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Thursday, 13 April 1961

Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) . - The House has devoted most of its time, so far, to the question of apartheid in South Africa. Although, if time permits, I hope to refer to it as well, I feel that a debate on foreign affairs that confines itself to South Africa falls far short of the kind of thing with which we in the Australian Parliament ought to be concerning ourselves if we have the best interests of the Australian people at heart. Therefore, I want to direct my remarks, in the main, to what is going on in SouthEast Asia, particularly Laos, at present.

I remind the House that when it passed the Seato legislation in 1954, the Opposition made it perfectly clear by way of criticism and by way of an amendment moved in committee, that the Seato pact would not, and could not, be an effective weapon against the kind of thing that, it sought to prevent in Asia. The Seato pact was aimed at preventing aggression by Communist countries against any of the members of Seato. The Labour Party expressed the view through its leader at the time, Dr. Evatt, that aggression should be equally abhorred whether it was from Communist or fascist countries, whether from American or Western countries, whether from imperialistic or colonialist countries. It was stupid, futile and silly in the extreme for the Seato pact to be designed solely to prevent Communist aggression. Any other kind of aggression was to be permitted. This indicated clearly that our only concern for South-East Asia was not the independence of its people but to prevent the people of South-East Asia from coming under the yoke of communism. The Opposition failed to bring about an amendment of the Seato legislation.

Now we see the situation in Laos, where there is a civil war. It is nothing but an internal affair between two groups of people inside Laos. It is a civil war which was started for the purpose of getting rid of a rotten, corrupt government, propped up by American imperialism. It had no concern for the little people - the leprechauns, as they might be termed - of Laos. The Government was a mere puppet of American imperialism, propped up by American gun boats, for the purpose of keeping the country as a kind of American jumping-off ground for defence purposes. The American Government had no concern at all for the welfare of the little people and the mass of the Laotian population.

Mr Killen - What nonsense!

Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - It is not nonsense. Let me read the following extract from the Manchester " Guardian " of 17th December last year: -

Tt has taken a long time to bring the Laotians to this pitch of violence, and what is distressing is that the battle for Vientiane need not have happened. Most of the blame for it must be put squarely on the United States Government and its agencies: it is the price they have been willing to pay - or to let the Laotians pay - to avoid the risk of a neutralist government in the kingdom.

The Manchester " Guardian " was not alone in expressing such views. I turn to the London " Daily Express " of 4th January last, which stated -

The reported " invasion " of Laos was a fantasy dreamed up by the Government to save face. Laos is a land of lies and exaggeration. The Prime Minister knows that his Government is unpopular, and was hoping to win support by presenting Laos as a victim of outside aggression. The Government reckons that the tighter the tension the more United States aid it can pull in. More than one member of the Government has a reputation tarnished with allegations of racketeering or grafting.

Mr Anderson - On what date was that statement published?

Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - On 4th

January, 1961, in the respectable newspaper, the London " Daily Express ".

Mr. LesterPearson, who was Secretary of State for External Affairs in the Canadian Government not so long ago, and is still a highly respected member of the Canadian Parliament, stated -

The danger in Laos arises from a civil war in which the United States is backing one side and the Soviet and Communist China the other.

No statement has put more clearly than that the position of Laos. There is in that country a civil war between a corrupt government and the people who want to get rid of the corruption that they can stand no longer, with the United States backing the corrupt government and the Communists backing the rebels who are trying to overthrow it.

The " Sydney Morning Herald ", on 14th January last, reported that the United States had approved the use by the Laotian Government of planes supplied by the United States, to strike at the left wing rebels. What arrant nonsense it is for anybody to suggest that this interference in Laotian affairs is confined to the Soviet Union and Communist China! What sheer rubbish, nonsense and hypocrisy it is for anybody to say that this is a one-sided kind of thing! The Americans are up to their back teeth in it. They started it by first of all throwing out the neutralist government and then having to support the corrupt government that is in office there now.

I refer also to the Melbourne " Herald " of 23rd January last, in which John Williams had the following comment to make -

Much United States aid had lined the pockets of the already rich and corrupt temporary proAmericans.

