Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Full Day's HansardDownload Full Day's Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Thursday, 28 March 1968


Mr Donald Cameron (GRIFFITH, QUEENSLAND) - Mr Deputy Speaker, this is the first occasion on which I have made a speech this session and I would like to use this occasion formally to pay a tribute to our late Prime Minister, Mr Harold Holt. At the time of his unfortunate death I was in South East Asia and this was the place where Harold Holt became known and respected. It was not only the leaders of the nations who visited Australia who paid tribute to this man; I can assure both sides of the House and the people of Australia that the ordinary people of Hong Kong, Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore also paid their tribute. A tri-shaw driver in Phnom Penh quite openly expressed his sorrow at our loss. I might relate to the House something that was done in Laos which I believe is to the great credit of that country. At Watongtu the people put on their own memorial service for Mr Harold Holt in a pagoda. At this service the people not only filled the pagoda but were crowded out into the area surrounding the pagoda. I feel that this action was a tremendous expression of appreciation of our late Prime Minister.

Mrs ZaraHolt was the only woman to have shared the intimate life of this great Australian. She, along wilh a great number, shared in the joyous moments of his triumphs but only she was close by his side during those moments when absolute victory cast a shadow upon his countenance. I say to Mrs Holt: I have great faith in my interpretation of the feelings of my fellow countrymen. You fully played your role as a very loyal and faithful wife. May your grief be lessened by this knowledge.

One of the greatest legacies left by our late Prime Minister is the position we now enjoy in the eyes of our Asian neighbours. It is at this moment that I pay sincere tribute to the officers of the Department of External Affairs who act as our representatives, year in, year out, in these countries. They do their job well beyond the standard required by the most discerning and in Asia they keep our flag flying well above that of any other country. A classic example of the interest shown by our neighbours in our representatives occurred when the Prime Minister of Laos, Prince Souvanna Phouma, told me that the daughter of Ambassador Morris had just become engaged in Germany. The point is that Ambassador Morris left Laos 4 years ago and this in itself shows the great personal friendship and interest manifested between our representative and the Prime Minister of an Asian country.

I offer to our new Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) the assurance that when he visits Asia, he will find the warm hand of friendship waiting to greet him. I believe he has the qualities to enable the people of Asia to take him to their hearts as they did with Harold Holt. I wish him good luck because the people of Asia are eager to maintain our friendship.

I turn now to Vietnam and state at the outset that like a majority of my colleagues and most certainly like almost all Australians, I have had no alternative other than to have faith in our Government's decision that we should play our role in securing peace in Vietnam. My visit there in recent weeks has satisfied my mind beyond any doubt that what is happening in Vietnam is very much the business of this country. It is also our concern what is happening in Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia because no matter how remote our cultures may be, they are our neighbours. A catch cry used by the Australian Labor Party at the last election was that Australia turns to them in a time of crisis. 1 am convinced that had Australia done what it has done on only three occasions in more than the last SO years, and had voted in an Australian Labor Party Government, the entire future of our country would have been in jeopardy. I do not pretend that the present situation in Vietnam can give us comfort, but I am comforted by the fact that we as a nation are playing our role in assisting an Asia which is straining its neck to reach out for those ideals we hold precious - democracy, the right to live in freedom and to live a life without hunger.

The inability of the Labor Opposition to judge things in correct perspective means that for each year they bungle they should be left in the political wilderness for 2 years. Australia cannot afford to place the reins of government in the hands of a party that can wreck our future beyond repair. It was the Australian Labor Party which, only 2 years ago, stated without qualification that Vietnam was purely an internal affair and that China had nothing to do with the happenings in this country. It is only in recent weeks that some members of the Opposition have conceded that China is a part of the huge struggle and they explain this away by saying that we have forced China into it.

If China has just come into the conflict, how is it that I purchased in Hong Kong a book printed in Peking in 1966, entitled The People of Vietnam Will Triumph - The US Aggressors Will Be Defeated'? In its own words, the book is a 'Collection of Chinese art works in support of the Vietnamese people's struggle'. I remind honourable members opposite again that this book was printed nearly 2 years ago - this is 2 years before they acknowledged the Chinese involvement. The book promised all the support that China could give and contained reproductions of ISO paintings which suggested and depicted methods of brutality to be used against the so called aggressors from the United States of America. This I concede is not tangible evidence of guns and armies but even the last speaker from the Opposition insisted the conflict is completely internal. Through my travels I found evidence to support the contention that China is stirring the possum of discontent everywhere.


Mr James - The honourable member is stirring the possum.


Mr Donald Cameron (GRIFFITH, QUEENSLAND) - I am stirring the possum of truth. Significantly, the honourable member for Yarra (Dr Cairns), known throughout the country for his left wing pro-Communist views stated:

Tonight the Leader of the Opposition made an effective speech, every word of which I support.

Honourable members opposite who are interjecting do not like this but it is true. Why would not the honourable member for Yarra support the speech? It contained the type of thoughts that those who back Dr Cairns and the Hanoi regime like to hear. These are statements such as '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.' I remind honourable members opposite that the Leader of the Opposition said this. Another statement is: 'One of the reasons why the Army is unpopular is that its troops still have to loot to live'. I wonder just who it was who gave the Leader of the Opposition this information while he was in Vietnam?

