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Wednesday, 5 May 1965


Senator KENNELLY (Victoria) .- Mr. President,I was a bit disappointed with the Minister for Defence (Senator Paltridge). I thought that he would not have spent 20 minutes in reading statements without at least telling us who made them. When a person quotes statements in this place, one expects him to back them up by saying who made them. If I were allowed to get away with it, I myself could go outside and write a statement and come back here and read it. Of course, as a rule I would not be allowed to get away with it. When Senator Wright is here - that is, when we are not dealing with amendments that are returned from another place - he likes to know who has made the statements from which one quotes.

The main point made by the Minister was that we in Australia have certain obligations. He did not mention under what treaty we have those obligations. If - the Minister was implying that we have obligations under the South East Asia Collective Defence Treaty, he did not say anything about France, New Zealand, Pakistan, the Philippines, the United Kingdom or Thailand having such obligations. Surely he does not suggest that those obligations are cast upon us by the Treaty I have just mentioned. The Minister may have implied that, but he certainly did not take his statement to its logical conclusion.

I regret that, when the Minister for Defence read from the script he had before him, he did not give us any indication where it came from. He referred to the number of people who have come from North Vietnam into South Vietnam over a number of years. I am not agreeing that they did so for any illegal purpose. However, the few figures that I was able to write down as he spoke did not impress me in the same way as they seemed to impress the Minister who suggested that they, and they alone, were the cause of all the trouble that exists in South Vietnam.

What is the position in which this country finds itself today and, indeed, in which it has found itself for the last 30 or 40 ye;irs? South Vietnam has been engaged in war with the Japanese and the French. Some of its people are now engaged in war amongst themselves and in war in which the people from North Vietnam are playing a part. Is it any wonder that over the years there has been a growing sense of nationalism and a growing desire to improve the standard of living of the country? However much 1 may disagree with the people of North Vietnam, I was amused to hear the Minister say that the presence of North Vietnamese in South Vietnam was the cause of the farms not being developed as they should be and of the cities not being built as the South Vietnamese would want them to be built. I have before me certain figures; I shall indicate their source. I propose to quote these figures, which were obtained from the United Nations Year Book for 1963, to show just *"n»' backward South Vietnam is and how dreadful is its standard of living when it is compared with that of our own country and of other countries.

Vietnam is and how dreadful is its standard Vietnam?


Senator KENNELLY - Just wait a minute. We shall see what the figures reveal. The standard of living in Vietnam is as low as almost anywhere else in the world. The value of the annual per capita production is only 68 dollars, whereas in India it is 73 dollars, in Formosa 121 dollars, in Malaya 207 dollars, in Japan 1,232 dollars, in Australia 1,843 dollars and in the United States of America 2,691 dollars. In other words, those figures reveal that the value of the per capita production of the Vietnamese is less than one twenty-fifth of that of the Australians. As much as I deplore the infiltration of North Vietnamese into South Vietnam, let not the Minister for Defence or anybody else come here and say that that is why the people of South Vietnam live in the state of degredation that those figures reveal.

I have said in this place time and time again that, while people are compelled to live in such conditions, it will not be necessary to import people with Communist beliefs from other countries to indoctrinate them; they will simply adopt such beliefs themselves. The greatest proof of what I have just said is to be found in our own country. How many votes do the Communists get at elections in Australia? When one recalls that there are 44 million voters in Australia, the number of votes obtained by the Communists is infinitesimal. The reason for that is that the people of Australia enjoy a good standard of living. When people enjoy a good standard of living, there is no desire to embrace an ism, whether it be of the right or the left. The trouble that exists in countries like South Vietnam is caused by insufficient food, a lack of decent housing and insufficient clothing. If you read the history of the growth of Communism in any country in which it has flourished, you will note that it has flourished for that reason. And it cannot be put down with guns.

The Minister for Defence said that he was in South Vietnam only a few months ago. I have no quarrel with him over that. He could not tell the Senate when a democratic election of a government of South Vietnam was held. He could tell the Senate, as I could, that about eight governments have been in power there in the last 18 months. It all depends who has the numbers in the military junta. As soon as some member of the Army thinks that he can gain the numbers, the same old story is repeated. He becomes Prime Minister.

I read a report of a statement by a highly placed American. The report appeared in the Melbourne " Herald " but I regret that I cannot at the moment recall his name. He is alleged to have said that if we could settle the internal differences of that unhappy country, we would go a long way towards solving the other very serious troubles that confront Vietnam today. It is true that the trouble in Vietnam started as a civil war. Nobody has ever argued against the statement that the South Vietnamese have been supplied with war materials from North Vietnam. They have been so supplied, but the facts are that when governments allow those circumstances to exist, one can expect that people will rise against that situation and accept support from wherever they can get it.


Senator Mattner - Is the honorable senator suggesting that the Government of North Vietnam is superior to that of South Vietnam?


