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Tuesday, 24 February 1959


Mr HAYLEN (Parkes) .- The Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) has made one of the worst speeches that he has ever made in my knowledge of him. Quite obviously, if he has not prepared a brief, he does not believe what he has said. On many occasions he was nowhere near the wicket. We have watched the whole sorry programme of the Government to-day in trying to wriggle off the hook and it is doing no good for itself in its second attempt to do so.

In the first place, all that the Australian Labour party raised was the question of what should be done with 700,000 dependent people. Apropos of the whole situation, the Labour party asks, as it is entitled to ask, when has there been such charming amity between the Indonesians and the Dutch that they should make a packet deal about human beings. The Minister for Trade says that we are only trying to get our feet into Dutch New Guinea for defence purposes. I shall not even repudiate that, because the Australian people have to be very careful, despite the views of strategists like the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth), who says that New Guinea is no longer important. Yet the man who commanded the Eighth Division, General Gordon Bennett, has said that it still is an island of great vulnerability and great importance to Australia. Even if we leave that aside for the moment as having no bearing on this issue, we can still ask: Why has it become known, and been known for a good while, that there was going to be what we call a package deal? Why is it that one sovereign country owning the peoples of West New Guinea body and soul, was able to suggest that there should be a trade? It is as simple as that. It was simply a matter of one sovereign power decanting territory to another sovereign power.

The territory of Dutch New Guinea is wild and hazardous. It is undeveloped. But for our book, there are in that territory 700,000 people who, we hope, have to come to the same level as the rest of the people in New Guinea. The Australian community and Australian governments of all colours have been trying at much expense to create a standard of development among those natives to the north of us so that one day the whole of the island will be their exclusive territory under the rule of the natives themselves. That is the belief of Australians and those who fought with the fuzzy-wuzzies. It is the belief of those representatives of Australia who have sat in the United Nations Assembly. But suddenly, after this Government has expressed horror for years that anybody should assail the rights of the Dutch to the occupancy and sole possession of West New Guinea, all this does not mean a thing. If, according to the words of Dr. Subandrio, there is an arrangement under which the Indonesians can take over Dutch New Guinea, this Government believes that that is all right. It is as easy as that. All the Opposition asks the Government is this: Why the volte face? What was the reason for the change of face.

The Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey) made a long statement which was completely unsatisfactory and only aroused the anger and anxiety of the Australian people. Then the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) made his case, which still has not been answered. Later, because of the circumstances of debate, the matter was dropped, so the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) came into this chamber to-day to make another explanation. The right honorable gentleman said, in effect, " We did not mean what we said originally. What has happened was not actually what hap pened." The Prime Minister has tried to bamboozle the Australian people by a situation which has been created out of words and has no reality. What really happened was this: Prior to the arrival of Dr. Subandrio in Australia, it was firm policy of the government of the day to espouse the cause of the Dutch. Come weal, come woe, come hell or high water, the Dutch - the imperialistic, colonizing Dutch - had their rights, according to the Government. With that I entirely disagree. But as soon as Dr. Subandrio arrived in Australia, there was a gentle tete-a-tete in Canberra and the situation was changed completely. The Government now says, " Of course, we did say that, but if the Dutch would like to trade this portion of the island with the vulnerable groups within it, we will not say a word ". What fools we would be as an Opposition if we did not look for the whale in the bay. What sort of dereliction of duty it would be if we did not seek the nigger in the woodpile. We believe this is another case of international diplomacy. We believe that both the United Kingdom and the United States of America were in this set-up.

Why has this situation so suddenly developed? The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) cited some remarks by Mr. Kingsley Martin, the editor of the British weekly review " The New Statesman ". Months ago, Mr. Martin was quite firm that there would be a change. He said, " You can take it from me that there will be a change. The impasse on Indonesia and Holland will be resolved. Some way around the problem will be found." We respect the Indonesians because they are, in their own way, a new nation, non-imperial and anti-colonial, and surely there must be in Indonesia itself now a revulsion of feeling, although the Indonesians were carried away by the emotional appeal of the cry, " All the territories belonging to our tyrant enemy the Dutch must come to us ". When they think twice about these things, must they not consider that there is a deeper, more humanitarian and Christian claim? We do not know, and we are entitled to ask: Is Indonesia, a new country with many manifest difficulties and problems and lack of know-how, capable of doing the job that the United Nations could do?

