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, 3 November 1971
Page: 2918

Mr JESS (La Trobe) - It is always an experience to follow the honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Daly) in a debate, although usually he gives one more to speak about than he has this afternoon. The honourable member said that the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) should hurry back because nobody tells him anything and what he is told he does not understand. Coming from the honourable member for Grayndler, that is really quite remarkable. It must be a habit that he has formed over the last couple of weeks, because it seems to me to be what he has mainly been saying about his own Leader. Furthermore, for the Opposition to move a censure motion of this type in respect of a matter which I will discuss in detail, in an endeavour to make it a great emotive issue, is quite hypocritical. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) said how ashamed and humiliated Australia must be. I wonder whether he remembers his shame and humiliation, or whether he had any, when during the greatest Press conference in Australia he was propounding the policy of the Australian Labor Party and was repudiated by his Party within 24 hours. He had to pull his head in so that he looked like something out of a freak show.

Having listened to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard) I wonder what he was propounding. I have come to the conclusion, in agreement with the Acting Prime Minister (Mr Anthony), that this is a censure motion. The Opposition thinks that it can build an issue out of the training of Cambodians in Vietnam that will offset Hawke. I have never heard such rubbish in all my life. I believe that a Minister must take responsibility for mistakes that are made in his department. I feel that a mistake has been made in the Department. The Minister for Defence (Mr Fairbairn) has admitted this and has said that he will see that, to the best of his ability, it is not committed again. It has also been said that this was a low key matter and the low key was in the approach from the American Embassy to the Department of Foreign Affairs. I would have said that if it were to have been treated on a high key - as a matter on which the President of the United States would question the Prime Minister of Australia - the Ambassador himself would have contacted the Prime Minister or would have contacted directly the Minister for Defence or the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr N. H. Bowen). But this was not done. lt was one of those approaches down the line in which someone said to somebody in the Department at a low level that this question could come up. I admit that the departmental officer should have spoken to the head of his department and somebody should have passed it on I admit the mistake; the Minister admits the mistake and the Acting Prime Minister admits the mistake. What shame and harm have been done to Australia? The Prime Minister sensibly rang the Cabinet, the Cabinet sent the Prime Minister a brief and he agreed to the commitment. It is not a major issue, even though the Labor Party wants to make out that this will mean another Vietnam. I have never heard such rubbish.

We are training foreign troops in Australia already. We have Indonesian officers at the Royal Military College. We have

Pakistanis and indians, Singaporeans are coming, and we have officers from Brunei, does this mean that every war in which they are involved will mean our involvement in them? What it means is that, as has already been announced and accepted by the Opposition and the Government, we have a training school in Vietnam and have agreed to maintain it. We have now agreed that the Cambodian Army should be given the use of the facility and be trained there. Because it is Labor Party policy never to help anybody but to expect everybody to help us are we now to say that we will help everybody except Cambodia? Does the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant) no longer believe that there is direct aggression in Cambodia? He came back and said there was aggression. We believed him and the people believed him, but the Labor Party broke him. Is it now the policy of the Labor Party to help nobody but to take in large blandishments so it does not get too involved in election policy and can always answer either way with respect to anything? When it gets down to the issue, the Labor Party would not help a soul in this world but would expect everybody else to come to its aid.

I would like to read a letter I have because, when one listens to what the Leader of the Opposition and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition say, it wo llC seem that to train these Cambodian troops would be to prolong the war in IndoChina. 1 presume that if honourable members opposite did not want to prolong the war in Indo-China they would let the Communists come in and take it over. If they do not want to prolong the war, if they do not want to do anything, if they do not even want to give them the very basest of assistance because that would prolong the war, that means they repudiate them and are saying to them in effect: Go to hell. We are safe. You live under the Communists. We are pulling out'. That may be Labor Party policy but I will not accept that it is the policy of the Government or a policy that the people of Australia will support. Let me read the letter for the enlightenment of members of the Labor Party. It is dated Sunday, Sth July 1970, and it reads:

To the Prime Minister, Government and people of the Kingdom of Laos.

