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Thursday, 6 May 1965

Senator WILLESEE (Western Australia) . - Senator Mattner ended his long and rambling speech by saying that the Government's decision to send 800 Australian troops to South Vietnam was the most crucial decision that it could make. That is the whole basis of the argument of the Opposition. The last part of Senator Mattner's speech seemed to me to belie his whole approach to the problem. He was gracious enough to say that since the suspension of the sitting he had discovered that he misunderstood what Senator Murphy had said, but he was not gracious enough to set the record straight although Senator Murphy, by interjection on several occasions, asked him to do so. I agree that this decision was a very crucial one for the Government to make. But T think that there is a heavy responsibility on any honorable senator standing up to discuss this matter at least to look at what has been said and not to misquote anyone. He should have the quotation in front of him before he accuses and impugns the patriotism, the honesty and the approach to this crucial decision of any honorable senator in this chamber.

Senator Mattnersuggested that Senator Murphy said: " All you want to do is to pull the Americans out ". I do not know how he suggests that Senator Murphy would get the power to pull the Americans out, but that was the accusation he made. If Senator Mattner had looked at " Hansard ", by no stretch of the imagination could he have suggested that Senator Murphy made that statement. When Senator Murphy was speaking Senator Mattner interjected and said -

Arc you suggesting that we should just allow the Vietcong to walk in? 1 do not think that he could get a much more direct answer than that given by Senator Murphy, who said -

The honorable senator suggests nonsense . . . We ought to be helping our friend, the United States, to achieve the proper solution in South Vietnam.

Senator Mattneris one of those persons who make up their minds and refuse to be confused by the facts.

Senator Mattnermentioned other matters. I shall not waste time in dealing with all of them. Several times he suggested that the only people who are concerned about the safety of Australia are the members of the Liberal Party and the Australian Country Party and that the members of the Australian Labour Party are not concerned at all. Had his speech been a responsible one, we would certainly have demanded the withdrawal of those slanderous statements. Because it was not a responsible speech, we are perfectly prepared to let it pass almost unnoticed.

In the United States of America today there are senators, whose names we have seen frequently - Mansfield, Morse, Fullbright and others - who are criticising the action that their Government is taking at this time in Vietnam. Their criticisms are receiving tremendous publicity. Yet, I do not read of any suggestion from the Government of that nation, or from President Johnson, to the effect that those people are traitors, or that they do not love their nation and do not fear for the safety of the world any less than those people do who are defending the line that the President has laid down.

Senator Mattnerfell into so many errors that time will not permit me to reply to all of them. But towards the end of his speech the honorable senator told us that many important considerations attach to the geographic situation of South Vietnam. Senator Mattner was a very distinguished soldier in World War I, and he must have had a knowledge of the events preceding World War 11 and in particular the false line of defence known as the Maginot Line. Those words have almost become a duty expression when the defence of any country is spoken about. It struck me very forcibly as Senator Mattner spoke that he was expressing the Maginot Line type of thinking, which in a military sense is only about 25 years out of date. I suppose it is not too bad for Senator Mattner to be only that far behind in his thinking. Is it not the Maginot Line type of thinking to say: " We will defend a line in this geographic situation in the world "? Of course it is the same process of thinking as the Maginot Line type of thinking which was proved completely unworkable by the panzer divisions under conditions of mobile warfare. Surely in these days of nuclear weapons and of intercontinental ballistic missiles nobody would think that all the country to the north of a line drawn on a map would be contained and all of the country to the south of it would be saved.

This is not to say that South Vietnam itself is not tremendously important. It is important not because of its geographical position but because of all sorts of other considerations. I am sure that the United States, in fighting so far from its shores, is not doing so on the Maginot Line concept. The United States is taking this action because it believes that the world today is indivisible and that Communist aggression, if it is not resisted wherever it breaks out - President Johnson has made this clear in the last few weeks - will slowly erode the countries against which it is directed, and the only people who will be saved will be those who have some form of priority. One nation will fall before the Communist aggression just a few months, a year or two years before other nations fall.

