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Tuesday, 26 March 1968

Mr SPEAKER - Order! 1 ask the Leader of the Opposition to resume his seat for a moment. I remind the House that all interjections are out of order. They have been coming from both sides of the House in rather rapid succession. I remind honourable members that the Minister for External Affairs was heard in comparative silence and I expect the same respect to be shown to the Leader of the Opposition.

Mr WHITLAM - The Prime Minister brushed off this matter during question time last week. It was raised on several occasions during the debate on the Address-in-Reply to the Governor-General's Speech - the Speech which the Prime Minister drafted following on the prorogation of Parliament which he sought. He may have changed his position since 1957. He may, in fact, still maintain it, but at least it ought to be stated. His view in 1 957 was this:

I should hope that we would use our defence funds and endeavour to secure for this country some measure of atomic or hydrogen defence. I should like to see us have intercontinental missiles of our own and have our own bomber aircraft, capable of delivering our own bombs should we find that necessary.

Is that still the Prime Minister's attitude, or has he changed it?

I repeat that events of the past 8 weeks in Vietnam have illustrated, but not altered, the nature of the war. They have demonstrated that the policy pursued for the past 3 years in Vietnam has failed. They have emphasised the need for that policy to 'be changed. It was apparent before the Tet offensive that the United States connot be dislodged by any military effort which either the Vietcong or North Vietnam is capable of mounting. It was clear before the Tet offensive that the policy of punishing North Vietnam had not destroyed the capacity of the Vietcong to mount highly organised and highly effective offensives and to overrun and hold temporarily any city or town in South Vietnam. It was apparent before the Tet offensive that the South Vietnamese Government had in no way won the confidence or the active support of the people of South Vietnam.

In all these respects, and in every respect, the complete failure of the policy pursued by the allies and supported by the Australian Government was manifest. The Tet offensive has merely underlined these failures. The result has been that no city, town or village - not even Saigon itself - is perfectly secure. About H million people have been made homeless in a nation where the home represents the entire possessions of a family and, to an extent which we can barely conceive, represents the identity and meaning of a family. The number of civilian dead, killed by the activity of both sides, is estimated at 15,000 with 70,000 injured.

The pacification programme is in ruins, utterly overwhelmed by the almost insuperable problem of new refugees. The incessant and insensate bombing of North Vietnam for over three years, allegedly designed to reduce the flow of men and arms from North Vietnam, has resulted in the Vietcong never having been so well and so effectively armed as they are now, North Vietnamese regulars have never been so numerous and never more effective. The policy designed to raise the cost of the war to North Vietnam has raised immeasurably the cost of the war to the United States, but principally and appallingly it has raised the cost of the war to the civilian population of South Vietnam. For the first time since 1812, the United States is fighting a war which is opposed by a substantial and powerful section of her people, including a sizeable proportion of Congress. For the first time since Pearl Harbour, isolationist has become a factor in her national politics. The war has introduced a new and menacing instability in the international monetary system.

There has never been a stage in this war when its supporters and the supporters of the way the war is being waged have not claimed that each stage of escalation was the last necessary step to secure victory. There has never been a stage in this war when each successive escalation has not raised new difficulties and increased all the existing ones. Every effort in the conduit of the war has been used as a justification for the repetition of error and the accumulation of error. This is perhaps the first war in history where failure rather than success has become self-justifying.

The Government has not even explained or justified the change of tactics in its own area of responsibility in South Vietnam. For nearly 2 years the Australian troops in Vietnam had conducted a cautious and painstaking operation aimed at the securing and rehabilitation of the Phuoc Tuy province. Within its limits, this operation had been relatively successful. In January, twothirds of the force was sent on a search and destroy operation 30 to 50 miles away from its base in Nui Dat. The result was that the resettlement village in Hoa Long, a few miles from Nui Dat, was overrun and its chiefs killed. The provincial capital of Baria was invaded. For the first time in 2 years, areas which had seemed secure were proved not to be secure. The former Minister for the Army has denied that there has been in fact a change in the nature of the operations being conducted by the Australian Task Force. The Prime Minister has said nothing, but appears to deny that the Government has any responsibility for the conduct of our operations. For, on 26th February, explaining the appointment of the honourable member for Flinders (Mr Lynch) as Minister for the Army, he said:

I feel he has had considerable managerial experience, personnel management experience, business experience, all of which should be helpful in the administration of a department. Of course, neither he nor any other Minister would affect the fighting of the department because that is a military matter which is done by the Chiefs of the Service.

