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Thursday, 6 May 1965

Senator LAUGHT (South Australia.) . - When the Senate adjourned last night I was discussing the situation in Vietnam and I sum up as follows: First, there is no doubt that the fighting in progress in South Vietnam now is of greater dimensions than one would expect in a civil war. This fighting has been brought about by the intrusion of North Vietnam troops into South Vietnam - that is, south of the 17th parallel. I think I proved adequately that this was all part of a Chinese Communist scheme to dominate South East Asia and eventually to move in the direction of Africa with the possibility of moving in the direction of Australia via Indonesia. I commend the Government for intervening by its decision to send at least 800 Australian troops to the area where fighting is in progress.

My second point is that the Government, as well as acting for the protection of Australia is also honouring its treaty obligations under the South East Asia Treaty Organisation. I commend the Government for honouring those obligations. By doing so it has shown istelf to be a worthy participant in the A.N.Z.U.S. pact with the United States of America and New Zealand. I put it frankly that this should be the subject of the debate, I cannot refrain from commenting on the last statement made by Senator Cavanagh. I referred to the honorable senator's speech in a rather hurried manner last night. Now that I have had an opportunity to read the report of his statement in " Hansard " I should like to comment upon it. Senator Cavanagh said -

We are ensuring that governments are changed only with the backing of what we term a world wide imperialist power which seeks world domination.

I assume that he means the United States of America.

Senator Ridley - No, Senator Cavanagh did not mean that. He said that by our action we were helping the very people the Government is attempting to protect them against - the Communist Chinese.

Senator LAUGHT - - I did not read Senator Cavanagh's statement with that enlightenment. The honorable Senator continued in the final passages of his speech -

To appease the United States Government, and contrary to the popular feeling of the American people, we arc preparing to sacrifice the lives of our sons in the hope that we will obtain consideration in commercial transactions with that country.

First, I want to say as I said earlier, that it is not contrary to the popular feeling of the American people. As you, Mr. President, and everybody else in the Senate know, the President of the United States was returned to office with an absolutely overwhelming majority.

Senator Cavanagh - Look at his only opponent.

Senator LAUGHT - His only opponent was, if I may use the phrase, considerably further to the right than was President Johnson. So I should say that general opinion in the United States, particularly as revealed at the last election in that country, would be right behind the President in accepting his obligations under the South East Asia Collective Defence Treaty to put down subversion and Communist infiltration into South Vietnam.

I return to the concluding part of Senator Cavanagh's speech, in which the following words were used - to sacrifice the lives of our sons in the hope that we will obtain consideration in commercial transactions with that country.

That statement has no validity whatsoever in relation to the attitude of the Government in standing behind its protocol obligations under the South East Asia Collective Defence Treaty. To say what the honorable senator has said is to display a left wing attitude. There is no foundation for such an assertion. The statement made by the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt), which was referred to yesterday by another Labour speaker, cannot be linked in any way with the sending of troops to South East Asia. There is no link between the Government's attitude on defence and the obtaining of additional dollar loans for the development of this country.

I conclude by commending the Government for its attitude in seizing the nettle and in despatching these troops. It seems to me that firmness at this point of time in staying the southward move of the Communist Chinese and the Communist North Vietnamese is the only attitude that the Government could adopt. As I see the position, until the niggling tactics of the Communists are stopped - and stopped by force - there will be no increase in agricultural production or in real wealth in South Vietnam. The attitude that the Government has had to adopt in sending Australians overseas to fight is something that nobody in the Senate likes, but, as I see the situation, it has had to be adopted even for the reasons put forward by members of the Opposition - to enlarge the food bowl in that part of Asia. I support the Government in its humanitarian objective of seeking to increase agricultural prosperity in that part of the world by using its defence forces in the manner proposed. I believe that in the end there will be a cessation of fighting now that firmness has been shown by the Government and that upon the cessation of hostilities the Australian troops will be withdrawn. I repeat that I commend the Government for its action in despatching troops to South East Asia, particularly to South Vietnam.

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