Senator Mattneralso gave some history of the governments of South Vietnam and spoke of how well the country was doing under Ngo Dinh Diem in the earlier days of his administration. The honorable senator said that the Australian Labour Party denied the progress that had been made. Senator Mattner referred to the economic and social development under the strategic hamlets concept in South Vietnam in the early days. Land reforms also were introduced in those days. The honorable senator said that he has never heard one word about these matters from the Australian Labour Party. Mir. President, T do not think that this debate offers the right opportunity to honorable senators to discuss the historic aspects of the development of the situation that exists in South Vietnam now. We discussed these matters very fully in August of last year. T remember very clearly that T dealt with them. T acknowledged and pointed out that, at this stage of its development. South Vietnam had done wonders. What was happening surprised the rest of the world. I do not claim any monopoly of those remarks because many honorable senators on this side dealt with the history of South Vietnam during the debate in August of last year. T spoke on this matter again on 1st April last when the Senate was discussing this question. T said then that it was not necessary for me to deal with the history of that country because the Senate had debated and thrashed out that matter only a few months before. But Senator Mattner is getting closer to the present. Tonight he is within six months of what the Senate is now debating, although he is 25 years behind in his military thinking. So. T do not think it is necessary now to go over the matters which were covered in the debates which we had here in August of last year and in April of this year. I say that honorable senators on this side acknowledge very clearly the development of South Vietnam and are aware also of those problems that caused the United States of America to send forces into that country.

What precipitates this debate is the fact that in the most unprecedented action in the peacetime history of Australia, the Government, while giving very little information to this Parliament and without consulting the Opposition - in fact, the Government went to great lengths to keep the Opposition shut out - has decided to send troops into a combat area. The Government seems at pains to step around this proposition. Mr. President, you will recall that I asked the Minister for Defence (Senator Paltridge) a question on Tuesday of this week. With your permission, I will repeat it. I asked the Minister -

Was the Leader of the Government in the Senate aware, either in that capacity or as Minister for Defence, that the Prime Minister intended to make this announcement of sending troops to Vietnam at 8 p.m. last Thursday? If he did have this knowledge, does he consider that instead of the Senate adjourning at 5 p.m. after one debate had been gagged and another adjourned, the statement should have been read to the Senate simultaneously with the announcement in another place? If it is true that the Minister for Defence gave related information affecting his department in the corridors, does he not think that the Senate is a more appropriate place to make statements on such an unprecedented and important matter?

The Minister for Defence replied that there was to be a debate in another place on the matter and that he had noticed that the Opposition was going to oppose the Government's action. He continued -

As a short answer to the question, let me say thai I was not aware that the Prime Minister was to make a statement until very, very late-

I ask honorable senators to observe the double adverb -

.   . in the afternoon.

The Minister went on to introduce some propaganda into his answer. 1 find this a difficult situation to question. 1 do not impute dishonesty to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. 1 merely say that I find it difficult to question because on looking at the !! Hansard " report of the speech of the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) on Tuesday last, I find that he started off by saying -

The first thing that I want to mention, as briefly as may be . . .

Hisspeech occupied nine and a half columns of " Hansard " and he took four columns to explain to honorable members how meticulous he had been in dealing with the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell). I ask honorable senators to note some of the narrative and to compare it with the ignorance that the Minister for Defence, as Leader of the Government in the Senate, claimed at this stage of the proceedings. The Prime Minister said -

The Leader of the Opposition inquired at my office on Thursday morning at a time when I was heavily engaged on a matter of some urgency. He said he would like to know what was happening . . . After this had been conveyed to mc, the Leader of the Opposition was told that it was possible that I would be making a statement on Thursday night but that it was not certain and that when I knew definitely I would let him know. He was told that if I found myself in a position to make a statement 1 would hope to be in a position to give him the text of it by 5.30 p.m.

The Prime Minister continued -

At 4.45 p.m.-

That is a quarter of an hour before the Senate adjourned - the Leader of the Opposition inquired again . . .

The Prime Minister then said -

He was told it was still not certain that I would bc in a position to make a statement - it was possible, even probable, but not yet certain.

