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Tuesday, 18 April 1972
Page: 1700

Mr MORRISON (St George) - The matter of public importance which we. are debating calls for a statement by the Government - just a statement by the Government. However, during this debate not one member of the Government - not one Minister - has participated. Yet a Government supporter has introduced this matter of urgency. Where is the urgency when not one Minister participates in the debate? Where is the urgency when not one Minister is prepared to get up and say: 'We wm make, this statement'. The Government is not being asked to take action. Members opposite are so gutless they are not prepared to take action but would merely make a statement. I am appalled at the monumental hypocrisy of the Government. For a quarter of a century it has played on people's fears rather than appeal to people's aspirations. It chooses to ignore and, so far as it can in votes, will allow the chaos that it has created in the economic life of this country through its shortsighted and doctrinaire Budgets. It ignores the mounting inequality in education and the needs of the sick, the old and the handicapped.

It is obvious from this debate, that members opposite yearn for the days of the colourful election-winning formulas of 'the Red menace' and 'the yellow hordes'. The people of North Vietnam, the people of South Vietnam - in fact, the people of all Asia - mean nothing to the Government except when they can be exploited for this Government's narrow domestic political purposes. Members opposite, want to turn the clock back to the 1966 election when their election propaganda had the communist Chinese dripping blood down over Asia and onto Australia. But even then their hypocrisy was obvious because at that stage, they traded with communist China. Indeed they are falling over backwards to enter into some negotiation with China now. What a gang of humbugs this Government is. We might fairly ask what positive steps this Government proposes to take as a result of the dangers that it seems to see in Vietnam.

Let me retrace briefly the history. When Australia first became involved in Vietnam in 1962 the operations were not against the North Vietnamese combat forces in South had had a gutful of the repression and corruption of the Diem regime. When we committed combat forces in 1965 there were, according to the United States Department of Defence, no more than 400 North Vietnamese but against people who Vietnam, and they were there in the early part of 1965 for one very simple reason: Following the infamous Gulf of Tonkin resolution, which was a put up job to justify the decision that the United States mil itary had already made, the USA - this was back in 1964 - began aerial attacks on North Vietnam. In that period it was the bombing of North Vietnam that in fact brought about North Vietnamese intervention.

Mr Wentworth - Come on!

Mr MORRISON - I quote for the benefit of the Minister for Social Services Mr Schlesinger, who was Special Assistant to the President of the United States of America from 1961 to 1964. He said:

And far from stopping infiltration across the Seventeenth parallel, the bombing, if our own reports are to believed, has stimulated it. The first result was to bring North Vietnamese forces south of the border. In 196S according to General Westmoreland, the enemy began to move regular North Vietnamese army units into South Vietnam.

We talk about blatant aggression. The Labor Party does not support aggression whether it be from the North Vietnamese, the South Vietnamese, the Americans, the Chinese or the Russians. Do not let us get caught up in this question of what constitutes aggression. Does not a flight of B52s in the clouds - admittedly not stepping over some imaginary line on the ground - operating from Thailand or South Vietnam, or other bombers from the Seventh Fleet constitute aggression. Let us not get caught up in the legalities of what constitutes aggression. Ask the North Vietnamese peasants or the South Vietnamese peasants to differentiate between a bomb dropped from the clouds and mortar fire from the surrounding hills. To them it is all aggression. The Labor Party is opposed to aggression; we have always opposed aggression, and we shall continue to oppose aggression.

The Government professes a concern about this matter. Surely, if we are to take its argument seriously, that concern is much more obvious now than it was in 1965. However, in those days, for narrow political, domestic reasons, it jumped with alacrity to the request of President Johnson. What is it doing today? It is doing nothing except, as the terms of this discussion show, to try to conjure up some short-term political advantage. We do not condone war. In fact, we would rather hope that this Government would have learnt some lessons from the war in Vietnam. Of all the people throughout the world, the supporters of this Government have learnt nothing, and they have certainly forgotten nothing. Perhaps we should take as an example how the American people have learnt some very basic lessons from their involvement in Vietnam. I quote the National Conference of Catholic Bishops of the USA held in November 1968:

There are moral lessons to learn from our involvement in Vietnam that will apply in future cases. One might be that military power and technology do not suffice, even with the strongest resolve, to restore order or accomplish peace. As a rule internal political conflicts are too complicated to be solved by external applications of force and technology.

Further on they say:

Another lesson might be the realisation that some of the evils existing in this world, evils such as under-nutrition, economic frustration, social stagnation and political injustice, may be more readily attacked and corrected through nonmilitary means than by military efforts to counteract subversive forces bent upon their exploitation. In addition, may we not hope that violence may be universally discredited as a means of remedying human ills.

The Labor Party opposes, and it has continued to oppose, Australia's participation in the Vietnam war. This Government delights in the continuance of the Cold War, perhaps mindful of what it sees as possible electoral advantage. But it is unmindful of the sufferings of the people of Vietnam. I make no distinction here between the people of South Vietnam and the people of North Vietnam, for they have been used as pawns in the big power game. There is an old Arab saying that only your own fingers can find the itch. It is time - it is past time - that the people of Vietnam, both North and South, were given an opportunity to settle the future of Vietnam. Itis, after all, they who will have to live there.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock - The discussion is now concluded.

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