The Prime Minister's position on the commitment is thoroughly confused. He said on 2nd February that, as far as he was concerned, the commitment would be held to its present size. Asked if that was permanent, the Prime Minister said: 'As far as 1 am concerned it is'. He said, in effect, that the size of the commitment reached in November of last year was exactly right - right in terms of our capacity, right in terms of the objectives of the war, right in terms of the nature of the war, right in terms of the American response to the war, right in all circumstances and all eventualities. He made his statement in the midst of the Tet offensive, at the very time when General Wheeler was in Saigon to prepare his request to the President for more troops, at the very time when Saigon was in flames, when the American Embassy itself had been, for the better part of a day, in the hands of : Vietcong, when the Imperial capital of Hue was occupied by the Vietcong and was to remain so for a further 3 weeks, when 34 provincial capitals had been temporarily overrun, when the bases at Tan Son Nhut and Da Nang were under heavy attack, and when the number of additional civilian refugees had already risen to 200,000.

What does the Prime Minister's statement mean in terms of the justification for this war, which has always been given by the Government of which he was a member? To Sir Robert Menzies, Vietnam was the place where we resisted 'the downward thrust of China between the Pacific and Indian Oceans'. To Mr Holt, Vietnam was the battleground of freedom'. If they believed these grossly inflated, grossly simplified terms, then it could be said that there was some consistency about their having made an open-ended commitment to an open-ended war. They would neither limit our commitment or attempt to limit the hostilities. The present Prime Minister is in the position of limiting the commitment but refusing to make any attempt to limit the war. If it is right - I believe it is right - for Australia to limit her commitment, how can it be right not to try to limit the war? Or, alternatively, is the Prime Minister saying that it is right for America to escalate the war but right for Australia to limit her role in it?

On 10th March .1966, the Minister for External Affairs said:

It is all very well for the critics and the doubters - wholly sincere as I know many of them are - to plead for negotiations. They are understandably unhappy over the loss of life, the waste and the brutalising effect of a protracted war. We are all unhappy about these things. But the critics have no solutions of their own which can be accepted with honour and with prudence; they have no practical formula for bringing the parties to the negotiating table; they have no course to propose as a genuine alternative to the one which we are pursuing.

Since he made that statement, there have been exactly 2 more years of loss of life, of waste; 2 more years of the brutalising effects of this protracted war. For 2 years the policy of punishing the North to bring peace to the South has been tried and it has failed. What is the honourable and prudent course for this country to take now?

It is prudent for the Australian Government now to use its influence with the United States to change the course and conduct of the war, to end the bombing of the North, to seek negotiations on the basis of acceptance of the Vietcong as a party to the negotiations, to refrain from further escalation, to concentrate on securing the cities and towns and to assist where possible in and insist where necessary on South Vietnamese measures to promote land reforms and to control corruption. It is honourable and prudent for a good ally to encourage these measures. It would be prudent for us to urge the United States to avoid those steps which will lead to her humiliation in this war and in this region. It would not be honourable for us to urge her to continue a policy of escalation and intensification which has already proved a disastrous failure and which, if continued, will ensure further failure and humiliation. It would not be prudent for us to encourage a policy which through failure and disillusion will lead to ultimate withdrawal of American interest and influence in this region. It would not be honourable for us to encourage America in further escalation when, according to the Prime Minister, we will not share in the burdens of that further escalation. We have a clear duty to use our influence along these lines. Is there any prospect that our influence can be effective? There is every prospect. Indeed, we have already used our influence, but it has been used to escalate and perpetuate this conflict.

In May last year, the United States Administration was engaged in a total reappraisal of its policy of bombing North Vietnam. All America's NATO allies had urged her to end it. The Australian Prime Minister declared in favour of continuing the bombing at the very time the review was under way. His views were used by the Administration to deter and dissuade critics in Congress.