So, the position is as I have stated it. The Australian Government has merely acted as a ventriloquist's dummy for current United States foreign policy, whatever it has happened to be. Let me give an example. First of all, it supported brinkmanship and rejected Laotian neutrality under the policy of Dulles. Now, the Government is turning a complete somersault, which is nothing unusual for it, by supporting Laotian neutrality under the Kennedy Administration. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) stated in December last - . . neutrality, as distinct from military alliances, has seemed the only practical course for the country.

What did this same person say in 1954, when America had a different policy from that which it has now? Let me quote the following words that he used in this Parliament: -

We respect all the high-minded men and women who believe that neutrality is in itself a contribution to peace, but for ourselves we believe that in this century neutralism will invite aggression but will never defeat it.

The plain fact of the matter is that subversion is not military aggression and is therefore not actionable within the terms of the Seato pact. The word " subversion ", I think, is nothing but an abbreviation for what is more properly described as the battle of ideas in the world-wide struggle for the minds of men. After all, ideas are more potent than bombs. They always have been and always will be. I believe that force will never triumph over ideals. If force could triumph over ideals, there would not be a Christian religion alive to-day. Force cannot continually or perpetually defeat an idea. Therefore, surely our job should be to try to re-think our ideals and to re-think our ideas. It is of no use to talk in abstract terms of civil liberties, freedom, the rule of law and other such principles, when what the starving people of Asia want more than anything else is bread. They want it now. In Asia there are millions of people who are starving, and what starving people want in their stomachs is something that will give them strength to carry on. It is no good filling their heads with platitudes about civil liberties and all the other things we talk about, when what they want is something in their stomachs.

The Communists, realizing that hungry people need bread more than they need liberty, are willing to oblige them and give them bread, even at the expense of refusing to give them their liberty. I almost said, " of taking their liberty." The fact is that in the majority of the Asian countries the people have no liberty to lose. When the Communists come along and offer them bread, what have they to lose? They have everything to gain and nothing to lose, because they have no liberties and civil rights as it is. I believe that while the West offers the underprivileged peoples of Asia nothing better than colonialism, imperialism and capitalist exploitation of their natural resources and man-power, communism will always win. The hungry and underprivileged people of Asia will always turn to communism if the only alternative to that is to be the kind of corruption and exploitation that seems to be the order of the day and the only other thing that the Western powers at the moment can offer them.

We have to look for the cause of communism before we start to rattle sabres and threaten to shoot our way into South-East Asia. We have to remember that the cause of communism is injustice, corruption, undeserved poverty in the midst of plenty, and disease alongside fabulous wealth. Those are the things that give rise to communism. Until we can rectify that situation we shall never succeed in finding a permanent cure for the troubles in Asia to-day. I think of continental China. Incidentally, I am pleased to note that the Prime Minister now calls that country " continental " China and not Communist or red China. What sent continental China into the lap of the Communists, or into the Communist orbit?

Can anybody tell me that 600,000,000 illiterate coolies adopted communism out of conviction, because they thought that the theories of Karl Marx were better than some other theories? Was it because they understood dialectical materialism or the theory of surplus value? Of course not! They had never heard of Karl Marx; but they were so completely disgusted with the rotten, corrupt government of Chiang Kaishek that they were prepared to accept any alternative as being no worse, and possibly a lot better, than the system of government they had. Therefore, it was only out of utter despair that they turned from the government of Chiang Kai-shek to the unknown quantity of communism which they have now accepted. Communism has given them what Chiang Kai-shek could not give them, lt i& true, as everybody acknowledges, that the people of China, are solidly behind their Communist government: and that it will, be perhaps, centuries before that form of government Ls overthrown. Idle talk, and wishful thinking about- the possibility of an. internal revolution can now be forgotten.

In speaking of China I think we come to one of the chief obstacles to a settlement of the South-East Asian problems. The trouble in Laos is that the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics is not the chief obstacle, but China is, for the simple reason that she has nothing to lose and everything to gain. She believes that certain territories ought to be re-absorbed by her. Whether she is right or not, of course, is another matter which I have not time to debate here. She believes that until she can re-absorb Formosa, and, perhaps, other parts of Asia which she claims to be Chinese, her task will not be completed.

