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Tuesday, 23 May 1972
Page: 2895


Mr BRYANT (Wills) - That was a disappointing speech from such a distinguished member of the Government parties, a member of the Cabinet and a former Minister for Defence. The only thing that the Minister for Education and Science (Mr Malcolm Fraser) talked about was a misinterpretation or misunderstanding of the policies of the Australian Labor Party. I for one hope that the Labor Party's policies have a Left bias. 1 think that the world has had enough of the reactionaries, right wingers and all the rest who say that there are some values greater than human beings. For the last quarter of an hour the Minister has been spreading a McCarthyist doctrine across the floor of this chamber. ] do not think that it has done him much credit, 1 do not think that it does this Parliament much credit, and it certainly has not added anything to the debate. Why have we not heard from the honourable member for Bradfield (Mr

Turner) this afternoon. He holds the exalted position of Chairman of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs. 1 think that 1 can discharge most of the remarks of the honourable member for Wannon and Minister of State for Education and Science from much further discussion.

We are discussing Australia's position in the world. The honourable member for Wannon wants to know the genesis of the policy of the Labor Party, of which I am just one member. But for 16 or 17 years I have sat in on discussions in committees of this Parliament and discussions outside in the non-parliamentary area of the Labor movement. Firstly, we are anti-war. Secondly, we believe in the constructive development of peaceful relations between human beings. Some 27 years ago I stood on a hill in Borneo and heard the announcement of the end of the war - a most ferocious war against the Japanese in which no quarter was given. Within a few weeks one found that the people with whom one had fought with great savagery were human beings like everybody else. After a few weeks the people who had fought against one another so furiously had to be prevented from fraternisation. I do not know why they were prevented from fraternisation, but orders were orders. I made a personal resolve then that as far as I was concerned there would be no more wars for young Australians to fight. So I am minded of the noble words contained in the United Nations Charter:

We the peoples of the United Nations determined to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind, and to affirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small. . . .

The preamble to the Schedule of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation states:

.   . that since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defences of peace must be constructed. . . .

The sad thing about the speeches from the other side of the chamber, with 2 notable exceptions, is the failure to express the hopes and aspirations of humanity and the failure to do anything about dragging this Government into 1972. The honourable member for Wannon and Minister for Education and Science referred to a few items of Labor Party policy. He referred to the crossing out of the word 'crucial* from our reference to our relationship with the United States. I took a little part in doing that. It was not generated in the Communist Party at all, but in the foreign affairs committee of the Labor Party in Victoria a couple of years ago. The proposal was sent forward to the State conference of the Labor Party and from there it went forward to the Federal conference. I believe that the idea that somebody else is crucial to our defence, our welfare and our strength is an abdication of our sense of self-reliance.

What of the statement of the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr N. H. Bowen)? I personally wish that the name of his Department had not been changed. I think that the term 'Foreign Affairs' is a piece of 19th century vanity. I should like to think that we were setting out to try to prevent anybody in the world from being foreigners. The Minister's statement contained the old stuff that we have heard for years. The right honourable Lord Casey, when he was Minister, used to give us travelogues. The present Minister gives us catalogues. He went round the world and he has described to us what is happening. He did not look at the world as a laboratory in which Australia could practise some social adventure and try to develop new attitudes in the world. He treats it as a museum. The Minister wanders around and looks at things that are happening. He has no prescriptions for anything. His statement is negative, descriptive and unhopeful. Of course, in a world of change the Minister has nothing to change. He has a treaty neurosis. If we look at the statement we see that he is obsessed with military treaties. 1 believe that while military treaties are handy, they ought to be in the background. They are not the elements which make foreign policy or produce a peaceful and co-operative world.

The Minister approaches every constructive proposal from everybody else with an attitude of scepticism. This happened to the proposals from the Government of Ceylon, which is now the Republic of Sri Lanka. I thought that the honourable member for Henty (Mr Fox) expressed the phobia of honourable members opposite when he talked about the world being made up of communists and others, and he said that the 'others' were the democrats. There are 14 or 15 communist countries. There are perhaps 14 or 15 democratic countries, even judged by the present Victorian or Queensland standards. The rest of the countries have governments which are a long way away from the governments under which most of us live. After the J 6 or 17 years for which he has been a member of this Parliament, the honourable member for Henty is still obsessed about the Cold War and an attitude of Australia's helplessness. I have never believed that we are helpless. I have never believed that basically we cannot look after ourselves. I believe that in the last few years there has become an increasing realisation that we do not need to be fearful of the people to our north, that we do not need to look around to find somebody's apron strings to be tied to.

I believe that this is a time in which we should be examining the seeds of war. Where are they? Once upon a time it was almost anything. In the last 10, 15 or 20 years there have been countless operations which, if they had occurred in the 1930s, would have brought countries to war instantly, but that did not happen. I suppose that the present operation in Vietnam is a case in point. The Americans and the Russians are almost totally involved materially but not personally. There is a charade going on in Moscow; the 2 leaders of these great nations are sitting down perhaps to a late supper, early supper or afternoon tea at the same time as their machines of destruction are destroying the Vietnamese people. If both of them refused to supply the materials of war, the war would come to a halt. I believe that the principal mischief of war lies in the retailing of arms between nations and between private individuals. But in fact if something can come out of this muscovite meeting, if there is some rapprochement or detente - I think that is the word we use now - between these 2 nations, probably we will not get the seeds of war, which presently exist, but the seeds of peace.

