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Thursday, 20 April 1972
Page: 1890


Mr N H Bowen (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for Foreign Affairs) (2.58) - The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard) expresses the opinion - on what information it is based, I do not know - that this invasion is not an effort for an all-out victory. Many reasons have been given for this. The first is that it is an attempt by the North Vietnamese to try to stop Vietnamisation of the South, because Vietnamisation is proceeding with too great a speed towards complete success, before it is too late for them to intervene. The second reason is to impress the allies of North Vietnam - 'the Soviet Union and the People's Republic of China - of its capacity to strike at this time and to involve them, particularly at a time when the United States President is visiting the capitals of those 2 countries.

The third reason - this is rather a cynical reason which pretty well everyone assigns to them - is to influence the people of the United States in their thinking in a presidential election year that the United States policy in Vietnam will fail. The fourth reason is that South Vietnam has been strengthening its security and improving the living standards of its people to such a remarkable degree that it is necessary for North Vietnam to strike now, or it will never be able to satisfy the people of South Vietnam. It would never even be able to govern them if it succeeded, for so far ahead of the North have the living standards in the South become that tfes

South will not accept government according to the standards of the North. It is, therefore, the time factor that is concerning them, but I do not think that at this stage it is fruitful to enter into this discussion. It is too early. We remember what happened at the time of the last Tet offensive. A lot of assumptions were made and a lot of propaganda was issued. It is better to wait and see, because in this situation the possibilities are so many, so great and so fearful.

How often have we heard it said that in foreign affairs and defence the policies and philosophies of the Labor Party and the Government are poles apart? Here is the Deputy Leader of the Opposition again, as he has so often attempted to do in recent days, saying: 'You are saying the same thing as I am saying9. The Leader of the Opposition while in America said: 'Really, Labor policy is very similar to that of the Government'. This is simply ridiculous. There is, in fact, very little we do agree upon in defence and foreign affairs issues.

There has never been an issue that has set us further apart so starkly as has this Vietnam issue. The basic reason is that in all this time while we have been involved in Vietnam, while our troops have been fighting there, risking their lives - some of them, regrettably, giving their lives - in all this time that we have given our help to try to save these people who were struggling, even long before we or the Americans went there, to protect themselves against aggression from the north; in all this time the Labor Party has been barracking for the enemy. I cannot recall a single occasion when the Opposition has stood up for South Vietnam or has said one word in support of its cause. Yet the Opposition poses as the protector of the weak and underprivileged. Why is it that the Leader of the Opposition always puts Hanoi's point of view? Why has he constantly knocked the allied efforts in Vietnam? Even now it is said that we have put this on. Who started it? Who made a statement calling for a demonstration in support of the Vietcong? It was not we who did that. The honourable member for Lalor (Dr J. F. Cairns) started it. Who moved the motion in the Victorian Labor Council which expressed support for North side of the House. The Opposition says that we started it, but we have had to respond and say what we think about these initiatives which have been commenced on the Opposition side on the left, because we believe the nation needs to know what should be thought of honourable members opposite and how far they represent the views of the Labor Party when put by that part of it which is dominant in its defence and foreign affairs matters. We now have the spectacle of resolutions being passed calling for support for the North at a time when our instructors are still there, when our aid personnel are still there, when Australians are in danger supporting their friends and allies. Here the Opposition is calling for support for the enemies responsible for this aggression against those friends and allies.

One might say: 'Well, what the Opposition says or does is not very effective. It does not have the force of government. Is there any harm in it?' Perhaps we should remain silent to satisfy the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. But this sort of activity on the part of the Labor Party does, in fact, do very great harm. The harm is that its propaganda and persistent agitation in support of North Vietnam's aggression has the effect of giving encouragement to the communist forces. This goes around the world in headlines as Australia's view. This does immense harm, and we would be recreant to our trust if we did not rise up and deplore it and condemn it in this Parliament. All of this propaganda is directed towards weakening support for those who are defending themselves, towards weakening the civil will of the people of America and towards weakening the civil will of the people of Australia.

