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Tuesday, 9 May 1972
Page: 2230

Mr ACTING SPEAKER -Order! I suggest that the Leader of the Opposition withdraw that remark and reflection upon the Minister,

Mr WHITLAM - I shall withdraw it when the Minister, who first used the term, withdraws it too. I ask the Minister whether he is withdrawing the term 'lie'.


Mr WHITLAM - You used the word lie'.

Mr N H Bowen (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - What 1 said was that the statement about advice from my Department on Rhodesia was a lie.

Mr ACTING SPEAKER -Order! As the Leader of the Opposition was making his speech I heard him say to the Minister for Foreign Affairs: 'I beg your pardon?' The Minister for Foreign Affairs then answered him. I did not hear whether the Minister for Foreign Affairs used the word 'lie'. I ask that the Minister for Foreign Affairs, if he used the word 'lie' in regard to the Leader of the Opposition, withdraw it. I also asked the Leader of the Opposition to withdraw the remark that he made and the reflection he made upon the Minister.

Mr WHITLAM - I withdraw it. I apologise for having used it, but I was the second to use it.

Mr N H Bowen (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Mr Acting Speaker, let us make the position quite clear. Assertions are constantly made about what advice my Department gives me. The Leader of the Opposition has told me what advice I received.

Mr ACTING SPEAKER -The Leader of the Opposition made a statement in regard to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. If the Minister for Foreign Affairs used the words referred to by the Leader of the Opposition, I ask him to withdraw them. I think it is proper that the Minister for Foreign Affairs should have the right to explain whether he did use the words.

Mr N H Bowen (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I said that these assertions which had been made about the advice I received were lies. I will withdraw that remark and substitute the word incorrect'.

Mr ACTING SPEAKER -Order! I suggest that interjections cease from both sides of the House. I remind the House that the Minister for Foreign Affairs was heard in a degree of silence this afternoon when he made his statement.

Mr WHITLAM - What I said was correct. The Minister knows it, the media know it, and everybody who knows his officers knows it too. I said before I went to China, while I was in China and have repeated again and again since that it is open to any Australian government, Liberal or Labor, to achieve recognition of China. The condition is not the political colour of the Australian Government but the terms which an Australian government may gain. A year ago it was certainly possible for the Australian Government, this Government, to secure recognition on terms at least as favourable as Canada achieved or on terms not less favourable than those the Minister said this evening were acceptable. But as every month goes by, as more and more nations reach agreement with China, the terms for bargaining are narrowed. A Labor Government will recognise China, but it would be in Australia's interests if the present Government did so now.

The third example of how great matters have been manipulated for domestic political reasons is found in the Minister's references to the Soviet presence' in the Indian Ocean. In substance and purport the Minister's statement this evening did not differ from that made in 1969 by a predecessor, Mr Gordon Freeth, now our Ambassador in Tokyo. Yet Ambassador Freeth's step towards reality was sabotaged. In his article in the latest issue of 'Australian Outlook' Mr Andrew Farran, then on the former Minister's staff, now on the staff of Monash, tells the whole story. The initiative was sabotaged not because it was incorrect or dangerous but because it was politically unacceptable to Senator Gair and therefore politically embarrassing for theLiberals in an election year. Yet I noticed that the Minister tonight could not allow the opportunity to pass altogether without some political inflation. He certainly deflated the alleged threat, but he rather inflated Australia's response by his references to the base' at Cockburn Sound. My Party has been committed to this project since 1961 - but 'naval facilities' are not quite the same as a 'base'.

The main point however is how political opportunism has obscured or stultified some of the best insights by some of the best men - by Lord Casey, by Ambassador Freeth. How much better would be our situation and our record today if Lord Casey's insights on Indo-China and China had been followed through. The President's visit to China was one of those events which, in his own words, 'changed the face of the world'. It opened up a new era of cooperation for our region. The Australian Government seems barely to have grasped the rate at which events are changing our region. The great potential tragedy of today's events is that the change and the progress towards sanity and normality will be brought to a full stop.

On the other side of the world, in Europe, another great chance for peace stands in jeopardy not least because of events in Vietnam in recent weeks. Tomorrow will be a day of decision for the world in Asia and in Europe because tomorrow in Germany it will be decided whether or not Herr Brandt's grand design - his ostpolitik - will be ratified.It will determine whether hope and progress on the one hand or fear and bitterness shall prevail in Europe. Hen Brandt's great initiative is an indication of what can be achieved by a government willing to break free of the past. Because Herr Brandt was not committed to the shibboleths of the cold war he was able to break free, and Europe and the United States are grateful to him. Canada in the Pacific and Herr Brandt in the Atlantic community have been true friends of the United States because they have eased the United States' path to sane relations, in the one case with China and in the other case with the Soviet Union.

Events today with their portent bring home what I believe is now the most pressing need in our region. It is this: Our region must not become the area of confrontation between the 2 super-powers. Japan, with her very special difficulties in reaching normal relations with China, cannot hold the ring between these 2 great powers. We need a third force, and that force can only be Europe. The paradox of the Common Market is that as it grows to maturity, particularly with the adhesion of Britain, it is growing more outward-looking. There is a new interest about Asia and South East Asia in Europe. It is new in 2 senses: It is new-found and utterly different' in kind and aims from Europe's past colonial preoccupations. A Europe revitalised, and one might almost say cleansed, can. make an immense social and economic- contribution to our region. Canning said: 'I have called the new world into existence to redress the balance of the old'. We mightwell say today that it is time to recall the old world to the new to redress the balance of Asia. The new spark of European concern for our region should not be allowed to fade.

Australia, with New Zealand alone of all the nations in the region, has links equally close with Europe and Asia. We, this European nation in Asia for all time, have an immense responsibility in this regard and could play an immense role - not as Europe's outpost or frontier or even bridge to Asia but as a partner with Europe, with the United States, in Asia. Anything which can prevent a confrontation between the United States and the Soviet Union here must be tried and Australians are the people incomparably well placed to try it. It may be our last chance. We must not lose the opportunity in 1972 that we lost in 1954 - the opportunity for sane relations with China, the opportunity for a settlement of the war in Vietnam, the opportunity to institute an era of peace and progress in our region. The time is short. But nothing worthwhile can be done unless we have a government that is willing to break out from and beyond its own path, its own inhibitions, its own failures. Above all, it is a time for a government which will base its foreign policy on Australia's true national interests and on Australia's true international obligations, not on the shifts and deceptions of domestic political need.

Debate (on motion by Mr Fox) adjourned.

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