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Thursday, 20 April 1972
Page: 1963

Mr DALY (Grayndler) - Yesterday the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) announced that during June he intends to visit Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia. This in itself is a matter of some concern to the Australian people and the Parliament. In the course of this announcement the Prime Minister said that Australia shared with her 3 neighbours similar views on independence, progress etcetera. The Press release went on to make this remarkable statement:

Australia's association with Indonesia dates back to the first days of Indonesia's independence.

Honourable members may recall that at that time the Liberal Party had very little to do with bringing about that situation. To claim the honour for it at this stage seems a remarkable approach by the Prime Minister to Indonesia's independence. I can well remember the Liberal Party's condemnation at that time of the efforts of the waterside workers to assist Indonesia.

The Press release further stated:

He last visited Singapore in 1971 . . .

We all remember that famous occasion. He went with the former Prime Minister, Mr Gorton. One travelled with Qantas and the other travelled on a VIP aircraft. One sat upstairs and the other sat downstairs. One had a hotel suite and the other said that his accommodation was like a slum. They did not talk to each other. That was the last remarkable visit to Singapore by the present Prime Minister. Of course in 1964 he took the trouble to drop into Malaysia. Now, in the dying days of his administration, he is going to renew those old acquaintances - if any of them are alive.

So far the Prime Minister has not decided whether he will fly by Qantas or in a VIP or RAAF aircraft. I suppose that will be decided when he finds out which members of the Liberal Party are going with him. Certainly many of them could not be put on the one aircraft. They would want an aircraft each because not only do they not talk here but certainly they would not talk to each other in Singapore. No doubt that detail will be decided when the selection has been made. I think I can assure the people of Australia that neither the honourable member for Berowra (Mr Hughes), the honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen) nor the right honourable member for Higgins (Mr Gorton) will be there even as observers let alone as advisers.

A more important matter has to be raised in connection with the visit of the Prime Minister. What qualifications has he at this stage to represent Australia anywhere abroad? When all is said and done, the members of his own Government do not want him. It has been suggested by the Victorian Branch of the Australian Country Party that he should be immediately replaced by the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Anthony), who is now in foreign lands. Where does the Prime Minister get the authority to travel and speak for Australia? What a time to choose. From one end of Australia to the other the Party which he leads nationally is fragmenting. In South Australia the Party is in ruins; there is a Party within a Party. On Saturday in Tasmania it will meet its political doom at the hands of the electors, brought down we are told by the dictatorial attitude of the Prime Minister. In Queensland the Country Party and the Liberal Party are eating out of each other's hand - right up to the elbow.

Fancy thinking that in Canberra there is any unity. The honourable members I mentioned earlier - the honourable members for Berowra, Moreton and Higgins - are sniping and giving vent each day to their opinions. I remind honourable members of the famous statement T won't shut up' made by the honourable member for Moreton when he was criticising the Government. The Minister for the Navy (Dr Mackay) has been sniping at his own colleagues. This is happening right down the line. Even members of the Country Party, such as the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair), are raising questions in the Parliament about the Ministry.

All in all, the Prime Minister is leaving behind him in this country at the present time intrigue, hatred and gallup polls which show that the Government's stocks are at an all time low. I wonder whether he is escaping in order to allow the scattered remnants of the Liberal Party to be gathered together in his absence, hoping that when he returns he will find the Party united behind him. How can the Prime Minister leave Australia when things are as I have just mentioned and when, I understand, the Liberal Club in Canberra is asking the Australian people to vote Labor at the next elections? What a reference to have when the Prime Minister confronts the leaders of Malaysia and other countries. I wonder whether he will take with him another remarkable document, such as the one that he took when he went to see President Nixon. Honourable members will remember that that document contained the date on which the Prime Minister was born and the period for which he had been a member of Parliament. Will he take with him a document similar to that one? I bet that that document astounded President Nixon, but it would really daze the people of South East Asia.

Let us turn to the other side of the picture and look at the situation at home. Under this Government there are 100,000 people unemployed in Australia, inflation is running riot, rural industry is in tatters and ruins, as was demonstrated in the debate in this House tonight, and social service benefits are amongst the lowest of any country, even those countries which are supposed to be not as advanced as we are. Nobody knows what our foreign policy is from hour to hour. In addition, on all fronts in Australia today the Liberal-Country Party Government has been discredited in the eyes of the Australian people. The Prime Minister is taking a trip abroad to do Lord knows what in Singapore, Malaysia and the other countries which he will visit.

Why should the Prime Minister leave Australia at this stage? He has only 6 months left. What can he promise the people of South East Asia with the record behind him which I have mentioned? If he cannot run Australia, what the devil could he do for South East Asia? Is that not a fair question? Ask Australians what they think about the Prime Minister's proposed visit to South East Asia. They will say: 'Heavens above. Thank heavens he is going, but what is he going to tell the people in South East Asia? Look at the ruins that our country is in at the present time.' Therefore, I think that it is impudent for the Liberal Party to let its Prime Minister travel abroad at this time, with the Government's sorry and condemning record of mal-administration at every level from foreign affairs to domestic affairs. The Liberal Party is in tatters and ruins and has been discredited by every gallup poll, which has shown that the public is only waiting to tip the Liberal Party out of office.

I suggest to the Prime Minister that he should stay at home. His going abroad is a waste of public money. He cannot influence the people in South East Asia. There is nothing he can promise them. Honourable members opposite know as well as I do that no matter what the Prime Minister might say to the people in South East Asia, he might well be repudiated, at least by some important sections of his party, the minute that he makes a speech in this Parliament. I suppose that he will take Senator Sim with him. He would be a good man to have in Singapore. He really has his finger on the pulse, so we are told, as to what is happening over there. Why should not Senator Sim go as the Prime Minister's adviser? After all, he is a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee and Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Indian Ocean. This is the background against which the Prime Minister is to go to South East Asia in an endeavour to influence the people with whom we will have to live in the years ahead. I suggest that this is something of which the Australian public should be aware. A Prime Minister, who cannot run this country, is going to South East Asia to try to build up friendships for a Government that is about to meet its political doom. This kind of thing is a waste of public money.

The Prime Minister has not bothered to visit Malaysia since 1964. He leaves it until the last dying days of this Parliament to recognise our Asian neighbours. This is something that I think should be brought to the attention of the public. I suggest that the Prime Minister's place at the present time is in Australia. Australia really wants leadership. Australians are fair-minded people, and they would like to see the Prime Minister give leadership. He has given no indication that he wants to lead this country, yet he seeks to build up his image abroad, irrespective of what bis background at home might be. The Minister for the Environment, Aborigines and the Arts (Mr Howson), who is sitting at the table, is one of the very few intelligent Ministers. But from time to time he has suffered at the hands of honourable members opposite. I suggest that he should use his good offices to keep the Prime Minister in Australia.

Others on the Government side of the House who value the prestige of this country and who realise that those who go abroad should speak for us with one united voice and on policies which will be supported should urge the Prime Minister to cancel the Royal Australian Air Force VIP aircraft or the Qantas aircraft on which he will travel and see that he remains in this country to give leadership and bring together the rabble that now surrounds him masquerading as a government. I suggest that that is a national obligation for honourable members opposite. Let us see them use that independence of thought which they say they can use in their party councils and advise the Prime Minister against what I know will be an ill fated trip.

Tonight I believe I have done a service to the country in placing on record my thoughts about what I consider to be a disastrous event - a Prime Minister representing nobody speaking for Australia in Asia, one of the most important sections of the world so far as Australia is concerned. I say in all sincerity that I am sorry for the Prime Minister but I am sorrier still for Australia.

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