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Wednesday, 7 April 1971


The primary objective of Australian policy in Indo-China has been to help the peoples of South Vietnam, Laos, and the Khmer Republic to maintain their right to determine their own future free of external aggression or interference. This remains the continuing purpose of our policies in the area.

We have sought to promote this objective, wherever possible, through peaceful means. We have maintained a consistent policy in favour of a peaceful settlement in all 3 countries. In Vietnam, we have stressed repeatedly that we do not seek a military solution and we have given full support to allied efforts to achieve a negotiated settlement. In Laos, we have given full support to the 1962 Geneva Agreements and to the efforts of Prince Souvanna Phouma to preserve the independent and neutral status which those Agreements sought to guarantee. As to Cambodia, we took an active part in the Djakarta Conference of Foreign Ministers, which sought to secure by peaceful means the continuing independence and neutrality of the Khmer Republic. We are continuing to explore ways and means of working towards peaceful solutions.

But it takes 2 sides to negotiate and the North Vietnamese have so far refused to enter into a genuine negotiating process. It is they who have sought, and continue to seek, military victory. It is nearly 3 years since Hanoi sent a delegation to Paris. Yet. throughout that time the North Vietnamese have refused to engage in substantive talks, insisting that the United States must first undertake to withdraw all its forces from Vietnam unilaterally and unconditionally, and to dismantle the elected government of the Republic of Vietnam. They have also rejected offers by the Republic of Vietnam of direct talks - public or private - about a political settlement. In Laos, North Vietnamese forces have been violating the 1962 Accords, and attacking the neutral government of Prince Souvanna Phouma, since the Accords were first signed. In Cambodia, it was again the North Vietnamese who rejected the Lon Nol Government's request to withdraw from Cambodian territory and who then launched direct attacks against Cambodian centres and Cambodian forces, weeks before the cross-border operations by the United States and South Vietnam.

Because the North Vietnamese have refused to negotiate and have persisted in their aggression, the countries of IndoChina have had to defend themselves and to seek assistance from outside. Australia has responded to these requests for help. During the past year, as a result of the Republic of Vietnam's increasing selfreliance in all fields, it has been possible for Allied forces to withdraw progressively from South Vietnam. One Australian battalion was withdrawn last November and a further 1,000 men from all Services will be withdrawn in coming months. The fact that such withdrawals can be undertaken without detriment to the security of South Vietnam or of our own forces is a tribute both to the assistance which Australian and Allied forces have given, and to the advances made by the Government, the people and the Armed Forces of South Vietnam.

Australia is now engaged in an intensified programme of training assis- tance to help the South Vietnamese to develop further their own ability to defend their country. In the field of economic aid, thanks to the improved security situation, it has been possible to proceed with important new infrastructure and development projects. Although the declaration on the neutrality of Laos permits it to receive assistance for self-defence, Laos has never sought military aid from Australia. Australia has, however, given economic, technical and financial aid to Laos as well as diplomatic support for its independence, integrity and neutrality. The Government of the Khmer Republic has stated repeatedly that it wants outside assistance only so long as it is faced with foreign invasion. It has not asked Australia for combat troops and there is no question of our sending any. But in response to its requests, Australia has made two special aid grants to the Khmer Republic bringing our total aid this financial year to $2m.

The Australian Government continues to hope and will continue to work for a just and peaceful settlement of the present conflicts in South Vietnam, Laos and the Khmer Republic. If the other side maintains its refusal to enter substantive negotiations, we shall continue to give appropriate assistance to the governments of these countries in their resistance to aggression. But we also hope that as security improves and the level of fighting declines, it will be possible to consider ways and means of launching a wider and longer-term international reconstruction effort to help the peoples of these unhappy countries to improve their living conditions and build a better future.


A major factor in the ultimate resolution of the problems of Indo-China will of course be the policies of the People's Republic of China. This in turn will be influenced by its relationship with the international community. The Government has never ignored the immense fact of life which the People's Republic of China represents. It comprises about one quarter of the population of the globe. Though it has problems of under-development it has made much progress industrially and agriculturally over the past 20 years and nas great economic potential. It has a strong influence in a number of Communist countries and some others. It has extended support to insurgent movements in several countries both in and beyond the South East Asia region. It is developing an arsenal of nuclear weapons together with missiles. We accept that, perhaps more than any other government, that of China has great domestic difficulties. But it is necessary to point out that the isolation of China from the international community has been largely the result of its own international attitudes.

Over the last 12 months there have been relevant developments and our own policies must be sensitive to change. Peking has made some progress with internal reconstruction following the turbulence and anarchy of the cultural revoltion. It has adopted a more active foreign policy. Peking has been recognised by Canada, Italy, Chile, Ethiopia, Equatorial Guinea, Kuwait and Cameroun, and is exchanging ambassadors with Nigeria. It has shown and continues to show signs of renewed interest in membership of the United Nations. At the most recent Assembly there was a shift in its favour and a number of other countries including the United States of America and Japan have their policies towards China under review. This Government, for its part, is studying the changes in Peking's international standing, the likely pattern of voting in the United Nations and the constants in the problem. We live in the same region as China and in pur consideration we must attach considerable weight to the interests and rights of our neighbours, including the republic of China on Taiwan. The Australian Government considers $hat the Republic of China is as much a fact of international life as is the People's Republic on the mainland. There are more than 14 million people in Taiwan, more than in most member countries of the United Nations. The status and rights of Taiwan as a member of the international community must be protected.

