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Wednesday, 7 September 1960

Mr CALWELL (Melbourne) (Leader of the Opposition) . - The Opposition offers its sympathy to the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) in having to assume the role of Minister for External Affairs. We regret that he cannot find even one member on his own side to whom he can entrust the portfolio of Minister for External Affairs. The right honorable gentleman has many onerous duties as Prime Minister but a few months ago he became a split personality and took charge of external affairs. More recently he has become split three ways, because he is also the Acting Treasurer. The state of the Liberal Party is certainly at a very low ebb when the Prime Minister has to emulate a deceased leader of another country and take more and more control of the Government into his own hands. Either he distrusts those behind him or he knows very well that if he entrusts the External Affairs portfolio to one of those who surround him. that member will make a complete mess of it. I remind honorable members that the right honorable gentleman is not without great perception and ability to judge the character of men.

I am informed - I rely for my information on a newspaper report - that the Secretary of the Department of External Affairs yesterday summoned the Charge d' Affaires of the Netherlands to his presence. Beyond that we know nothing. The secretary of the department may have invited Dr. Insinger to come in order to inquire from him what information the Netherlands Government had that entitled it to recommend the issue of a vise to Professor Gluckman to visit Dutch New Guinea. The secretary - this is the important aspect - may have wished to know what was the attitude of the Dutch Government with regard to the future of Dutch New Guinea, because I have heard on the radio and read in newspapers that the Foreign Affairs Minister of the Netherlands, before his departure for the United Nations General Assembly meeting, said that he proposed to talk to American, British and Australian representatives at the United Nations about the possibility of a trusteeship arrangement to control Dutch New Guinea. I hope that the Minister for External Affairs, or the Prime Minister in his minor role as Minister for External Affairs, will tell honorable members, while the Estimates are under consideration, what he knows about that matter, because it is of tremendous importance to the security of Australia and the future of our children.

The Australian Labour Party differs from the Government in its attitude to Dutch New Guinea. The Government has repeatedly said that if the Netherlands and Indonesia reach agreement with regard to the future of Dutch New Guinea, the Australian Government will stand aside. We of the Labour Party take a different view. We say that there should be a tri-partite agreement between Indonesia, the Netherlands and Australia, registered under the United Nations, for the maintenance of peace and security in the entire area of Indonesia and New Guinea. We do not believe that the Netherlands Government has the right to hand over the control of the indigenous people of Dutch New Guinea to Indonesia. We do not believe that the Indonesian Government has any right to control Dutch New Guinea and we certainly do not believe that Indonesia has any right if her claim is based on the right of conquest, because the right of conquest is no right at all. The Indonesian Government says that it is entitled to assume control over Dutch New Guinea because Dutch New Guinea is the last remnant of the old Dutch East Indies Company. We believe that government rests on the consent of the governed and we think that the status quo should be maintained in the whole of New Guinea against the day - a generation or two generations hence - when all the people of the island of New Guinea, as an educated democracy, will be able to determine their own future in their own way. Whichever way they determine their future must be accepted by the rest of the world. I hope that the Prime Minister will make some statement on this matter to-night.

A perusal of the Estimates shows that the Government does not intend to spend as much this year on the Colombo Plan as it spent last year. Under Division No. 628 - International Development and Relief - the sum of approximately £5,500,000 is to be appropriated this year compared with an appropriation last year of approximately £6,250,000. If we look at the total for Divisions Nos. 627 and 628 we find that the Government proposes to spend this year approximately £600,000 less than it appropriated last year for relief to people in other lands - to give them economic aid, enabling them to improve their conditions of livelihood and to climb upwards, as it were, out of the pit to a better life. This proposed reduction in expenditure comes at a time when the Government boasts of this country's prosperity. On the general vote for the Department of External Affairs we will spend approximately £100,000 more than we spent last year. That is the vote for the maintenance of the embassies, the ministries, the legations, the high commissions and the commissions which we have established overseas. This is a time when we should be spending more money, and not less, in this direction, particularly in countries in our immediate neighbourhood, so that we may be better able to build up that goodwill without which our relationships with those neighbouring countries, reasonably happy at the moment, may not be satisfactorily maintained.

I believe also that we should consider the Colombo Plan in a new light. I am speaking for myself now because I have not consulted my colleagues on this question. I do not think we are getting the best results from the money that we spend in bringing students from other countries to Australia. I think we would gain much greater advantage if we were to subsidize the sending of teachers, doctors and scientists from Australia to other lands. In this way we could educate far more of our Asian neighbours in their own homelands than we can by bringing students from those countries to Australia, at very great expense in transport and maintenance costs in our universities, and then sending them home to tell their people about us.

There is one further matter I wish to mention. Reference was made last night to the Foreign Affairs Committee. We have never said that we are opposed to a foreign affairs committee. We have said that we are opposed to the Foreign Affairs Committee in this particular form, lt has become known as Casey's study circle and has produced no results to date. Our main objection to it is that any members of the Opposition who joined that committee would be bound by agreement not to divulge in their party room any information they obtained at meetings of -the committee. They could not initiate any investigations or studies of foreign affairs of their own volition. They would be bound by the directive of the Minister and at all times under control of officers of the Department of External Affairs.

This study circle which is miscalled the Foreign Affairs Committee is a body from which not one member of the Government parties has yet graduated during the ten years of its existence. We would like to see a foreign affairs committee worthy of the name. We have always been prepared to discuss the matter in a reasonable way with our political opponents, but we have never met with anything but a take-it-or-leave-it attitude on the part of the last Minister foi External Affairs and his predecessor, and I am afraid they have been aided and abetted in their attitude by officers of the department, who do not want honorable members on this side of the chamber serving on the committee and being too inquisitive, too energetic and too enthusiastic in making that body play the vital role that it ought to in the life of this Parliament.

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