Last August, the United States Ambassador to the United Nations, Mr Arthur Goldberg, sought support for an American proposal to recognise the National Liberation Front as a party to any negotiations. Australia refused her support for this American proposal. The existence of the proposal was hidden by the Minister for External Affairs from the Parliament and the people. If the Treasurer was right in telling me on 20th November last that he did not know of the proposal, then the Minister must have hidden its existence from Cabinet. Because it also happened to be a Labor proposal, the Treasurer had denounced this American proposal in the international affairs debate here in August and November. This was to be the king hit against my party during last year's Senate elections. The planned line was made perfectly clear by the Treasurer when he said on 22nd August:

Would we as a government be prepared to recommend now that the National Liberation Front should be a negotiating party? It is a treacherous organisation within South Vietnam. It is but the agent of the North Vietnamese Government. It is carrying out the evil purposes of the North Vietnamese Government and on that basis I do not believe it should be recognised at law or permitted to put its point of view alongside that of its masters at the negotiating table.

He repeated this view in the debate on 2nd November last year.

The Goldberg proposal at the United Nations would never have been known here or even in the country except for the United States Senate Foreign Relations Committee on the same day, 2nd November, when Ambassador Goldberg made it publicly known, and also made it perfectly clear, that America was and is still willing to accept the NLF as a party to negotiations. Whatever may have been the motives of the Government in opposing it, sabotaging it and hiding it, here was a clear case of Australia's influence being used to effect; but it was used against negotiations, against peace, against the wishes of the United States, and against the interests of Australia herself.

I have repeatedly said that the cessation of the bombing will not guarantee that negotiations will start when the bombing stops. But they will never begin as long as the bombing continues. Advocates of the bombing have now abandoned the political and diplomatic arguments once used to justify it. They no longer hold that we can bomb Hanoi to the conference table; they no longer hold that it will break the morale of the North Vietnamese people or bring down the Communist government there; they no longer hold that it had raised the morale of the people of South Vietnam, or would rally them to active support of the South Vietnamese Government. They now cling solely to the military argument. And most of the validity of the purely military argument has been destroyed by the Tet offensive. How can it be said that bombing has reduced the effectiveness of the North Vietnamese when they are more effective now than when the bombing started 3 years ago; how can it be said to have reduced the flow of arms when the Vietcong have never been so well armed as they are now. How can it be said to have significantly reduced allied losses when they have never been so high.

Even if the purely military argument for bombing had any validity, even if Mr McNamara was wrong in saying that its military effect was marginal, the fact is that in this war no major decision has been made on purely military grounds; political and diplomatic arguments have qualified every military decision. The decision against the so-called 'hot pursuit' into Cambodia is essentially a political and diplomatic one, taken against military advice that the Cambodian sanctuary adds to allied losses and prolongs the war. The decision against Inchon-type landings in North Vietnam has been a political decision. The decision to share military command and responsibility with the army of South Vietnam is essentially a political decision. The decision which the President apparently has taken not to grant in full the request of the Saigon command for 200,000 additional American troops is a political and economic one. The decision not to use nuclear weapons is a political, diplomatic and moral decision. In waging what Mr McNamara has described as a 'limited war for limited objectives with limited means', political and diplomatic considerations have to be weighed constantly against purely military considerations. There is no reason why the bombing alone should be considered a purely military question. And in this case, diplomatic considerations overwhelm any military arguments. The military effects are marginal; the diplomatic effects of ending the bombing might well be revolutionary. More than anything else, it has been responsible for America's international isolation on Vietnam, lt is a continuing source of weakness in her diplomatic stance. It undermines her world prestige and authority.

Continuation of the bombing encourages Russia to maintain and increase her support for Hanoi. Russia is the only country now in a position to put pressure on Hanoi to negotiate. Only if Russia co-operates is there any possibility that this war can be ended on a negotiated basis. If Russia can be made to co-operate, there is a chance that a settlement in Vietnam can be made part of a wider settlement for the whole Indo-China area. But there will and can be no cooperation from Russia while the bombing continues. While the bombing continues, the words and promises of the Russian leaders cannot be put to the test. It is now time that they should be put to the test. Only by stopping the bombing can the United States regain the diplomatic initiative in this war. The Secretary of State, Mr Rusk, has said that the Administration is now re-examining its policy and strategy in Vietnam 'from A to Z'. Our voice should now be heard, our influence should now be exerted to ensure that this re-examination is made fruitful. This is our right: it is our responsibility. We should not merely wait for change, as the Prime Minister suggested in Hobart last night. We should urge the change ourselves.