I believe that there is an unlikelihood of the kind of war that we knew in World War I and World War II developing between other nations, but in the next 10 or 15 years there could be a conflict between the Russians and the Americans. I believe that the mischief makers of the world at the present time are the international arms suppliers, of which Britain, France and Eastern European countries are the principal ones, and that the United States of America and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics are the principal villains. It seems to me that Vietnam is the country in which we test this out. What is the war in Vietnam all about? Honourable members on both sides of the chamber know full well my attitude to the war. I am not on either side. I was horrified when the Americans dropped bombs on Dong Hoi in 1965. I am equally horrified at the decision of the North Vietnamese command to launch its forces into South Vietnam, knowing full well that they cannot do this without destroying countless thousands of hapless citizens. I do not believe that national unity is worth the destruction of humanity. I believe that 1954 produced a stack of myths which have flowed on down through history and in which we have all become involved. Apart from the people of Vietnam, we have the poor, forgotten people of Laos and the embroiled people of Cambodia or, as it is now called, the Khmer Republic. Somehow it is our duty as a Parliament, and surely it is the duty of this Government, to try to find a way out of this morass - to try to do something constructive to prevent these people destroying one another. I know the difficulties.

The Democratic Republic of Vietnam - North Vietnam to all of us - is one of the world's most isolated countries. It is almost unknown. I am told that at the Convention of Orientalists in Canberra last year when an American rose and made statements about North Vietnam a Russian attacked him and asked: 'How can you know how it works? Even we do not know'. It is totally intransigent and, of course, it has the Chinese and the Russians on the hook. They cannot get off the hook. The South Vietnamese have the Americans on the hook and the Vietnamese are destroying one another because these countries cannot find some way of solving the problem, of stopping the flow of arms and arriving at some point of neutrality because of their relative powerlessness to hurt one another. Of course it is a difficult proposition to intervene, but we should be doing something. We should be exercising all our diplomatic strength to try to create around the world the kind of public international atmosphere which does produce some response from the big powers. International opinion can prevent some things happening. I instance the projected execution of some people in Russia a couple of years back. Surely international public opinion should be brought to bear upon the Russians and the Americans to arrive at some more satisfactory conclusion of this war.

Australia is in a unique position. My principal complaint about honourable members opposite and the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr N. H. Bowen) is that they fail to recognise this fact. Australia is prosperous, largely free democratically and strategically secure, and possessed of advantages which no other country has. New Zealand probably is as geographically secure but it is not as big and is not in as good a position to look after itself. Australia should be taking the prescriptions of peace and trying to generate world public opinion in support of them. There must be 40 to 50 other Foreign Ministers who could be induced by our Minister for Foreign Affairs to support such proposals. After all, if the Minister for Foreign Affairs can con the people of Parramatta into returning him to this place he should be able to do something with the other Foreign Ministers of the world.

Somehow we must get accepted the view that the sanctity of human life which we have in domestic affairs applies to international affairs. Where should we start? Should we not get some international agreement that boundaries are sacrosanct - that frontiers will be recognised and no armies allowed to cross them? We must develop some kind of international respect for sovereignty and neutrality. I know it will be a long haul, but we should have started in Cambodia some 5 or 6 years ago. When I returned from visiting that country in 1966 I said - this is on the record - that the next threat was to Cambodia and that we should start to develop an international protection for its neutrality and sovereignty. We should have started in 1966. By 1970 or 1971 we might have generated an international atmosphere so that Cambodia was preserved from the horrors of war. I have a deep pity for the people of Cambodia and Laos.

We should work at trying to stop the international trade in arms. I must admit that I have come to the conclusion that Australia should not sell arms to other countries. Certainly there may be a level on which it can be said that there are arms of aggression and arms of non-aggression. Some things cannot be used for aggressive purposes; some can be. We should be trying to generate throughout the world an international treaty, perhaps of the same order as the one concerning the nonproliferation of nUclear weapons, towards this end, so that Britain will not sell arms to South Africa and no country will supply arms to Israel or the Arab countries. Australia is in a unique position to seek the determination of such a treaty. Australia can be more objective, because it is safer than other countries. Of course in the first instance people will say that this is cynicism on our part, but we must face this. It is important that the war in Vietnam be stopped. A victory for North Vietnam is not a victory for communism but a defeat for the peaceful settlement of international disputes. It is not American foreign policy which is on trial in Vietnam nor is it ,hi success of Vietnamisation: It is the world's capacity to prevent war. The great disappointment I have at present is that Australia has taken no concrete steps so far in determining to generate the kind of opinion that Australia, as part of the 40 or 50 nations like itself, should support. We must try to provide the dynamics to create this kind of world opinion.

If I can make a personal appeal across the floor of the House to the Minister for Foreign Affairs, I do so now, particularly for the people of Cambodia and Laos but also for the people of Vietnam who are being slaughtered, I believe because of the sheer, abstract, inhumane attitude to world affairs of the 2 great powers, Russia and America.

Debate (on motion by Mr Giles) adjourned.







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