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Speech on International Affairs



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COMMONWEALTH OF AUSTRALIA

D U S £

S P E E C H BY '

The Rt Hon. W. McMAHON, M.P. ON

INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS Ministerial Statement

[From the ‘Parliamentary Debates’, 23 August 1971]

Debate resumed from 19th August (vide page 353), on the following paper pre­ sented by Mr N. H. Bowen: International Affairs—Ministerial Statement,

18 August 1971— and on motion by M r Swartz: That the House take note of the paper.

Mr McMAHON (Lowe—Prime Minis­ ter— (8.0)— Mr Speaker, the speech on foreign policy by my colleague, the Minis­ ter for Foreign Affairs (Mr N. H. Bowen), stands out in complete contrast to the superficial approach of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam). To my mind, the Minister has set out, in a " responsible way, the Government’s record and its atti­ tude on the vital issues before us in the international scene. I commend him for what he has said in his first report to the House in his new portfolio. There are one or two objectives of foreign policy I first

want to mention. The first is to emphasise very clearly and very simply that our

foreign policy is based on the fact that our national interest must be of paramount importance at all times. We are not going to be run around the place by anyone. We

are an independent country. We will never be a satellite of any power, close though our relationships with others might be.

But we must face realities. We are not a great power and we cannot play a decisive role in resolving the big issues between East and West. Nevertheless, we have a role which we play, both in the region of South East Asia and the Pacific, and in the

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wider international community as well. It is up to us to play that role responsibly, keeping in mind at all times that we have a long and honourable record for honest dealing in international affairs and that we want to live in peaceful and profitable co-existence with all. We want to achieve this objective no matter how different the political philosophies of other countries

might be from ours. I believe that we are achieving that objective. And I believe those who advise us—our Foreign Affairs officers—have a mature and sophisticated

approach to their duties which serves Aus­ tralia well. These observations need to be made because we are all conscious that

this is a period of considerable change— sometimes very rapid change—and we must be alert to the consequences and flex­ ible in our responses. But we must not be

pushed or panicked into new postures or adventures with unpredictable conse­ quences, smart though they may have appeared to be at the time. To the con­

trary, we must move forward deliberately after careful consideration of every step we take. And for good reason.

Foreign policy cannot be made by a series of unthought-out adventures. It must evolve from the passage of events and our own appreciation of the trends of the

future and our relationships with others. Our identification with others in the inter­ national world is: Our membership of the United Nations; our membership of the Commonwealth of Nations; our treaties

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with friendly powers; and our association in a variety of international and regional arrangements for security, trade and eco­ nomic aid. In this complex of relationships we have made some important .advances in

recent months as the Foreign Minister has so well pointed out. They have been dealt with fully by him and I will not go over the ground again. But there is a second matter I want to raise in the context of a foreign policy debate. This is the way we conduct our foreign policy.

No medium power like Australia can negotiate effectively in sensitive areas of international relations in the full glare of the spotlights. The pursuit of our foreign

relations depends on frank and confidential exchanges with many countries. We have to respect their confidences as we expect them to respect ours. We do not peddle

the gossip of the diplomatic cocktail

rounds in the capitals of the world. We do not blab out in Peking what we have heard from representatives of foreign countries. The credibility of a government in its international dealings depends heavily

on the sanctity of its undertakings and the security of the confidences given to it by others. No considerations of party politics must be allowed to compromise this credi­ bility. The conventions for international

conduct must be high and responsible.

I deplore the failure of the Opposition to respect these conventions. I deplore the recent antics of the Leader of the Opposi­ tion when he led a delegation to some of

the countries of Asia, notably to the

People’s Republic of China. I remind hon­ ourable gentlemen that the Leader of the Opposition went to China to play politics with wheat. He found himself declaring,

on behalf of his Party, a foreign policy for Australia that was not within his power to implement. It was not the policy of the elected Government of Australia. It is a policy in conflict with our national interest, and very much—so very much—in line with the policy of the greatest Communist power in Asia. I do not complain about the action of the Chinese leaders. They, too, have a national interest to promote,

and they obviously did so. But what I do call into question—I believe a majority of Australians agree with me—is that, at a time when the Government was in contact with the Chinese seeking to open up a dia­ logue, a full surrender to Peking’s point of

view was made publicly by the Leader of

the Opposition. The Leader of the Opposi­ tion did not come back with any assurance of future wheat sales. He did not come back with anything except defensive responses and evasive answers to those. who criticised his conduct, the concessions he volunteered in Peking, and the gratu­ itous advice he offered to other countries.

