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Thursday, 6 May 1965


Senator BUTTFIELD (South Australia) . - Mr. President, I am pleased to have an opportunity to declare myself completely and utterly in accord with the Government's action in sending what help we can to Vietnam. But at the same time I deplore the need for it. That there is a need for something to be done, I think we all are in agreement, but we begin to differ on what should be done. I think that we all should take notice of what the Minister for Defence (Senator Paltridge) said yesterday in his excellent speech. He said that there is a situation of national importance which may increase in importance as the months go by. I think that statement is very significant. We have to see that we do everything we can to try to prevent the situation becoming worse.

If we allow the Communists to achieve any sort of success, whether it is a military success, a propaganda success or a prestige success, they will not stop at that. They will go on. They have said many times that Communism, whether it is Chinese or Russian, intends to dominate the world. They have never retracted that statement. It was incredible to me to hear Senator Turnbull say that the Chinese influence in South East Asia is quite legitimate. When the Communists have said that they intend to dominate the world, surely to goodness we should use every means to try to confine their influence to their own countries. This, I think, is all that we are trying to do.


Senator TURNBULL (TASMANIA) - And to extend our influence.


Senator BUTTFIELD - We are not trying to extend our influence. We are trying to prevent the Communists from interfering in the way of life of other people. I think this is perfectly legitimate. It has been said that we should mind our own business and leave other people to mind theirs, but while the Communists are not minding their own business we have to stop them somewhere. We must say to the Communists: " Thus far and no further ". This is what I think is the position and this is what 1 support.

I believe that the trouble in South Vietnam is only a very small part of the Communist plan to move from strength to strength and finally to move down towards Australia. This is something that we must watch. Many other speakers have pointed out that if Vietnam were to fall the Communist forces would turn the other way. No doubt Laos and Cambodia would fall very readily into the Communists' hands and then the trouble would be accelerated in Thailand. Thailand in turn would certainly be squeezed from Burma, from the north, from China and from the Laos and Cambodia side. Thailand shares a border with Malaya. We have already been told that there are insurgents at the border who no doubt would join up with the Communists and re-exert pressure on Malaya if Thailand did fall. That is the progressive Communist plan in that area. It may not happen, but the situation is significant. There is vital danger for Australia. In the event of this sequence of events, we might eventually' find Indonesia becoming a little more cheeky, especially if things were going any worse further north. That is the situation we have to watch.

It was significant to hear yesterday that Indonesia is now talking of Australia as South Irian. I read this morning that the Ambassador for Indonesia said that this was a joke. If it was a joke, it was a very poor joke.


Senator Ormonde - The children's books used to say that about Japan -40 years ago.


Senator BUTTFIELD - I do not care what anyone said or is saying. I am concerned about Australia. If a large nation of 100 million people is now talking about a nation to the south of it which has only 11 million people as part of it, then I think we have to take great notice of that fact. To me it is very disappointing that we cannot present a national front - unity - between our political parties at this time of emergency and be able to say, unanimously, so far and no further. Obviously, we could not go it alone if we were in trouble. I do not see why we should expect our friends to go it alone. Whatever happens to us, we need powerful friends while we have such a small population. In my book, to have friends one needs to be a friend. Australia is trying to be a friend. I think we are doing as much as we can be expected to do with our small population. We are making a gesture. It is not a quid pro quo. We cannot expect it to be. The Americans have said that they are satisfied with our gesture. They have said that they recognise it and that they salute Australia for making this gesture.

I cannot understand the point of view, which has been expressed by one of our newspapers yesterday - a point of view also expressed by the Opposition party - when it said that this decision goes contrary to the policy of enlightened nationalism in Australia. I cannot understand this statement. Surely our nationalism cannot be completely inward looking and favouring isolation. We must go out. This is our nationalism; we are protecting it by helping our friends to draw the line that I have just mentioned. We certainly have helped people on previous occasions to preserve their freedom. Wc have done so in two world wars. We did it in Berlin and we did it in Korea. This is what we are trying to do again. We are trying to help the people of South Vietnam to preserve their freedom.