The Middle East

The Middle East which has long been important to our communications with Europe is an area of growing commercial significance to Australia both as a market and a source of raw materials. But the area is bedevilled by the so far intractable problem of Arab-Israeli relations. That problem is complicated by the competing interests of the great powers in the region and the presence of Soviet military personnel there in support of one of the parties to the conflict. We welcomed the acceptance by Israel, the United Arab Republic and Jordan of the United States initiative which led to the resumption of the mission of Dr Jarring, the special representative of the Secretary-General of the United Nations, to assist in implementing the principles for a just and lasting peace in the Middle East as outlined in Security Council Resolution 242. It is a matter for regret that Dr Jarring's mission has been temporarily suspended, but we can at least be thankful that currently the military restraint for which the Secretary-General appealed on 5th March is being substantially exercised.

Australia's position is quite clear. We enjoy friendly relations with both Israel and Arab countries. We are committed to neither side. This does not preclude us from expressing our views on specific issues. Our basic position is that there must be a settlement ensuring the sovereighty, independence and territorial integrity of all states in the area, including Israel, within agreed borders. It should also provide for a just settlement of the refugee problem, guarantee freedom of navigation through the international waterways of the region and protect areas of deep concern to three of the world's great religions. Meanwhile the build up of weapons and war material goes on. Continuance of a conflict which carries such grave risks of escalation is against the interests of all. Itis not the exclusive concern of the adversaries. This conflict has continued for a generation - through the failure of the two sides to come together in a solution which the rest of the world holds to be long overdue. It is essential that the parties continue to keep the peace and to search in sincerity for a just and permanent settlement.


I feel I should not address the House, even briefly, .without some reference to events in Pakistan, a country with which we have, for 23 years, enjoyed close relations. Pakistan has been under martial law for years under the presidency of General Yahya Khan. It has been the President's prime objective to arrange for a constituent assembly to be elected and for that assembly to draft a new constitution. He proposed then to hand political power back, to the elected representatives of the people of Pakistan. Elections for the constituent assembly, which were held last November, produced an unexpected polarisation: the Awami League, a party limited almost solely to the east wing, won a majority of seats; the only other party to win a substantial number of seats was the Pakistan People's Party, based in the west wing. The Awami League's platform gave political expression to a sense of grievance among its supporters in East Pakistan, which contains the majority of Pakistan's population, about their share of power and wealth in the nation. Its political programme, in brief, envisaged virtual autonomy for East Pakistan within a loose federal framework. This programme was not acceptable in its entirety to the Government of Pakistan.

For some 3 months President Yahya attempted to work towards a compromise. His task was complicated by the positions taken up by the two main political leaders, Sheikh Mujibur Rehman of the Awami League, and Mr Bhutto of the People's Party. The first meeting of the Constituent Assembly had to be postponed. In midMarch, President Yahya and subsequently Mr Bhutto went to Dacca and it was hoped that the talks that were held there with Sheikh Mujib would lead to some generally acceptable constitutional arrangements. Unfortunately, the talks failed to produce agreement and on 25th March President Yahya decided to put an end to the virtual autonomy which Sheikh Mujib had claimed for his party, and to attempt by force to re-establish the authority of the central government. At the same time, President Yahya charged Sheikh Mujib with treason and banned the Awami League. I cannot yet give honourable members a detailed account of the military action that was instituted on the night of 25th-26fh March, or of the tragic events that have ensued. Until a sufficient picture of the facts has been authoritatively established, I am able to speak only in the most general terms.

There have been reports of widespread conflict and loss of life. It appears that in parts of East Pakistan the authority of the martial law administration has not been reestablished, and that fighting and disorder is continuing. Pakistan is an old friend of Australia's and it saddens us to read these reports of bloodshed and destruction, following as they do so closely on the hurricane disaster of last November in the same area. I have been deeply concerned about the safety of the 60 Australian citizens in East Pakistan. Some of those whose presence there was not essential have been evacuated. On 2nd April, 9 adults and 9 children from the Dacca area were flown out to Singapore. Others may be evacuated by internal flights of Pakistan International Airlines as opportunities arise, but the bulk of the 42 Australians still in East Pakistan are up-country in areas which are considered safe, or from which they could not, without unjustifiable risk in present conditions, journey to the evacuation points.

I have touched upon the rightful concerns of the Australian Government in these matters. The situation that has arisen in East Pakistan is, of course, an internal matter and the responsibility for resolving it is Pakistan's alone. From a humanitarian viewpoint, however, I must record our concern at the reported scale of the loss of life and suffering. We have noted President Yahya's statement on 26th March that his objective remains the same, to transfer power to the elected representatives of the people as soon as the situation permits. It is the Australian Government's hope, therefore, that conditions of peace, order and security will be restored in East Pakistan as soon as possible.

Forthcoming Overseas Visits

Like my predecessors, my induction as Foreign Minister is to be a rapid one. In a few days I am leaving for London to participate in the five power meeting on defence arrangements for Malaysia and Singapore. I shall be attending a meeting in Geneva of our heads of mission at European posts before proceeding to Washington for the ministerial meeting of troop contributing countries in Vietnam. I return to London for the meeting of the South East Asia Treaty Organisation Council of Ministers on 30th April. My business during three of these meetings will be concerned essentially with South East Asian affairs. It would have been my wish, normally, to visit countries of the region as

Foreign Minister before entering detailed discussions with our allies in this way. This has not been possible. I shall, of course, be reporting to the House on the business involved in these meetings after my return. I look forward to visiting Indonesia at an early opportunity.


I make one final point. The objectives or means of achieving our foreign policy need to be widely understood and supported.

We hope that the studies of the Foreign Affairs Committee and the debates in the Parliament will be accompanied by serious research and informed debate both within and outside the Parliament by the Australian people. Foreign policy will be stimulated and fortified by this democratic process. I hope this speech and statement which I am tabling with it will make some contribution to mis process.

For the information of honourable senators I lay on the table the Minister's detailed statement on international affairs, and move:

That the statement be printed.

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