Senator KENNELLY - I am not suggesting anything at all. The honorable senator can rise and make his speech in his own way when his time comes. The difference between the Government and the Opposition today is this: Government supporters believe that there is a gigantic Communist invasion of South Vietnam and that is the beginning and end of it. Members of the Opposition believe that the trouble commenced as a civil war. Undoubtedly those engaged in the conflict are being supplied with implements of war by North Vietnam, but the trouble started as an attempt to gain decent living conditions. After the horse is out of the stable it is not of much use to close the stable door. Unless the wealthy nations of the world - and in that category I include Australia, taking into consideration our population - are prepared, not to wait until trouble commences, but to try to help these people, trouble will commence elsewhere. Listening to the Minister speaking about " Corns ", I thought that there might already be one under my desk. When he started to read, I became a little uneasy. The Minister did not offer a proper solution. Government supporters say that the position will be improved by sending 800 of our troops to Vietnam. Surely to goodness they do not believe that those troops will achieve anything there from a military point of view. According to what 1 have read, there are nearly 500,000 South Vietnamese and American troops operating in Vietnam. Can any honorable senator tell me what will be the military achievements of the 800 troops we are to send?

I have heard it said by honorable senators on both sides of this chamber that we are part of Asia; that we have to look to Asia and be friends with the Asians, if possible; that we have to trade with Asia. We do not like China. Oh, no! But we like to sell our wheat to China because nobody else wants to buy it and if we do not we might have a lot of wheat left over. We want to sell our wool to China so* that we do not have a carry over. What is more, we want to sell steel to China. I said to Government supporters: " I thought you were not selling to China any materials that could be used for war purposes". After three or four weeks, or more, during which time I was pressing for an answer, I was first told that there was a list of certain materials that could not be exported. Then I was told that there was not a list, but there was a committee. I was not told who were the members of the Committee. However, the fact is that we are selling wheat, wool and steel to China. Now the Minister implies that the guns and other materials of war are coming from China to North Vietnam and then into South Vietnam. It is possible that if there were a way to find out where the steel used in their manufacture originated, we might find that a certain amount of it came from Australia. Would not that be a most amusing situation? We thump our chests and say: " Those terrible people ". But so long as they pay us the price we ask, we are happy to sell to them.

The Opposition believes that the troops we are to send to Vietnam will achieve nothing from a military point of view. Surely honorable senators opposite do not believe, in view of the numbers of troops alleged to be there at present, that by sending 800 Australian troops we will cause a miraculous solution to be found to the troubles besetting that unfortunate country. I do not believe that anyone, even with a great deal of military experience, would be prepared to say that. I ask the Government what it expects to gain from sending our troops into a war 7,000 miles away. I do not want to be told that if we do not send our troops we will be letting somebody down. We are under no treaty obligations to send our troops to Vietnam. If we are, we have a lot of mates who should also send troops there. If we want to send our troops away we should remember that one of our kith and kin not far to the north of us seems to be in a. bit of trouble at the moment. I refer to Malaysia. If we have troops to burn - and I do not think we have - it would not be a bad idea to help Malaysia. It would not be a bad idea to do that in the hope that if we get into trouble - let us hope that we will not, but one can never forsee the future - someone may help us. The Minister was most annoyed at the suggestion - these are his words - that we would barter diggers for dollars. But what is one to judge from the Australian Broadcasting Commission's news report that Mr. Holt had said that there was a strong desire to help Australia and that he believed that changes would be made to help the Australian position? The report went on to state -

Mr. Holtsaid the decision by the Commonwealth Government to undertake still further substantial commitments in defending South East Asia had been useful in crystallising opinion in the Johnson Administration.

Those are not my words; they are Mr. Holt's. The words " bartering diggers for dollars" are not my words but the words of the Minister. Let Mr. Holt explain what he meant. First, did he say it? No doubt, someone in his office would have heard it. He has had ample opportunity to say whether that was a true report. Is it any wonder that the Minister for Defence - not I - used the words " bartering diggers for dollars "?


Senator Mattner - He did not say that.


Senator KENNELLY - Yes, he did.


Senator HENTY (TASMANIA) - He was repeating what the honorable senator's leader had said.


Senator KENNELLY - Cod forbid that anyone would think that my leader would say anything like that. Even Senator Henty knows that that could not be true. It would be different if the Minister had said that I had said it. Possibly, I might have, but I did not. The Minister used the phrase " diggers for dollars ".


Senator Kendall - The honorable senator's own leader said that.


Senator KENNELLY - Answer what I have said about Mr, Holt's remarks, and I shall listen. What does the Government intend to do with the conscripts? When the legislation was before us, we were told that they would have six months training and then be drafted into the battalions. That is what the Government said last year. I admit that it changes its mind pretty often in many things. But what is the position in this respect? Let us at least be honest. The 800 men will have to be reinforced. That is the normal procedure, and it will be particularly so in that climate.


Senator Mattner - Does the honorable senator object to that?


Senator KENNELLY - I am asking honorable senators opposite to tell us whether the Government is going to send the conscripts over. That is all.


Senator Cavanagh - The Minister for the Army said it yesterday.


