Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Full Day's HansardDownload Full Day's Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Wednesday, 7 April 1971


Senator HANNAN (VICTORIA) - lust a moment. Part of it may be, I do not know.


Senator Keeffe - Why do you not inform yourself before shot,tine your head off?


Senator HANNAN - -If you keep quiet and listen you may learn something. The point is that North Vietnam is a country with many more people than 1 1 million. If the rest of the honourable senator's statement is no more accurate than that, how much weight can be attached to it? The population of North Vietnam is somewhere between 18.5 mil/ion and 19 million people, not 1 1 million. So far as the bombing is concerned, even when the Americans were unloading a fairly heavy weight of bombs. 95 per cent of what normally would be regarded as military targets were off limits. 1 will give an example and I add that f disagree greatly with this particular philosophy. Russian, Polish and some Liberian chartered British ships were observed by the Seventh Fleet to be entering the port of Haiphong. They were carrying rockets and other missiles for the war machine in Hanoi. They were observed entering but there was no bombing. The missiles were observed to be unloaded but there was no bombing. They were observed while being placed in revetments so that they could be used to shoot down aircraft. Again there was no bombing. Once the revetments were completed and missiles were in a position to be fired, permission was given to bomb them. If that is not sheer lunacy. I do not want to know what is. I dissociate myself completely from that aspect of the situation.

I notice, too, that the honourable senator alleges that the American ground forces have not captured nearly enough territory to make peace possible. Inasmuch as the Government of Saigon is in practical occupation of roughly 95 per cent of the territory of South Vietnam, it is difficult to visualise how much country the honourable senator thinks should be occupied by the Saigon Government in order to make peace. He said that we have not made any progress geographically; nor have we made any progress towards the main objective of winning the hearts and the minds of the people of Vietnam. I want to know for whom the personal pronoun 'we' stands. Almost every sentence uttered by the honourable senator was in favour of our enemies and against ourselves and our allies. Presumably he is talking about his friends the Vietcong and the troops of North Vietnam. The honourable senator went further and read from a very complex article - I think it was from a quaint organisation called 'The Liaison Committee of Peace Forces in Vietnam' - on the intrusion of South Vietnamese troops into Laotian Territory. That is one of those snappy little titles to which the peace front organisation attach themselves so readily. He read from this article which contained considerable criticism of the Thieu Government by people in South Vietnam. All I say about that is that it defeats most of what he tried to put before the Senate. Ft shows that with all its faults and all its defects there is at least freedom of speech and freedom of expression in South Vietnam. Perhaps the honourable senator does not know that in North Vietnam the penalty for opposing the war is death. With all the faults in South Vietnam, that is not the penalty there.


Senator Keeffe - Don't be stupid.


Senator HANNAN - If you would care to check on the reports of the Hanoi presidium you would find that what 1 say is correct. 1 am not going off half 'cocked as did the honourable senator who preceded me. 1 suppose it is fatuous to try to traverse the farrago of nonsense, the myths and the rest of the fairy stories he brought out. Perhaps I should make some reference to My Lai, or Song My, to give it its correct name.


Senator Keeffe - No doubt you approve of it anyway. So why refer to it?


Senator HANNAN - I beg your pardon?


Senator Keeffe - No doubt you approve of it so why refer to it?

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Laucke) - Order!


Senator HANNAN - I find it incredible, Mr Acting Deputy President, that an honourable senator opposite should imply that I approve of murder.


Senator Keeffe - Well, you do. You just said so.


Senator O'Byrne - Vietnam is murder.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT - Order! There are far too many interjections and honourable senators are sailing very close to the wind.