The Prime Minister said on Friday that our reason for being. in South Vietnam was to protect the rights of the people of South Vietnam. This is perhaps a different approach from that of his predecessor who said it was 'unlucky for the people of Vietnam that the world power struggle was being fought out in their backyard'. It is now time that the interests and rights of the people should be considered. We have practically destroyed their country in their protection'. We have made lj million people homeless in protecting them. We have destroyed their towns. We have wrecked their Imperial City of Hue in protecting it. We have recaptured a ruin. Let us not pretend that the people of South Vietnam do not attach any blame to us for all of this. The Italians do not blame only the Germans for causing the destruction of Monte Cassino. The Germans do not blame only the Nazis for the destruction of Dresden. The chief desire of the Vietnamese people today is not simply for protection'. It is for peace. If the war continues much longer, they will insist on peace at any price.

The Catholic Bishops of South Vietnam have called for negotiations. They believe that it is better to try to negotiate now than later. Are we in our arrogance to say they are wrong? Are we to say that this is not an authentic voice raised on behalf of the people of Vietnam? As the Bishops said in their statement of 16th January:

Is the war to continue until South Vietnam is destroyed?

If the war continues on its present course, the situation in 6 months time will be exactly as it was 6 months ago when the Minister for External Affairs made his last statement; but thousands more will be dead and maimed and homeless. If it continues in its present course, the situation will be the same in 10 years time, but millions more will be dead and maimed and homeless. We will be no nearer achieving a government able to win the active support of the people. This is the most fragile government in South East Asia. It may be no less democratic than some, it may be no more corrupt than others. But more than any other government in the region, it fails to represent the nationalism and fulfil the expectations of the people. The elections last year were a remarkable manifestation of the spirit of the people and the depth of their desire for representative government and democratic institutions. The elections were a victory for the people of South Vietnam, rather than for President Thieu and Vice-President Ky.

It is more comprehensible and advantageous to Australians for the people to have a non-Communist government in Saigon. Australians would wish and expect the Government in Saigon to take and be enabled to take steps to gain the support of the people, of whom I am satisfied the majority are non-Communist.

Even in a war situation, much can be done to build support for the institutions of representative government, if the government can be seen by the people to be working for their betterment. Two tangible ways this can be done are by land reform and corruption control. The failure of the present Government and all its predecessors to redistribute the land resumed from the French has nothing whatever to do with the war, it is just the failure of successive governments to do their job, which was initiated over 10 years ago. Nor need corruption be left to run riot just because of the war. Corruption in South Vietnam is not merely a method of self-enrichment for high officials; it is a necessary way of life for the whole army and public service. It was put to me by Vietnamese themselves that one of the reasons why wealthy families prefer to keep their highly trained sons in France - the men who would be doctors and engineers in Vietnam - is because official salaries are so low that they would be obliged to live by corruption. There are more Vietnamese doctors, engineers and technicians in France than in Vietnam. South Vietnam is probably the only country in the world where rich parents send their sons to Paris to preserve their moral purity.

To the peasant of Vietnam, the lowly provincial official is the representative of the Saigon Government; if there is corruption on that level, then the Government stands for corruption as far as the peasant is concerned. One of the reasons why the Army is unpopular is that its troops still have to loot to live.

This is not a problem which can be shrugged off by blaming the war. Nor is there no possibility of reform. The United States spends $30 billion a year on the war; less than one-tenth of that amount is spent in subsidising the Government of Vietnam to pay the wages of its officials and its soldiers. If this proportion were raised, so that wages could be raised to a livable level, the return in increased effectiveness of the Government and the Army and in increased support for them, would be much greater than the same amount spent on escalation of the military effort

South Vietnam now has a form of representative government. It is as far as ever from having an effective administration. This would still be the position if no more forces came from the north and no more equipment came through the north. Outsiders can protect a country; they can provide its Government with money, equipment and experts, clinics and schools and market places and communications. But only the Government of a country itself can produce men for its civil service and intelligence service, its police forces and its armed forces. Here outsiders can do no more than help with pay, equipment and advice.

There are the things that we should be urging. We should be lending our support to those within the United States Administration and in the South Vietnamese Government and the United States civil and military officers in South Vietnam itself, who are also urging it. It is a complete mistake to believe that those who are urging a change of policy are all outside the Administration. They are in the Administration and they are in Vietnam as well as in the mainland United States.

What must now disturb Australians most is the apparent supineness of our Government. It is a truly defeatist government, for it offers nothing more than a continuation of policies that have failed. We hear a great deal of talk about morale. The true destroyers of morale are those who offer nothing but failure, and maintain that failure must be supported because there is no alternative. This is truly a counsel of despair - and it is the only counsel offered by the Government of Australia. It is not courage merely to persist in failed methods. In the words of Pope Paul to President Johnson at Christmas, it takes courage to stop such methods.

