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Thursday, 6 May 1965


Senator O'BYRNE (Tasmania) .- We have heard from the Minister for Works (Senator Gorton) a speech which has engaged the attention of the Senate for half an hour or so. The Minister represents the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Hasluck) in this chamber, yet in his address he has not expressed one constructive view to enable the people of Australia to underst:ind the true nature of the dispute in which we find ourselves involved. Australia has become involved in a war - a hot war, but an undeclared war - and the people of Australia and also the overwhelming majority of people throughout the world hope that we can extract ourselves from this war and find a peaceful solution to it.

Senator Gortonsaid that this is not the first time that Australian troops have been sent abroad for the benefit of this country. He outlined our action in Korea. He also spoke of the position that existed in Germany more than a quarter of a century ago, and of the horrors and atrocities that occurred ' there. But the honorable senator failed to get to this main point, and I shall come to it at once. Throughout the world a rough division has taken place. The revolutionary forces of the world are making themselves more and more powerful in respect of the consummation of their revolutions, and the forces of counter revolution are becoming more and more desperate. It is lo my great sorrow that we are lining ourselves up with the use of force in the counter revolution. Looking at a map of the world, we find that lines of demarcation have been made either by agreement or by force. The strongest example of counter revolution was the campaign by Hitler in which he sought to suppress the revolutionary peoples of Europe, Asia, Africa and any other country that might have come along into his orbit. With the help of Italy and Japan, Hitler went within shooting distance of success. In that struggle, the revolutionary forces - China and the Soviet Union - and their sympathisers, including the United Kingdom, the United States of America, Australia, New Zealand and Canada, joined together to overthrow Hitlerism, Mussolinism and Shintoism which is the Japanese philosophy of counter revolution. As the result of agreements made after that conflict, when the complete defeat of the main forces of counter revolution - the Germans, the Italians and the Japanese - was brought about, lines were drawn which gave some indication of where the different countries stood. A line drawn down the Elbe River divided the traditional Europe. It was a direct outcome of the traditional hatreds, the racial differences and nationalism which had divided Europe for centuries.

Senator Gortonreferred to the Balkan countries and to Balkan type troubles in South East Asia. The Balkan countries were dissatisfied through the centuries, for the simple reason that until the time of deBalkanisation of that area - until the outbreak of the war on which Hitler embarked - the forces of reaction and privilege - the hangers on of power and privilege in those countries - had kept the Balkan people in poverty, ignorance and illiteracy. As a consequence, they were never satisfied. Eventually the forces of revolution lopped off the heads of those who had kept them suppressed and a new deal for the people was brought about.

Now the scene there has changed. There is an uneasy peace along the line through Europe. Berlin is divided by a wall - as old fashioned a thing as a wall which was part of the strategy of thousands and thousands of years ago. In this day and age they have a wall.


Senator Wright - And a botched job it is.


Senator O'BYRNE - So I believe. I do not suppose they would want to have anything fancy, because this wall is not something we want to remember. We hope the time will come when it can be destroyed, blown up or effaced from the earth. We hope that the time will come when man will realise that he cannot shut himself off from his fellows by a wall and that the luxury of nationalism and racialism is too costly in terms of materials, men and time. Yet we must face the fact that the Berlin wall is there, virtually dividing the Eastern and Western parts of Europe. The hot war that was fought between the Germans and the Russians has changed to the present uneasy peace between the Western World and the Eastern World.

If we follow the line further, we see that the Balkan countries are virtually behind it. We then come down to the north of Greece, and this takes us to the Adriatic and the area of the Mediterranean. Then we come further down to the south of Turkey, until we reach the United Arab Republic, where again there has been confrontation. In that area it is still uncertain whether there will be war over strategic and idealogical differences or whether the countries concerned will agree to an uneasy peace. We can follow the line again to Afghanistan and to the frontiers of India, Pakistan and Nepal.