He did, of course, come out of China saying that the Chinese Government was quite willing to particpate in a renewed Geneva Conference. Chou En-lai made a categorical denial, saying there was no

question of such a conference. The official Chinese Press has also described talk about a new Geneva conference as ‘a sheer fraud which is ridiculous and absurd’. This surely tests the credibility of the Leader of the Opposition, and this is test No. 1. Mr

Speaker, we are seeking as a Government to establish better relations with the

People’s Republic of China. In concert with our friends we hope she will join in the efforts of the countries of our region and the broader international community to promote peace and prosperity for all peoples in accordance with the Bandung principle to which Chou En-lai himself has publicly subscribed. We want to see this happen, and we will make our contribution wherever and whenever we can. We will

do so without sacrificing one single part of our national interest. And we will try to achieve this objective while retaining an honourable position with our friends and allies.

I remind the House again that there is no sudden short cut to normal relations with China, as history so clearly shows, particularly Soviet and Chinese history. Patience and hard headed negotiations are

needed. The process is not one that will require on our part, spectacular public ges­ tures or instant decisions. And this prob­ lem must be considered in the total con­ text. It is important, I think, to see our

own position clearly against the back­ ground of the forthcoming meeting of the United Nations and the planned visit to Peking by President Nixon before May of

next year.

The Government’s policy on represen­ tation in the United Nations of the

People’s Republic of China and of Taiwan has already been stated in this House dur­ ing the course of this debate. I have said it was inevitable and right that China should be a member of the United Nations and

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should hold the permanent seat in the Security Council. I have also said that we believed the Republic of China—Taiwan— should be given the chance of maintaining its membership if so desired. In the final result these are matters for collective deci­ sion by the United Nations.

There has been a lot of talk about there being only one China and that Taiwan is a province of China. But when the Leader of the Opposition states this proposition he evades the fact that there are two govern­ ments each controlling a certain area with a certain population and each claiming to ae the legitimate Government of the whole af China. And he would put a seal of

egality on the forceful takeover of 14 million people by a government they do lot want. He obviously does not under­ stand that acceptance of the idea that Tai­ wan is a province of China implies that force can be used to restore control by Fhina without invoking United Nations assistance.

The de facto situation is that neither the ?RC nor the ROC exercises administrative aontrol over all the territories they claim. Awhile this situation exists—where 2 Gov- :rnments are in political and jurisdictional :onflict—third countries are free to recog- aise whichever Government they choose. \ustralia has for many years recognised

he Taiwan Government—the Republic of Dhina—and in 1966 completed the forma- ities by establishing an embassy there. Mr Speaker, the Leader of the Opposition has illeged publicly that the decision to send in Australian Ambassador to Taipeh was irranged by the late Mr Holt as Prime vlinister without the knowledge of his Foreign Minister of the day—then Mr, low Sir Paul Hasluck. This is utterly un­ rue. This is the second test of the credi- lility of the Leader of the Opposition. The lecision was made by the Cabinet of the lay. It is on record and beyond dispute and Tr Hasluck, now Sir Paul Hasluck, was here at the time.

This then is our position. I believe it is n our national interest first to have a col- ective decision by the United Ntaions on he admission of the People’s Republic of Dhina and the status of the Republic of Jhina—of Taiwan. When representation in he United Nations is clarified we shall be letter placed to examine the problems of

ecognition and diplomatic relations with

Peking. In his various public statements the Leader of the Opposition has endea­ voured to suggest that the whole of South­ East Asia is about to go—or should

go—cap in hand to Peking. The truth is that South-East Asian countries are moving with caution, and so are we. They realise the desirability of adjusting to changing circumstances in Asia and the likely entry

this year or next of Peking into the United Nations.

The Leader of the Opposition has said the Canadian formula is the one his Party would adopt for immediate recognition of China. This does not make sense because the espousal of any formula now would prejudge events yet to take place in the

United Nations. And in any case only a naive person would set out what he would finally accept as his first position in any negotiation. The Canadian formula notes China’s claim to Taiwan. In his statement on the subject the Canadian Minister of

State for External Affairs, Mr Mitchell Sharp, said Canada had made it clear to the Chinese from the start of their negotia­ tions ‘that the Canadian Government does

not consider it appropriate either to

endorse or to challenge the Chinese Gov­ ernment’s position on the status of Tai­ wan’. But Mr Whitlam, while adopting the Canadian formula as his own, also con­

cedes Taiwan to China. And, as I have said, by so doing does not exclude the use of force in the resolution of this issue by the Chinese.

