Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Full Day's HansardDownload Full Day's Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Tuesday, 11 April 1961

Mr CHANEY (Perth) .- Mr. Speaker-

Mr Curtin - After the Lord Mayor's show-

Mr CHANEY - I knew that the mental hazard of remaining silent for one hour and 40 minutes would prove too much for the honorable member for Kingsford-Smith and that he would have to make his usual unintelligent outburst.

Whatever may have been the result ot the Conference of Commonwealth Prime Ministers in London and of the deliberations of the United Nations, we have been privileged this evening and over the last few months to witness history in the making. I think that in the future, when the history of these times is written away from the sentiments and feelings of the present and looked at in retrospect away from political prejudices, it will be recorded that history was made at the recent Prime Ministers' Conference. I am sure that the part played by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) as the Prime Minister of this country will be remembered and appreciated in time to come.

Mr Curtin - What is your majority?

Mr CHANEY - It is a little too much for the Australian Labour Party at present; so the honorable member need not worry about it. Before the 1958 election, when I was addressing honorable members in this chamber, the honorable member for Kingsford-Smith said by way of interjection that I would not be back here after the election, but I increased my majority by 6,000. I hope that he will continue to interject if his interjections will have similar results again.

I thought for a while that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) was going to confine his remarks entirely to South Africa's withdrawal from the Commonwealth of Nations. I must say that I was very pleased when he touched on the other points which had been dealt with by the Prime Minister in his long and much appreciated address. I believe that what the Leader of the Opposition said will give cause for debate on both sides of this House, but the amendment which he has proposed will not be acceptable to this House or, indeed, to the people of Australia. Before I conclude, I shall foreshadow a further amendment which I intend to move later when the one at present before us has been disposed of.

The Leader of the Opposition accused the Prime Minister, first of all, of being a believer in apartheid. I hope that if the representatives in Canberra of Australia's press were given copies of the Prime Minister's speech at 5 o'clock this afternoon, as was the Leader df the Opposition, they paid a little closer attention to it than the Leader of the Opposition did. Obviously, he did not give close attention to it, because he could not have made the statements which he did make if he had paid any attention at all to the speech as it was delivered by the Prime Minister or as it was circulated in roneoed form. As appears at page 13 of the circulated copy, the Prime Minister, referring to South Africa's policy of apartheid, said -

I think that the policy will, if it continues to be applied as it is now, end in the most frightful disaster.

This has to be looked at in the light of what the Prime Minister had already done in his efforts to retain South Africa in the Commonwealth in the belief that that was one way in which that country could be assisted in overcoming the problems that beset her. I think that the Prime Minister himself believed that the great majority of the inhabitants of South Africa, with whom he himself has expressed the greatest sympathy, have not been assisted by South Africa's withdrawal from the Commonwealth and that, if she remained in the

Commonwealth, there were ways and means of helping her to overcome her difficulties and the difficulties of the Bantu race.

Mr Ward - In what way? What would the honorable member suggest?

Mr CHANEY - The honorable member ought to study this paragraph of the Prime Minister's speech. Fortunately, every honorable member now has one of the copies which have been circulated and is able to check his facts before he speaks. The Prime Minister referred to South Africa's policy towards the Bantus, of which Dr. Verwoerd was proud, and said -

The more zealously the Union builds up the minds and bodies of the Bantu, the more certain will it be that the day will come when, conscious of their own human dignity, their capacity, and their strength, they will no longer tolerate the status of second-class citizens.

It is interesting to note that the number of university graduates among the Bantu race of South Africa far outstrips the number of university graduates in Ghana, Guinea or Nigeria. Quite obviously, it is useless to educate people to university level if you will not allow them to take a normal part in the ordinary society. The realization of this was what the Prime Minister was trying to achieve with the other Prime Ministers at the Prime Ministers' Conference. The leader of the Opposition said that Mr. Macmillan was completely at cross purposes with our Prime Minister. As appears at page 5 of the copy of the Prime Minister's speech, Mr. Macmillan said -

There was no question of the expulsion of South Africa, for it became apparent to Dr. Verwoerd himself that he could not serve the Commonwealth or help its unity and coherence in any other way except by withdrawing his application.

