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Thursday, 23 March 1961

Mr McEWEN - When I first referred in the House to South Africa's decision I suggested that it was an incident which called for tolerance, and that recrimination would contribute nothing to the easing of a difficult situation, and the Leader of the Opposition, I am glad to remind honorable members, associated himself with those sentiments and expressed the view that it would be good for the future of the Commonwealth if we exhibited that kind of tolerance. I am sorry that the events of yesterday-

Mr Whitlam - And at dinner the night before.

Mr SPEAKER -Order! The Deputy Leader of the Opposition must not interrupt.

Mr McEWEN - I am sorry that what is implicit in the question, as well as what happened yesterday, represent a departure from that spirit of tolerance and from the belief that recrimination and the stirring up of feelings at this time contribute nothing to the solution of this problem. I have not the full text of what the United Kingdom Prime Minister said in the House of Commons, but I have some brief excerpts from his statement. I will procure the full text and let the Leader of the Opposition have it as soon as it is available. However, so far as I am advised, Mr. Macmillan did say that he did not believe that the withdrawal of South Africa would necessarily weaken the Commonwealth. I would hope that that sentiment is found to be correct, but I cannot myself believe that the withdrawal of one member, or more than one member, of the Commonwealth can in any sense strengthen the Commonwealth, but must, on the contrary, at least open up possibilities of the weakening of it. The real issue here is whether it is not better that there should be full, frank and even difficult discussions in the Prime Ministers conferences, designed to influence Prime Ministers and the policies of their governments, than that such discussions should be carried the one stage further that would produce a situation in which, if a Prime Minister whose government is under attack does not conform, he is compelled to withdraw. That is the deadly danger for this country and for the British Commonwealth, and it is on that principle alone that the Australian Prime Minister, T am proud to recount, has been quite explicit within the Prime Ministers Conference and since.

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