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The Prime Minister's Deception of the Parliament and the People



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FOR PRESS

LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION

The Prime Ministers Deception of the Parliament and the People

The Opposition Shadow Cabinet met in Melbourne this afternoon to consider the implications of letters and cables sent to Saigon and to Hanoi by the Prime Minister..

There is no other conclusion to draw but that the Prime Minister was misleading both parliament and people when he said that the cables he sent to Hanoi and to Saigon were substantially the same. He has been caught in an untruth - the implications of which must spread beyond the sad trauma of Vietnam, to stain

the Government's word and credibility in the national and international arenas.

The publication today of letters sent to the Governments of North and South Vietnam on March 13 is further evidence that the Australian Government has worn two faces, one for the North and one for the South. '

On March 13, the Prime Minister told President Thieu of South Vietnam that he trusted the South Vietnamese Government would take early and positive action towards establishing the National Council of National Reconciliation and Concord as provided for in the Paris Agreement.

But there was no similar exhortation aimed at the Provisional Revolutionary Government in the letter to the North Vietnamese Foreign Minister, Mr Nguyen Duy Trinh.

In his letter to president Thieu he calls on the South to observe Article 7 of the Paris Agreements, These provide for piece for piece replacements of military material.

The South had not in fact been able to replace all its equipment because of the reluctance of the United States Congress to provide funds for Vietnam. By contrast the North had been able heavily to increase its supplies of military equipment to the

PRG during the two years following the conclusion of the Paris Agreements.

Although the Prime Minister must have known this through information from the Foreign Affairs and Defence Departments, he directed his remonstrance to the country which did pot offend. ~

When the letters were sent to the North Vietnamese, the offensive which began in December and which became widely known in ' ' ' January, already three months old. On March 13 the siege of Da Nang had already begun.

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On April 2, the Prime Minister sent cables to the Apstralian Ambassadors in Saigon and Ranoi, the contents of which were to be passed verbally by the Ambassadors to the respective Governments.

The letters were not substantially tfre same, the cables are dramatically different.

In his cable to the Ambassador in Hanoi, the contents of which were to go to the Provisional Revolutionary Government of the South as well as to the North Vietnamese Government, the Prime Minister conceded a military victory In the South by

the North, His term was "inevitable,"

He offered criticism of the South Vietnamese Government» The Prime Minister said he would like to see in South Vietnam a government which would "genuinely negotiate" 'for reunification, and that cl'aims that President Thieu had given no indication .of his willingness to do this.

The Prime Minister said he understood the reasons why the North had gone to war against the Sogth, thus condoning its actions although in the same sentence he attempted to deny that it was condonation.

The Prime Minister in effect gave the North Vietnamese a justification for carrying on its now successfully concluded war, and then took the extraordinary additional step of · advising the aggressors how to ‘conduct a public relations

campaign before the nations of the world.

The cable to Saigon, the contents of which were intend6^ for President Thieu, by contrast, calls on the South to show "good faith" by carrying out the provisions of the Paris Agreement about the National Council for National Reconstruction and Concord.

On fhe same day, the Prime Minister was recording to the North his belief that the defeat of South Vietnam was "inevitable".

The prime Minister also invited his foreign ambassador to make known the Prime Ministers views to influential South Vietnamese who were outside the Government.

This amounted to an attempt by the Prime Minister to involve the diplomatic service in undermining a Government with whom we had diplomatic relations. „ . '

The cable to Saigon did not offer criticism of the North, in contrast to the criticisms of the South in the cable to Hanoi. '

There was no "understanding" in it of South Vietnam's · military activity.

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While in his cable to Hanoi, the Prime Minister offered to , bring.pressure on the South Vietnam Government, there was no similar offer to bring pressure to bear on the North in his cable to Saigon.

There was no advice for President Thieu on how best to conduct a diplomatic campaign. .

There was not even the offer of humanitarian assistance contained in the cable to Hanoi.

The fulsome cable to Hanoi contained 460 words. That to Saigon was less than one fourth the length, containing 99 words.

We do not ask for the Prime Minister to return to Australia from Jamaica where he is attending the Commonwealth Heads of Government Conference.

But we point out that the Prime Minister is representing Australia in this forum when his credibility has been thrown into question.

In this position, it is not therefore unreasonable to expect him to return to Australia forthwith.

What he does now is a matter for his conscience. Most men in his position would want to return to their countries to clear their names.

The Prime Ministers duplicity over Vietnam casts into question the whole range of Australia's foreign policies.

How even handed are Australia's policies in the Middle East? Has the Prime Minister been in fact establishing the same sort of relationship with the Palestine Liberation Organization as he has with the Provisional Revolutionary Government of

South Vietnam?

\ To what extent have the general understandings of Australians about their foreign relations been secretly undermined?

Can the United States and New Zealand, our allies in the Anzus treaty, still regard us in the same light, following the revelation of these cables?

If the Prime Minister is concerned for his honour and for the honour of Australia he will consider his position, not only before the other heads of government at the Commonwealth Conference, but also before the Australian Parliament and

the Australian people.

In the meantime, there must be a full judicial inquiry into the circumstances of the Prime Minister's assertion in Parliament that his messages to the Governments of North and South Vietnam were substantially the same.