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Thursday, 11 November 1971
Page: 3331

Mr BRYANT (Wills) - It is almost a pity that the honourable member's time has expired for I found myself in agreement with some of his sentiments.

Hisgeography is accurate and his sentiments about the Indonesians are fair enough. But I simply disagree and say that instead of worrying himself about military co-operation with the Indonesians, if we could teach more Indonesians in Australian schools and assist them in their studies of English and so on it might be a better way to protect the peace of this part of the world. Today is Remembrance Day. This morning this part of the Parliament anyhow - I noticed that the Senate did not - knocked off for an hour and a quarter to allow this House at least to pay some respect to what Remembrance Day means. So I went over to the Australian War Memorial. As far as I am concerned such an exercise is a pilgrimage of peace and I hope that on any future occasions the Parliament will take note of that, and if next year we are still sitting at this time and Remembrance' Day falls on a sitting day the Parliament pays the same respect to the occasion as it did on this occasion. It is in sharp contrast to the respect we pay to the Melbourne Cup and on this occasion at least I was grateful for this fact.

I wish we could divert people's attention on both Anzac Day and Remembrance Day to consider what they are about - gratitude for peace on Remembrance Day and on Anzac Day, remembrance of the sacrifice and folly of war and the loyalty that produced the kinds of things that happened. One of the most piquant and touching parts of today's operation was the laying of wreaths by the representatives of the Commonwealth countries; the Indian representative laying a wreath followed immediately by the representative of Pakistan. Occasionally we can bring these people together if we are prepared to take the initiative, and this is the field in which Australia has the greatest opportunities and in which it shows the least enterprise. I believe that our foreign policy is based upon a number of false assumptions. First of all, there is the suggestion of threats from our north. I think my friend from the Northern Territory (Mr Calder) would now agree that there is no threat from Indonesia. Most of the Government spokesmen, when they are in the public eye or speaking into the public ear, say that there is no threat in the foreseeable future. But at the same time we are talking about spending hundreds of millions of dollars on new aircraft, new ships and all the rest of it although honourable members opposite say they believe there is no threat in the foreseeable future, no possible threat to the security of this country in a military sense.

Mr Turnbull - Not if you are prepared.

Mr BRYANT - I would like to debate this with the honourable member for Mallee on some occasion when we have more time to do so. But there is no possible threat to Australia whether we are prepared or not, and I am not one to write the defence system out. I do not have time to debate arguments across the floor wilh the honourable member in this case but I do not believe that it is possible for anyone who is within 3,000 miles of us to mount a threat within the foreseeable future; and this has nothing to do with whether we have armaments or not. It is one of the facts of life. That does not say that I believe we ought to have none, but I just say that is the case. Nothing that we can do in the form of military exercises can intimidate the Chinese or anyone else.

I do not believe that the people who are to our north are in great turmoil any more than anywhere else. There is no more trouble in most of South East Asia than there is in Belfast. There is certainly no more threat in that part of the world than there is in the Middle East. But constantly we have it tossed into the ring here that we are in an area of great turmoil and trouble. We are told that it is an area of great deprivation and so on, but it is not as seriously deprived as many parts of Turkey, India or Pakistan. I do not believe that the people to our north are hostile. I do not believe that war is inevitable. I believe that the moment the barriers fell between the French and the Germans in Europe it was a great moment in history. If the Europeans can stop fighting each other, then anybody can.

The other assumption which I think is false is that our interests are more closely allied to those of the United States of America than they are to those of India or Indonesia. I do not believe it. There is something inherent in the way we think about these things that the first and most important affinity one has with people is the colour of their skin. I do not believe it. I do not believe there is a difference between people that is based upon skin colour. Therefore, we should be spending a lot of our diplomatic exercise, enterprise and initiative on getting close to people such as Indonesians and Indians in particular.