Yet the Leader of the Government in this place gagged one debate. He said: " I want to intervene in the debate at this stage", and then, finally, he gagged it. Later he adjourned another debate. Nevertheless he says that it was very very late in the afternoon before he was aware that this statement was to be made. We are asked to believe that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) was told that it was probable that the statement would be made and, inferentially at last, we are asked also to believe that the Leader of. the Government in this place did not know about it. I just say that I find that confusing and hard to follow. The Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) talked about making a brief statement. He took up enough time for a major and important speech, but he gave very little information.

I am reminded of our friend Shakespeare, who said: " The lady doth protest too much, methinks.".

Unfortunately, in this matter, as in every matter of foreign affairs dealt with by this Government, there is a heavy overtone of politics. The Government has an eye on votes, even when the security of the country is involved. I ask honorable senators on both sides to consider the way in which the Prime Minister and Senator Paltridge have dealt with this matter and then to ask themselves: Is this a responsible way to act in relation to a subject that could involve a third world war? That possibility has been acknowledged by members of the Cabinet. Senator Mattner has said - it was one of the few sensible things he did say - that this is a crucial decision on a matter of tremendous importance, a decision completely unprecedented in the history of Australia. Yet here we have this playing of politics, this trying to inveigle, the Opposition into a situation where, if it dares to raise its voice against the Government's decision, it can be called unpatriotic, pro-Communist, un-Australian or anti-American, or have used against it any of the. other epithets which are churned out so frequently by (he Government's propaganda machine.

It is very true that this is a divisive question. I think that events throughout the world for many years past have produced divisiveness. We saw something of this in our generation when Nazism was starting to sweep through Europe and we first heard the term " Fifth Column ". The Nazis had a pretty inefficient organisation, compared with the Communist organisation, but they were able to get people in Europe to sell their countries out to Nazi Germany and to turn traitor. It is true that the whole world is now divided on the question of Vietnam, particularly since American forces have started to bomb the north, to hot up the war, to escalate it and to move away from the containment policy which was followed for so long in South Vietnam. We can see this divisiveness in the American Senate. We can see it when we discuss this question with our friends. We see how they are divided on it. We see it here tonight.

After all, if democracy means anything, it means an inquiring mind and a right to demand qf your government that when it takes action it will not take it in a divisive manner, as the Prime Minister obviously set out to do. Obviously he set out to put the Opposition on one side and the Government of the country on the other side, because of political reasons. By no stretch of the imagination could it be said that this was designed as a unifying effort, to get the whole of Australia behind the decision of the Australian Government.

We have been told that this action was taken after a request from the Government of South Vietnam. You do not have to be in the diplomatic corps to know that a great deal of preparatory work is done before the simplest proposition is made by one government to another. Nobody could believe for one moment that before this request was made, on a government to government level, the Government of South Vietnam - whichever one it might have been at that time - did not indulge in tremendous diplomatic activity. Nobody could believe that the Government of South Vietnam would have asked for this to be done if it had not been assured previously, on a diplomatic level, that its request would be favorably received. Do not let us think that whenever a government cries out for help, other governments do not look at the position from the point of view of selfinterest. We tend to forget that when Hungary cried for help nobody answered. I did not hear action of this sort being talked about when Tibet was invaded by Communist China. Do not let us kid ourselves that when somebody under aggression - aggression that has no right to take place - asks the Australian Government for help, we immediately start to go to their help.

The question that was not answered - and deliberately not answered - by the Prime Minister is: Was the Australian Government the only government that was requested to send troops to South Vietnam? After diplomatic pressure and negotiation, was Australia the only country in the world that was asked to send troops to this war torn country? Obviously that is the sort of information that the Opposition wants. It is the sort of information that could prevent divisiveness, that could bring about a unified Australia. However, the Government is importing into this matter a streak of politics. It hopes to kill two birds with one stone, lt wants to put its policy into effect and to divide the nation.

The United States is fighting far from its own shores. It does not have the Maginot Line complex that Senator Mattner talked about. It has taken up the gauntlet because it believes that if freedom is lost in Vietnam, loss of freedom in other countries, including the United States, would eventually follow. I do not quarrel with that view. Every government worth its salt should be looking after the interests of its own people. However, the world today is one world, not a world of many little nations; you cannot now discriminate between one place and another. The question that we have asked is: What attempts were made to bring other countries to the party? Were any attempts made by South Vietnam - which it is said asked us for help - to bring the United Nations into this? I am just as aware us are honorable senators opposite of the deficiencies of the Security Council owing to the operation of the veto. In 1945 an Australian Labour Party Foreign Minister fought very hard against the veto and was accused of trying to upset the equilibrium of the great powers. That battle was fought in 1945 at San Francisco. Now the chickens are coming home to roost. We know this very well.