The point I am making is that all along the thousands of miles of frontier of which 1 have spoken there have been agreements to disagree. We felt terribly embarrassed by the crisis that arose over the Suez Canal and according to those who wished to propagandise our national honour and that of Britain was at stake. But in the outcome some face was won or lost on both sides. The agreement to disagree continues and the Suez Canal is taking bigger and better British ships, with more alacrity and better facilities. The canal has been widened and, as a world waterway, it is certainly no worse than it was before. In fact, according to newspaper reports, it is better.

We then come to the point of the conflict between China and India. The boundary between these countries was a British made line, the McMahon line. If the British were the great tacticians that I think they were, they certainly would have chosen the best line that could be drawn between a country in which they were accepted on a friendly basis and a neighbouring country - whether friend or enemy at the time. As a natural consequence of the traditional British attitude towards neighbours, the line was drawn to give them an initial advantage if the flames of war ever appeared. The McMahon line was challenged and alterations were made to it in the conflict between China and India. What was envisaged as a valley leading into China was made by the Chinese, with their superior forces, into a valley leading into India.

I now come to the most important part of this world wide line, that which runs across Burma, Laos and Cambodia into North Vietnam. The line takes you from the Baltic and the Atlantic to the Pacific - the two great oceans of the world. The Minister, in the course of his remarks, said that the whole of the argument against the Government's case rests on the basic fallacy that Asia is a unity. Other than geographically, I agree with him that Asia and the Asian people are not a unity, but there is a common denominator among the Asian people. In this age of rapid communications, with radio and television, with exchanges of ideas and a gradual dawning of the advantages of education, the Asian people are revolting against the domination that has been their lot through the centuries. Wherever you go in Asia, whether (he countries you visit are temporarily friendly or hostile to us. the same problem exists. It exists even in Pakistan and India, which had the advantage of British influence over a long period of years, or in Burma or Malaya, lt is dawning on the rank and file of the people - if it is not dawning on them, the propaganda machines are informing them of it and are teaching them - that life can be much better for them than it is now. lt is the very nature of man to try to improve his lot. If fetters are binding him to conditions worse than those of people in other parts of the world or even in his own community, a spark is lit and may be fanned into revolution.

How is this to be met? The Minister for Works (Senator Gorton) said he believed Communism could not be stopped by force. He said it. had been stated often during the debate that Communism flourished in poverty and he believed this was true. But whether we like it or not, poverty exists now despite the war, the Colombo Plan and the high and mighty ideals of Australians and others who would like to help. The overwhelming majority of people in Asia and Africa are suffering from this poverty. The Minister for Works said we must seek the general development of this area and must allow people to be masters of their own fate but he added that, when necessary, force must be opposed by force.

The rupture between Moscow and Peking began over the situation in Vietnam. The Soviet Union had experienced confrontation in Europe and from compromises, agreements and probes it had found that in this world it was a case of co-existence or no existence. That might sound like a slogan; nevertheless that is the attitude the Russians have learned to take. The Chinese have a different point of view. Historically they are part of Asia and their revolution could be threatened if revolutions in other parts of Asia are overthrown by force. Now we are aligned irrevocably to use our force alongside the tremendous force that the U.S.A. has at its command to fight this battle. But we fight it alone. We are the only two nations in the world prepared to front up to this issue.

The great problem is that the area where the revolution is taking place is expanding rather than contracting and the revolutionaries are gaining encouragement. They believe it is a personal fight and in this way they can improve their standard of living and their general welfare. But they also believe that if their revolution looks like failing, they can call on other countries to help them. This is exactly the situation confronting us in South Vietnam.

