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Thursday, 4 April 1957

Mr HAROLD HOLT (HIGGINS, VICTORIA) (Minister for Labour and National Service) , - The defence statement which the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has just finished making to the House is a sombre reminder of the dangerous, difficult and uneasy times through which we are moving. It is an aspect of security which might well linger in our minds as we resume this debate on foreign affairs.

This is a debate in a very real sense of that word because, from the outset, there have been revealed basic differences between the Government and the Opposition. There has been revealed a basic difference of approach. There have been displayed by members of the Opposition deep and wide differences of policy from that put forward by the Government. There is no need, nor would time permit me, to go over the ground of the policy so ably covered by my colleague, the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey). He has put before the House a positive statement of our attitude on the issues he mentioned. We are indebted to him for his reasoned and realistic exposition of Government policy. It is my purpose to examine the alternative - for that is what the speech of the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) represents for the people of Australia. It is not sometimes appreciated by many people outside this chamber that the Opposition - honorable gentlemen opposite - provide the alternative government to the government made up of the parties joined in the Menzies-Fadden coalition. We believe it to be vital for the continued good government in this country that Opposition policy statements be scrutinized with the greatest care. The need for this scrutiny is nowhere more important than in the sphere of foreign relations, which affect the security of all of us in Australia.

On this occasion, we do not have to wander very far afield in our researches. The Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) is the acknowledged specialist and authority of the Australian Labour party on foreign affairs. Inside the Australian Labour party he is an unchallenged authority on foreign affairs. There were some challenging voices in this Parliament not so very long ago, but those who were sufficiently vocal have been removed both from their party and from this Parliament. To-day, there is no challenging voice on the Opposition side which would question the foreign policy statements of the Leader of the Opposition.


Mr HAROLD HOLT (HIGGINS, VICTORIA) - I am glad to have the confirmation of the honorable member for Hindmarsh that the words that came from the Leader of the Opposition on Tuesday night fully expounded the views of the Labour party as a whole. I heard the right honorable gentleman's speech right through. I have since taken the opportunity to read thoroughly the whole text of the speech as it is recorded in " Hansard ". I am appalled to think - and I am sure that most thoughtful Australians who performed the same task for themselves would be appalled also to think - that what was put forward on Tuesday night by the Leader of the Opposition would be the policy of an Australian government if he ever came to power in this place.

Let me deal first with the difference of approach between the Government and the Opposition, and apply that difference of approach to what I think would be the agreed objectives of both sides of the House on a foreign policy for Australia. Our large objectives are our national security, our economic progress, the prosperity of our people and a full measure of freedom for the individual in a peaceful world. These we would agree upon, but our differences begin as to the way in which we can best go about achieving those objectives.

The Opposition, for its part, is clearly of the view that, so far as Australia is concerned, what is needed is a socialist government that places its complete reliance on the United Nations organization. With the Opposition it is United Nations first, United Nations second, United Nations last and United Nations always. On that basis, Australia would have one voice in the 80 nations that make up the membership of the organization. That would not be a very strong voice, I think it will be agreed, having regard to our members and our military and economic strength, although there have been times when the

Leader of the Opposition was active in its deliberations. Then we appeared to try to make up in stridency of voice what we lacked in actual strength.

This Government has a very different approach. We support the United Nations organization. It enshrines one of the noblest ideals of mankind. We are active members of it. We shall continue to do what we can to strengthen its effectiveness, but we do not allow ourselves to be blinded to its weaknesses and its imperfections. We have a role to play in its discussions, but it is not as big or as significant a role to play in international affairs as I believe we can usefully discharge in other directions. We believe that Australia could exert a significant influence on world affairs, not by going it alone in the councils of the United Nations organization, but through our intimate association with the United Kingdom and other countries oi the British Commonwealth, through om strong friendship with the United States of America, through our adherence to certain important principles, our belief in democracy and parliamentary institutions, our belief in free enterprise as a basis of out economic system, and our belief in the guarantee of individual liberties.

Those things unite us in sentiment with many other like-minded countries around the world. The fact of our geographical situation and the processes of economic development through which we are passing, enable us to exercise some friendly influence upon other countries of the SouthEast Asian area. Our influences are stronger, thanks to the personal contribution made in terms of character and ability by our Prime Minister and our distinguished Minister for External Affairs. These factors have combined to give Australia a significance and a moral and political influence far in excess of what might have been expected from our numbers or our material strength.

I turn now to the basic differences of policy because they will reflect the difference of approach by the political parties to which I have just made reference. The Leader of the Opposition covered a wide range. He included the Suez Canal episode, the crisis in the Middle East, the situation in Cyprus and Algeria, the meeting of Seato, the question of recognition of Red

China, the conduct of atom bomb experiments and various other matters. On every one of those he expressed a view that is contrary to the applied policy of the Australian Government. Most of his views are contrary to those held by the Governments of Great Britain and the United States to whom Australia looks for assistance in any emergency with which Australia may be confronted in years to come. They are governments from which we have had in most recent times a welcome re-affirmation of the weight of support they are prepared to bring to our aid should the need ever arise.

The Leader of the Opposition has given us a foreign policy which conflicts, so far as this Government is concerned, on every item. In the case of the United Kingdom Government and the United States Government, it conflicts on all but one viewpoint. That is the foreign policy of the Australian Labour party. It is the foreign policy of democratic socialism. It is a policy consistent with the Hobart conference decisions which, it will be recalled, marked a definite turning to the left on the part of the Labour party in Australia after it had purged itself of some of the most moderate elements in its membership. It is entirely consistent with the line taken at the recent Brisbane conference - the new Brisbane line of the Australian Labour party.


