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Tuesday, 20 October 1970

Mr BROWN (Diamond Valley) - The basic question that should be under discussion in this debate on the defence estimates is whether the incredibly large amount of money appropriated for defence is being spent in the implementation of the right defence policy. It is a particularly appropriate time for that sort of question to be examined in Australia when we see changing circumstances around us every day. Let me list the 3 circumstances that are changing and which come to my mind at this stage. Firstly, there is the announcement by Canada that it proposes to recognise and has recognised the Communist-Chinese regime. Secondly, there is increased United States withdrawal from Vietnam. Thirdly, there is the parti cular matter about which 1 want to make some comment tonight, the announcement in the speech made by the new Prime Minister for Malaysia, Tun Abdul Razak.

The Malaysian Prime Minister has announced - and quite a section of question time over the last few days has been devoted to his utterances - that it is the wish of the Malaysian Government that Malaysia should be neutral, that Malaysia should be allowed to remain in a neutral zone in South East Asia. He went so far as to say that that neutrality should bc protected and preserved and guaranteed - I think that was the word he used - by the United States of America, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and Communist China, lt is not very surprising that the Opposition should over the last few days have seized upon this statement as evidence that there is some sort of collapse in this Government's defence policy, that there is some sort of basic change in the defence and foreign policies of Malaysia, and that the whole situation politically in South East Asia has changed dramatically and basically. T would suggest to honourable members opposite that what they should do is to look at precisely what the Prime Minister of Malaysia has said to see exactly how these things measure up against the facts set out in his statement. When we look at what he has said we realise that there is hardly enough to justify the allegations of the Opposition that there has been a change in the foreign or defence policy of Malaysia or that there is any danger of collapse or adverse effects on the defence policy of this country.

There were 3 important and significant aspects of the Malaysian Prime Minister's speech. One might describe them as qualifications and important restrictions on his call for neutrality in South East Asia and his plea for a neutral and non-aligned Malaysian defence and foreign policy. First, he asks for a guarantee from Communist China and the other 2 great powers of neutrality of the region and the neutrality of Malaysia. Of course, what he is saying here, when one looks and thinks of the specific terms in which he puts it, is not merely that there should be some utterance by Communist China that it will guarantee, in some loose way, this neutrality that the Prime Minister looks for. but that there should be positive actions by

Communist China to maintain that neutrality. What he wants, and what we want is what we have always maintained, namely, that Communist China should cease its aggression against the smaller nations of South East Asia and should cease arming, helping and financing Communists in Indo China who are seeking to upset the governments that are presently in power in those countries. Indeed, Communist China should cease its actions which are destined solely to prevent the people of those countries in South East Asia from determining their own type of government. This is the sort of guarantee that the Prime Minister of Malaysia is looking for; it is the sort of guarantee that we ourselves have always looked for. Communist China should cease the aggression that it has been engaged in over recent years towards countries in South East Asia and, in particular, that it should cease trying to achieve that object by financing, arming and giving support to Communist movements in South East Asian countries.

One can look at what the Prime Minister of Malaysia said when he addressed his own Party shortly after he became Prime Minister. He said:

We should have some assurances from Communist China that she would abide by the policy of non-interference in the internal affairs of other countries.

That has been the policy of the Malaysian Government and of the Australian Government, and I venture ' to say that it remains the policy of both of these Governments. But when one has looked at what the Malaysian Prime Minister wants to see in action from Communist China, one can go from there to see what Communist China has done in the past, because by its actions in the past, I suggest, one can get some indication of what its actions are likely to be in the immediate future. One can look at its actions towards India, irrespective of whether it had any just claim to the territories it claimed in northern India. One can look at its actions towards Tibet. One can look at its actions towards Taiwan and the off-shore islands of China. One can look at ils positive actions to support, encourage and arm Communist movements throughout the whole of South East Asia. This, indeed, is what has happened with respect to Communist Chinese actions over recent years.

Its present policy should be enough to indicate that there is little, if any, likelihood that Communist China would wish to or would take any steps at all towards guaranteeing the neutrality of Malaysia, any other country in South East Asia, or the region itself, because one can see what Communist China is doing at present. So far as the Far Eastern Economic Review has been able to estimate, Communist China is spending $US200m a year in arming South East Asian Communists in the countries in Indo-China. It has given positive and articulated promises to Communist movements in Indo-China that they can have safe rear areas in mainland China; that it will give political support to those Communist movements; that it will give material support to those Communist movements and that it will give military support to those Communist movements. Those Communist movements, as I have said, have been concerned to prevent the people of South East Asia determining their own type of government and to impose a Communist type of government on them irrespective of what their will may be.

I should have thought that the classic example illustrating that there can be no assurance at all that Communist China would be interested in guaranteeing the neutrality of South East Asia is the closed door policy that it took towards the Djakarta conference on Cambodia, because here was a clear case of an opportunity to have a degree of neutrality brought about in 1 South East Asian country - Cambodia. Here was a real test, and the Communist Chinese refused to have anything to do with it. What we wish to see, and what the Malaysian Prime Minister and his Government wish to see, is a series of positive actions indicating that the Communist Chinese are prepared to guarantee the neutrality of South East Asia. I venture to suggest that there is no evidence whatsoever to indicate that Communist China is interested in or able to achieve that.

The second and significant qualification made in the speech by Tun Abdul Razak was that Malaysia would use all of its energy to defeat Communism. He recognised, and he said it in his speech, that Communism was still the major danger in South East Asia. He pledged his Government to use all its energy to defeat Communism. The third significant restriction he indicated in his speech was that Malaysia would make a positive contribution, as it had done in the past, to maintain peace, stability and regional co-operation in the region. So. there are 3 significant aspects of the speech of Tun Abdul Razak that seem to have been overlooked. Firstly, Malaysia will look for some indication of integrity and some indication that Communist China would refrain from subversion and aggression in South East Asia; secondly, Malaysia still recognises the dangers of the Communist menace to neutrality in the region, and thirdly, Malaysia will continue to - contribute to peace and stability in the region of South East Asia, lt is our policy that if one has to negotiate on matters such as the neutrality of South East Asia, one should negotiate from a position of strength and not weakness. Of course, one wants to see co-operation not only with Communist China but with any country which is prepared to leave other countries, such as those in South East Asia, alone and with any country that is prepared to refrain from' aggression and from assisting subversive elements in those countries. I have very grave doubts whether Communist China is interested in the slightest in maintaining or guaranteeing neutrality in South East Asia so 1 venture to suggest that members of the Opposition are perhaps somewhat misguided, with all respect to them, in thinking that in this statement from the new Prime Minister of Malaysia is an indication of a change in his foreign or defence policy and that, consequently, there will be changes in our foreign or defence policy.

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