I will now relate to the House an incident that occurred in war zone 4 which is a prime example either of how misinformed or untruthful the Leader of the Opposition is in his claims. I visited an Army outpost in the delta area. This area was one which had been secured by troops of the South Vietnamese Government. The area was some miles from what could be described as a really established civilisation. It was a village area. It was 3 or 4 days after Christmas when I came upon this place. I was told by the troops that people from a village 2 or 3 miles down the river had got into their canoes and boats and paddled up the river with candles and lamps on board. When they arrived they sang to show the appreciation that they felt for the Government troops because, for the first time in 4 years, they had been able to hold a Christian church service in their local church. On that occasion some hundreds of people gave thanks for the establishment of this government outpost. Yet we have the statement from the Leader of the Opposition that the people have no faith in the Government or in the Army.

I could easily claim that the situation is quite the opposite to that which has been suggested by the Leader of the Opposition, but it would not be honest of me to say that the occurrence to which I have just referred is a typical one. However, I refute absolutely the sweeping claims of the Leader of the Opposition that the Government of South Vietnam has in no way won the confidence of the people, and that the Army is unpopular. His statements along these lines are surely evidence that his Socialist ideals are well in line with those of others who are branded as belonging to the left wing of the Labor Party, such as the honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren) and others who have been endeavouring to interject. The truth of the matter is that the people of Vietnam have not known stability as we know it. The uncertainty of the future prevents the average Vietnamese from coming out and supporting the Government. Surely the miscalculation on the part of the Vietcong, when the uprising that they expected on the part of the people of the South against the Government during the Tet offensive did not eventuate, is reason enough for anyone to refrain from making such monstrous claims as those made by the Leader of the Opposition and other members of his Party.

We have heard in this House and have read in the newspapers statements by various members of the Opposition that Australia should be giving South Vietnam more civil aid. Of course these same honourable members claim in the next breath that we should vacate these areas. As I see the situation, the truth is that we cannot effectively give aid to these areas if they are not secured. I shall cite a case that many members of the Opposition probably have not heard of. In the late 1950s the Australian Government made finance available for the establishment of a model dairy at a place called Ben Cat. There was an area of 100 acres of scrubland and jungle that Australians cleared and sowed wilh pasture. We put a herd of Australian jersey cows there and taught the people how to use their land to the best advantage. However, in the early 1960s this installation, like other aid projects, was destroyed. A Mr Robert Lyall was in charge of this project, and he and others from Australia had to flee the country. This is only one example of what happens when we set out to provide this kind of civil aid in unsecured country.

Of course the sentiments expressed by the Opposition win support because they are noble sentiments and have a good deal of public appeal, but we must be realistic. We must secure the country in order to make civil aid effective, and I suggest in all sincerity that the Australian contribution in Vietnam is a worthwhile one. I visited areas where the Australian Army was engaged in teaching the people how to build for the future. I pay tribute to a Major Mackay, who was a town planner from Adelaide - the city of Adelaide, not the electorate - and who was in that country by virtue of his position in the Citizen Military Forces. He was working with the local people and teaching them the concept of town planning. He had also managed to get across to them successfully the idea of providing such basic installations - at least basic in our minds - as toilets in their schools. Surely the members of the Opposition would concede that if we cannot hold these areas any installations that we provide there will become prime targets for the Vietcong, because these things represent progress, and this is what the Vietcong are fighting against. They know that if the minds of the people are won over to the Government's way of thinking their battle is lost.

I should also refer to other countries that I visited, particularly Laos and Thailand. I express grave concern for the future of Laos. I wonder how long the situation can continue in this area as it is at present, without some form of involvement becoming necessary, or without that country requiring some form of assistance. Constantly we read of Communist attacks on Government outposts and of huge government losses in this area and that. Yet we will have members of the Opposition in the future putting forward the proposition that these are simply internal matters. Both north east Thailand and north west Thailand are being subjected to the same undermining that has taken place in Vietnam. The same treatment is being meted out to the Government troops in Laos. It is very easy for people to shut their eyes to these facts.

Then we come to Cambodia, the neutral country. In Phnom Penh, 45 miles from the border of South Vietnam, at night one can hear the windows shaking as the bombs fall in South Vietnam. I wonder what the future of this country is and whether it can continue to live in that part of the world without at some time taking sides. I forecast - and I say this with a heavy heart - that in the years to come, unless we win in Vietnam, Cambodia will be subjected to the same upheavals and attacks as we are presently witnessing in other parts of South East Asia.

Prince Sihanouk is a person for whom the Leader of the Opposition expressed admiration. I wish him well in his efforts to keep his country free and neutral because nobody likes war. But there are signs even today that in various parts of hh country Communist cells are building up, and this surely is a warning that the pattern which has been set in other countries of this area may be followed in Cambodia.

In conclusion I would like to say that the people of South East Asia look upon Australians as real friends. I believe it is easier for an Australian to make friends with an Asian than it is for any other European. Perhaps this may be thought by some to be a sweeping statement, but I believe it to be true. The Americans have not been nearly as successful as Australia in the giving of aid. Unfortunately the Americans - and I make this criticism in a friendly manner - present a kind of sugar daddy image, being prepared to give anything, while the Australians on the other hand tend to roll up their sleeves and get on with the job with the people and try to let them understand what they are being given. In my discussions in Vietnam with a number of American officials I debated this question at length, and I got some agreement from them - not that this will necessarily bring about any change in the future. Australia is doing a great job in Asia, and I believe that our position in the area will be assured in the years to come.







Suggest corrections