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Thursday, 17 March 1966

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Brimblecombe (MARANOA, QUEENSLAND) - Order! The honorable member may make a personal explanation when the honorable member for Evans has concluded his speech.

Dr MACKAY - When I was listening to the Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Holt) make his statement to the nation, I was also aware of something in the back of my mind which added up to concern bordering on alarm. Since then, the reason for this feeling has become apparent, so I do not intend to address myself this afternoon to the old arguments of the great debate in which many of us have taken part for a long time. I want to say something that to me is a more critical, necessary and constructive issue on the home front. I could sum up my main theme in this way: I believe that there is in Australia today an insufficient understanding, and therefore backing, for the lead and the direction the Government is giving in the vital field of Australian defence. At the same time, there is being waged an ideological battle in which the enemy has the initiative.

Today, we are being undermined from within, quite often through unsuspecting and otherwise decent people. As a result, there is too little evidence of solid support for our troops and our diplomacy overseas. Divisions exist today where they ought not to exist. Our enemies are far advanced in the old Communist technique of divide and conquer. It is not enough for those of us on these benches and our own supporters to believe that what we are doing is right. There ought to be in Australia's interest substantial agreement at least on matters of principle from a majority of the Australian people and from Opposition members. This is an issue as crucial for Australia as any in 1914 or 1939, whether war is technically declared or not. Yet it is unhappily true that, across the nation in churches, universities, trade unions and elsewhere, vociferous minorities are opposed to our fundamental objectives. There is room to fear that a change of government, if it could take place, would revoke our whole strategic position in South East Asia and our basic principles of defence.

It is no comfort to know that the most virulent opposition can almost always be traced fairly and squarely to the Communists. The enemy's " Fronts " have done an assiduous job. There are even leading churchmen today who have lived cheek by jowl with the Communists for years and have spearheaded their most obvious subversive fronts. This is true also of our schools and universities. The Communist influence is very significant in the Teachers' Federation in New South Wales. In the universities there are professors and lecturers who openly challenge the basic principles of the Australian society. We have men like that unfortunate individual Alex Carey who was seen recently on television attacking the Christian basis of the institution of marriage and sexual continence. On another front, misguided and otherwise decent women follow the Red line in the Save Our Sons movement. It is not enough for the trumpet to have a certain sound, if it calls to an uncertain and divided nation.

Australia at this moment is in no immediate military danger. The Government does not claim that it is. But Australia is clearly vitally concerned if it sees a net beginning to close around it, even if it should remain far off at this stage. Yet the extension of our defence to meet this obvious, declared and self confessed strategy of our enemies is, I believe, not sufficiently understood nor is it backed by many sectors of the nation from whom we have the right to expect backing. Before we proceed much further, we must work for great changes. Let me emphasise some of the reasons why I believe this is so and give some of the factors that are giving comfort to and playing into the hands of our enemies. The first is obvious. It is the sense of Australian isolation. Asia is still remote to many Australians. Then there is the aspect of our prosperity. We have come so far so well and every day turns up new evidence of the wealth inside our borders that is there to be enjoyed. Our sport, our beaches, our money and our gadgets are ever present and we will not easily turn from them to the stark, bloody realities of the terror that lurks in the jungles to our north. But only a fool goes on painting his cabin in a sinking ship. Then too there are the widespread changes in the patterns of personal behaviour and discipline, especially as a result of two world wars and the failure of religion to translate its message into realities consonant with this scientific age. Can anyone argue with the basic thesis that directly as the individual's moral responsibility diminishes so controls must be instituted? The more dishonest the people are the more policemen are required.

There is only one alternative to the rejection of the freely accepted disciplines of individual morality, in the widest sense of that word, and that is dictatorial control, and the Communists know this. Elementary Communist strategy is to undermine authority - moral authority in the community, the authority of parents, the authority of churches and governments - and out of the ensuing anarchy to seize control. This breakdown is being deliberately nurtured in our society today. Governments feel impotent or are unable to intervene because to do so is unpopular. This is politics. The need is first to convince enough people that things have to change. A strong and reasonable voice must point out the alternatives to the people, who in a democracy make or break governments. There is no other way. There is a widespread cynicism and nihilism today which brings together in a common cause pacifists, leftist protestants, some intellectuals, and the promoters of the Communist fronts. The fundamental principle of this movement - if I can call it that - is that staying alive is more important than how one lives. So we see leftist parsons who have succumbed to the humanism of Communism and with it their whole strategy of the conquest of Asia. I know leading preachers who have in turn bitterly attacked the South East Asia Treaty Organisation, conducted almost frenzied opposition to our troops going to Malaysia to help Britain defeat the Communist terrorists and have tried to persuade me that the documents in the Petrov affair were forged by our own security agents. More recently they have deplored our opposition to Indonesian aggression. They are now busily organising against our involvement in Vietnam.

