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Thursday, 20 April 1972
Page: 1897


Mr NIXON (Gippsland) (Minister for Shipping and Transport) - The extraordinary postures adopted by the Australian Labor Party on Vietnam are typical of its general attitude towards defence and they deserve exposure. Labor's policy is a case history of attitudes towards communist aggression which underlines an approach bordering on the dangerous and which at times is almost un-Australian. It could well be asked by a visitor to this country why it is that the Labor Party always seems to be following the communist line in its defence postures. The ALP is not concerned about the presence of Soviet navy vessels in the Indian Ocean. It does not seem to be concerned about the defence vacuum that ALP policies towards Malaysia and Singapore would cause. The Labor Party seeks to denigrate Australia's alliances in ANZUS and SEATO. It refuses to accept that for IS years communist aggression has been going on in South Vietnam. To my knowledge, the Labor Party has made no protest whatsoever against the invasion of Laos and Cambodia by North Vietnamese forces over the past decade or longer.

A contender for the Labor Party Leadership, the honourable member for Lalor (Dr J. F. Cairns), who would be a senior Minister in a Labor government, continually mouths justification of North Vietnamese aggression in South Vietnam in a puppet-like fashion. I quote the Hansard report of 12th April, when the honourable member for Lalor said:

I believe and am fully convinced that the North Vietnamese are justified in the action they have taken in South Vietnam.

That is an appalling statement, pregnant with threat for the Australian way of life. Is it any wonder that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) came back from Peking with a message from the Chinese Prime Minister, Chou En-lai, that China looks forward to the time when Labor takes office?

It is in the field of Australia's national defence that one of the widest differences of opinion exists between the Government and the Labor Party. The Government has been scrupulous, through treaties and active mutual co-operation with our neighbours in the region, to ensure that any potential aggressor would be deterred by the strength of our alliances. Thus, for example, we have worked to ensure the continued validity of the ANZUS Treaty. Last year the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) won a ringing reaffirmation of the ANZUS Treaty and a wide-ranging expression of faith from President Nixon. The President said:

I believe this Treaty is one of the fundamental pillars of our policy for peace in the Pacific . . . This Treaty goes far beyond simply that piece of paper.

What a great guarantee of alliance in defence are the President's words. But it is a guarantee which the Australian Labor Party at that time and since has sought to denigrate and to wave airily aside. That is Labor's attitude and has been its attitude to ANZUS for 20 years. Indeed, last year the Federal Conference of the Australian Labor Party threw out of its platform a clause saying that the alliance is essential and must continue.

The Labor Party is also the Party which has consistently sought to denigrate the SEATO alliance. Last year the Party's Federal Conference also dropped all specific reference to that Treaty. Not content with these attempts to scuttle Australia's alliances, the Labor Party has thrown alarm into our colleague governments in Malaysia and Singapore by its attitude to what is known as the 5-power defence arrangements for that area, to which this Government subscribes. Labor sees these arrangements as only transitional. In the words of the Leader cf the Opposition and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard), the Government's forward defence policy will be 'discarded' by a Labor government. But the fact is that Singapore and Malaysia regard the arrangements as being of the first importance and would be deeply upset at the Australian withdrawal promised by the Opposition. Labor's policy would cause the collapse of the 5-power arrangements and the destruction of confidence in Australia.

In addition to this, one thing is sure - Asian countries and indeed other nations must be horrified at the extraordinary rudeness and naivete of the honourable member for St George (Mr Morrison) who has been prattling in public about the contents of a closed meeting he had with Singapore's Foreign Minister. There is no doubt that the honourable member for St George has caused great embarrassment and concern, not only by discussing his conversation - which is something never done in diplomacy - but also by giving a partial and misleading account. The Opposition has a penchant for continuing stupidity over Malaysia and Singapore. Late last year, for instance, we saw a public difference of opinion on forward defence between the Leader of the Opposition and the Prime Minister of Singapore. And then the Deputy Leader of the Opposition was prepared to fly in the face of expert international opinion - such as the SEATO military advisers and Britain's just retired Commander-in-Chief in the Far East - and to gloss over the activities of Soviet navy forces in the Indian Ocean, which pose a new disturbing power factor in an unstable area following Britain's withdrawal.

We have also had the extraordinary spectacle of the Leader of the Opposition trying to lay an odorous smoke screen over the Government's assistance to Cambodia. He seems to be prepared to ignore the needs of the Cambodians who for many years have been suffering from a Hanoi-inspired invasion of communism, including a blitzkrieg of North Vietnamese troops. This attitude of the Leader of the Opposition is in line with his insulting attitude to Cambodia when he was having his kow-tow with Chou in Peking. One facet of the ALP's lack of a credible defence posture is that the Party does not have many men like the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant). 1 do not hold any particular brief for the honourable member, as he knows, but at least he had the courage to stand up and be counted over Cambodia. He said that there were 30,000 North Vietnamese in Cambodia who were committing blatant aggression. Those were his words. He said that there was no reason at all why Cambodians should not receive arms from Allied nations. I think that the honourable member for Wills should take the honourable member for Lalor to one side and tell him some of the truths about communist aggression in Asia today. Then perhaps the honourable member for Lalor, who has been mouthing justification of North Vietnamese aggression, might come to acknowledge the truth.

I want now to describe a case history of communist aggression to pinpoint the perfidy of the Labor Party's defence poli cies. I take as an example Vietnam, where the Opposition has in effect been urging Allied capitulation. The. Leader of the Opposition and the honourable member for Lalor make a fine pair - the one capitulating to the communists and the other saying that North Vietnam's invasion of the. South, and presumably the North's invasion of Laos and Cambodia, is justified.


Mr Foster - Mr Deputy Speaker, I raise a point of order.







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