I cannot see where Mr. Macmillan expresses a view opposite to that of the Australian Prime Minister. Mr. Macmillan stated afterwards that he could not see any grave danger to the future of the Commonwealth in the withdrawal of South Africa, and it is well to remember that throughout the history of the Commonwealth, Great Britain has been the foremost mover in maintaining the ties of the Commonwealth. She is the only nation among the members of the Commonwealth which maintains a Commonwealth Relations Office. In view of the fact that we have already lost what we term an initial member of the Commonwealth, surely the other members of the Commonwealth must have cause for reflection on the need to establish likewise a Commonwealth Relations Office within their own spheres of influence in order that the ties of the Commonwealth may be tightened rather than loosened.

The newspapers of Australia and some members of the Parliament have said that these developments have done great harm to Australia, and the amendment proposed by the Leader of the Opposition states -

.   . in the opinion of this House the speeches and statements made by the Prime Minister on the question of South Africa . . . have done great harm to Australia's relations with other member States of the Commonwealth. . . .

Let us have a look at the situation in Canada. The Canadian Prime Minister took a stand at the Prime Ministers' Conference. The Leader of the Opposition quoted from the newspapers this evening; so perhaps I may quote from a newspaper to show what is the situation in Canada. In an article entitled, "How Canadians View The Commonwealth ", we find this statement -

The average Canadian rarely sees a Negro, apart from a few West Indian nurses in hospitals, boxers from across the 'border, jazz trumpeters and drummers.

Looking at this thing a little in retrospect now that the tumult and the shouting have died down, this article refers to speculation in Canada and states -

These Canadians are angrily aware of American press reaction to Commonwealth confusion, the gleeful speculation that the Afro-Asian bloc might some day expel Australia and Britain herself, leaving New Delhi and Accra as the seats of Commonwealth power.

They claim that the way the wind is blowing was shown in the United Nations recently when Canada and the United States voted to condemn South Africa's mandate of South-West Africa - a vote from which Britain and Australia abstained. They ask how will Canada and the United States vote if the Afro-Asian Powers demand condemnation of Australian immigration policy or administration of New Guinea.

Here we see what are the thoughts that are now circulating in other Commonwealth countries, and this development was forecast by the Prime Minister when South Africa's action was taken at the conference in London.

Mr Ward - He gave the South Africans the idea.

Mr CHANEY - It is strange that the honorable member now admits that the Prime Minister is capable of giving any one an idea. This is the first time that I have heard the honorable member for East Sydney pay the Prime Minister such a compliment.

The Opposition has stated that we have had a complete reversal of policy on the part of the Australian Government. The Leader of the Opposition expressed himself on this in typical classical Calwellese. as reported in the " West Australian " of Monday, 10th April. Referring to the Australian vote in the United Nations, that newspaper reported -

Federal Opposition Leader Calwell said yesterday that the decision of the Menzies Government to vote against apartheid in the United Nations was completely opposite to the attitude adopted by Mr. Menzies at the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference and subsequently. "The Prime Minister's argument was that the question was a matter of domestic concern to South Africa only ", he said. " In this respect he was consistent, because Australia put up the same attitude last year and previously when the matter was under discussion at the United Nations. "The Government's acrobatic feats on its foreign as well as its domestic policies have made Australia the laughing stock of both the British Commonwealth and the United Nations."

This is the theory that you cannot win. and it should be looked at in the light of what actually happened as we have been told in the statement made by the Prime Minister this evening. Obviously, there has been no reversal of the Government's opinion. In the first place, the attempt to retain South Africa in the Commonwealth was an attempt to retain her in the family of the Commonwealth. In the light of the development of conferences of Commonwealth Prime Ministers since the enactment of the Statute of Westminster in 1931, this was an idealistic move to assist, not the people who were responsible for the policy of apartheid, but the people who were the victims of that policy. This was the move for which the Prime Minister has been condemned by the Opposition.

What has been the history of this resolution before the United Nations since it was first brought up in 1952? Australia originally voted against it, as did the United

Kingdom. For the last two years, Australia has abstained and the United Kingdom has still voted against it. This year, the United Kingdom voted for it, and so did Australia. At that stage, of course, South Africa was not a member of the Commonwealth of Nations. So the accusations that are made of a turnabout in policy are quite fallacious and stupid. Australia is in a position to make her decisions on foreign policy, and to make them in the best interests of the. people concerned.