However, there is one other factor which is of great importance to our nation today, and that is the sorry story of Her Majesty's Opposition. Headed by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) we have had from it little other than sheer, negative partisan criticism of every aspect of the Government's action. This has led to a situation which, at present, is downright dangerous. For example, while the Prime Minister was speaking, one was confronted with the astonishing and disturbing spectacle of an increasing number of interjections and jeers from the Opposition whenever mention was made of Communist aggression in South East Asia. Was this because the majority of honorable members opposite are Communists or Communist sympathisers? Far from it. Not for one moment do I think so. But they have been outmanoeuvred. They have been outmanoeuvred, because of lack of leadership and because of lack of courage and content in their debating, into a dangerous position. Indeed, one wonders how many honorable members opposite realise that we are in the midst of a situation which has a deadly import for the future of the nation. Are they really trying to think and act as an alternative government acceptable to the people of Australia, or are they fomenting and giving momentary lip service to a cause because it is opposition? Do they see that their public attitudes are crystallising into what may well endanger the nation, and that they are in peril of sneering themselves into comforting and supporting the enemy - into de facto treason? In many cases this is, to me, deeply disappointing.

I appeal most earnestly to those honorable members opposite who reject Communist principles and who stand for the value and rights of the individual - of the small as well as of the large societies - to search their hearts and their consciences as to how long they can permit to continue this blanket opposition of all that the Government is doing. I believe there are many honorable members opposite who would welcome an opportunity to provide exactly the kind of forthright, challenging but constructive criticism of this Government's activities in South East Asia that the nation has the right to expect. It is not a sign 0, weakness to find areas of agreement, but it is childish, unthinking and dangerous to oppose utterly for the sake of opposition - some of them even getting the substance of their opposition from enemy propaganda.

I turn briefly to the largest issue before us at the moment, namely, the sending of extra troops, including national servicemen, to fight in Vietnam. This question has been deeply in all our minds for a long time. For Australia's sake I believe it should be more than a party issue. Surely the facts are clear and inescapable. Let me state my own conviction concerning it. I believe deeply, although sadly, that we must fight Communist aggression in Vietnam. I believe we must fight Communist aggression wherever it is found, particularly in South East Asia. That there is Communist aggression no-one in his right mind can deny. We must fight Communist aggression in Vietnam because this course is basic to the ultimate defence of Australia. Peace in the largest sense of the word - world peace - may well hang on the firmness with which we and our friends meet this situation, just as it has in Korea, Cuba, Berlin and elsewhere. There is no precedent in the 1914 situation or the 1939 situation for the course that we must now take. Let us take one example.

We are winning - and I use the word " winning " in the ideological sense - in the situation in the Malaysian-Indonesian area because we are fighting the Indonesians on the one hand and are sending them aid on the other. Honorable members may suggest that this is crazy and illogical. Maybe it is; maybe it is not. However, it is right. To insist on the old classical concept of declaration of war in Vietnam could lose us the most precious objectives, as it would have done in Indonesia, where it would have been totally wrong. Nonetheless, we are at war.

Forget Vietnam for a moment and listen to Mao Tse-tung, or to Chou En-lai while he was in Indonesia. This is not a time for semantics, but a time for stark realities and for meeting revolutionary war at all its levels - in the jungle, in the headlines and in the minds of men and women. We must, as a nation, to the utmost of our resources, bring to bear as needed the most adequate forces we can muster. If that requires conscription, and it does, then we must have conscription. Does anyone in his senses for om moment imagine that the Government is doing this because it thinks it is popular and will win votes? Does anyone think the Government is doing it because it brings some personal aggrandisement to its members? Australian isolationism and individualism recoil from the discipline of compulsion. We know it would be easy to leave it to the willing few and let it go at that, but the few are not enough. Our allies, the United States of America and others, and, of course, all our enemies, have long since left behind the merely volunteer system. In any case, why should volunteers be asked to fight out there and leave the long haired beach boys to face nothing more dangerous than sunburn? This responsibility is something for all Australian youths or for none. All Australians must face up to this. This is my conviction, but the Australian nation is not yet sufficiently persuaded of it.