Senator KENNELLY - But let us have it here. We shall get a double-barrelled answer on it. Does the Government believe that we can win there? Everything that one reads suggests that this will end in a stalemate. I do not want to see the Americans humiliated, any more than does anyone else. If there is an organisation in which I personally am very disappointed, it is the United Nations. It has not played the part that I would have desired. If the Labour Party had been asked to agree to men going to South Vietnam as part of a United Nations unit to secure peace while negotiations were going on, there would have been no trouble over it. Sooner or later they have to get round the table. Let us hope that it is sooner.


Senator Mattner - That is exactly what is involved in this.


Senator KENNELLY - The mightiest military force in the world, according to what the United States tells us, is in the area now. The Americans are our friends. Did they ask us to send our 800 men?


Senator Mattner - I have my own opinion. I think so.


Senator KENNELLY - I read all the reports and I understand that Mr. Cabot Lodge is alleged to have said that he did not ask for them. According to what one hears about the precincts of this building and according to what the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) said yesterday, this decision was made three or four weeks ago. Did this Government then have a request from the South Vietnam Government upon which it pins so much faith? At least I give this Government the credit that the people elected it and that it has a right to be in office. I should like to know how many people voted for the South Vietnamese Government about which this Government is so anxious. Did the Government agree to send the troops before it got a request to send them?


Senator Henty - I wonder how many people will vote if the Communists get in.


Senator KENNELLY - As much as the Minister might try, he cannot pin the " Corns " on me.


Senator Henty - I have never tried.


Senator KENNELLY - It is not that the Minister would not try. The fact is that he cannot pin them on me. If the " Corns " ruled where the South Vietnamese Government rules today, the same number of people - nil - would vote for the Government. No one votes for it now, much as I abhor the thought of that. In another place when the Prime Minister was asked whether he was opposed to negotiations, he said -

What I was directing myself to on each of these occasions was a suggestion, about which some people have been quite vocal, that the' United

States, instead of fighting, should negotiate - negotiate with an enemy which has violated its obligations in relation to a cease fires-, negotiate with a country that has ignored its international obligations; and negotiate with people who will keep on shooting when the Americans have stopped shooting. That seems to me to be a fantasy, and if I am the only Prime Minister left to denounce it, 1 denounce it.

But President Johnson has said that he wants to talk. It would be rather foolish to claim here that the way will be open for negotiations only when the Americans get out of Vietnam. I do not believe that for a moment, but in order to get peace I would love to see sufficient United Nations troops go into Vietnam and to hear the United Nations say. " We will conduct negotiations, and in the meantime both sides will stop fighting and remain where they are ".


Senator Henty - Poor old dreamer.


Senator KENNELLY - That is all right. The Prime Minister is sending 800 men who, he must admit, cannot help one iota in the military campaign.


Senator Kendall - Yes they can.


Senator KENNELLY - But there are over half a million there now, if the honorable senator cares to count them.


Senator Mattner - Do not talk nonsense.


Senator KENNELLY - It is all right for the honorable senator to say that, but there are over half a million South Vietnamese and American soldiers there now, and we are sending 800.


Senator Henty - If they are not worth anything why is the honorable senator getting so hot under the collar?


Senator KENNELLY - Because I do not think they should be sent there. I am quite honest about that. I believe that we are part of Asia but I think the worst thing we can do for the safety of Australia is to become embroiled in Asian affairs to this extent.


Senator Henty - Another dream.


Senator KENNELLY - That is all right. What about all the other countries? What has Great Britain done? Great Britain is as much a party to this treaty as we are.


Senator HENTY (TASMANIA) - Of course she is not committed in Malaysia, is she?


Senator KENNELLY - Yes, that is true, but the honorable senator should compare Great Britain's population with ours. Does the honorable senator mean that a country which is committed elsewhere has the right to break a treaty to which she is a party? Does he believe that such a country should not be required to live up to a treaty? What about France? What about our sister dominion which has 25 engineers in Vietnam? What about the Philippines? How many men has she in Vietnam?


Senator Mattner - It would be quite all right for Britain to send troops there, would it?


Senator KENNELLY - I say she would be very foolish if she did. Our aim ought to be to use our best endeavours -


Senator Mattner - Which we are doing.


Senator KENNELLY - Can the honorable senator show me any report of our representative at the United Nations having once opened his mouth in support of talks on Vietnam?


Senator Henty - Talks between whom?


Senator KENNELLY - Between the warring factions. I ask the honorable senator now: When did our representative at the United Nations speak in support of talks? All that the Australian Government wants to do is to beat the drum. The Australian Government is different from Lester Pearson's Government in Canada, lt is different from De Gaulle's Government in France and it is different from the governments of a number of other leading nations in the world. I regret that the Australian Government is not helping this country one iota. I do not think its action will have any influence on the position. I do not believe that it is in the best interests of this nation to send troops to Vietnam. Our best endeavours should be bent towards one purpose and one purpose alone. We should strive with everything we have to put an end to this war with talks rather than allow the war to drag on, because in the end there will be talks.







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