For reasons I have mentioned there is no need to rush into recognition; there is no need to rush into making concessions. Mr Whitlam has said: ‘we must accept the view of President Nixon that diplomatic

relations must be normalised as speedily as possible’. I have no knowledge and can find no information that the President or his Administration have said that at all. This is the third test of credibility. They, the United States, like us, have declared

their attitude on China’s admission to the United Nations. And they, like us, are seeking a dialogue in their bilateral rela­ tionship.

The Leader of the Opposition, on his recent ill-starred journey, not only dis­ missed the future fate of the people of Taiwan in a most casual manner. He also

took upon himself the role of publicly declaring the policy Japan should adopt

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about her treaty with Taiwan. I quote his own words at the National Press Club here in Canberra. We should be the first to point out to Japan

that she is not in honour or reason irrevocably tied to a treaty forced on her when she was weak and dependent . . . we should say to her that

she is now entitled to pursue her own interests which require a restoration of relations with China.

That is the Leader of the Opposition

brashly telling one of the great powers of Asia and one that is likely to be, in the

foreseeable future, a dominant power what it should do. Japan, I emphasise, is a very great trading partner of ours and one with whom we are associated in many regional activities. This kind of advice disregards Australia’s interest by assuming at once that it is to our advantage for China and Japan to move into a close relationship. It also smacks of interference in the internal affairs of Japan. Who are we to say:

‘Japan is now entitled to pursue her own interests’? (Extension of time granted) In fact it looks precisely the kind of negotiat­ ing position China herself could take up

towards Japan. In short, the Leader of the Opposition urges Japan to tear up her treaty with Taiwan and do business with China. That any member of this Parlia­ ment should seriously advocate such action is utterly deplorable in the context of our national interest. It displays either igno­ rance of international relations or a cynical opportunism towards international agree­ ments. It implies that international agree­ ments such as ANZUS, which is the

corner-stone of our security, are expenda­ ble scraps of paper. This is the first time in Australia’s his­ tory—I emphasise this—that a Leader of the Opposition has been the total advocate of another country’s cause. It is a danger­ ous policy to this country, and I will keep on repeating this until the next elections are well over. Let me quote some editor­ ial comment from a leading newspaper in Asia. The Singapore edition of the ‘Straits Times’ on 14th July said this and I

quote— M r Foster—Why do you not quote from an Australian paper? M r SPEAKER— Order! I think I have warned the honourable member for Sturt more than I have warned any other mem­ ber of this House. I suggest that he

restrain himself.

Mr McMAHON—I shall quote nov from a Singapore newspaper, as follows: The Australian Government is ready to discus diplomatic relations with Peking and thougl

recognition may be a long way off (M

McMahon’s phrase) the intention is sincere ani the endeavour is not assisted by the Labor Part: mission’s extraordinary behaviour . . . it i

one thing for Mr Whitlam to campaign in Aus tralia for radical policy changes, but quite anothe to play Party politics openly in Peking. This i irresponsibility of a high order.

Mr Kennedy—Can you quote one Aus tralian newspaper which supports you?

M r SPEAKER—Order! The honourable member for Bendigo will cease interjecting

Mr Kennedy—One?

Mr SPEAKER—Order! If the honour able member offends again I will nam< him.

Mr McMAHON—Mr Speaker, a grea deal has happened since then. The fac that President Nixon and Premier Chov En-lai have agreed to meet in Peking some time before May of next year has added i new dimension to the international debate on China. The United Nations will mee next month, and in our contacts wit!

China there has been some clarification ol each other’s viewpoints. I have no dramatie forecasts to make on what the future

holds. It is difficult to see how Austral ii can have more than a marginal influence on American-Chinese relations.

Because America is a super-power anc China a great power I think it may be

inevitable that they will treat on a bilatera basis on the big issues. In saying this I dc not intend to suggest that we expect tc have no exchanges of views with AmericE on all issues of common interest. It is pari of the practice of our diplomacy to keep in close, continuing touch with America and our other friends, particularly in the Asian and Pacific region. This they encour­ age and this we will continue to do. !

emphasise what I said when I began: We will base our action on two principles Australia’s national interest comes first al all times, and our diplomatic conduci accords with the highest conventions ol honourable dealing and respect for the rights of others. A clear understanding ol the actions of the Leader of the Opposi­ tion during his Peking visit makes ii

extremely difficult to reconcile them with these principles.

W. G. M urray, Government Printer, Canberra