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Thursday, 28 March 1968


Mr BRYANT (Wills) - What a rousing firebrand is the honourable member for Riverina (Mr Armstrong). It is a wonder his words are not echoing through the corridors of the Liberal Party and Country Party headquarters encouraging young members of those Parties, who stand for Parliament and come to this place to conscript other young men, themselves to enlist. I have great respect for the honourable member. I do not mind a man being reactionary and retrogressive. He is a distinctly straightforward Australian. But I want to know how we come to the stage where we hear such an odd speech as we heard tonight. What a quaint mixture of conceit and sycophancy we found. We were told that the Indonesians were saved from the Communist scourge because of the great inspiration provided by Australia. If you say that in Djakarta you will get a good laugh from the Indonesians, notwithstanding that they are a polite people. Indonesia has had her troubles for 20 or more years.

When asked whether they thought Australians should be involved in the war in Vietnam the Indonesians said: 'We have had troubles from the Right and from the Left. We have had four civil wars, two from the Right and two from the Left. We managed to overcome both of them from our own resources.' It is a piece of shocking conceit that any Australian should suggest that it was inspiration from Australia that allowed Indonesia to handle the situation that developed 2 years ago. Indonesia is a country that deserves our greatest support and sympathy. It is a country left with very serious deficiencies as a result of Dutch colonial policy. It is one of the disaster areas of our foreign policy that over the last few years we have practically ignored Indonesia. It is time to make an appeal for a little old-fashioned militant nationalism on Australia's part - not militant in the military sense, but let Australians speak as Australians and take a look at the world at large. Let them see whether we can fit in. Let us see what kind of independent spirit we can bring to bear.

The honourable member for Riverina commenced his speech tonight by attacking Senator Robert Kennedy of the United States. He said that the senator was giving aid and comfort to Ho Chi Minh. What a piece of nonsense, and this from a man who belongs to a party which sells wheat to China. I understand that the honourable member's Party gives credit to the Chinese but asks the Indians to pay cash. There is no consistency in the attitudes of members of the Australian Country Party. Somehow this attitude of inconsistency, lack of logic and failure to understand the Asian movement in history has been allowed to seep into the Australian community and create an area of immorality as far as our foreign policy is concerned. I believe that the Australian Government and everybody associated with it is involved in an exercise in immorality. Only recently in answer to a question the honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Daly) received details of battle casualties during last February. There were 303 national servicemen and 78 other servicemen - a total of 381 - listed as casualties. These were young men called up and sent to fight a war in which they had no say while the great majority of Australians went about their business as usual. This is an exercise in national immorality.

In his speech tonight - this attitude is consistent in honourable members opposite - the honourable member for Riverina used the royal plural. He said that we must be in Vietnam, but 'we' is always someone else. If this Government were dinkum and if the country were dinkum about this, if all the people who are full of freedom fighting spirit meant anything, they would say that if this has to be fought to a finish we will carry the same spirit, the same enterprise and the same mobilisation as we did a quarter of a century ago against the Japanese, the Germans and the Italians. But they do not do that. That is not what they mean. When they say 'we' they mean someone else. I say that that is an exercise in national immorality, led I believed by the Liberal Party in principle and the Country Party as its rather miserable satellite. Where the Democratic Labor Party fits in I do not know. This is part of the pattern of Australian thinking.

For 20 years Australians have been conditioned not in policies, philosophies, ideas or ideals but in political gimmickry. Nobody gets the facts. We have built our foreign policies on whole areas of fallacy. It is logical and inevitable for anybody to make an error. It is our peculiar capacity to compound the errors of others. This has led us into an impasse where we are out with almost every other country in the world. It is not just the Labor Party in Australia who says that we are wrong in principle in the way we are fighting and going about it; great religious and national leaders all say the same. And so we are left almost alone in the world. To use the term 'free world' and to speak of those countries which have some relevance to our own political systems, one might say that China has Albania and America has Australia. The two groups of idiocy have isolated themselves in this way because they have failed to look facts in the face and have failed to see that the last 20 years has produced a watershed in our history. For instance, why is America so hotly engaged in Vietnam? This flows principally from the Tonkin Gulf incident and all that flowed from that. As was pointed out here recently and as has been adequately proved in recent times, that was based on false evidence and on false understanding, the same as our Suez policy of 10 or 15 years ago was based on a false understanding and no knowledge of the facts.

We continue to follow the power complex of world history. We hear these consistent physical analogies. We hear of the power vacuum, as if there were some great great wall to which you can lead your battleships and carriers and, if you open the door, they all flow through. What nonsense this is. We do not live in a world such as that any more. It is true that history has been dominated by empires, whether they were the Hittites the Egyptians, the Romans, the Spanish, the British or anyone else. But the world is not like that any more and I am optimistic enough to believe that it will not be like that again, particularly if countries like ours realise that in the sweep of history we have a particular place and have a duty to the rest of humanity and mankind. We must take up the challenge and stand on our feet, fairly and squarely before the rest of the world. That is what I am asking

Australians to do - not to desert the Americans and not to hate the Chinese but just to stand up as a free people who have something to offer in the world.

