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Wednesday, 13 March 1968

Mr JEFF BATE (Macarthur) - The honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean) said that there has been no radical change in the performance of the Government. I am one who thinks that there has been a radical change. In the next 6 months we may be able to give evidence of a radical change from a completely circumscribed era starting with the Prime Ministership of Sir Robert Menzies and followed by that of the late Mr Harold Holt. I think that there will be a complete radical change but it will be nothing like as radical as the change that would occur in foreign policy if the Labor Party was in power. I will deal with that in a moment. In his Speech the Governor-General said:

Our Task Force in Vietnam, comprising more than 8,000 men drawn from all three Services, has been maintained at full operational efficiency and has met all calls with skill and courage, lt has also carried out a vigorous civil action programme. It has built roads, market places and schools, has carried out health surveys and provided medical, water supply and drainage services.

It was stated in the Press a few days ago that since the Tet offensive there had been a collapse in the civil affairs programme in Vietnam. I returned from Vietnam only a few hours ago and 1 know that such a statement is an utter distortion, completely inaccurate, completely false. There has been only a diminution in the civil affairs programme in the same sense as would occur in Australia during the period from Christmas Day to New Year's Day when people are away from home on holiday or travelling. During the Tet holiday in Vietnam people were travelling.

Some of us were labouring under the delusion that the supposed truce would be honoured by our 'friends' on the other side in Vietnam. They are champions at using the untruth and at seducing people into a false sense of security. They did this with Nehru in India over the buffer state in the Himalayas and broke his heart. The Tet offensive was carried out under a flag of truce. A lesson that we should learn from the North Vietnamese and those behind them is that we cannot trust them as far as we can kick them. But even though the Tet offensive occurred, the civil operations revolutionary development support corps did not stop and it is in full operation now.

The interesting thing about the situation is that this is a fight or a battle for the minds of the people in Asia; firstly, the minds of the people in South Vietnam. These people have never known assistance like this in their lives before. Perhaps there was a real attempt to give them some help with schools and that type of thing when they were under French control but that situation broke down with the Japanese occupation and the fighting after the Japanese occupation. The school teachers in South Vietnam then stopped asking for schools, medical attention and the like. But today this form of assistance is in full operation. The Australian troops and the Australian officers who are charged with this responsibility are working with immense enthusiasm and vigour. They are supplying education, which is highly prized. This is not the type of education asked for by the village chief but the type of education asked for by the province chief.

The province of Phuoc Tuy. which is about the size of a country electorate, has a province chief. The population is probably less than that of the electorate of Macarthur but about the' same as that of the electorate of Eden-Monaro. In that province there are educational, agricultural, medical and public works advisers. When the Government of South Vietnam, through the province chiefs, asks for support - and sometimes the Australians get a village chief or a village educator to ask for support through the province chief - it is forthcoming in the form of very large amounts of money running into millions of dollars. The projected budget for this support is an enormous one. That illustrates the civilian action being carried out by Australian troops, the Department of External Affairs and various Australian organisations that are trying to help.

Distortion in the sensation-seeking Press is the fault of the system. A war correspondent in Vietnam does not get his story printed unless it is sensational. I do not blame the reporters; I do not blame anybody. One instance of complete and utter distortion by the Press is the recent story of an alleged atrocity by Australian troops. That story would induce people to believe the Australian troops are brutal. In fact their bearing and discipline are superb. Their reputation throughout the world is high. Their image is in the classic tradition of the Greek heroes. To see Australian troops moving about in Vietnam stirs one emotionally. The word 'magnificent' is not adequate to describe them. The Press report to which I have referred is an utter distortion.

In Saigon I read an article, just as distorted, about an American pilot who was court-martialled because he refused to go to Vietnam. The Saigon 'Post' gave two columns to the story. Approximately 500,000 other Americans were there, but not one was mentioned. The soldier who is killed in the service of his country and in an heroic defence of what he believes to be right does not rate a mention in the Press. But the one man who says that he will not go to South Vietnam and is courtmartialled becomes news and the reputation of all American servicemen suffers. This illustrates the distortion of the truth by the Press and this is a reason why members of this Parliament should go to Vietnam before they give tongue to their preconditioned views on these matters. On returning one is asked: "What did you find?', but before one sentence can be uttered in reply, the questioner has said 100 sentences expressing his own point of view. He does not want to heaT any other point of view. To him, his is the only view. Such people are preconditioned by a sensation-seeking Press which utterly distorts the real facts. No balanced view can be obtained from the Press. Therefore the Press cannot complain if the people show an utter contempt for newspaper headlines and reports.