Practically every speaker in this debate has stated that the situation in South Vietnam cannot be lauded. Various governments have fallen since the fall of Ngo Dinh Diem and instability at the highest levels has become the order of the day. The internal situation is such that some of the institutional organisations to which we could normally look for support, such as the main religious bodies, have failed to offer their co-operation to the various governments that have been set up in the past 18 months. During my very short visit to South East Asia I was shocked to see how the Muslim and Buddhist religions have exercised their influence on the people. There is a lot of religious activity in the daily lives of the people of Vietnam. Naturally that must have some influence on their daily actions, their individual philosophy and ideology. Yet in recent years there have been tremendous demonstrations by these religious organisations. Many individuals are prepared to go so far as traditional forms of martyrdom. Instead of being put to death on the rack, as were the martyrs of the Middle Ages, they soak themselves in petrol and burn themselves alive. To rationalise these happenings, we say that the Communists are doing this. That may be so or it may not; but I have been deeply concerned personally at the way these religious organisations have aligned themselves with an ideology of godlessness while hourly practising their religious beliefs and convictions.

If we can set up a government in South Vietnam acceptable to the religious people, the poor and the hungry who are full of fear, our adventure into South Vietnam will be fully justified. But we must have popular support within the country itself. If we force on these people what we believe to be the right way of thinking, we will be acting counter to the very essence of democracy. These are the great issues involved in South Vietnam.

It has been said that war is the outcome of the failure of politicians to solve the problems that confront them. Following the great 1939-45 war we lived through a period in which we hoped that individual nationalist politicians in their little boxes that all looked the same and which were facing in the same direction could, even though they displayed poverty of mind and spirit, have their disputes taken to a forum where wisdom could prevail, that forum being the United Nations Organisation. We regarded the United Nations as being the hope of humanity - a place where the failures of individual politicians could be rectified around the conference table, with reason rather than force prevailing. But then we saw, on the part of little pressure groups and selfish interests, the use of the veto, which provided a way out for the weak man or, if you like, the strong man, according to the context in which his action is considered.

Then numbers were used to win the day. It is to our everlasting discredit that we allowed the subterfuge of giving Formosa, or Taiwan as it is sometimes called, a seat on the Security Council, its only claim to membership being that it would provide an extra vote for one side. The inclusion of Formosa on the Security Council deprived an area of the earth's surface which has a population of 700 million or 800 million of its rightful place in the forum of nations and created an atmosphere which could only end in confrontation by force.

Later we saw the events that occurred in the Congo. The United Nations, instead of being able to settle the problem, was blamed for exacerbating it. The popular revolution under Lumumba failed and there was set up a new regime the conduct of which has since shocked the world. The United Nations has had to bear a lot of the criticism for that adventure. During that war Dag Hammarskjoeld, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, who had been the guiding hand in the activities of that Organisation, was killed in an aircraft crash.


Senator Morris - That was a great tragedy.


Senator O'BYRNE - It was a great tragedy. Since then the United Nations seems to have become a bartering garden for those who have had the biggest numbers. Various countries that have shown a desire for self-determination and self-expression, and that have in one way or another obtained independence, have applied for membership of the United Nations. The number of members has grown to well over 100, and the division of voting strength has changed. Now we are told in this chamber, and through the Press and other organs of propaganda, that the United Nations is failing. The fact that this Organisation could be said to be failing is a sign of. illness in the outlook of leading people throughout the world whose nations exercise power, authority and influence.

The charge has been made that the United Nations has been used to sway the balance between the revolution and counterrevolution that is going on throughout the world. Revolution need not necessarily be bloody in character. Revolution can be considered from two different aspects - the overthrow of a government, and the method used to overthrow that government. I do not suppose we would say that Askin was a revolutionary, but nevertheless he overthrew a government. Possibly other people in other parts of the world are just as keen to overthrow their governments. The methods employed to change a government become a matter of concern when they reach the stage where conflict can occur. The kernel of the matter is this: How far should a group of people go in order to change their government?

If a government is regarded as being proWestern, it can expect to receive massive economic and military help and may continue to pursue its present policy. But if countries do not indicate that they are proWestern in outlook, the trend has been for them to try to get the same degree of financial and military help from either China or Russia. That trend is to be seen throughout Asia and Africa. At the moment we are only on the fringe of this great conflict. When all is said and done, really the only places that have been mentioned in this debate have been North Vietnam and South Vietnam. We have been considering the position in which they are found following their revolution against the French and the vacuum that was left through no fault of the Vietnamese themselves. It was impossible for them to overthrow their government before the Japanese war, but the Japanese did it for them. Then, when the Japanese were defeated, the people themselves saw that they had an opportunity to express themselves and to run their own affairs.