So we have this continuing nonsense of the domino theory. 1 thought it was dead. It was the political gimmick of 3 or 4 years ago. The Prime Minister of that time and also the Minister for External Affairs consistently used the term, lt was a happy piece of phraseology which I believe President Eisenhower developed, or someone such as he or one of his ghost writers. The suggestion was that when Vietnam goes we all go; next it is Laos, Cambodia and Thailand; and then it is Indonesia. The next thing we know we are fighting on the southern slopes of Mount Wellington or on Heard Island. That is all nonsense and it is conditioned to the way that Australians think about it. It is the reason behind the philosophies of the Liberal Party and the kind of pamphlets it produces at election time. Perhaps it is reasonable to do anything to win an election, such as rigging the ballots, tinkering with the electorates, telling lies and vilifying opponents, but I think it is in the pattern of Australian political history that in general we on this side do not manage to get as low as the people on the other side. But it is true enough that in recent times the Liberal Party has damaged every part of the fabric of Australian society in order to gain political power, and so it says that Communism seeps. The last thing its members will do if look at history. The last thing they will do is to look even at geography fairly and squarely.

Does Communism seep? Is Communism monolithic? I am one person on this side of the House who is a non-materialist. I am a Socialist. I believe in social values and not material ones. I believe in people before I believe in property. If anybody wants to have a philosophical discussion about the question of Socialism, Marxism or Communism we can have that at the appropriate time and place. But let us consider the suggestion that Communism does this. I believe that there are thirteen Communist countries in the world at the moment. Two or three of them have been Communist by revolution - Russia is one. Two or three have been overcome by civil war - countries such as Cuba and Vietnam - and one,

Mongolia, by an almost natural turn ot events. China, of course, became Communist by civil war. And what about the rest of them - North Korea, Albania, Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, Rumania and East Germany? Did Communism seep acrosstheir borders? Of course not. It was the thunderous roll of the Russian armoured divisions after 1944-45 which installed Russian soldiers there to put the local Communist Parties in their place.

In fact Communism has been built into something which is larger than lifesize. It has been used as a political gimmick by those who would rather not face the political fact that Communism very rarely wins people's hearts or minds and that there are those who do support it and will fight to the death to have it victorious. But if we face the facts of humanity and realise that nearly all humanity calls for freedom, we see the Communist monolith apparently crumbling. This is so in Europe in particular, but is happening also in Asia. I know that the North Koreans are difficult when negotiating, but not so long ago they said 'a plague on both your houses'. But out of this we have built more political gimmickry. This is what honourable members opposite are afraid of and, into this false view of history and false understanding of society, they have built Australia's particular relationship with America.

As I have said, I am not anti-American. As a Socialist I say to people that I love everybody, but some need correction. And so I believe that we do not bring valued judgments into our relations with the rest of the world. I do not like the Government of Greece, but I approve of our Government recognising it. I do not approve of the Government of China, but our Government ought to recognise it. I do not like the Government of Spain, but we ought to deal with it. I like the Government of Israel and we ought to do better with the Israelis. I do not think much of the Governments of some of the Arab countries and I believe that some are all right, but we ought to have negotiations with them. If Australia is to take its place we must get rid of the valued judgments about governments and we must have an infinite sense of values and sensitivities to humanities.

Another thing that we are all in a panic about is the British withdrawal. We go whingeing off to Harold Wilson and say: Please don't do it'. What was the British military presence in this part of the world with the cessation of confrontation? It was a social service to the Malaysians, in particular. Why are the Australian forces at Malacca? We have two bases in Malaysia, an Army base at Malacca and an Air Force base at Butterworth. If we had any strategic sense at all, if we had any feeling about the security of these people, on the outbreak of war we would have insisted that they give mutual support, but of course the force at Malacca is not there because it is holding back the surging Asian hordes; it is there because it is a social service, an economic support for that part of the world What we have to do is find some answer other than a military one. If people are unemployed the best we can do is to find something better than merely calling them up. If a country is poor we can do something better than send in military forces. I believe that the British withdrawal was inevitable. Possibly it should have started to happen long ago. We do little credit to the British, to ourselves or to history in general if we think that this is something about which we can wring our hands and weep.