However, as Senator Cohen pointed out this afternoon, because the United Nations is not perfect and because it cannot act as quickly as we would like, that is no reason to bypass it or to laugh at it. When the United Nations was mentioned in the debate that occurred recently in the other place, you would have thought the words " United Nations " were dirty words which ought not to be mentioned in the Parliament. After studying the history of the collapse of the League of Nations, one wonders why anyone should take that attitude at all-

Senator Wright - That attitude cannot be attributed to the Government as a whole. Read Mr. Paul Hasluck's speech.

Senator WILLESEE - If we could have a few more speeches by Mr. Paul Hasluck on foreign affairs and if a few more Government supporters would fall in behind him, I do not think we would have this type of approach to world problems. Some Government supporters are saying that this is a crucial problem, but others are behaving as if it were not crucial at all. I understand the difficulties, lt is difficult to have confidence in the governments that South Vietnam has had from time to time. For many years there has been fighting in the outer suburbs and in the last year or two there have been bombing atrocities and things of that sort in the city streets. Such events are not conducive to stable government. Honorable senators will remember that in 1941, without an invasion of this country and when our forces were fighting a long way away, an Australian Government collapsed under the pressures of war. If you compare that situation with the intensity of events in Saigon, you can imagine the result is a fairly unstable government.

Let us consider the question of negotiations. In this connection, Senator Mattner fell into the error into which so many others have fallen, that you can make your mind up first and examine the facts later. The Minister for Defence (Senator Paltridge) scorned the suggestion that there should be negotiation. As Minister for Defence and the Leader of the Government in the Senate and therefore a senior Minister, he should have a greater sense of responsibility. When I asked the Minister by way of interjection how he squared his attitude with President Johnson's statements on negotiation he did not answer.

Government supporters ask: " With whom are we going to negotiate? " My simple answer to that question is: " The same people with whom President Johnson suggested he would negotiate ". The Government's attitude defies understanding. The Government and its supporters have said that the campaign in Vietnam is directed by a Communist movement in Hanoi, yet in the same breath they say: " We do not know with whom to negotiate ". If you say on the one hand that there is a force directly causing aggression from North Vietnam, surely you know with whom you have to negotiate. If you do not negotiate, where are you left? How is the war going to end? If you say there is no one with whom to negotiate, you are saying in effect that this is a fight to a finish. Thank heavens President Johnson, the senior man in world affairs, is not saying that. He has already said with whom he would negotiate.

This is a type of guerrilla warfare. Mao Tse-tung said the Vietcong must live like fish in the sea, striking at the enemy and then going back to the ocean so that they cannot be discovered. But if you say there is no one with whom to negotiate and this is a fight to a finish, you are saying, in effect: " Either we lie dead on the battlefield or the North Vietnamese and all those who are drawn into the war with them lie dead. Only unconditional surrender can end this war ". What sort of prospect is that in 1965? Thank heavens the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) has retreated from the impossible situation in which he put himself when he said: " If I am the last Prime Minister, I am going to resist negotiation ".

Senator Wright - The honorable senator is not quoting the Prime Minister accurately.

Senator WILLESEE - I am quoting him very accurately. The right honorable gentleman said that when he was asked a question about negotiation. Senator Wright will have to look very closely through his law books to refute what I have said. The Prime Minister said: " If I am the last one, I am not going to negotiate " or words so close to those that it does not matter. Thank heavens he has retreated from that position. It is history now, and I hope the right honorable gentleman never returns to it. I hope he finally believes that we must get to a position where this terrible, cruel, filthy war can be ended.