One of the great tragedies of this war is that preoccupation with it postpones action on building and developing the societies and economies of the rest of the nations of the region. America cannot, and Japan and the Western European nations will not, play as positive and fruitful a part in this most vital of all tasks while the war continues. But it is not necessary for Australia to wait for the end of the war before we take new initiatives. Indeed, it is made, necessary that we should do so in the light of Britain's accelerated withdrawal from east of Suez.

Last week the Minister used the device of an inspired question to defend the adequacy of Australia's aid programme and, incidentally, to criticise statements of mine.

Mr Hasluck - It was not inspired.

Mr WHITLAM - The Minister raised an aunt sally by implying that I had criticised the personnel operating our aid programme. In fact, had he taken the trouble to obtain and read my speech before arranging the question-

Mr Hasluck - 1 did not arrange the question. I did not know it was coming.

Mr WHITLAM - Then I shall rephrase my remarks. Had the Minister taken the trouble to obtain and read my speech before making his reply, which was from prepared notes-

Mr Hasluck - 1 had never heard of your speech until I heard the question.

Mr WHITLAM - In fact, the Minister referred to me in his answer. If he had taken the trouble to obtain and read the text of my speech, be would have known that 1 paid particular tribute to the officers of his own Department.

Mr Hasluck - Thank you.

Mr WHITLAM - The gravamen of my criticism is that the planning and administration of our external aid is fragmented among an excessive number of departments and organisations, and that Treasury control of multilateral aid exercises an inhibiting effect on the programme.

The Minister continues, in another spontaneous answer apparently to innate the statistics of our overseas aid by including Papua and New Guinea. Excluding Papua and New Guinea, the percentage of our gross national product spent on aid is 0.25%, making us thirteenth rather than second in the line of international donors. Per capita wc spend only $4.5 on aid. This is less than Sweden, Denmark, Germany or Austria. Can the Minister maintain that European countries 12,000 miles away have a greater stake in the development of the region we live in, the most turbulent and deprived area of the world? Of our aid 63% goes to Papua and New Guinea, a Territory for which we have accepted and for which we sought special responsibility, and with which, in the eyes of the world, we maintain a special relationship. We are responsible for the situation where no New Guinean can take any final decision in his own country. We deliberately foster the feeling of dependence upon us and then use that feeling of dependence as an argument against their independence. We use the statistics of our $9 1.6m budgetary allocation for New Guinea to bolster, by nearly threequarters, the amount of aid to underdeveloped countries which we claim we are so generously giving. Yet much even of this is spent on education, social services and health services for Australians resident in Papua and New Guinea.

Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - Burns Philp.

Mr WHITLAM - If we compare the amount that Burns Philp & Co. Ltd and W. R. Carpenter and Co. Ltd put into New Guinea each year with the amount they take out, we will have a proper appreciation of our altruism towards the Territory. We hold over the heads of the people of New Guinea the implied threat that, when they gain independence, aid from Australia will cease, when in fact we know very well it must be maintained and indeed increased. We know equally well that we must do so in our own interests, even if we do not do it in the interests of the people of New Guinea.

The Minister's arguments simply indicate the lack of any sense of urgency on the Government's part. Statements by the Prime Minister have continually emphasised our insignificance as an influence in this region and the insignificance of any atd that we can give. I have frequently pointed out that the true perspective of our situation is that we have a greater gross national product than all the countries in the Association of South East Asian Nations combined. Indeed, we are richer than all the countries which lie between Australia and India, China and Japan. Our aid does not always have to be costly or ambitious to be effective. An excellent example of what can be done quite cheaply is to be found at the Armed Forces Vehicle Rebuild Workshop at Rang Sit near Bangkok. In skills, training and equipment we have contributed $US1m of the $US3m to put the workshop in operation. Three hundred apprentices will be trained in an essential basic skill every 2 years. The immediate beneficiary of this project is the Thai Army, but the men being trained there will continue as civil mechanics. The whole level of skill in a basic area of great need in this region will have been raised through our efforts. A great deal will have been achieved for that country at a relatively small cost to us. There is nothing more conducive to lethargy and inactivity in helping developing countries than a mistaken idea that the problems are so huge as to make specific programmes worthless.