Senator HANNAN - Thank you, Sir. 1 listened with polite attention to the fairy stories of Senator Cavanagh but I find that my friends opposite are incapable of listening to facts when they are put before them. I want to talk about Song My. 1 regard that incident as a disgraceful episode in the long history of the American army. It is most reprehensible that that event took place. But I want to draw a distinction between the treatment of Calley, who was tried for his life, and the barbarians, the Vietcong and the North Vietnamese, who occupied the ancient city of Hue at the time of the so-called Tet offensive. It was at the time of Tet that the ancient city, the imperial city, was taken over briefly for 10 or 12 days by the Communist forces. During that time they disposed of somewhere between 4,500 and 5,000 of the inhabitants. They were slaughtered because they would not go along with the

Communist line. They were buried, mostly, in mass graves around the city of Hue. With the assistance of Red Cross investigators and the people who survived that dreadful massacre the graves were opened and the bodies were discovered. Then we beard rubbish from the Communist front organisations, from Burchett, that disgrace to Australia, and others, who said "that these people were killed by American artillery.

Of course, this allegation was simply rebutted because very many of the victims had their hands tied behind their backs and a bullet in the back of the head. As you know, Mr Deputy President, it is almost impossible for artillery to accomplish that. Honourable senators opposite may say that this is just another horror story and that some of the North Vietnamese and Vietcong ran riot, but that is not the point, because a fortnight after the Hue massacres Hanoi radio was boasting of the massacres that had been committed. The North Vietnamese were stating over the radio what they had done to the people who would not follow the Communist line. They were threatening other cities in South Vietnam that their citizens would be treated in the same murderous fashion if they did not toe the Communist line. These are the people whom Senator Cavanagh and Senator Keeffe are so ready to rush in to defend.


Senator Cavanagh - Are you saying that that justified My Lai?


Senator HANNAN - I did not suggest for one minute that it justified My Lai. I do not want selective indignation. I am horrified by Song My, but T am even more horrified by the 50 times worse massacres which took place in Hue. About 2 miles from where I live in Glen Iris, a Melbourne suburb, lives a young man who served as a national serviceman in Vietnam. I will not give his name. He wrote a letter home to his parents saying that he was disgusted with a lot of rubbish he had read in Australian newspapers which had been sent to him. He wrote: 'If only the people at home could see the barbarous acts committed by the Vietcong they would never give them any support.' He mentioned the name of a village that he and his comrades entered. If Senator Cavanagh wants the name of the village I will give it to him. He wrote that in that village they found the body of a baby girl of 2 years who had been hanged by the Vietcong. Do not let us have any rubbish about the Americans having a monopoly on violence. All ! am asking is that the indignation expressed by honourable senators opposite not be selective.


Senator Cavanagh - Do you say that two wrongs make a right?


Senator HANNAN - I do not say that for one moment. 1 have not heard Senator Cavanagh criticise the massacres in Hue but I have criticised Song My and will continue 10 do so.


Senator Webster - Senator Cavanagh has not criticised anybody other than the Americans and Australians.


Senator HANNAN - That is true. I want now to say a word or two about the prisoners of conscience, the people whose sense of justice and rectitude is so strong that they are prepared to have themselves immured behind prison walls rather than fight in mi Australian uniform. Senator Cavanagh asks us whether it is not preferable and desirable from the point of view of a young man and his parents for him to say that he will nol .serve in the Army; that he will serve 2 years in gaol.- With remissions granted by the State the period of imprisonment would be shorter than 2 years. We are asked to judge whether tha! imprisonment is not preferable to a young man's finding himself .in the position in. which an American lieutenant now finds himself, ls the honourable senator not suggesting that it is preferable for a young man to say that he is a conscientious objector than to take the risk of defending his country in a foreign land?

I am prepared to concede, Mr President, that there ore many honest, genuine, sincere and decent conscientious objectors but I am not prepared to accept the proposition that every man who says he will nol serve is motivated exclusively by the highest principles. 1 want to turn now to a matter frequently raised in this chamber by honourable senators opposite; that is the suggestion that no real fighting took place in Vietnam until the wicked Americans sent their troops there. Of course, that is arrant nonsense. 1 recommend to honourable senators who are interested in comic papers - and it seems that Senator Keeffe and Senator Cavanagh have that interest - that they go into the library and have a look at the 'Vietnam Courier' which is published at 46 Tran Hung Dao Street. Hanoi. After the address appear the words Democratic Republic of North Vietnam'. Honourable senators will discover that in 1959, Tra Bong, the hilly district of Quang Nov, was used as one of the first places for uprisings. In other words, revolt and rebellion were set in hand in 1959, about 12 months before the first soldiers of the American Army arrived in Vietnam. I would like to refer to some of the gentle practices of these rebels. Admittedly they did not like the people running them, mainly Diem. I do not have time to he diverted to that subject at the moment. 1 wish to quote from the 'Vietnam Courier'. I suppose honourable senators opposite would treat this information as gospel. The Vietnam Courier' states:

To ward off repression and especially to dodge the draft in the puppet army these buys left the jungle camps. In self defence they even had to dispose of the ruffians coming to arrest them.

I like the use of the euphemism, 'to dispose'. The report goes on:

The children of those killed by Diem's men organised themselves into decapitation groups, - For the benefit of Senator Keeffe I will explain that 'decapitation groups' refers to people who cut ofl the heads of other people. The report continues: - so called from the local practice of beheading the enemy. In August 1959 the area was asked to vole for the National Assembly.

These people were being given the democratic right to vote. What did they do? According to the 'Vietnam Courier' th«y resisted and the decapitation teams and members of the resistance came to the rescue. The publication then states:

We surrended the polling booths, overthrew tha ruling administration. The civic action groups were tried by people's tribunals.

I do not have to tell honourable senators what that means in English. When people are tried by a people's tribunal it means a quick bullet in the back of the neck. These are the friends and pin up boys of honourable senators opposite. 1 find myself totally unable to understand or to accept that. It is impossible to accept their argument without accepting also the line that they are barracking and cheering for a Communist victory, lt is impossible to listen io what they say without believing that they want to see Australia and her allies worsted in this conflict.

Much to their chagrin there is a steady improvement in the military situation in Vietnam. Sir Robert Thompson, who must be regarded as the greatest authority of our day on guerilla warfare, points out that the Tet offensive in 1968 was a tremendous psychological victory in the West because of the incredible way in which it was treated by the mass media and by people of the same political views as honourable senators opposite. But Sir Robert points out that it was a military disaster of the first magnitude for North Vietnam. He points out also that in the 6 months before and after the Tet offensive North Vietnam lost about 600,000 casualties. In Sir Robert's words it was equivalent to Great Britain's failing to get one man off two Dunkirks.

Since the time of the Tet offensive in 1968 the Communists have been unable to mount a military operation in South Vietnam, even in battalion strength. The incursion into Cambodia has had a marked effect on the ability of that little country to resist Communist aggression. It is interesting to note that at least a month and perhaps 5 weeks, before the Americans entered Cambodia with the South Vietnamese, the Communist attack on the Government which replaced Sihanouk's had already begun.


Senator Young - It was 5 weeks.


Senator HANNAN - Yes. Let me raise one or two matters in regard to the position in the north. It seems to me to be strange - I say this as an armchair strategist and without pretending to be a person of great military learning - that with the Seventh Fleet at our disposal off the coast of North Vietnam there is no blockade of the port of Haiphong. Some 85 per cent of the war materials which go to the assistance of the Communists in North Vietnam enter through the port of Haiphong which we are physically in a position to blockade.

I conclude by referring to a statement on genocide issued by Cambodian students.

It is in these terms:

We solemnly accuse the Vietcong and the North Vietnamese as well as their mentor, the People's Republic of China, of trying to erase Cambodia and the Cambodian people from the fare of this world. And Sihanouk, the puppet of these forces, is to be despised for the part that he has taken against his own countrymen.

The annals of history will lay the full blame for the current crisis in South East Asia at the feet of the Communist leaders in Peking and Hanoi.

With abundant evidence from inside the countries of South East Asia, it is clear that most Australians will rejoice in the fact that the Prime Minister has been able to announce the withdrawal of at least 1,000 Australian troops as an indication that the job which we set out to do some years ago is now well on the way to completion.







Suggest corrections