Mr HAROLD HOLT (HIGGINS, VICTORIA) - Honorable members opposite confirm by their applause the appreciation I am making of their policy. It is fully consistent, as I shall demonstrate fully if time permits, with the exposition of Dr. John Burton of a desirable foreign policy for the Australian Labour party, which he published in his booklet named appropriately enough " The Alternative ".


Mr HAROLD HOLT (HIGGINS, VICTORIA) - That is most appropriate, because what I am trying to give is the alternative to the policy of this Government. The honorable member for Hindmarsh said, "So what!" when I alleged that the policy set out by Dr. Burton is, in substance, the policy of the Labour party at this time. What is no less significant is that the policy views expressed by the Leader of the Opposition are entirely consistent, on every major policy aspect he has mentioned, with the foreign policy of the Communist party of Australia as revealed in its publication " The Tribune ".

In the course of my duties as Minister for Labour and National Service, I come into contact with the industrial movement in which there are Communist influences, and for that reason I read " The Tribune " regularly. I have noticed repeatedly how consistently the foreign policy line taken by the right honorable gentleman in this place measures up to the foreign policy statements of " The Tribune " and other Communist publications. I am not denying that on every one of the policy matters put forward by the right honorable gentleman in this House there is room for some honest difference of opinion. But when we find that on every one of them, without exception, the view expressed by the right honorable gentleman, speaking on behalf of his party and with its authority, is entirely consistent with the view taken by the Communist party of Australia, what conclusions are we entitled to draw? Are we not entitled to draw the conclusion that Dr. John Burton's statement is entirely consistent with what honorable members opposite believe? I have in my hand Dr. Burton's pamphlet, " The Alternative ". Recently a senior journalist, in this capital city, sent the following report to his newspaper: -

I have stood on the Canberra aerodrome while Dr. Evatt attempted to thrust down my throat with the tip of a stabbing finger that "The Alternative " should be adopted as Australia's external affairs policy.

I have yet to hear the right honorable gentleman deny that. I have yet to hear him repudiate Dr. Burton's pamphlet as a statement of general policy and attitude which might well be adopted by the Labour party. Indeed, there are members opposite here to-night who have spoken with approval of the views of Dr. Burton. The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) endorses them as expressing a true Labour view, and so do other members of the Opposition. If time permits I will quote one significant passage from page 71, chapter six, of " The Alternative ". This chapter is headed " Australia, Fear, and the

United States " and appears in part 2 of the book, " Australia and Asia ". The chapter opens in these terms -

It has been argued-

That is, argued by Dr. Burton in the early part of his book -

It has been argued so far that there is no basic conflict between communism and the welfare state which could threaten the security of the latter; that reasons for conflict between America and Communist centres lie in the refusal of the United States to contemplate adjustments within its own economy; that this affects all other countries endeavouring to maintain stability and prosperity; that the fear of communism in Britain is fundamentally fear of attack from the continent and not fear of communism as such; that present Western policies towards communism, based on the maintenance of the status quo, are meeting with economic, political and strategic difficulties, and in particular, are antagonising Asia; and that an alternative policy designed to eliminate the cause of unrest in backward countries is practical, and consistent with the purposes and principles of the United Nations.

Australia, like Britain, has nothing to fear from communism because it has made progress toward the welfare state, and economic justice is at a high level.

That, I suggest, is the tone of the whole approach. I am not challenging the honesty of its author. He is one of the few men of the Labour party who have the courage and the capacity to present, quite fairly, what they believe democratic socialism stands for.

When one examines the speech of the Leader of the Opposition in its detail, what becomes significant is not merely the substance of the speech, but also the tone of the comment, which frequently can be just as revealing as the substance of the speech itself. Although the Brisbane conference held that there should be co-operation with the United States, we find in the right honorable gentleman's speech a completely offensive reference to the American Secretary of State for what is termed an abuse of the Seato conference process. Arising from the issue of red China, we find him attacking the United States on its policies in SouthEast Asia, its policies in relation to Anzus and Seato, and other matters of that character; attacking the Secretary of State for his failure to recognize red China; attacking the presence of American troops in those countries of Europe which they are obliged to defend; and attacking the presence of Australian troops in Malaya, although we are making our contribution to the security of that area. Wherever one turns, whether to a comment on my colleague, the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey), for his attitude towards Seato, or a reference to a so-called reactionary government in Thailand - a friendly power allied with us - one finds, repeatedly, that not merely the substance of the right honorable gentleman's statements, but also their tone, indicate all too clearly where his sympathies lie at this time.

So, we have on the one hand the policies put forward by this Government, a government respected and valued by other countries with parliamentary democracies, free institutions, and a basic system of free enterprise. We know that our strength and security lie in the view taken of us and of our policies by the United States and by the United Kingdom. On the other hand, we have the alternative - the alternative as set out in the speech of the right honorable gentleman, a speech which has been so consistently in line with what the Communists themselves are preaching. I invite anybody to find one aspect of the right honorable gentleman's speech to which the Communists would demonstrate any antipathy. Certainly I can point to passage after passage which would give them the greatest encouragement and comfort.

The choice for the Australian people is between a government led by the present Prime Minister and the Minister for External Affairs, run on sound judgment, and respected by the countries of the world, and a government led by the right honorable member for Barton and his colleagues with the policies that they espouse. Where would Australia look for friends if we adopted the policies followed by Labour? It is obvious enough that we would be casting off our present friends. Where we would have to look for new friends consistent with Labour's policy is hardly less obvious.

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