He said that Red China has no military capability of any effect. He invited us, almost lightheartedly, honorable senators will recall, to accept the situation in which Communist China carried out its raids into India at the end of 1962. It is interesting to. remember the extent of those raids. The Chinese launched simultaneous attacks against India from Tibet in the regions of Ladakh, a part of Kashmir and the north-eastern frontier agency of India. These attacks were well prepared and took by surprise the Indian forces guarding the frontier.

Upwards of 100,000 troops, well armed with modern weapons, were involved in these operations against India, including troops in supporting positions. To reach India they had to approach across the Himalayan passes. That involved the use of most modern and effective transport. But in spite of this, they quickly overran thousands of square miles of Indian territory and reached to within a few miles of the plains of Assam. This is a Communist country which is unprepared for military adventures. If we believe the Leader of the Opposition, this is a country which has no military capacity. The facts which he asks us to accept - which he has the cheek to ask us to accept - are that on this occasion the Communist Chinese showed a capacity which was indeed quite remarkable and which impressed the military authorities of the world, even if it failed to impress him.

I turn from peace loving, pacifist India to examine what is happening by virtue of Communist activity in other parts of Asia. What is happening today in Thailand? The Communist Chinese have made no secret of their intention to overthrow by subversion the Thai Government. I shall refer to what is happening in Thailand. An organisation calling itself the Thailand Patriotic Front has been established for purposes of subversion. Its programme of action, which calls for the overthrow of what it terms the Fascist Thai Government, is being broadcast by Chinese radio stations and Radio Hanoi and is reproduced in Chinese news agencies. The Patriotic

Front declares that Thailand has been reduced to a new type of colony and that the struggle to drive the United States imperialists out of Thailand is mounting vigorously. Representatives of the Front have been publicly received, welcomed and officially entertained in Peking. It is no wonder that the Thai Foreign Minister said yesterday at the current meeting of the South East Asia Treaty Organisation -

May i add how heartening it is to all of us the decision of the Government of Australia to send a contingent of Australian forces into South Vietnam. As we meet here today, i hope none of us will fail to realise how crucial the struggle in Vietnam is and that the outcome will transcend the borders of thai country and is bound to affect not only South East' Asia but the entire free world.

Senator Ormonde - So we are really at war?

Senator Kennelly - The Minister said at question time that we were at war.

Senator PALTRIDGE - I said nothing of the sort. Honorable senators opposite should look at " Hansard ". Senator Kennelly does not understand what is said. I ask the Senate to recall what happened in Malaya and Malaysia, how long the emergency lasted there and with what difficulty the Communist insurgents were removed. Those insurgents still exist. Marauding bands of Communists, Peking orientated, still exist between Thailand and Malaysia, hoping that circumstances will develop which will enable their movements to be renewed. During my own recent trip to Thailand the activities of one of these marauding bands of Communists, Peking orientated, was causing-

Senator Dittmer - It is a pity they did not pop you off.

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