Soviet Russia, of course, has too much to lose by war. She has more to gain by peace than by war. She realizes that this is the age of nuclear weapons, and her lead in the space race places her in .' position of special advantage over the capitalist powers. It is to her advantage to maintain this advantage, and peace will enable her to build up her internal economy and thus to compete economically with the other powers.

How can you possibly expect China to abide by the decisions- of the United Nations when that country is prohibited from becoming a member of the United Nations? I am glad to see that you agree, with my remark, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The Position - is, of course; that you cannot expect China to agree to the decisions of the. United Nations when you refuse to. give her a seat in that body. Nothing could be- more absurd than this Government's decision not to recognize continental China,, and nothing could be more absurd than for the United Nations to say that a little island called Formosa, with 10,000,000 people, in fact is representative of the 600,000.000 people of continental China. Until you rectify thi? situation you will continue' to; accept an unreal position, and you will not be able '.- find a solution to the South-East Asian problem. 1 will, go. further and L will say this: U there is, an- outbreak of open warfare between the two groups in Laos, with the Chinese Communists backing the rebel forces, and the United States and the United Kingdom and other European powers backing; the Government of Laos, the Chinese will, win. You cannot defeat an Asian power with, white troops, when the people you are fighting have been backed by Asian troops.

Every member of the Commonwealth o£ Nations now accepts the fact that recognition of continental China is absolutely imperative. We are feeding the people of continental China, and if they are involved in war with the Seato powers- over Laos, we will know that the Chinese soldiers wil! have Australian wheat in their stomachs, anc! that they will have Australian wool, supplied by the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Anderson) and his friends, on their backs, keeping them warm. How hypocritical can a person become? Honorable members opposite say that they are opposed to the Communists in China, but that they will le* them have, as much wheat as they like and as much wool as they like. They say, as the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) once pointed out, " We do not care whether it is red wool, yellow wool, Chinese wool or bull's wool, as long as we get the money. That is all we are concerned about." So it is with the honorable member for Hume. He does not care where his wool goes, whether it goes to Russia or China, as long as it commands a good price. The principles of honorable members opposite can be measured in terms of pounds, shillings and pence.

I have concentrated on the Asian side of our foreign policy, because it is in that part of the world that we live and in which we have to find common agreement with the other people who live in it. Some 2,000,000,000 people live in that part of the world, and here we are, on a tiny little white spot in what is geographically the Asian part of the world. It is because we have to live with the Asian people that I am more disappointed than ever at the Prime Minister's lamentable attitude on the South African question. What has he done? He has turned the whole of the Asian peoples against us, because they believe that the Australian Government endorses apartheid. This Government refuses to condemn apartheid and has entirely supported the South African Government.

The Commonwealth of Nations would not be worth two bob if we did not oppose that kind of policy. The Commonwealth of Nations consists of countries in which there are 494,000,000 coloured people and about 81,000,000 white people. Mr. Macmillan did the correct and statesmanlike thing when he took the attitude that he did with regard to this problem. If the Commonwealth of Nations means anything at all, its members must agree that the Afro-Asian section of it is as much entitled to justice as the white section - and even more entitled if we like to consider the matter in terms of numbers, because they outnumber the whites by something like six to one.

I believe that the decision of the South African people to break away from the Commonwealth of Nations and become a republic was not a real decision of the African people. If the coloured people of Africa had been given their democratic right to exercise a vote, I am sure they would have overwhelmingly supported a move to remain a part of the Commonwealth of Nations. If ever the coloured people of South Africa are given the right to vote, as they should be, and as we should try to ensure, by using our influence in the United Nations, that they are given, then 1 venture to say that before very long they will reverse the decision made by the white people of South Africa and return to the fold.

I regret, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that time does not permit one to cover all the points one ought to discuss, or to direct attention to the number of occasions on which the Prime Minister has performed a political somersault.

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

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