It has in fact had a telling effect but I hope not a decisive effect upon the course of this war. The Leader of the Opposition has said that he does not support a military solution to this problem and that he wants a political solution. He condemns a military solution. That sounds good until one sees what he means by it. The Leader of the Opposition means by a political solution that we should accept the 7-point proposals of the North Vietnamese.

He came to Parramatta in my electorate recently. He is spending a great deal of time there and has even gone up the Parramatta River when he would have been much better off on the Georges River in his own electorate where the pollution would be very great. He attended a meeting at the Parramatta Town Hall and will be visiting there one evening this week. In addition he will be attending an Anzac Day ceremony for the first time in history as far as I know in my electorate. The Leader of the Opposition has made great play of the fact that he sent a telegram to the Prime Minister from Peking. He said this would have prevented all the fighting. The North Vietnamese 7-point plan was the king hit to prevent all the fighting in Vietnam. He said:

One of the last things that I tried to do about Vietnam was when I was in Peking. I sent a cable to Mr McMahon saying that North Vietnam's 7-point proposals were genuine - they afforded the Americans an honourable outlet for their participation in Vietnam. I sent that to him. 1 sent it from China. It would almost certainly have been read by the authorities there before it left the country.

That is an oblique acknowledgement of the kind of society that exists there. He continued:

All the thanks I get from Mr McMahon were, to use his own words, 'that I was putting the case for the enemy'.

He then went off at a tangent but came back and said:

For the very first time in the protracted hostilities in Vietnam the Chinese Government had endorsed the proposal made by Hanoi. The first time they had ever done it-

The Chinese, that is - the clearest indication that the proposal was a substantial and genuine one, one which would be seen through, that the people sponsoring it would in fact see it through, they would back it.

That is his solution. But when one looks at the plan he is putting - he seems to be proud of it - it involves the dismantling of the entire Administration in Saigon, the disbanding of the army and then the provisional revolutionary government - that is, the Vietcong - is to make arrangements for a government of national concord which would then hold elections. I would like to see the government of national concord after that. If that is not surrender and if that is not giving more than they could achieve by a military victory I do not know what is. After all they would get the cities undamaged in this proposal. The Leader of the Opposition agrees with this. He thinks it is very good stuff. He knows that this proposal would give the North Vietnamese more than a military victory would give them. It would mean simply that we would be joining our enemies to destroy our friends. Maybe it would stop the fighting and we could have avoided the killing. But so would killing have been avoided if the United Kingdom Government had invited Hitler over to take control of the United Kingdom Government during the last war. That would have stopped the fighting too. This is the type of proposal the Leader of the Opposition has in mind when he calls for a political solution. This is what he sent down with his own imprimatur on it. This is ridiculous.

When President Nixon called for a cease fire and the withdrawal of American troops on terms that free elections would be held under international supervision, that President Thieu would resign in order that this might be done and that the United States would support no candidate and would remain strictly neutral, that would have been a political settlement. It would have been an honourable one. But do we hear anything on thai from the Leader of the Opposition? No. There is dead silence, lt would have been an honourable plan calling for international supervision of elections and the resignation of President Thieu but would not have involved the handing over of the government to the enemy. The Leader of the Opposition would not have a bar of it. He would not support it.

There is one rather extraordinary feature about this. In the House on 18th April 1972 in an earlier debate recorded on page 1694 of Hansard the Leader of the Opposition berated the Government for its silence and acquiescence on the role of the Soviet Union. He said:

Russia, much more than China, has been responsible for supplying the means of war to Hanoi. Why this silence?

The attitude of the Opposition throughout this war has been that it is a civil war and that it is not really a war at all. The Government has been saying consistently that it is a war of aggression supported by Russia and China and we have been condemning this. Yet here, is the Leader of the Opposition berating the Government for not condemning Russia. This is a change of face. He is now saying that it is aggression from the north and that the Government is tardy in condemning Russia for supporting this aggression. What a turnabout, what an about-face!


Mr Duthie - You do not like it.







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