The Government has not been daunted by financial and administrative difficulties in making military commitments; the problems suddenly become extraordinarily difficult when it comes to a civilian commitment. Aid always seems available to purchase military equipment but not basic civil facilities. There is difficulty in supporting civilian workers in the field when local supplies are either delayed or unobtainable. If there is a military commitment, however, the problem is soon overcome. We must learn to support our civilian workers in the field as readily as we support troops. We must apply the same initiative and resourcefulness in waging war against poverty, disease and ignorance. I repeat for the benefit of the Minister what I said in the speech he chose to criticise last Thursday. It is time we stopped being amateur dabblers in aid and took the whole problem seriously.

We should, in addition, combine our activities more closely with those of other nations. The Japanese place great emphasis on what we call 'aid', and what they call, rather more acceptably, 'economic cooperation'. They have some reservations, naturally enough, because they realise that in some countries of South East Asia their military presence during the war is still remembered. They realise that their overwhelming industrial and commercial strength and skill may make people fearful of putting themselves in their hands. The Japanese, however, place a great deal of emphasis on the United Nations; no people pay so much respect to the United Nations. Japan can make a great deal of assistance available in the region. Not even the United States can make a greater contribution to the development of the West Pacific and South East Asia than Japan. Australia should take the opportunity of contributing comparably with Japan. Japan has eight times our population or resources, but we must certainly contribute proportionately. To Indonesia Japan already extends more than eight times Australia's aid.

In the light of Britain's accelerated withdrawal east of Suez, it has become increasingly urgent that Australia's efforts to build the defences, societies and economies of the nations in our region be stepped up. We should not give the impression that we are interested in Malaysia and Singapore only for our own purposes. We have a clear obligation to see that cities like Penang and Malacca, which have been dependent to a quite large extent on the presence of Australian forces, do not appear to have been left in the lurch by Australia. We can make quite a significant contribution in the training of officers and the provision of sophisticated defence equipment. Australia must ensure that any arrangements she makes with Singapore and Malaysia are primarily for the purpose of protection, not policing. One of the difficulties in stationing troops in Malaysia is that they might be based in an urban area such as Penang, where there have been racial disturbances. Keeping order in another country is an extraordinarily destructive role for a foreign nation to undertake or have thrust upon it.

Regional arrangements should not be restricted to military and economic arrangements. We have a contribution to make in the trade field by helping provide specialised services, particularly shipping. The Malaysian Government unsuccessfully suggested to the Australian Government last year that the countries in the area should provide some of their own shipping. All the countries in the region are in the same position as Australia is of being dependent on the provision of shipping services by our customers.

The Minister referred to my having made a statement about a defence pact with Indonesia. I think I should point out I have never suggested that Australia should have a defence pact with Indonesia alone. At the same time I have warned against Australia having a defence pact with Malaysia and Singapore alone. I have pointed out that any pacts in this region which omit Indonesia would be defective pacts. At the same time I have pointed out that it is comprehensible to Indonesia as well as to other nations in the area if existing arrangements are continued. Arrangements in the Commonwealth context are readily understood. The general theme I have made is that ASEAN is the most beneficial and the most natural regional arrangement in this area. I agree with the Minister that the increasing interest in regional arrangements is one of the most wholesome and encouraging developments in this area. I have contented myself with saying that Australia should stand ready to encourage ASEAN to have more members and more functions.

Britain's withdrawal east of Suez is also a withdrawal west of Panama. She is withdrawing from the Indian Ocean. Within a decade she will have withdrawn from the Pacific Ocean. There is a real importance in looking at it in this way, because we too often overlook the position of Britain in the colony of Fiji, the protectorate of the Solomon Islands and the New Hebrides Condominium, all covered by the South Pacific Commission. The Australian Government has been extraordinarily reluctant to enlarge the role of the South Pacific Commission. Our Government's attitude towards Fiji in particular has been discreditable. Fiji may bc politically a British colony, but her investments and commercial patterns are almost wholly determined by Australia. The Australian Government has refused to give assistance to the Fijian Government. It has taken an ungenerous, short-sighted and selfish attitude. I repeat that Fiji, economically, is an Australian colony. This is understood in Fiji. It is understood by every other country which is aware of the problems of Fiji.

We should act in our region as a good friend, a good neighbour and a good ally. We should encourage and assist the United States to turn her energies, wealth and idealism into constructive and fruitful efforts to defend, develop and democratise our region. The problems are enormous, but they are not insuperable. The time to begin in earnest is now.

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