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Monday, 15 October 1973
Page: 2053

Mr RIORDAN (PHILLIP, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I address a question to the Prime Minister, ls it the intention of the Australian Government to seek United Nations intervention to halt the present military aggression against Israel? As the last Australian Labor Government played such a prominent role in the establishment of Israel as an independent democratic state, will the present Labor Government use its best efforts to obtain a ceasefire and an end to the current hostilities? Further, will the Government intensify its efforts to achieve the objective stated by the Prime Minister earlier this year in the following terms:

We have affirmed, and we continue to believe, that the best prospect for an enduring peace in the Middle East will flow from an agreement freely arrived at between the parties. My Government will work to secure support for negotiations towards such an agreement, both in the United Nations and in all our diplomatic endeavours.

Mr WHITLAM - The Australian Government's efforts are being directed to bringing about a ceasefire and an end of the hostilities in the Middle East. Australia has particular opportunity to work for this end because our distinguished Ambassador to the United Nations, Sir Laurence Mclntyre, is this month President of the Security Council. It is unfortunate that the Security Council's efforts in this regard are limited to those which it can make under its own intrinsic authority. None of the belligerents in the Middle East has sought the assistance of the Security Council. None of the great powers, two of whom back the conflicting parties, has moved in the Security Council. I refrain from adopting all the terms that my friend the honourable member for

Phillip has used. The Australian Government maintains a neutral and even-handed attitude to the conflict in the Middle East, as did the Holt and Menzies governments when conflict broke out there on earlier occasions. Successive Australian governments have always been neutral and have tried to be even-handed in this longstanding dispute. I believe that there is no advantage in seeking to apportion blame. I adopt the words which Sir Laurence Mclntyre used at the last meeting of the Security Council, when he said:

We are simply wasting our time if we join in recrimination which only seeks to ascribe blame to one side or the other. We can all understand the frustrations that have increased during the past 6 years over the failure to build on the foundation provided by Resolution 242; frustrations which have inevitably helped to bring about the present renewal of hostilities. While we must regret lost opportunities we must look forward and not backward.

There have been 4 meetings of the Security Council at the instance of the Australian Chairman of that 'body. We are doing all that we can do. We will continue to do all that we can to end hostilities in the Middle East. The honourable gentleman, and other honourable gentlemen who ask questions on this subject or may be disposed to do so, may not be entirely happy with the response that I shall give, but I wish to emphasise that I am particularly anxious to avoid any dissensions in the Australian community on this subject. There are on one side of this House, for instance, some members of the Jewish faith who inevitably feel very much involved in this issue. On the other side of the House there is one member, at any rate, of Arab ancestry who might feel much involved in this issue. I regret that on 2 occasions in recent weeks references have been made to the position of the gentleman to whom I refer. In the last Parliament references were made to honourable members which caused distress to them and could have caused dissension in the community. There have been such references in this Parliament. I deplore them and shall do my best to denounce them from whatever side they come, r wish to emphasise another feature to illustrate - I ask honourable gentlemen to understand this - that answers on this subject in our Parliament, which is. probably the only Parliament where questions without notice on such subjects can ever be asked, are reported throughout the world.

I was asked a question by the honourable member for Hunter last week which was given wide coverage. There have been some adverse reactions to it. It was about the use of passports by Australians passing to this area of belligerency.

Mr McLeay - It was a proper answer, anyway.

Mr WHITLAM - I thank the honourable gentleman. I believe it was. I do not believe any person in my position would have given a different answer. I do not believe my predecessors would have given a different answer to the question I was asked. Nevertheless, Reuters, in an incompetent and irresponsible fashion, embroidered the answer and thus spread dissension and misunderstanding in the world. It reported in particular my having said that the Australian Government would not try to stop Australian recruits going to the Middle East to take part in the ArabIsraeli war. The question to me did not use the word 'recruits'. My answer did not use the word 'recruits'. My answer was reported throughout the world in context of other statements made by some of the parties to the hostilities. In these circumstances people associate my answer with those pronouncements by other persons. I hope honourable members will appreciate that in answering questions on this issue I shall try to do 3 things - first, to avoid, as far as I can, dissension in this community; secondly, to do all I can to bring an end to the hostilities; and thirdly, to say nothing which will make more difficult the application of the principles of Resolution 242, which was unanimously passed by the Security Council over 6 years ago.

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