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Tuesday, 14 August 1962

Mr BURY (Wentworth) .- Mr. Speaker,in my maiden speech to this House five and a half years ago, I made reference to the negotiations then proceeding which were designed to promote the unity of Western Europe, and I suggested that the sooner the views of Australia on these matters were developed the more effective they were likely to be. I now propose to use my new-found freedom to add a few words.

This issue promises to be a crucial turning point in world history. It is not likely, therefore, to be resolved easily, quickly and without profound thought, deep heartsearching and clash of opinion. At this juncture, the fate of millions of Australians could, perhaps, lie in our hands, and be determined by our conduct. We have, therefore, a solemn duty to the nation to lift this question out of the rut of petty parochial politics.

Before venturing any further views on this matter, I should like to clear up three points. First, I have never said that the Australian industries most likely to be affected by these negotiations, or the people dependent on those industries, were unimportant, or that we should not do our utmost to protect their interests in the difficult negotiations now proceeding. Indeed, like my colleagues, I applaud the strenuous efforts made in this direction both by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), and by the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen), whose labours on behalf of the rural industries with which he has been closely associated for the whole of his working life have been herculean. The general opinion which I have expressed, and for which I have paid, and to which I adhere, is that, when looked at from the viewpoint of the Australian economy as a whole - I repeat, as a whole - the overall economic effects on Australia of Britain's entry into the European Common Market are likely to be minor and, in years to come, could well be beneficial. Indeed, one of the reasons why I believe this to be so is to be found in the very success of the magnificent, many-sided efforts, over a long period, by the Minister for Trade and the Department of Trade to open up, expand and diversify the markets of the world for the export products of Australia. The suggestion by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) that nothing dynamic or effective has been initiated in this vital matter may represent slick politics, but it is very far from the facts.

Secondly, I believe that if any of our industries, particularly the rural ones, do suffer loss of markets as a result of Britain's entry into the European Economic Community, the Australian Government should underwrite the cost of the reconstruction of those industries so that hardship is avoided both for the producers themselves and for the families dependent on them. The social fund principle evolved by The Six to meet the problems of dislocation and redeployment is worthy of emulation here, should the need arise. Apart altogether from the products they produce, the human qualities and values which flourish in our countryside are an essential ingredient of a sound and healthy national life. I cannot believe, Mr. Speaker, that it will not be well within the capacity of our broad and growing economy to finance with relative ease an effective solution to any problems which are likely to arise.

Thirdly, whatever views are uttered by public men about the magnitude of the potential economic effects on Australia of British entry - clearly it is a matter of opinion, and I respect those whose opinions differ from mine - they will make little impact on the experienced, well-informed, knowledgeable and hard-boiled professionals engaged in these operations. I have worked for too long among their kind to suppose that they do not know the score. Anything we may say in this regard, whatever its influence on public opinion here or elsewhere, will be shrugged off as the routine guff of popularly elected persons, commonly known by a homelier term.

Turning now to the basic issue, may I remind those whose thoughts, very understandably, are focused mainly on particular industries, that the greatest economist of all times, Adam Smith, noted that defence was more important than opulence. It is vain to argue over the price of a crop which is about to be consumed by a bush fire. The current negotiations, though conducted in terms of trade and economics, are at heart not economic at all, but political. The superficial issue is trade, the real one is that of redrawing the political map of the world. What is at stake is the environment in which future generations of Australians will rear their children and develop their country. Political figures, however eminent, are here to-day and gone to-morrow, but decisions made in their fleeting moments of climacteric power may well uplift or darken the lives of millions yet to come.

My approach to this problem, Mr. Speaker, is simple. What matters most in life to me is the future of my family and the young Australians, of which they are a part. I do not suppose that many of us are very different. As a nation we are largely a multiplicity of families. The future security of Australia means more to most of us than the profitability of any industry, however important, and certainly more than any sophisticated arguments about constitutions and sovereignty. Montesquieu, Austin and Dicey are all dead, but sputniks and fusion bombs are very much alive and are no respecters of sovereignty. May I recall to the House that twice in our lifetime eruptions in Europe have handpicked for slaughter the finest flower of Australian manhood. Does anybody suppose for one moment that we can elude any future miscarriage of events in Europe? Our prime task is to make Australia secure in a dangerous world, without regard for the sentimental hangovers of history. If, by some chance, we lose a bit of trade in the process, then let us compensate and help the unfortunate few who suffer loss. There is no future in drifting idly upon the stagnant pools of the past.

