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Press conference broadcast on radio

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©EMBARGO: 6P.M. (EST) Saturday 23 December.



22 December 1972 '


This is the Prime Minister of Australia, Gough Whitlam, speaking to you by the facilities of Radio Australia. Radio Australia has asked me to make this broadcast so that the millions of people who know and trust this radio service might get some

idea of the intentions of the new Government which has just been elected here in Australia.

So the first thing I would like to say is about Radio Australia itself. My new Government wants Radio Australia to keep going exactly in the same way as it has done in the past years The Australian Government - the government which has just been defeated in the election as much as my own government - has never used and shall never use Radio Australia as a propaganda machine. There has never been any difference between our Australian political parties about this. Radio Australia will continue to be completely independent, completely free to report the news as

it truly is. Radio Australia is not the voice of the Australian Government. It is the voice of Australia, and the speakers and writers whose work you hear are expressing their own views, not the imposed views of my Government, or any Government. They can do and say what they like, according to their professional

judgement and skills, to bring you the best, most honest programs.

But there has been a change of Government in Australia - change brought about just by a majority of the Australian people exercising their choice through the ballot box. The previous Government had been in power for 23 years; but when the will of

the people became clear on election night, the previous Prime Minister, Mr. McMahon, immediately said that the will of the people was clear and the power of government must therefore be turned over to me and my party. And it was done - within a few hours - completely, quietly, efficiently. And the.great thing about the democratic system is that this is how it happens. Today, my colleagues of the new Government and I have working, with us

and for us, the whole of Australia's great and dedicated civil service - the same men and women who have been serving a different Government for 23 years past, now giving us the same faithful, loyal service they gave our defeated opponents.

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In the case of the Army, my Government's first act was to abolish conscription - the compulsory draft of young men into the ranks of the Army - even though the Army preferred that method to keep our armed forces up to strength. My party - the Australian Labor Party - differs strongly from the Army in this matter - we hate conscription. Yet nothing could be more admirable and honorable than the way in which the Australian Army has accepted

the clear will of the Australian people to abolish conscription, and has co-operated with the elected Government to put that decision into immediate effect.

I want to emphasise to you, however, that while Australia has changed her method of providing her own defences, we are not running away from our obligations to our neighbours and allies. Under my Government, we will honor, in letter and spirit, the Five-Power Arrangements. We think the idea of keeping a permanent garrison in places like Singapore belongs to the past, but we will be asking Singapore, Malaysia and New Zealand to take our soldiers

on training missions to their countries and we will be asking them to send their soldiers to us for joint exercises. And we would like to see these exercises extended to other countries - Indonesia, Fiji, Thailand, the Philippines, for example.

I just mentioned Indonesia. It goes without saying that the Number One objective of my Government is to strengthen relations with Indonesia. Indonesia is our nearest neighbour. We actually share a border with Indonesia. Even when Papua New Guinea becomes

independent - I hope in less than 3 years - Indonesia will still be our greatest neighbouring nation. The future of Indonesia and Australia is indissolubly linked together. The relation between

Indonesia and Australia is one of the crucial factors which will determine the future of the South-West Pacific for the rest of this century, and largely determine the future of the East Indian Ocean area for the rest of this century. So I make this

relationship the top priority in my Government's foreign policy.

The Governments of our neighbourhood were immediately informed of my Government's intentions towards China. We have moved rapidly - and I believe successfully - towards normalising relations with the People's Republic of China.

The third great field for developing and strengthening Australia's international contacts is Japan. I understand that it is the wish of the Japanese Government to conclude a treaty of friendship, commerce and navigation with Australia. The previous Government rejected the proposition. I have, however, asked my

officers in the Foreign Affairs Department to provide me with the pros and cons upon this matter - the arguments for it and the arguments against it. Japan's great power, her industrial and trading importance to us, have placed her, in a sense, in a very real sense, in very much the same relationship that Britain used to stand towards Australia a century ago. The great difference,

of course, is that a century ago Australia looked towards Britain as our great protector. Australians are now mature enough to know that in the modern world nations like Australia have no guaranteed protection, so we look to ourselves, to protect ourselves.

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Yet, in this context, it would be churlish not to acknowledge our traditional, our deep and abiding relationship with the United States. In the great essentials, there will, under my Government, be no decisive change in that relationship.

The treaty between Australia, New Zealand and the United States, the ANZUS treaty, will remain the crucial treaty for Australia. Indeed, we shall try to make ANZUS live again, more constructive, more fruitful, more meaningful, than it has ever been. It is my Government's profound belief that Vietnam did not end America's

role in our neighbourhood; it ended the destructive part of that role, and we believe a new, better and magnificently constructive role lies ahead for the United States, if only we in this region can help encourage the American people - the most generous, most

idealistic people in history - to accept this new role. But it depends on us - all of us in this region - as much as on them.

Let me say this - I am tremendously confident about the prospects for our region. There is every chance that over the next 10 years the rich countries like Australia, New Zealand, Japan and the United States will accept greater responsibility

in making a determined and combined attack on the poverty, starvation, illiteracy, that keep us all back, and lessen all of us as human beings. There will be no international war in our region in our time. Let us all use this unparallelled opportunity! Let us make this our objective - that every child now born in

our part of the world shall have a chance for a life without fear, without want, without war. Is this an impossible goal? Perhaps - but why, in the name of reason, in the name of humanity, should we set our sights at less? Let us at least make the attempt. Years ago, I said, in a rather bleak time for my party,

"Let us now begin". For our region I say, with hope and confidence, "Let us now begin anew".