I cannot understand the Americans being sensitive about this. Is it suggested that negotiation should take place merely so that the Americans can say: " Our job is done. We have negotiated peace. We do not care whether it sticks or not; we are getting out "? No one is suggesting that. Certainly it has never been suggested by anybody in the Australian Labour Party with whom I have talked on this subject. There has to be a situation where negotiation can take place. We dealt with this question some four or five weeks ago. The Vietcong were making greater gains and it was impossible to get them to negotiate around the table when they thought they were going to win and the Americans and their allies would have to withdraw. One of the problems that have arisen at various times since the Second World War has been the stage at which to negotiate. If the escalation of the war caused the North Vietnamese and the Hanoi Government and their allies to be convinced that they could not win, surely they would be in a state of mind to negotiate.

On the other hand, it would be quite useless to have negotiations if they were to result in something like the 1954 accords. The more 1 examine the situation the more I think we have to come back to something of that nature, but it would be useless if the agreements were merely prostituted from the start without any thought of carrying them out.

Senator Mattnerfell into another tremendous error when, in speaking of the undoubted gains in South Vietnam, he said they were getting to a situation where free elections would be held. He failed to say that it was the South Vietnamese Government which stated that it would not participate in elections. I am not condemning that attitude, but I say that in this complex situation it behoves us all to examine the facts and then try to work out a national or international policy. The South Vietnam Government refused to participate, and that is held against it. Of course, it was not a party to the agreement in the first place. This is speaking with hind sight, but we can see now what a tremendous error that was.

When it comes to negotiation, the Liberal Party and the Australian Country Party should be taking heed of President Johnson. 1 do not think the Prime Minister and the Government can sustain the argument that because we agree with what the United States is doing or attempting to do in South Vietnam, automatically we should be sending troops there. The Prime Minister has said that the Labour Party's attitude is: " We agree with you but you must go it alone ". At present the Americans are heavily engaged in the Dominican Republic. Does any Liberal disagree with what the United States Government is doing there? According to the Prime Minister, if we agree with what the United States is doing in the Dominican Republic, we should be sending a battalion over there. Does any Liberal disagree with the Americans on the division of Germany and their attitude to the pressures they experience there from time to time? I have not heard any suggestion that the Australian Government should send Australian troops into divided Germany. The Prime Minister's attitude is an over simplification of the case.

We come now to the question that has been bandied about, whether what is happening in Vietnam is a war, a civil war or a disturbance. Senator Cohen explained the legal situation today and I have heard a lot of dumb eloquence on this subject from the Government side both before and since. The Government is committing Australians to a situation where there is no war. Is it a war or a civil war? I suppose it would be a civil war if only Vietnamese participated whether they come from the north or the south. They are the same ethnic group. It is true that there are many South Vietnamese, when you consider all the groups, fighting against one another. It is equally true as every speaker on the Opposition side has said that pressures are being directed and infiltration is initiated from the north. I should say that this war or disturbance or whatever it might legally be called - the Government has never defined it - would have ended long ago if we had not in the world the Communist movement, which believes it can control the world, and another movement, known as the West, which is determined that the Communists shall not control the world. What is happening in South East Asia is an extension of the cold war. Possibly it could be described as the hot spot in the cold war.

We must look at the factual situation. If a person has any sense, he does not try to define the present situation in terms of black and white. Rather . must it be regarded in terms of several shades of grey. I suppose some of the little sidelights of this conflct are not important, but nevertheless they emphasise the peculiarities of the situation. I read just recently about the astonishment of new troops who come out from America, particularly the flyers, when they observe what is happening to the petrol companies that have to deliver petrol. American trucks have to pass through a section that is held by the Vietcong. The troops see the Vietcong holding up the trucks and exacting a tax. The petrol company pays it willingly, and the petrol goes through to the opposition. Australian troops who have fought in two world wars would have regarded any suggestion of that happening as being ludicrous; it would not have been believed. But, according to reports, that is the sort of thing that is happening in Vietnam and which is making the situation so difficult to understand.