I have heard some rather astounding statements about our obligations under the South East Asia Collective Defence Treaty. Senator Turnbull seemed to think that Australia had no obligation under this Treaty. I heard Senator Kennelly say that we had no obligation under this Treaty. I think Senator Kennelly asked the question: If we are obliged to take this action, why are other countries not obliged to do so? This was also implied by Senator Turnbull. I agree that we have an obligation under the South East Asia Treaty Organisation, because we have signed that Treaty to say that we intend to check further Communist aggression in South East Asia. Now, we recognise - certainly, the Leader of the Opposition in another place (Mr. Calwell) has recognised this point - that there is aggression by Communist powers in Vietnam. If that is so, and if we have been requested by the Government of South Vietnam to assist it to check this aggression, then we have this obligation. We can be proud of the fact that we have been one of the leaders in recognising this obligation.

America is a signatory to the S.E.A.T.O. and A.N.Z.U.S. agreements. America is certainly doing all that it can to live up to its obligations. Australia has now entered this particular sphere and is the second power to do so. The United Kingdom, another signatory to the S.E.A.T.O. agreement, has stated that it is completely involved in Malaysia. I think that is a very fair assessment of the situation. No country can be completely involved in every sphere. Although we Australians are assisting the United Kingdom in Malaysia, we are also assisting the United States in Vietnam because we cannot take the lead ourselves in any of those areas. Other signatories to the S.E.A.T.O. Treaty are New Zealand and the Philippines. Both countries are considering whether they will be involved in this matter and whether they will send assistance. Thailand, which is also a signatory to this Treaty, has not been requested by the Government of South Vietnam to send direct assistance into that country. Obviously, Thailand is completely involved in its own defence because, as I said previously, should anything go wrong in Vietnam, Thailand would be- in the direct line of attack. It is quite clear to me that all signatories of the S.E.A.T.O. Treaty are recognising their obligations and doing what they can where they can.

I have listened also to the attempts by Opposition speakers to prove that the war in Vietnam is a civil war. I think that the Minister for Defence made it quite clear that there may be the appearance of civil war in Vietnam because the Vietnamese people are fighting each other. But, obviously, the Vietcong is a military arm of the Communist powers further north. That point alone makes it quite clear to me that this is not merely a civil war. It has been given the appearance of a civil war, but it is backed up by the Communist powers outside. Therefore, we have the obligation to assist as we have been asked to do.

It seemed to me very strange to hear Senator Kennelly going to such pains to excuse Communist activity in Vietnam and, rather, to say that there is no Communist activity in Australia. He used as an illustration the fact that there are no Communist members of Parliament in Australia. He said that the Communist Party did not get very many votes in Australia. That to me is an extraordinary argument. I do not think the Communists put very much importance on having Communist members of Parliament in Australia. What they do is to use the political forum as an opportunity for spreading their propaganda. Their main activity is underground. They get into our national organisations such ns our trade unions. In every way the Communists are trying to subvert Australian activity and the Australian way of life. This is a dangerous thing. When I hear so many members of the Opposition party say that Communism lives most freely in an underdeveloped country I rather shudder because I do not agree with this statement. I agree that such a country is a breeding ground for Communists, but I think the most fertile breeding ground for Communism is a country 'that has a high standard of living and a high standard of education. If such a country is by some means subverted and thereby a large pool of unemployment is created, and if people who have education and enjoy a high standard of living see their opportunities to use their powers being reduced, that is the most fertile ground for the spread of Communism.


Senator Cavanagh - Did the honorable senator say " education "?


Senator BUTTFIELD - If a country has education and if the educated people cannot find suitable employment, the ground is most fertile to enable Communism to flourish. It is the educated man, the thinking man, on whom the Communists concentrate. They concentrate on this ground in their own countries. They concentrate on it in other countries. They are not so interested in the masses who have a low standard of living. They are interested in getting people who can spread their propaganda. That means educated people.


Senator Cavanagh - How can Communism spread through Asia if that theory is right?


Senator BUTTFIELD - I said it can spread. There is the ground in underdeveloped countries with low standards of living for the spread of Communism. But this is not the most fertile ground. The most fertile ground is what I have just described.


Senator Maher - Where there are educated people who want to be commissars?


Senator BUTTFIELD - I do not think it is necessarily that. I refer to educated people who are disgruntled and who are then worked upon by the ideals of Communism. It is the educated man who is the best person for spreading Communist propaganda. 1 think that in their own countries - in China and Russia - the Communists concentrate on the educated persons.


Senator Maher - In the universities.


Senator BUTTFIELD - This is the next step. I was asked whether I had any country in mind. This has been proved in India. Kerala was the best educated State in India and it was the only Indian State which elected a Communist government.


Senator Wright - What does that mean - 5 per cent, or 7 per cent, of our rate of literacy?