The other point I want to make in the few moments that one has is the inadequacy of the debates in this Parliament on foreign affairs, lt does not matter, perhaps, if we make a serious error on social services. The country will still survive. People might be deprived or they might even, by some great stroke of good fortune, be paid more than they ought to be. But the world will not stop and the nation will not collapse. However, if we make errors in foreign policy we bring the whole nation into peril. A serious deficiency of the last 5 or 6 "years of the administration has been the inadequacy of debate on foreign affairs in this place. We cannot debate this subject in the few moments given to each of us this afternoon. We cannot debate it in this way. There should be a definitive statement from the Minister for Foreign Affairs every time there is a major international issue and there ought to be time allotted for us to debate such a statement. Perhaps these issues should be brought before a House committee of the same sort that was established by the Senate. What is wrong with the place that we do not do it that way? Practically every other parliament treats this subject in this way. Public knowledge here is at a discount.

We have the issue of keeping training teams in Vietnam to train Cambodians. Everyone is trying to hide it, sweep it under the carpet and keep it out of sight. That is point one. Then we have that wonderful demonstration of democracy at its best by the Minister for Defence (Mr Fairbairn), who says that only those people who need to know may visit the foreign bases. So we have 2 areas of ignorance. There is the attempt to keep the country in ignorance, without parliamentary debate, on deliberations in secret on issues like Cambodia and foreign bases in Australia. 1 believe that in Cambodia the task is to establish diplomatic action through the United Nations. As 1 said here in debate last week, one of the interesting facts about China's entry to the United Nations is the enthusiasm with which the Chinese apparently are accepting that promotion, if that is it; and with China in that body there is a new forum and a new grouping of people to try to find a solution.

I will not be satisfied with the Cambodian situation until somehow we have guaranteed the freedom and neutrality of that country. I deplore the present Government's behaviour inasmuch as it has abandoned Parliament. It would not be long before this group here would do the same if it could get away with it; but the facts are that the Cambodian people are entitled to live in peace and neutrality. Our task ought to be to protect them as far as we can and the United Nations is our forum in which to do this. The idea of putting more troops into the field is folly in excelsis.

The other great error relates to foreign bases. I know that our friends opposite say: 'You are treasonable, you are seditious, you are going to hold us in great peril.' I have said ever since the debate began on the United States Communication Station at North West Cape that I regarded it as an act of treachery to alienate the sovereignty of Australian soil and place us in a position where decisions about our future can be made by others. But we cannot debate that matter this afternoon, either.

What I do want to say briefly is that I believe one of the great issues of international policy these days is not the threat of imperialism but the overwhelming demands of sovereignty. The great modern net ideology is sovereignty - the right of the State over the individual, the power to use the loyalty of the individual, the power to use force, the monopoly of violence. The acquiescence and the sheer force of it all mean that the individual counts for less these days when it comes to conflicts with the community and the State at large than in probably any other place in history. It seems to me that this falls into 5 categories. We ought to be trying to mitigate the power of sovereignty - if that is the correct word - the absolute power of the State over the individual - the kind of thing we see happening around the world now. I refer to the right of a state to prevent secession by force of arms. What if East Pakistan does want to leave? Who would shoot a Tasmanian to keep Tasmania in the federation?

Mr Cope - I would.

Mr BRYANT - The honourable member would shoot them to keep them in the federation; the Treasurer would probably say he would pay them to go. However, I refer also to the right to unite by force of arms. Of what possible profit is it to the people of North Vietnam, North Korea or South Korea to unite a country's people by killing millions or for the right to use another's territory for one's military purposes? Indeed, the victims of such acts are innumerable around the world. The Cambodians and the people of Laos are some of them. Do we agree with the right to deprive a section of its residents of equality such as in South Africa? What I want to see is the Minister for Foreign Affairs get on to the world stage and stand for some of the morality of human relations. When we can bring to international relations the same sense of humanity and the same morality as we accept or demand between individuals then I believe that the estimates for the Department of Foreign Affairs will all be well spent and ought to be expanded. But at present the failure to use our initiative and enterprise for the rights of humanity when we cannot do anything by military action is our greatest possible failure.

The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Hallett) - Order! The honourable member's time has expired.

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