Then we come to the Chinese threat. We have a neurosis about China and its neighbours. Has anyone ever bothered to look at the history of China. It is said that China has been murderous about Tibet and it has been difficult to the point of being equally murderous on the borders of India, but there are plenty of people who will argue both ways on the Indian question. But what has Chinese history been over the last 5 centuries? How many people has China invaded? In the 14th century it occupied some of Vietnam and was driven out, but for the last 5 centuries it has been the Europeans who have been harrassing the Chinese. We have built this into another one of the historical gimmicks. Let China sleep, said Napoleon. The miners chased the Chinese on Lambing Flats. People around Australia all the time have built up this phobia about the Chinese. It has become a neurosis so that we cannot think correctly. We have to look at China correctly. We have to bring it into the comity of nations.

The honourable member for Riverina (Mr Armstrong), who had a distinguished military service above the average, was inclined to sneer at the suggestion that Opposition members might have views on tactics or strategy. I have some such views. All Australians are entitled to assess the military virtues and strategies of the leaders in Vietnam. When we hand our young men over to the military forces we are handing over our most precious trusteeship. It is everyone's duty to keep a sharp eye on what is happening. There has been no recent evidence that the Services are being frank, even with the Ministry. We have had three or four instances where it is obvious that the Ministry has been misled. There is obvious lack of concern by the Ministers of this House tonight. Where is the Minister for the Army (Mr Lynch) who was going to speak tonight? He has fled from the House. Where is the Minister for External Affairs (Mr Hasluck)? Why is he not sitting in the chamber throughout this debate? I wanted to ask them their formula for winning the war. They sneer at us. We have a formula for peace. What is their formula for war? They are the warmongers of this Parliament. The Americans can fight on as long as they like, but this conflict' of military philosophies in Vietnam produces no result but misery for the Vietnamese people.

The United States of America has three major points to its military philosophy - fire power, mobility and interdiction. They are bombing the north to prevent supplies coming from the north. They believe that by using the great mechanised capacity of American industry in military matters they can move in and move out and they can sweep to victory and go home. They believe their fire power will clean out their opponent's. Of course, they are faced with a completely different and contradictory military philosophy - that of the Vietnamese, north and south, and of the National Liberation Front. If honourable members examine the textbooks of General Giap and Mao Tse-tung on guerilla warfare they will see that it is based on a reliance on grass roots support - on getting support by terror, by persuasion or by capturing the hearts and minds of the people. In this instance all three methods apply. There are some people who are dedicated to the Communist cause or to the National

Liberation Front and its cause. There are some who are terrified by it. There are others who lack the moral courage or physical capacity to stand against it. So there is infiltration into the community, and there can be no military answer to this. This has been so through all history. The NLF carries on its running battles and week by week the war continues and the American dead start to crowd the cemeteries of America.


Mr Turner - Which side is the honourable member on?


Mr BRYANT - Our own dead are mounting to the stage where we have lost a battalion and a half. What are members opposite going to do to win this war? All the honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Turner) is doing is sacrificing hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese to his own security. If he had any nerve, any guts, any compunction he would stand up in this House and demand that honourable members who are under 35 years of age should go to Vietnam to fight. What is wrong with members opposite? What is wrong with Australians that they send them to Parliament? What is wrong with the Liberal Party that it endorses them to stand in seats such as my own? I do not want Australians to go to Vietnam. I do not believe that they should be there. If members opposite have any sense of mission or if they believe in what they say - and if the honourable member for Bradfield believes in what he says - why do they not ask their young members to go to Vietnam?


Mr Turner - Does the Labor Party have any defence policy at all?


Mr BRYANT - Why does the honourable member not ask them to go? Why docs he not demand that Australians pay more taxes? I have nothing but contempt for members opposite. Their general attitude is disgraceful in the light of Australian history of which I have some knowledge. We have committed ourselves to people who have shown, in the military sense, an astonishing incompetence. No Australian worthy of his salt would allow Australians to fight in theatres commanded by people who send out a continual flow of public relations messages from Vietnam.

I refer honourable members to an incident that happened last week. Yesterday or the day before we read that soma

American soldiers were astonished when they were ambushed by tanks. How does one get ambushed by tanks? How does the enemy infiltrate tanks? How did these tanks come to be there? How did they cross these secret borders? Several honourable members on the other side of the House served in New Guinea during the last war and took part in the Kokoda Trail battles. They fought in Borneo, Bougainville and the Middle East. Many were in the forces which threw the Japanese out of New Guinea and which crossed the most difficult and dangerous country in the world. They fought the most ferocious battles of the war. They won the first land battle against the Japanese enemy. Yet they are prepared to put up with the present situation in Vietnam.

I believe we are basing all our philosophies - our military philosophy and our foreign philosophy - on false premises, false information and false understandings. If members opposite had any sense of Australia's mission in this part of the world they would realise that there is only one way in which to succeed and that is by sending the Australian spirit surging north in a diplomatic offensive and taking the initiative. Members opposite can sneer and snarl, but the facts are that all they are doing is hiding behind the gimmicks of political phraseology. While they are prepared to send others to Vietnam they are not prepared to go themselves.







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