The Dutch people, who had been in the spice islands for a long time, did not want to give up their authority in Indonesia. The Japanese solved that problem by driving the Dutch out of Indonesia. That created the vacuum in which the revolution took place, as a consequence of which Sukarno and the present Government of Indonesia are in office. In Korea there was a similar influence, but instead of it being wholly Japanese, first it resulted from the occupation by Japan and then from the occupation by the Soviet Union. The line of demarcation was then drawn. At the same time, the peoples of those countries were looking for self-determination and selfexpression.

As we embark on this war, we should realise that the battalion we are to send constitutes a considerable portion of our total effective armed forces. Whether we like it or not, we are involved in a struggle, the eventual outcome of which we hope and pray will be negotiation, compromise and peace. President Johnson expressed that view and honorable senators on this side of the chamber endorse it. The Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Hasluck), despite his recent statement on world affairs in which he said that it was a matter of power politics and force, is reported to be now of the opinion that compromise and negotiation would be the best outcome. That solution is of vital importance because, as I have pointed out, the same issues will arise throughout the whole of the geographic area in which we live. The issues have not arisen in Papua and New Guinea, our nearest neighbour, but had the Germans continued in their occupation of New Guinea as they did before the first World War, it would have been inevitable that the people of New Guinea eventually would have reached the stage of wanting to throw off their shackles. We must prove and will prove that as a benign friend, rather than an imperial or colonial power, we want to assist them to climb from the darkness of barbarity and share in the great benefits of the scientific and technological changes that have come over the world in recent years.

The problems of Borneo, Sarawak and Indonesia's confrontation of Malaysia need to be solved. During the time of the emergency in Malaysia, the Communists were removed from the main areas but the problems of education, industrial development and. improvement of living standards are just below the surface. If the industries that are being established in Kuala Lumpur by overseas investors assist to solve the problems of Malaysia it will represent a big change from the situations in other countries where overseas investors have done nothing but to take home their pound of flesh. One is hard put to think of a country where that has not been the practice. Capital, know-how and scientists are not introduced by us into another country on a business level. Under the Colombo Plan we . send trade commissioners and advisers on a socialist level. It is done on a government to government basis and the men who go to other countries do so in order to benefit those countries. But when the investor goes in, he has only one purpose. I hope that we will see a departure from the usual practice and that the overseas investors in industries in Kuala Lumpur will salt their profits in Malaysia to gain further profits and to improve quickly and effectively the living standards of the Malaysian people.

I turn now to the situation in India. Some of us have had the good fortune to visit India, but have also experienced the horror of witnessing in the streets of historical cities such as Calcutta, Bombay, Delhi and Karachi the abject humiliation of the poverty stricken and undernourished people. Through the years we have read of the glamour of these cities and the wonder of the beautiful edifices built in the regime of former times. Yet, on visiting them one is struck by how far down the social scale, how close to rock bottom of civilisation are the people of India in this modern day and age.

It has often been said in the Senate that conditions of poverty create a seed bed for revolution where people will grasp at anything to climb from the damp of the gutter on to the footpath. That helping hand does not necessarily have to come from a foreign country. It is not very hard for such unfortunate people automatically to embrace the philosophy of Communism when they have no alternative way to improve their living conditions. The struggle in South Vietnam contains that issue.

We are facing a very fluid situation which changes from week to week and from month to month. The statements we made last February do not all obtain today. The same may be said of international treaties. Treaties are made when the circumstances and the climate are suitable for the signatories. In the same way, laws that we pass in this Parliament must be amended because of loopholes that are found by experience. Treaties also have loopholes and their provisions are observed while it suits the signatories of them or while the provisions have some influence upon their interests. In the crisis with which we are confronted people use the same words but attach different meanings to them. I refer to such words as democracy, freedom, integrity, nationalism and patriotism.

Debate interrupted.







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