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Tuesday, 13 October 1970

Mr BEAZLEY (Fremantle) - There are many reasons why a man who is fully prepared to be a soldier of Australia should object to the war in Vietnam, without being what is normally understood by the designation 'conscientious objector", and there may be future contingencies in which this will again be true. All Australian soldiers take the oath of allegiance to the Monarch. There is a tiny minority of aliens in the Army whose constitutional position is different, but what I am about to say applies to the overwhelming majority, namely, that they are subjects of the Crown of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, according to the covering clauses of the Constitution and other clauses within it. The Crown is not at war in Vietnam. Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom permits a trade which supplies North Vietnam with weapons. British ships carry Chinese and Russian weapons from Hong Kong and elsewhere to Haiphong. Although the United States commands the Pacific with overwhelming naval superiority, the port of Haiphong is not blockaded. The position of Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom has simply been that certain of Her Majesty's subjects will have money as a result of this trade and other of Her Majesty's subjects will have death as a result of this trade. The late Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes and the present Minister for the Navy (Mr Killen) have protested about this situation, but we have no evidence that the Australian Government has attempted anything in the way of inducing the United Kingdom to cease from the trade. Under the circumstances its sense of responsibility to its own troops is gravely open to question.

The war aim in this non-war in Vietnam now appears to be to disengage, but the unlimited nature of a commitment on the mainland of Asia and the carelessly undefined obligations assumed towards the South Vietnamese Government appear to make this impossible to ┬╗he Government. That is the most complimentary construction that it is possible to put on the attitude of the Government. We are confronted with a civil war in which the revolutionary forces are determined to take over the state and to reshape it. The conditions for which we fight are to guarantee existing society and existing regimes.

Our right to determine the nature of Vietnamese society will no more be accepted than has foreign intervention in any other revolution. Intervention in a revolution, whether American, French or Russian, is a classic formula for failure. If

Vietnam were a peninsula, like Korea or Malaya, the military line could be terminated at each end by the sea. The enemy could be deprived of supplies and reinforcements. The military commitment could be defined. Swamp, jungle and river on the Asian mainland make the military commitment limitless and intervention interminable. The North Vietnamese already have fought the French for a decade and the United States for 7 years They do not negotiate at Paris because they have no desire to negotiate. In the main, they have the sympathy of Asia because all Asia, even the most proWestern parts like Malaysia, has reached the position that Asians will no longer accept that their fate will be determined for them in Moscow, London, Paris, Washington or even Peking. India and Communist Korea have fought Peking in India's case and snubbed it in North Korea's case.

The Vietnam war is a formula for failure abroad but for electoral success at home. In this, it resembles the Suez adventure. It coincides perfectly with common illusions in Australia. It wins Australian Democratic Labor Party preferences for the Government and I supect that that is now the Government's real war aim. Sir Robert Menzies was the architect of this adventure as far as Australia was concerned and he began the Indo-China policy as a supporter of French rule.

The nation's most consistently successful, and therefore probably its most representative, Prime Minister, Sir Robert, asserted that not to stand for the continuance of white rule was the very ecstasy of suicide. In pursuit of such a theory and with the undoubted support of the bulk of the nation Australia threw the weight of diplomatic support behind the French effort to continue rule in Indo China. We are led by the Government to support the destruction of Asian people with napalm and the destruction of their agriculture with picloram under circumstances when the disaster falls indiscriminately on enemies, friends and uncommitted people in Vietnam in a way we would never countenance were the targets Europeans. If Danes, Norwegians or Swedes were being napalmed the revulsion in this country would be tremendous. It is the measure of our unconscious racism that there is no revulsion when the people are yellow.

I saw the earthy reaction and heard the gut cries of support for a policy of bombing the despised 'Gyppos' in 1956. Australia's initiatives produced the Suez affair in 1956, an automatic Australian reflex action in defence of imaginary jugular veins, lifelines and vital routes without which our economy would be gravely damaged, demonstrating how deep in the thinking of the older Australian generation are imperialist and racist assumptions. Successive explanations of events in Vietnam offered by Australian Governments are now known not to be true, and any person who follows these statements through is entitled to object to involvement in a non-declared war which has been justified by falsehoods. The initial explanation was that we were really fighting China. China was coming south. Department of External Affairs publications, blatantly concocted for party-political use, were put out showing Chinese weapons and inferring Chinese intervention.

Actually, as far as weapons are concerned, China has supplied the ginger beer and Russia the champagne. If weapons are the proof, a far stronger case can be made that Russia is actively intervening than that China is. Confronted wilh the obvious criticism that if China is the enemy why supply her with wheat, wool and even some etremely vital materials with a direct military bearing, like rutile, the late Harold Holt admitted that China was not involved. This varied Sir Robert Menzies' remarkable theory that China was thrusting south to separate the Indian and Pacific Oceans, and that that was what the Vietnam war was about. Then Sir Robert, following the Pentagon, asserted that the mosquito fleet of Haiphong had attacked the United States Navy on the high seas iti the Gulf of Tonkin. This stampeded the United States Congress into endorsing the bombing and President Johnson into widening the war to attack Hanoi.

It is now admitted by the naval officers concerned that the attack did not lake place in the Gulf of Tonkin. What is a man who may not be a conscientious objector to make of that? We are unable to be consistent about our allies. After Ambassador Lodge had connived at the overthrow of Diem, Sir Garfield Barwick faintly informed the House that as far aa

Australia was concerned Diem was a patriot. What does a man who may not be a conscientious objector to war in general make of that? As far as the United States was concerned, Diem was an obstacle, and the Central Intelligence Agency, in overthrowing him, blundered. Whatever he was, his hold on the allegiance of his people was strong enough for him not to need massive outside support.

It is obvious that our American allies have had to pay for their ignorant meddling with an expansion of an American presence from a few hundred advisers to 600,000 troops. The action in overthrowing Diem also produced the Australian commitment. With Diem's assassination Pandora's box was opened. In the thinking of many Vietnamese the mandate from heaven, the accolade of legitimate government, passed from Diem after his assassination to Ho Chi Minh. People near Saigon, not hitherto enemies, became enemies. For years we accepted the fact that Sihanouk was a friend. After Diem was overthrown Sihanouk broke diplomatic relations with the United States and sent hundreds of United States advisers out of the country. He argued that if Americans dealt as they had done with a man who had been as faithful to them as Diem had been, he, Sihanouk, could not afford to have them around.

Sihanouk was supported by the Australian Government. The Pentagon, gulling Nixon as it had gulled Johnson over the Gulf of Tonkin, launched an attack on Cambodia on the specious ground that this would facilitate an American withdrawal from Vietnam. It has not done so. Once more Pandora's box was opened. The King of Laos lives in dread of being rescued from the Pathet Lao by white troops. If that happens he knows the nation will turn against him. Asians are tired of the white man's government, tired of the white man's economic exploitation and, above all, tired of the white man's contempt. Corruption can flourish. In Vietnam and in other South East Asian countries presidents and senators can become super-rich and multi-millionaires overnight. If this produces Communism they know that the United States will rush to their rescue. It is the way of Batista and of Papa Doc Duvalier all over again. The course of history will not stay on the side of corruption, and the Government's policy is folly. Menzies' contempt for the 'Gyppos' turned the Arab world from being a British sphere of influence into a Russian sphere of influence.

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