The picture is completely mixed. We have been probing the Government to see whether we can get some explanation. Among the people who have returned to Australia from Dutch New Guinea is Mr. Mossman, a correspondent of the " Sydney Morning Herald " and a brilliant international commentator. He has told me in conversation that the Dutch have said that they have no intention of leaving Dutch New Guinea. They have built up Biak and have their naval bases. Their installations on shore are powerful. They have taken about 6,000 Ambonese to the island to do the work around the small towns and camps. They anticipate that they will leave Dutch New Guinea in about sixteen years. They were astonished to hear the story that was broken in Australia that Subandrio, Menzies and Casey had been able to make a sort of package deal which nobody anticipated and nobody knew about except some wise people who were hoping for some change of face in the Pacific.

If the ultimate goal in this matter is the protection of our own country, we must be fearless. We have to be certain that we say what we believe in our hearts and do not have any double talk or diplomatic verbiage. I am going to say what I think. I may be wrong, but I will say that the Pacific is a seething pot of intrigue at the moment. The position in the Philippines is giving the United States of America grave concern. Where is the Government going to get stable fins to put down in this new development in Asia where the AfroAsians are rising and sweeping into their own possessions. I am sure this has a sinister import. After having bashed this matter of the Netherlands right to West New Guinea, the Government finds that it has suddenly become change of sixpence. Of course it would be in some circumstances, but only if there was some deal. Does it mean an agreement with the Indonesians that some of the former possessors of that island, under a different franchise and different control, can go back to look after the vast wealth of oils and rubber of the islands because the Indonesians are finding it increasingly difficult to get finance and know-how?

If we are going to talk about who are to be the people to inhabit New Guinea, must not we, because of our love of our own people and a desire to be right at all costs, look at our opposite numbers? Could anybody be thrilled with the Government in Indonesia to-day, of which Dr. Subandrio is a member, which has brought in 37 new colonels to strengthen it. I say with great sincerity and with great respect to the Indonesians, whom I admire, that the AfroAsian finds it extremely difficult to accept, our democracy. One by one, Pakistan,. Indonesia and the others, the benevolent despots and others of Indo-China, have all dropped it. I am sure that somewhere io> the international courts of the world this position is being watched. I think that little West New Guinea has been a pawn in the game. The Leader of the Opposition asks the Government: What will you do with 700,000 dependent people? How dare you have a trade between one frankly imperialistic and colonizing power and another which is prepared for the sake of personal emotional appeal of the moment to enter into a deal with them? It is the first deal between the Indonesians and the Dutch for a long time. We must consider the overtones and the undertones. We merely ask the Prime Minister to explain these things, but no explanation has been forthcoming.

The Prime Minister came to the table and asked himself a series of questions. In each case he got a silly answer because he did not want to tell us what was actually happening. No one can say that the Prime Minister is not able to ask a rhetorical question and answer it to perfection, but in this case he was not sure of his ground. In the first place, this is what we are probing; this is what the returned servicemen of Australia want to know and what the people of Australia are asking: What has happened to change a standing principle and precept regarding both our security and the care of underprivileged peoples that the situation should be changed overnight? Is it that Dr. Subandrio proved himself to be a super-diplomatist and made fools of the Australians? Is it that they went in for a game of strip poker and lost everything including their shirts? Is it so? It looks very much like it. And now they stand naked before the people of Australia apologizing for what has been done to them by this astute gentleman from Indonesia. Then, as if to try to compensate for the losses of prestige, the Government has another case for an apology, and so the Prime Minister says that this joint communique is possible of another explanation. He starts to parse and analyse it, and to show that it did not mean what it said. Now, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition put the position right where it belongs. He said that with regard to the defence of this country you cannot play kidstakes or political checkers with the people of Australia, that with regard to issues which are permanently fixed in the minds of Australians, you cannot switch them by just changing your point of view over a lost weekend in Canberra. And to build it into the minds of the Government he quoted the Government's top diplomatist abroad, the man who was our Ambassador to the United States and now is a member of the international Court of Justice at The Hague, but who at one time spoke with authority on behalf of the Government. He it was who said that of course the issue of first importance in New Guinea was the welfare of its dependent people.