The Government, by the Speech delivered by the Governor-General in the Senate yesterday, is committed to continue the present operations in Vietnam and to preserve our military alliance with the United States of America. Our support, considered in the context of the American forces, is small - 8,000 men compared to 525,000. America has approximately fifty-five times as many men there as we have. But in morale, image and reputation the Australian effort is tremendous. That is why the American President is so affected by the generosity of the Australian approach. It is all very well to question our moral right to be in Vietnam. What would happen if the Americans, through some act of the Australian Government, lost heart and withdrew? What would happen to the Roman Catholics in Vietnam where years of work have been put in by priests of that Church? What would happen to the provincial chiefs and village chiefs if by some mischance America and its allies did not continue to fight in Vietnam? A lot is said about our commitments in Malaysia,

Indonesia and South East Asia generally. What would any of this matter, or what would the British presence in Malaya matter, if the war in Vietnam were lost? Tunku Abdul Rahman has said that his country would not fight if Chinese aggressors entered his part of the world; to fight would be useless. The security of Indonesia, the Philippines and the whole of South East Asia is being fought out in South Vietnam.

A psychological war is going on in the Press, in the churches and in the left wing of the Australian Labor Party. This psychological war is aimed at weakening the resolution of the Australian people to continue the effort in Vietnam. The Vietcong have discovered that the big obstacle to their winning of the minds of the people of South Vietnam is CORDS - civil operations, revolutionary development support. The big enemy of the Vietcong is the good that is being done by the Americans and by us as their allies. The Vietcong are addressing themselves to revolutionary development support. Here in Australia the same thing is happening. The left wing of the Labor Party has discovered that the strong support for the Government is due to the Government's attempt to maintain the security of Australia. All the efforts of the left wing of the Labor Party are devoted to breaking down or weakening the resolution of the Australian people.

Headlines have been given to a left wing Pressman's story of something that allegedly happened in Vietnam 2 years ago. These writings completely distort the view of a gallant operation being carried on by Australians. The people of Vietnam now enjoy an affluence that has not been known before in their history. In the short period of 2 years Saigon has been transformed from a city of rickshaws and basket chairs with bicycles pedalled behind them into a city of motor vehicles. Honourable members can go there today or tomorrow; there is nothing to stop an honourable member from going to have a look. The mobility of the people has been increased considerably in the past 18 months. The situation is that the South Vietnamese are being helped and the Vietcong are very worried about the effect that this assistance is having on the villagers. In Australia the worried people include the left wing of the Labor

Party, some people at Monash University and the people who have in mind not the future of Australia but a lust for power. Such people are seeking to break down the resolution of the Australian people to support a government which is determined to make Australia secure. Their efforts are going on every day.

There is a fight in the Labor Party. I refer to a statement relating to the debauching of Labor Party policy. What does debauch mean? The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) said that the honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Calwell) had debauched the policy of the Labor Party. Debauch, according to Professor Wyld, means to entice away from the workshop or to lead astray. Debauch was the word used by the present Leader of the Labor Party about the policy statements made by the former leader. It means to corrupt. This is what was said by two Labor men who received headlines in the sensational Press which exhibited a brawling party to the community. One member charged the other with debauching the party policy. Let us have another look at what the word debauch' means. It can mean specifically to lead a woman astray, to seduce her. So one member of the Labor Party charged another prominent member of the Party with seducing the Party policy. Let us go further into the meaning of this word. It can mean a specific instance of licentious, immoral conduct; a gross example of sensual indulgence, a drinking bout; to dissipate; given to intemperance or indulgence. I will hand this book to the honourable member for Hughes (Mr Dobie) so that he may read it and learn what it is like to be a member of the Labor Party. One member of the Party charges another with sensual indulgence; with debauching the Labor policy: with seducing the policy or leading the Party astray.