European integration, of which the Common Market is an essential expression, is a keystone of the grand design for Western survival. The prospect of the ancient, dynamic and talented nations of Western Europe burying their mutual animosities to work in harness together, tempered in their outlook upon the world by the progressive participation of Britain and urged forward by and enjoying the blessing and goodwill of the United States, must surely cheer us on the road ahead and help to sustain our future life. Western Europe, North America and Australasia, the trilogy of our civilization, cannot afford to let petty matters impede a growing unit. All our close-knit strength, all our wit, will and wealth will eventually be needed to overcome the materialist menace of Communist barbarism, to raise the less fortunate peoples of the world from poverty and ignorance and to guide the footsteps of the world along the paths of peace.

It is, of course, a tremendous decision for Britain to make. Though the effects may be felt only slowly, it is the direction that counts. The progressive mixing of Western European politics and policy will be a difficult and painful process, requiring great understanding and forbearance. The economic consequences to Britain could be favorable, but there must be massive risks. Much will depend upon the spirit of the plunge. A confident Britain, determined to succeed in the close company of those amongst whom she has held her own for 500 years, must surely, in the long run, emerge as a strong beneficent influence.

The risks of closer European integration are with us and with Britain, in any case. Without Britain, a powerful Europe could easily fall victim to an aggressive grandeur and Britain itself shrink gradually in relative power and influence to but a small and fascinating relic of history. The peoples of Britain and the rest of Europe have mixed up together with outstanding success in the United States and, to a minor extent, in Australia. We should like many more of them ourselves. The number of Australians whose antecedents are continental European is growing. Australia needs the people, the capital and the enterprise of Europe to help it grow and achieve security. We need Britain to help lead and temper the growing European power. Our interests, outside certain items of trade, run parallel with those of the United States and, indeed, of the whole English-speaking world. We should be able to look to the United States to ease any economic difficulties which arise in the process. If Britain is willing to undertake this task, thereby providing us with a channel of influence and a ready access to the new dispensation, surely, far from restraining her, we should urge her onwards.

The implications to the Commonwealth of British entry must be considered in the light of what the Commonwealth now is and is likely to become, not what it used to be. When, last year, I attended the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association conference in London and visited various parts of Britain in the company of many parliamentarians of diverse races, creeds and outlook, amongst whom I made a number of good friends, it was forcibly impressed upon my mind what a very different affair the

Commonwealth now is from the old hard core of like-minded nations which we knew only a few years ago, and which, together with the United States, formed the solid core of Australian security. To-day - let us face it - members of the Commonwealth in the United Nations often side with our mortal enemies, which are also the enemies of liberal civilization. Their associations and influence are frequently thrown into the scale against us. Some of them who receive substantial aid from other members of the Commonwealth are even apt to bite the hands that feed them.

When the chips are down and life is at stake one needs friends, not lectures on morality. This does not mean that the Commonwealth does not have an immensely constructive part to play in the world. The ties of the past are changing form. The English language, the rule of law and parliamentary institutions form an enduring bond, whilst the personal friendships easily engendered among those in influential positions bridge different races and soften the terrible tensions close beneath the surface. Far from breaking it up, the unity of Britain with a strong Europe is more likely to underpin the Commonwealth with the power and wealth which alone in the long run can sustain it. This unique club, which President De Gaulle finds so hard to comprehend, could prove one of the few vehicles left for bringing aid to the poorer parts of the world in ways which preserve their self-respect and eventually incline their hearts towards the freedom and ideals of the West.

The slow melting of British sovereignty into something bigger and stronger may complicate membership of the Commonwealth club, but in the course of time this flexible body has digested many changes. It is the spirit which is now the essence and which, with careful cultivation, could continue to enrich the life of the world. The Commonwealth is a precious institution, but let us recognize its material limitations. It cannot in itself provide the future foundation for Australian trade and security.

The months ahead will be difficult indeed for those who bear the major responsibility of bringing together, reconciling and balancing legitimate trading interests with the needs of our future existence. Let us wish them well in their task and, for Australia's sake, hope that they prove successful.

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