Senator BUTTFIELD - I agree that there is a very low standard, but the rate of literacy in Kerala was higher than in any other Indian State.


Senator Cohen - What was the percentage of literacy in that State?


Senator BUTTFIELD - I could not give you the figure offhand, but the percentage was higher there than in the other States. I would like to mention the United Nations now. Senator Murphy and Senator Kennelly spoke about the United Nations, and I agree with Senator Kennelly on one point. I am disappointed that the United Nations has proved itself completely impotent in dealing with this situation. So long as it does not have a police force, I cannot see how it can be of great value in the type of situation we are discussing. Senator Murphy went to a great deal of trouble to stress that there is no escape from our loyalty and our pledge to the United Nations. We have pledged ourselves to try to uphold the ideals of the United Nations and we have informed the organisation of what we intend to do. But what can the United Nations do? It can do nothing. It is a forum for getting people together to talk; it can do no more than that. As long as some nations keep talking, the United Nations may add to the hopes of peace. But in this case the situation has got beyond talking. The aggressive forces refuse to talk. As long as that situation continues, the United Nations cannot be of assistance.

Senator Murphyalso said that there has been no request from the United States of America to us to come in and help. When Dean Rusk was here 1 heard him begging Australia to do more to help in South East Asia. I am glad that we have done so, and I hope we will go on doing all we can. But a country of 11 million people cannot be expected to play the significant part that America plays.

I want to reply to Senator Cavanagh, who took the Minister for Defence (Senator Paltridge) to task and tried to prove that the facts and figures the Minister quoted were of no consequence. I think Senator Cavanagh said the Minister could not substantiate any of them. That was completely unfair, because the Minister was quoting from officially collated information. He made it quite clear to me that he was quoting from the American White Paper.


Senator Cavanagh - But the figures disagreed.


Senator BUTTFIELD - I would like to read to the Senate the final sentence of the American White Paper. It is -

The evidence presented in this report could be multiplied many times.

The honorable senator says that the figures do not agree, but the report says that the evidence given can be multiplied. The White Paper also refers to the findings of the International Control Commission. I do not think we can disagree with a body like that, which was set up to make the inquiries.


Senator Cavanagh - The Minister did not quote those figures.


Senator BUTTFIELD - He quoted officially collated figures. I am quite prepared to take the evidence of the American White Paper, which shows that the things the Minister mentioned are of consequence and were happening.

Senator Colesaid we should cease trading with Red China. I do not agree with that view at all. I think the only hope for peace in the world is for all. nations to trade with each other and to get to know each other better. That might well lead to tolerance and a better chance of negotiating to settle differences. When I visited China one of the things most obvious to me was the intense dislike of the Chinese people for the people of the Western world. This dislike is being fostered by the propaganda poured out by the Communist Government of that country. It is a successful form of propaganda. The Communists build up this hatred in their people, and the hatred makes it easier for them to get the people to work harder. If we want to counter this propaganda, we must show ourselves as being friendly to the Chinese people. We must do that before we can hope to counter the hatred that the Communist Party is fostering with the obvious intention of making its people more intense in their approach to these matters.

Senator Colesaid he thought that most of the wheat we sold to China was being traded outside China. Some wheat may have been dealt with in that way. 1 believe some was sent to Korea, but the Chinese made it quite clear that they had done so. Perhaps they were prepared to do without some wheat that they needed so that they could send it to those who needed it more. However, I know that in the north of China, where wheat is grown and where the people eat wheat - the largest proportion of the Chinese people live in the north - they cannot get enough wheat, and I do not think they will ever be able to do so. That part of China is infertile and suffers from intense droughts and huge floods. The people of that region have all sorts of difficulties to contend with, and I do not think they will ever be able to grow all the wheat they need to feed themselves. I believe that a better and broader approach to this problem is to watch what is going on in China. We certainly do not want to build up our wheat production and then have the Chinese say to us: " We do not want any more of your wheat ". We would then find ourselves with a depressed market. I do not think that will happen. Indeed, from my own observations, I say it will not. At present I have no objection to our trading with the Chinese. I think there must be some sort of reciprocal trade: we must be prepared to buy from the Chinese as well as to sell to them.

I repeat that I support attempts by the Australian people to check aggression without waiting for it to come closer and become more powerful. We must do what we can to check infiltration, subversion and aggression so that nations will be able to live at peace with each other. I do not want to see Western democracy dominating the world, but I want us to be able to follow our own way of life, alongside other peoples, without any interference.







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