We have read other reports about the overhang of the fight. I should say that they have been blown up, but nevertheless they indicate what has been happening. We have been told that during the Diem regime the Buddhists accused Diem, who was a Catholic, of nepotism and of showing favouritism to Catholics in the Public Service and in other areas of government service. We have heard reports of Vietcong forces from the north having taken over certain areas and of this sort of thing being said: " Those guys over there are Catholics. If we can do a bit of a deal with you, you can take them and let us go." We in Australia find it difficult to believe that that sort of thing is happening. We could not imagine an Australian before he made up his mind what to do, saying: " Listen, Joe, what religion are you?" This sort of thing makes it very difficult for people in Western countries, particularly the people of Australia, to understand the situation in Vietnam. These are very small things, but they emphasise the fatal error into which so many speakers, particularly Senator Paltridge and Senator Mattner, have fallen in trying to deal with the situation in Vietnam as being a simple issue and in saying in effect, that all the goodies are on the Liberal side and all the baddies are on the Labour side.

Nowadays we are given ample time to discuss such subjects as this. There has been quite a change in the Senate since Senator Gorton and myself came here in 1949. At one stage it was very difficult to have a debate on foreign affairs brought on; nowadays they are coming on so frequently that it is difficult to dodge them. We have dealt with the present world situation quite often. The simple proposition before us tonight is this: Is the Australian Government justified in taking troops from this relatively undefended country and sending them to Vietnam? An explanation is demanded of the Government. All sorts of things in life may be desirable, but in the very tough field of international politics and defence not all things are completely necessary. The Government owes it to the Parliament and to the people of Australia to explain much more fully than it has whether its action in sending troops to Vietnam is necessary.

No attempt has been made by Senator Paltridge, as the Minister for Defence, to analyse for us the troops he has at his dis posal and to indicate whether or not troops should be sent to Vietnam. We have been given to understand in a leading article in the " Age " newspaper that a month or two ago a request was made for more troops to be sent to Malaya but the reply given was that, because Australia, a small nation, was embarking upon conscription she was unable to stretch her lines any further. The position is that we already have troops in Malaya and in Vietnam, and we face problems in New Guinea. I do not want to be guilty of projectionism - to suggest what might happen in New Guinea. Nevertheless, Australia is faced with a very delicate situation in the Territory. We will be subject to close scrutiny in regard to the way we deal with New Guinea, particularly as I believe it is the last trust territory left in this part of the world. We will be subjected to rather close scrutiny in the United Nations and by people who already are critical of us. Australia may be faced with commitments in that area at very short notice. Some people are forever worrying about which way Thailand will go, but at the moment we are fairly satisfied with the ruling classes in that country.

I should have thought that at this stage, with the introduction of conscription, the Government would have been doing its utmost to find efficient officers and noncommissioned officers to train the young lads who will soon be entering upon military life for the first time. I should have thought that the Government would have done that to ensure that its conscription plans do not become a farce, as could easily happen. In the past I have criticised the Government for the use it is making of the Royal Australian Regiment at the moment. I read of the sending away of the battalion, and have read the glowing terms in which we were told how highly trained and how toughened the men were. But having spoken to the soldiers and having been told the training that they get, I wonder how well prepared and how toughened they are and how much of their time has been wasted over the years. I am sure that even at this very moment Senator Paltridge is looking around for trained N.C.O's and officers to give rudimentary training to the men who are to be conscripted into the armed forces. I should have thought that the decision to send this battalion overseas now was timed very badly. The Government will be sending away skilled men who could have been used as instructors.

We have heard a lot about what other nations would think of us if we did not do what it is proposed to do. I point out that other nations that are sympathetic towards the South Vietnamese are not sending troops to Vietnam. No nation, particularly the United States of America, would ever condemn us if the Australian Parliament decided that the size of our defence forces would not allow us to send troops to a particular theatre of trouble. Other nations know that this is peculiarly a matter for Australia to decide, and they would accept any decision that we made.

Wc all know of the peculiar difficulties that exist in the Communist world. There is an undoubted split between Russia and Communist China. On the one hand, Russia is saying: " The old Communist ideology of controlling the world first by insurrection and then with the use of outside forces should be slowed down, because of the existence of the atomic bomb. If you take this thing too far, you will precipate an atomic war and we will all perish. All the gains and the progress that have been made since 1917 and which it is hoped to make in the future will be completely wiped out. This is not a bad time at which to go through a period of co-existence." On the other hand, Communist China, the junior partner, is saying: " Now you are going soft on the Communist ideology. There is a possibility that our objective can be achieved. There is certainly a possibility of achieving it in Vietnam." That is why the Hanoi Government has not been rushing to obtain Russian or Communist troops to bolster its forces. That is the overtone, as I see it. It is tremendously important and I mention it in the context of the United Nations because of the veto power which makes proceedings in the Security Council so difficult. It is possible that a situation may be reached where a negotiated peace would be as much in the interests of the Russians as it would be in the interests of the rest of the world. Little imagination is required to envisage that the veto power may not be used in discussions on a negotiated peace in Vietnam.