I wonder what the attitude of the Opposition would have been to-night if Australia had voted with Portugal against the resolution moved by the three powers. If you study the 25-power resolution, you will find that after deploring, deprecating, affirming and noting certain matters, it then sets out the line suggested to be taken, and it is obvious that any nation would vote against it. The fifth paragraph of the resolution proposed by the 25 member nations recommended that all States should consider taking steps to break off diplomatic relations with the Union Government or refrain from establishing such relations, to close their ports to all vessels flying the South African flag, to prohibit their ships from entering South African ports, to boycott all South African goods and to refrain from exporting goods to South Africa. Honorable members may remember that there was an attempted move in this House to have the Australian Government place a ban on the import of all South African goods and to ban the export of goods to South Africa. This in itself would have been the quickest possible method of penalizing the people of whom honorable members opposite declare themselves to be in favour. Hardships would have been imposed, first, on the Bantu people of South Africa to whom, they say, we are opposed. The whole of this resolution shows that there was no turnabout of opinion at all by the Australian Government.

The Leader of the Opposition spoke about disarmament, which had been mentioned in the Prime Minister's speech. I, too, believe that idealistically the world needs disarmament, but it seems strange to me that people do not realize that we of the Western world and of the British Commonwealth have never raised forces with the idea of aggression. The whole of our armaments are designed to protect ourselves from threats arising from other parts of the world.

It is quite useless to talk about disarmament until we have a complete agreement between the main nations concerned to adhere to the rules laid down by a United Nations disarmament committee. It is quite obvious to every one who has studied this problem over the years that the Soviet states have consistently refused to accept openskies inspection. I invite honorable members to recall the outcry that arose in parts of Australia at the shooting down of a U2 spy plane. Why was it necessary to send that aircraft over Russia at that time, and to send similar aircraft on like missions during the preceding five months? It was necessary because it was felt that the Soviet states were likely to be aggressors. They were the ones threatening world security and refusing open inspection of their armaments. If it is considered wrong in the minds of some people to send such aircraft in those circumstances, all I can say is that it is not considered to be wrong in the minds of the great majority of Australians, who want to ensure their own future security.

We have seen statements in the press of Australia, since the Prime Ministers' Conference, suggesting that the Prime Minister has been arrogant in his approach. In this connexion I suggest that honorable members look at the concluding parts of the statement made to-night by the Prime Minister, dealing with the situation in Laos, When the right honorable gentleman was met at the airport by a newspaper man seeking an interview - and it is quite obvious that the Prime Minister did not seek a press interview - he said that he was to report to this House the facts surrounding his overseas mission. Imagine the consternation and perturbation of the Opposition if the statement which he made to-night had been made to the Australian press for dissemination in the way that the press thought fit. In fairness to the Prime Minister it should be realized that he has given us a full statement on matters concerning Laos, and he has given it in the place in which it should have been given, and where members of this Parliament were entitled to hear it.

Let me turn again to the amendment moved by the Opposition, which suggests, among other things, that we have done great harm to the nations of South-East Asia. I heard the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt), by interjection, refer to the harm that had been done in the past in the Philippines and other parts of South-East Asia by rather foolish utterances made by honorable members who now sit opposite when they were on this side of the House.

There is also in this resolution a request that the House censure and remove the right honorable gentleman from the office of Minister of State for External Affairs. As I said at the beginning of my speech, I believe that in the heat, excitement, sentiment and political partisanship existing at the present time, this matter has not been looked at in its proper perspective. When history is written and the matter is looked at in retrospect, I believe that the Prime Minister will be accepted as a person of whom this country may be justly proud for his efforts overseas on our behalf, not only for his efforts at the Prime Ministers' Conference, but also for his efforts in cementing friendly relations with the American Administration. Surely the Opposition cannot criticize the proposition that the Australian people should be on friendly relations with America, with the future so much in doubt. Only last week I received a letter from the Union of Australian Women protesting at the establishment of military bases in the north of Western Australia. In replying to that letter I said that there were no such military bases, but that I had heard there was a radio station, and I would say that I appreciate the co-operation of the American defence forces in ensuring that the Pacific is a safe place in which to live.

In conclusion, let me foreshadow an amendment in the following terms, which I will propose at a later stage: -

This House welcomes the cordial relations established by the Prime Minister with President Kennedy and senior members of his Administration. It commends the Prime Minister for his efforts, at the conference of Prime Ministers in London, to preserve the unity of the Commonwealth, and for his vigorous expression of Australia's views on matters of vital concern to Australia at this conference and at the Seato conference in Bangkok.

This House places on record the appreciation of the Australian Parliament and people for his distinguished service in these and other important directions in the course of his recent overseas mission as head of the Australian Government.

Suggest corrections