What do members of the public learn about the Labor Party from this? The public learns that there was something called the Adelaide Conference and that this Adelaide Conference has complete control of the Party; that is what we are told. I do not know whether or not the Conference does have control but when one listens to the speeches made one must believe that this is so. The Adelaide Conference decided that the policy of the Labor Party in respect of Vietnam would be that unless the Americans stopped bombing Hanoi and the North, unless the National Liberation Front was taken into the peace negotiations - which would mean, of course, abject surrender and the knife for anybody who had views about helping South Vietnam - and unless it became a holding war, Australian troops would be withdrawn. So there we have the debauching of this policy. I do not know whether the right honourable member for Melbourne believes that the Leader of the Opposition is debauching that policy - that he is leading a woman astray - or whether the Leader of the Opposition believes that the right honourable member for Melbourne is doing this. The decision is left to the people of Australia. The people can watch this pretty little interlude. They can watch the Leader and former Leader of the Labor Party - those impressive looking gentlemen opposite. They can decide whether to support the policy of the Adelaide Conference, the policy of the new Leader or the policy of the old Leader. Honourable members can take their pick. They can have any of these policies.

Now we learn that the Labor caucus and the Federal Conference have given the Leader of the Labor Party permission to choose his own policy in order to win the next election, and that is 2 years away. The Leader of the Opposition visualises that there still will be Australian troops in Vietnam. This is probably the product of the idea of the holding policy in Vietnam. But what docs this holding policy mean? Does it mean that Australian troops will stay there forever? Does it mean that troops in Vietnam will conduct a holding operation and remain there because of the fear of what can happen? Let us consider what can happen. The Chinese have not been known to resist the temptation to have a side bet in North Vietnam. I think everybody knows - even honourable members sitting opposite - about Chinese imperialist aggression. They know the tradition of the Han - the middle kingdom - the old idea that the Chinese are the chosen of heaven and the rest of us - the hairy men of the West - are barbarians. The Chinese believe it is their duty to take over the world, to win out of the mouth of a gun or even with nuclear weapons, which they now have. Marshal Lin Piao, the heir and successor of Mao and the first general of China, is a brilliant military strategist and a brilliant organiser. He has said that he is not afraid to use nuclear weapons.

This is the kind of terror that lies behind this operation and the kind of terror faced by the American President and his two predecessors, General Eisenhower and John F. Kennedy - the Chinese determination to do what Hitler tried to do; and Hitler killed 26 million people. Yet here we have a group of people, Mr Speaker, who are trying to wear down the resolution of the Australian people to defend themselves. These actions represent as great a betrayal of Australia as Hitler's betrayal of Europe when he went to Munich, met Chamberlain and engaged in this kind of shameful negotiation which led to the destruction of all those lives and almost resulted in the end of an era and a culture. The demeanour of Opposition members shows that they would laugh off these threats.

We know of the written threats made by Mao Tse-tung, Lin Piao, General Giap and others. They said recently that they can defeat the cities with the help of the villagers, with the help of terrorists. Terror exists now in the villages even though the troops and the civil affairs people are working in the fields of education, medicine, the construction of water supplies, bridges and roads, and agricultural assistance in the provision of fertiliser and seed. Even though the troops and civilian teams are there the infra-structure of the Vietcong is still at work in the villages. Look at the strength that it has in the use of the weapon of terror. A village chief is warned. If he does not heed that warning he is given a note that on Friday he will be executed, and on Friday he is executed. The same Vietcong infra-structure is taking boys from their families. Most families in a village have a representative in the Vietcong, although he may be only 15 or 16 years of age. He is a member of the Vietcong. He is taken away into the Vietcong and, after some weeks or months, he comes back to his village at night to the door of his home and asks for help.

Mr Curtin - Oh!

Mr JEFF BATE - Of course, we hear the idiot laugh from the Opposition side of the chamber, Mr Speaker. This boy comes home, says that he is tired, worn out and hungry, and asks for shelter for a few days. We must also consider the Vietcong promises of land and of everything that the people have wanted in the way of concessions. They are told that they would get these things from a National Liberation Front Government. The villagers have to face these inducements, these promises, this propaganda and the terror which goes on within the village. This is the kind of struggle we face, not in the cities but in the villages. Each village has an average of 1,200 people. There are villages which have been built by Australia. I think the village of Soie Nghe was rebuilt because of the damage done to it. But the recent Tet offensive was a complete defeat for the Vietcong because they had told their own people that the people of South Vietnam would rise and that the South Vietnamese Army would go over to them. But this did not happen. There was a victory for the Australian and American troops. There was a victory in the campaign to win the minds of the people during the Tet offensive. The Communists - the National Liberation Front and the Vietcong - have to explain away to their own people what went wrong with the Tet offensive.

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