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Czechoslovakia: Prime Minister's replies to questions in the house of representatives on 22 August 1968



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CZECHOSLOVAKIA

PRIME MINISTER'S REPLIES TO QUESTIONS IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES ON 22 AUGUST 1968.

Mr. Beazley : I desire to ask the Minister for External Affairs a question. I desire to ask the t. Hon. gen*M_^man whether it is the ln. ention c.' the Government to convey to the Czech Ccn < u wlar or diplomatic representatives in this country the concern of our Government about the invasion of Czechoslovakia? Secondly, is it the intention of the Australian Government to make representations to the Soviet Union concerning the personal safety of Mr. Dubcek and his Government in view of the record in the past of defenestration?

MR. GORTON : Mr. Speaker, perhaps I might be permitted to answer that question or some parts of the question. I can say that it is not the intention of the Australian Government to express its concern to the Government of the Soviet Republic because the Australian Government has already done

so. Indeed, the Russian Charge d'Affaires called on me this morning in order to present to me a message the gravamen of which was that Russian troops and other satellite troops had entered Czechoslovakia at the request of the Czechoslovakian Government. On behalf of the Australian Government,

I informed him that I found this impossible to believe, and that particularly in view of the broadcasts from Prague Radio during the progress of this invasion to the effect that it was taking place against the wishes of the legal government of Czechoslovakia and of other' evidence in our possession. I felt that the Parliament and the people of Australia would find this equally difficult to believe. 'I asked the Charge to convey to the Government of the

USSR this feeling on the Australian Government's part and also I informed him of the distress, concern and revulsion which the Australian Government feels at this action.. I was informed that this message would be bonveyed to the Russian Government.

Dr. J. F. Cairns : I ask the Minister for External Affairs or the Prime Minister: Will they, when making statements about the incredibly aggressive, cruel and stupid invasion of Czechoslovakia by the Soviet Union, endeavour td give the conviction that they will not be obstructed by any constitutional difficulties or the possibility of veto in the Security Council or elsewhere when they are trying to make clear the position of the Australian people to such a stupid and wanton act? Will they at the same time try to clear away the feeling of hypocrisy and humbug that is associated with this Government in its support

of aggression on other occasions when it suits its own interest?

MR. GORTON : Before I answer the first part of the question asked by the Hon. Member, I wish to express resentment on behalf of the Government at the accusation that there is hypocrisy in this Government and that it supports aggression in other parts of the world.

Mr. Clyde Cameron : Of course there is. You sent troops to Vietnam.

Mr. Speaker : Order'.

Mr. Clyde Cameron : Don't be such a hypocrite.

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Mr. Speaker : Order.' The Hon. member for Hindmarsh will withdraw that staten^e nt.

Mr. Clyde Cameron : Yes, I will withdraw the statement, having made it.

Mr. Speaker: And apologise.

Mr. Clyde Cameron : And I apologise, having made the statement.

MR. GORTON: On the question of the invasion of Czechoslovakia, which is not merely an invasion of one country but an invasion of human rights in all countries and which has been properly characterised by the Hon. Member as stupid, cruel and wanton, I would have hoped that it was a matter that

could have been discussed by the House with some dignity and without the intrusion of attacks on the Government of the sort that the Hon. Member for Yarra seeks to inject into the debate. It is regrettable that the Hon. Member should have taken a matter of great world moment and twisted it

to his own political ends.

Dr. J. F. Cairns ., What humbug.

Mr. Speaker : Order! I warn the Hon. Member for Yarra;

MR. GORTON : As to the other part of the question asked by the Hon. Member, I have already informed the House that we have sent a message of protest to the Soviet Union at what we described as an action which caused us distress, concern and revulsion. The Minister for External Affairs will make a

statement later and in that statement no doubt will be a record of what is happening in the Security Council and in the United Nations now. The Ho n. Member can be assured that the Government of Australia will do all that it can in the UN to express its objection to what has occurred. I would hope that that could be a subject of debate without the intrusion of such matters as the Hon. Member has put forward.

Mr. Bosman: My question is directed to the Prime Minister. In view of the information, which has been given to the House this morning by the Minister for External Affairs, that it is apparently futile to expect any action through the UN in respect of what is happening in Czechoslovakia, will the Prime

Minister consider obtaining all possible information from his departmental advisers and placing it before the Government in order to decide whether there is any real sense in maintaining diplomatic relations with the Warsaw Pact countries associated with the latest action in Czechoslovakia?

MR. GORTON : I did not gather from what the Minister for External Affairs said to the House that it was necessarily futile to expect action through the United Nations. It is true - and this is no doubt the basis of the Hon. Member's question - that the use of force by the United Nations against 'a major power is most unlikely to succeed, and indeed in that sense I suppose the word 'futile' could be used. But I believe that is not the end of the m. tter and I think that as the debate develops on the statement which the Minister for

External Affairs will later make it will be clear that the Czechs themselves believe that the mobilisation of parliamentary and public opinion in various countries and through the United Nations can be of great assistance to them. That is what I would say in reply to the first part of the Hon. Member's question. The second part involves such considerable policy matters that I do not think

I could possibly answer it at Question Time.