I believe that we have solid and sincere political work to do. This is the job of patriots opposite, as much as it is for honorable members on this side of the House. If it is not, let them convince us of a constructive and better way. There are two claims of the Opposition that make some sense to me, and I know make sense to a lot of other Australians, and I turn to them now to illustrate how seriously I have tried to look for sense in what the Opposition has said. The first claim is that the burden must not be left on the shoulders of a limited few 20 year old men. The second is that we should review our economic relations with mainland China. Obviously if we can take only 8,400 to 80,000 men for training in military service, then selection by ballot is fair enough, but we ought to require at least something extra from the other 70,000 or so. I know that university training and other training is desperately needed in Australia, but every young man at a university could do one night a week of military training or other form of national service training without harming his prospects as a student. Far beyond this 20 year age group, however, there are other burdens to be borne by the community. It is difficult to see what measures should be taken by the rest of the community, apart from financial ones. We have a race with time in developing the nation. This is the integral part of national security. Nevertheless, I believe it is incumbent on the Government at this stage to take another and very close look at some of the luxury and unproductive industries in the community where precious manpower resources are being squandered at a time when manpower is desperately needed. There is a whole range of such industries and activities where financial and other pressures could be brought to bear, directly or indirectly, by the Government to enable us to have more manpower available for production.

As for trading with Red China, I repeat again the arguments about Indonesia. We are winning, ideologically speaking, partly because we have refused to over simplify the situation. A declaration of war would have unified Indonesia against us at a time when we were desperately needed to supply the people there with goods. Our activities are paying off. At first sight this appears to be double dealing - keeping doors open at all costs, despite provocation - but it is the right action.

The case of Red China is not an exact parallel, but we are out to encourage friendly developments in that country at the same time as we try to deter aggression. However, we must not be lured by greed into economic dependence or near dependence on Red markets, only to find that the basic approach of the Communists to trade is ideological and not for profit. I think it was Lenin who scoffed that the love of profit would lead the West into financing its own destruction. I appeal to the Government to take another long and hard look at our trade with China, because expediency alone is not enough. It is at best a dubious argument to say that we need the overseas exchange to finance our defence build up. Butter for guns, lt is a hard bit of logic to maintain before many audiences. I am delighted to know that the Prime Minister is soon to visit Vietnam and South East Asia. I hope that he will go there often. I hope that more and more of us from both sides of the House will go there more often. I hope that our diplomatic activity in this area will be greatly extended. 1 hope that we will turn to Indonesia as soon as possible with vastly increased offers of help. As soon as our troops can be brought back from Borneo it may be possible to obviate the necessity to send men under compulsion of any kind for service abroad, at least until we have got much further in all the difficult areas I have enumerated. In this task we will need the support of every man and woman of goodwill in the nation, especially in the areas of Press, radio and television, where most are already doing a fine job.

I am not asking that the Government be spared criticism. I am asking many sectors of the nation to make some basic decisions about what is happening in the world, particularly in our part of it. Having made those basic decisions we must do everything possible to advance our fundamental national cause in the best possible way. Let us win this struggle, as we can and must. This thing is too big to be a party measure. It would be dangerous if it became a party measure. It is too big for selfish neutralism and isolationism. I am fully behind the Government's decision that with our allies - British, American and Asian - we will halt armed aggression in Vietnam, Borneo and Malaya and anywhere else it is unleashed in South East Asia. If we are firm, resolute and united we can win that most valuable of allies - time for change. That is the hope of our age - that we may be able to contain Chinese aggression until China learns, as Russia is learning, that peaceful coexistence is not only possible but imperative for the survival of mankind. Only a united Australia is an adequate basis for building that peace in. South East Asia.

Mr James - Mr. Deputy Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.

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