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Wednesday, 25 February 1959

Mr BRYANT (Wills) .- In supporting the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) this afternoon, I think I should make it quite clear to members opposite that what we object to is that this committee is responsible solely to the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey). Members of the Opposition do not mind being responsible to Parliament. If this were a dinkum parliamentary committee where members met on equal terms and be answerable to the Parliament, the Opposition would have a completely different attitude towards it. But this is, obviously, the private property of the Minister and it is taking a very carefree view of the duties of an opposition in any parliament to think that members of it will be prepared to be part of a back-slapping system for the Minister. That is my own particular attitude. I cannot see myself associating in any way with a committee which is designed to carry out only such duties as the Minister directs from time to time. One has

Only to read the proposal to see that in paragraph after paragraph, the Minister for External Affairs is mentioned as the authority, or the fount from which all blessings will flow. It is useless to suggest that we should surrender all our freedom of thought and action in this matter - after all there is a very serious difference of opinion between us - and then bemoan the fact that we are boycotting something.

In reply to the honorable member for Mitchell (Mr. Wheeler) I say that there is no shortage of quite well informed people on this side of the House in these matters. The difference between us, I suppose, is that we are prepared to be objective on all matters of foreign policy. In the past, Australia's contribution, where it has meant anything, has been from the people who support our viewpoint in foreign affairs, and we have no intention whatsoever of being dragged around by others who accept, not so much direction, but complete influence from overseas.

One of the interesting things to me has been the difference in the official attitudes in regard to the supply of arms to Indonesia. When the British Government was going to send arms to Indonesia, that was a bad thing. When it was suggested that Indonesia get a couple of cart loads of unwanted rifles from America, that was a good thing.

The different method of approach between members on the Government side and our own is so radical that even the honorable member for Mitchell and I would not be able to see eye to eye on this question and I would demand the right to stand up in the Parliament and say so. We know something about foreign policy and, as the Deputy Leader said, the Government is welcome to all the assistance and advice that it can get from the D.L.P. on the committee. If it is any consolation to the Government on this particular aspect there are at least some of them who, although it seems almost improbable, are more reactionary than members of the Liberal party.

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