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Wednesday, 16 March 1977
Page: 275

Mr Keith Johnson (BURKE, VICTORIA) -One could take issue with the honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder) on a number of matters. Not the least of them is the indication of white arrogance that ran through his address to this House when we have a world which is multi-racial. He said that the granting of land rights for Aborigines in the Northern Territory would make the Northern Territory into a black state. I remind the honourable member that not quite 200 years ago Australia was a black state and it was the white Europeans who came here with weapons and took possession of the land. Now to deny the indigenous people rights is, in my view, far from being honest. Along with the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth), the honorable member seems to have his attitudes in relation to foreign affairs coloured very much by his paranoic hatred of a political philosophy which is different from his. It is known loosely by the term 'communism '. They would implant in the minds of the Australian people the idea that the philosophy of communism held by every country in the world that cares to declare itself a communist country involves the existence of one rigid system. Of course, anybody thinking or reading about the matter will know that this is not necessarily true. One cannot say that democracy is the same in all of those countries which profess to be democratic. We know that democracy varies from country to country and that the people in those countries have their own interpretations of how they want it applied. The same applies to communism.

The honourable member for the Northern Territory seemed to me to be defending the stand of the illegal Smith regime in Rhodesia. He seemed to be lauding that regime for standing up against communist-backed nationalism. I should like to reflect on those words for a moment. The movements in Asia, Africa and indeed most parts of the world- in China it was the Long March- were all part of nationalist movements. The exploiters were not communists. It was the communists who came forward and promised to lead the people away from their exploiters. That is exactly what happened. In Rhodesia a minority of European people went there and took possession of the land, obviously against the wishes of the people who inhabited it first- the black people- and now they are most resentful of the fact that, they having built their wealth and their white empires there, those who traditionally and over many centuries owned the land now demand it back. So, because they take this unusual step they are branded as communists.

To me, that goes to the very crux of Australia 's foreign policy and why the debate on foreign policy in Australia has never been broad enough to encompass all of the matters that are of concern to us. It has always been narrow and the community has always been peppered with the view that all things that occur around us are communist inspired. The honourable member for the Northern Territory went further. He was told by the captain of an airliner- I guess some 30 000 feet above the Indian Ocean- that the only things below them were the Indian Ocean and the Russian fleet. To use that as a debating point in this House seems to me to have no credence whatsoever. Even the Minister for Defence (Mr Killen) gave away using that sort of an argument a long time ago. The so-called build-up of Russian ships in the Indian Ocean is very plausible. It is a claim that cannot be disproved easily by the community; but nobody has ever brought forth a shred of evidence to prove that this is occurring. The honourable member spoke of communist bases on the east coast of Africa. There is no evidence to support that, but there is ample evidence of the presence of American submarines armed with Polaris missiles in the Indian Ocean.

The statement made by the honourable member for Kooyong, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, did not have much credence. I believe the Minister to be a very good Foreign Minister. Were he to be not under the dominance of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser), perhaps a foreign policy would emerge. The statement that was made to this House yesterday was not a statement of foreign policy as the people of Australia wanted to hear it; it was not a policy statement as to where we were going to go. On page 7 of the Melbourne Sun- that is the prominence that that newspaper gave the statement; it seemed to think that the cricket was more importantjournalist Don Baker commented:

The speech was a review of the Government's actions rather than an announcement of new initiatives.

We can have rehashes any time. When our Foreign Minister stands up in this place the people of Australia expect him to give some indication of where Australia is going in this area, not where it has been. The attitude of the Foreign Minister, unless given his head- even given his head- can never equal the attitude towards foreign affairs expressed by the most recent Prime Minister of this country, who is now the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) and who is destined to hold that position for a long time.

Mr Hodgman - He will be Leader of the Opposition for many years.

Mr KEITHJOHNSON I meant to say that he will be Leader of the Australian Labor Party for a long time. All we seem to hear in these debates is a generalisation on all of these things. The white arrogance in this area shows through again when the Association of South East Asian Nations is mentioned. After a recent visit to the South East Asian countries I came away with a distinct impression that they do not regard Australia as an Asian country anyhow and therefore do not think it would be proper for Australia to be a member of that organisation. They regard Australia as a Pacific country. If one cares to think about it, one realises that they are right. The world being round, of course, there are countries on each side of us and I suppose we can select the group to which we wish to belong.