Now, Australians have always been - and certainly the members of the Australian Labour party have been - philosophers who believe in the gospel of a fair go. Ask the average Australian in the street what he thinks. The Minister for External Affairs who is happier on wheat deals with Japan than on international affairs, said that this was a question of the rule of law. Could there be any rule of law; with the piratical colonists of the past, who went in and took the countries of other people because those people could not resist them? It was the rule of force, and if that has been broken by the circumstances that exist to-day naturally we, as Labour men and socialists, lean a little towards those who have won their freedom - in fact, we believe that that is the only solution so far as Asia is concerned.

So we get back to this problem. All was peaceful and quiet so far as the advent of the Foreign Minister of Indonesia was concerned, until he arrived in Canberra. But, having issued a joint communique which said a new deal was on, the Government has neither been able to justify it nor explain it. The Minister made a long speech which was around the subject, and although he valiantly tried to justify the things he had done, he did not relieve the qualms of the ex-servicemen of this country, of the ordinary people of this country - those concerned electors who are writing to the newspapers and bombarding the newspaper offices and asking, " What is in this deal? What is this shabby show? Why have we suddenly decided that certain treaties between certain groups are more important than the morality of looking after dependent peoples? " The whole United Nations has been built on the understanding that the most vulnerable should have the greatest care. But we have decided that that does not matter. When the package deal is undertaken, you can just throw in 700,000 Melanesians, Papuans, West New Guineans - if you care to call them that - and forget all about them, because there is a great new strategy, the strategy that envisages some sort of appeasement of Indonesia. So we get this sort of thing, and we do not think it is fair.

The Prime Minister read an extract from something away back in 1949, alleging that the Leader of the Opposition, who was then President of the United Nations, had made some statement regarding the Netherlands. The statement that the Leader of the Opposition made then stands to-day. There is no need for equivocation on it, but it ought not to be read out of context.

So we return to the issue that has been fought out in this debate - this strange compromise on West New Guinea. We do not understand it, and the people do not understand it. The honorable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes) was a most unhappy man as he made his speech. He is, on all counts, a fair man. He has great talents not always recognized by the Government he supports, and he has had the courage to get up here and say what he thinks whenever he feels impelled to do so in defence of the rights and interests of the Australian people. The honorable member for Hume (Mr. Anderson), who is interjecting now, could make the same contribution because I am sure that, tory though he is, he could not let this thing go without a qualm of conscience, since he was a fighter in Malaya and, later on, among the Australian servicemen in New Guinea. He realizes just what those natives are who are still in the Stone Age, and that they could be exploited in the most brutal way. This matter concerns the Dutch, whom we respect, and the Indonesians, whom we respect also, but we want to put the Australian point of view which is held by Australians. The honorable member for Chisholm put that point of view, and I admire his courage in standing up among his colleagues and expressing a view separate from theirs, just as I have a contempt for the attitude of the Deputy Prime Minister, who just sat here and sawed political wood and never at any stage tried to make a case.

I conclude on the point that the Australian Labour party, through its leaders and its whole association, faces with horror the prospect of changing our entire attitude to the United Nations. The expediency of treaties! Nothing worse was ever done than when the so-called " scrap of paper " was torn up by Bethmann-Hollweg at the beginning of World War I. when Germany invaded Belgium. The implicit story throughout all our fights for peace in our time and the development of our nation so that men may know that brother may not attack brother, begins at the lowest level. So, as the Leader of the Opposition has said, supported by his deputy, the claim we make is that nobody has any warrant to do a trade - a shabby trade - over the counter with the lives of 700,000 people who have expected better from us.

Finally, is it not a fact - the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) himself must feel this, although he will not say so - that because of the splendid job in lifting the standards of the natives done by Australia, under trust, in New Guinea, as the result of the efforts of Australian staff, Australian Ministers, magistrates and administrators - although we did not say so it was in our mind - we hoped that we would also get the task of assisting in the same way in lifting the standards of the people of West New Guinea?

So this comes as a blow to the aspirations of the Australian people, and it comes as a shock to find that the Government, having got us into a mess of this sort has not the courage to say, "We are wrong. We misread public sentiment. We have not made a compromise, but if we have we will cancel it." And apparently the Government has got into such a diplomatic mess that the more it talks the more confusing the situa tion becomes. This is not doing any good; for Australia, and the Government's action certainly warrants the launching of a sharp attack on the whole sordid transaction by the Opposition in this House.







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