We the members of the Australian Parliamentary Mission to Indo-China, representing both Government and Opposition in the Australian Parliament, wish to express our gratitude and admiration for you and your people.

I leave out the next paragraph The letter continues:

We have been profoundly moved by the abundant evidence of your courage and determination to pursue a course seeking only the right to live at peace and in neutrality. We deeply deplore the open and evident aggression being committed against you by your more powerful neighbour North Vietnam.

We have noted that even now you do not seek military aid from our country, and that you are grateful for the assistance in civil projects we have been able to give.

This is where it gets really farcical:

On our return to our country we will do all in our power to alert our Parliament and alert our people to the vital and urgent need for world opinion to come to your aid in reactivating the International Control Commission and in bringing all the signatories to the 1962 Accords to honour their pledge to maintain your neutrality.

As a small nation ourselves-

This is heart rending - our hearts and minds will be with you in the fateful days ahead, and whatever help we can give you will come with our admiration and respect for your courage and steadfastness in the face of grievous losses and much provocation.

We leave you in the faith and the hope that one day the mighty Mekong will flow throughout its entire length through lands living in mutual peace and prosperity.

The signatories include R. M. Holten, Leader, Minister for Repatriation.

Mr Foster - Goodness, gracious!

Mr JESS - You can laugh harder at this one: They include Senator Reg Bishop, Senator for South Australia, Australian Labor Party. The next is Gordon Bryant, member for Wills, Australian Labor Party. Why is not your horse laugh coming out now, or are you stunned? Then we get Mr Harry Webb, member for Stirling, Australian Labor Party. Are these men hypocrites? Did they believe it when they wrote that letter? Did they believe it when they signed it and are they sitting back now listening to the debate not on the censure of the Minister but on whether or not Australia should play some part in helping the Cambodian people? There is no doubt at all that we have agreed to train Cambodians here. Should we exclude them? After what we have heard the Labor signatories agreed to, should we prohibit them? By sending them to an existing school in South Vietnam - not in Cambodia - are we entering into the Cambodian war? Because we have Pakistanis here at the Royal Military College are we entering into the threats of war between India and Paistan? Because we have Malaysians here are we entering into the threats of war with Malaysia? Or is the policy of the Labor Party now coming out clearly? If one reads the rules laid down at the Launceston Conference, one finds that they are covered in cotton wool. Members of the Opposition can answer anything to any query on any given subject and it still does not have to be the truth. But is this now the hard core of opinion in the Labor Party that is coming out?

The Labor Party is not prepared to play any part in helping our regional allies. It is not prepared to send one man to Malaysia or to any of the other countries in South East Asia under the 5-power agreement. Why do they not get up and say it, because this is in fact what they are proving to the nations of South East Asia? They are proving that when they talk they are doing so for the sake of impressing the Australian public and there is little veracity in what they say. As was said recently, how can any nation have any reliance on Australian foreign policy when the alternative government of this country has, on almost every point, made it clear that it is not prepared to do anything? As was said by one speaker this afternoon, we should protect only our own shores and we should not send anybody out of Australia no matter what the situation and no matter what is taking place. It does not matter who is suffering, the Labor Party will sit here and expect everybody else to accept the responsibility. But oh, brother, can they moan when we are about to be hit. I refer honourable members, as I did in the debate a fortnight ago, to what was said by Labor Party spokesmen in respect of defence in 1938 - what they would not do and what there was no need to do.

I think the people of Australia will realise that the Labor Party's foreign policy is a farce and that this censure motion is purely a vehicle to try and get this across as an issue to the Australia people. I agree that the Department has been tardy, and I think somebody within it should be reprimanded.

The Minister must and did accept responsibility and will see this does not happen again. The words 'damaging and dangerous' appear in the censure motion. In what way is this damaging and dangerous? A mistake has been made. But, God help us, the Labor Party - the alternative government - has been committing mistakes for the last 20 years and has never got within a bull's roar of government.

Suggest corrections