The attitude of the conservative governments over the years- in fact down through the centuries has always been that their foreign affairs and defence policies have been inextricably mixed. Their whole attitude towards their neighbours and other countries has always been one of aggression. The governments of the day have made their decisions on foreign policy with a gunboat in mind to enforce them. I suggest that up until the sixth decade of the twentieth century the people generally were quite prepared to accept these myths that were put to them, to the effect that enemies were around them, and they were willing to offer themselves as soldiers to go into other people's countries to fight. If honourable members opposite would have a look at Australia's history in this respect they would find that there is hardly a country on earth to which armed Australian soldiers have not been sent to fight the people in those countries at the behest of another nation- never for our own protection. One would think that the frontier of Australia was the Rhine in Germany. One would laugh loud and long if a Frenchman were to suggest that the frontier of France was the Murray River.

During the 1960s the people of the world- the people of the greater nations and the lesser nations- whose governments had involved them in a warlike operation in the Indo-China region questioned the wisdom of this. People came out and demonstrated their dislike for their governments' involvement and their own involvement. It was a war fought with conscripts because at that time-and I believe since- the attitude of the people was changing. They believed that there were other ways to solve these problems than to send armed men to do it for them. So the land war in Indo-China came to a close. In 1973 the

Labor Government took the action of withdrawing all Australian servicemen from Vietnam. We were told then, as we were told about the independence of Papua New Guinea, that with the removal of the Australian and other armed men from the area bloodshed and wholehearted slaughter would take place between the people who lived in those countries. It was for this reason, we were told, that we must leave our soldiers in Vietnam. We were told that we could not take any steps towards giving Papua New Guinea its independence; that we must keep it as one of our colonies. This policy, of course, would take us back 100 years in our attitude towards foreign affairs.

I am pleased to say that when the Labor Government came to office it had a far more enlightened attitude towards foreign affairs. It told the Papua New Guinean people that a timetable would be set for them to have their independence, and the timetable was adhered to. Where did we see the bloodshed in the streets, the wholesale slaughter, that we were told would happen if the white man left the country? Where did we see the wholesale slaughter in Vietnam? It will probably be said that Vietnam is now a communist country and that we will never know about the slaughter there. I dispute that. I should think that if wholesale slaughter had occurred in Vietnam we would certainly have got evidence of it through the many journalists in this world who would have a nose for such a story.

Mr McVeigh - They would not be let into the country.

Mr Keith Johnson (BURKE, VICTORIA) -The honourable member for Darling Downs says that the journalists would not be let in. Again that is a generalisation. The honourable member has no evidence to the effect that journalists would not be let in. I think the Government there would raise no objection even to a visit to its country of the honourable member for Darling Downs if he chose to do so.

This whole attitude of generalisation, this attitude that the conservatives of this country have adopted over the years has always been one of divide and rule. They have done this within our country and they have endeavoured to maintain the same attitude outside it. As a device to divide our people they keep peddling the attitude that unless we, the white Australians, are involved in these areas, those other people whose skin is a different colour will never be able to manage their own affairs. They argue that those people need our presence and that they need us to show them how to do things. History has shown that attitude to be wrong time and time again but honourable members opposite use these arguments to justify their very questionable actions in this whole area of foreign affairs.

I should like to return to one point and that is, the South East Asian area which, I suppose, is of great interest to Australians. We are that area's nearest neighbour. Indonesia is a very large nation which straddles the Indian Ocean. This afternoon we were told about communist influence in Malaysia. After questioning people very carefully last year, I could not find any substantiated evidence of communist terrorist activity there. I was told that because the border between Thailand and Malaysia is not very carefully defined and not many people know exactly where it is, and because it is not patrolled, it was there that the communist activity took place. I then did some homework and studied up on the matter. I found that in that area which is at the head of the Malacca Straits for centuries the people have lived as bandits and pirates as we now term them. So far as they were concerned, it was an honest trade. They were far more honest than are those who sit on the opposite side of this House. But modern parlance would term them bandits or pirates. Practising banditry and piracy is exactly what they are doing now. But because they are engaged in this sort of activity, it suits the Malaysian Government and this Government to assert that there is communist activity in Malaysia. The whole activity in Vietnam was centred more around nationalism than around the communist monolith, as I have heard it described. In Africa, in Asia and in all like countries, those who have been oppressed for centuries will rise up. Each time they do those who sit opposite will term them communists.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER - Order! The honourable member's time has expired.

Sitting suspended from 5.59 to 8 p.m.

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