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Wednesday, 6 October 1971
Page: 1918

Mr Keith Johnson (BURKE, VICTORIA) - I direct a question to the Prime Minister. As this Government assures us that Australia is: primarily concerned with the democratisation of Vietnam, did Australia have observers in that country to witness the conduct of the recent presidential election? Can he inform the House whether separate ballot boxes were used by those who wished to vote for and those who wished to vote against the only candidate? Is it true that in order to regain their identity cards citizens had to attend at a polling place and cast a vote? If these allegations are true would they not account for the high percentage of citizens who turned out to vote?

Mr McMAHON - I have no wish to make any comment about the election conducted in South Vietnam. This was a problem for the South Vietnamese Government and my Government does not believe in poking its nose into other people's domestic affairs. Equally I have no desire whatever to defend the system of voting that was used there but I can repeat what one of my colleagues said overseas in recent days: We cannot expect the same high sense of feeling towards democracy to exist in some Asian countries as exists here. It is my great hope and great wish that the Opposition will recognise that democracy is. critically important to us and that if it wants democracy to succeed here it should get rid of the incubus that surrounds it compelling it to vote according to a policy determined by the biennial conferences of the Australian Labor Party and by persuasion from the Australian Council of Trade Unions.

Mr Stewart - What about your own Party?

Mr McMAHON - There are no compulsions on us. As to the first part of the honourable gentleman's question, we deliberately refrained from sending observers to Vietnam because of the way in which we knew the election would be conducted.

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