On 1st April in this Senate I spoke on the question of the economic development of the region. This was six days before President Johnson made his statement. Perhaps great minds think alike. When raising this subject Labour speakers have always had to face the scorn of the Liberal Party. We have pointed out the potential for economic development of Vietnam and neighbouring countries through which flows the great Mekong River. It is one of the great rivers in the world and it flows through countries which are crying out for development. It is not a national river; it flows through both North Vietnam and South Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and Thailand.

When President Johnson announced tha great amount of money to be spent, I would have thought that every government in the world would have taken the opportunity to rush in, not merely to mutter: " lt is a fairly good idea ". I would have thought that every government would have come right out and said: " Here is an opportunity, not merely to negotiate peace at this stage, but for cooperation on an international level ". Honorable senators should not overlook the fact that the people of North and South Vietnam are members of the same ethnic group. Through the expenditure of large sums of money, the economic development of Vietnam could bring about the flow of social graces and improvements to the people. Right in the middle of this trouble spot it is possible that the problems of national barriers could be overcome. I would have thought that this was an opportunity to create something new, but honorable senators opposite seem to say: " The first part of the President's speech raises an impossibility. You cannot negotiate anyway. As for the second part, it is hardly worth talking about." I think Government supporters have paid some lip service to the proposition since this debate commenced.

I do not wish to comment on the many points that have been raised in this debate. I find that it is still hard to get the Government to discuss the ultimate, to admit that although military action is necessary and must always be necessary when a war looms over us like a colossus in the path of progress, the ultimate fight is for the hearts and minds of these people. Just after World War II it was necessary to rehabilitate the countries suffering the aftermath of the war. There is much rehabilitation work which be done at present. If the

Vietnamese believe that we are the peacemakers and are attempting to improve the conditions in which they have lived for generations, they will stick by us.

I do not know how statistics are obtained in wartime but the propaganda figures show the battle being waged to win the minds of the Vietnamese. It is the old battle of the propaganda machine. Ultimately these people must be given hope and heart. We must not think that anything is impossible or that the North and South Vietnamese cannot ever live together. Who would have ever thought that France and Germany could associate in the Common Market? Who would have thought that the Indus River, which we recently discussed in this chamber, would assist to solve the problems of India and Pakistan? If it is possible to get such good results in those countries, it is possible here.

Senator Ridley - The Japanese and the Americans aire working together.

Senator Tangney - And the Japanese and the Australians.

Senator WILLESEE - That is right. Who would have thought that ten years ago - not a long time in international affairs - Russia and America could agree on a moratorium in respect of atomic tests? All things are possible if they are pursued with sufficient vigour. It is not good enough to say: " There can be no negotiation. This war must be fought to the death. President Johnson is wrong. There is nobody to negotiate with." I ask honorable senators to contemplate where it will end. T also ask honorable senators how many Australian soldiers it will be necessary to send overseas before the situation is reached that is envisaged by the Government.

I shall quote the words of Mr. Michael Stewart. Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs in the British Government. I can see the hackles of honorable senators opposite rising because T am about to quote the words of a member of a Labour Government. Through trials and tribulations great parliamentary traditions have developed in Britain. There is no great cleft between Government and the Opposition, whatever their political colours might be. on the question of foreign affairs. T would hope that our Prime Minister could learn something from that tradition on his frequent visits to Britain. Mr. Michael Stewart said recently in the House of Commons -

When we discuss international affairs we must necessarily say a great deal about restoring or keeping the peace. This involves frequent mention of the necessity to resist aggression and w> keep up our defence. But we all know that human affairs cannot be rightly ordered by defence and by the use of power alone. The sole purpose of such activities is to make it possible for a nation to be able to use in peace their creative energies for the production of wealth and to turn their minds and hearts to the wise use of it.

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