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Thursday, 11 November 1971
Page: 3336

Mr REYNOLDS (Barton) - The honourable member for Angas (Mr Giles) said that consistency was the overriding quality in the Government's foreign policy. You know, I think he could be right. The Government has been consistently wrong and consistently misinformed. In view of the fact that the honourable member quoted the remarks of a learned gentleman from the Australian National University, let me quote Dr T. B. Millar, Professorial Fellow in International Relations at the Australian National University. He had this to say:

One sometimes wonders whether we have not become the most conformist society in the world, a nation of conservatives condemned to an eternity of conservative governments. Professor Manning Clark in a lecture in Perth recently said we have changed from being a nation of colonials to a nation of provincials; but provincials don't have foreign policies.

What worries me most is the government's ultra-cautious and conservative approach and attitude in the field of foreign affairs. Let me briefly look at this attitude as it is exemplified in relation to the People's Republic of China and the issue of foreign aid. It seems to me that the Government's claim that China's willingness to trade with Australia is unaffected by its political considerations is away off beam. According to reports there was a meeting between officers of the Australian Trade Commission in Hong Kong and members of the Japanese Government Trading Corporation in mid-October, just a few weeks ago. Apparently it was clearly stated that unless Australia's political attitudes change, trade, unless it is considered by China to be an absolute necessity, is a dead letter. Let every member of the Australian Country Party take note of that. Australia must straighten out its attitude. It cannot play ducks and drakes with its foreign policy in a matter of electoral gain and at the same time hope to gain trade with China.

I have heard the view that politics and trade do mix in China. I heard this view confirmed only this week on an Australian Broadcasting Commission broadcast in a statement made by Mr J. C. Kibell. I understand Mr Kibell is an Australian businessman who has conducted private business with China. He said that whether we like it or not China does mix politics with trade. So much for the phoney efforts at dialogue supposed to be being conducted in deadly secret by the Government with the Chinese. As always, Australia is dragging its feet behind most other countries in establishing trade and diplomatic relations, and in this case with the largest nation on earth. For narrow political considerations the McMahon Government continues to live in a world of hopeless unreality. It is bad enough that we sacrifice, possibly for years to come, tremendous potential markets. Worse still, though, our ultra-conservative Government forgoes the chance to remove some of the suspicion and misunderstanding that has poisoned relations in South East Asia for more than 2 decades. With such opportunities on offer the best the Prime Minister could say in this Parliament on 23rd July this year was:

For reasons 1 have mentioned there is no need to rush into recognition; there is no need to rush into making concessions.

Even earlier, in July, speaking to a Libera] Party conference in Devonport the Prime Minister said:

Now the question of recognition will arise in due course, but as I said, it may be a long way off and we don't intend to rush it.

We do not rush. But even in October 1970, 55 nations had already established diplomatic relations with China. Let us note some of those that did recognise China. They include the United Kingdom, as long ago as 1950; Canada, India, Ceylon, Indonesia, Pakistan and France. Other important countries such as Italy have since extended recognition. Could the Prime Minister have had any thought for all these nations when he said to the Young Liberals rally in Melbourne on 12th July 1971:

We must nol become pawns to the giant Communist power In our region.

Does the Committee appreciate now what I mean when I talk of this ultraconservative, ultra-cautious Government that rules in Australia? Why should we really expect better from this Liberal-Country Party Government? After all it ls the direct lineal successor of the government which, quite gratuituously and against all world trends, decided as recently as 1966 to recognise the Government of Taiwan as the government of all China. The simple fact for all Australians to realise is that we have an ultra-conservative and an ultracautious Government that prefers to live in the atmosphere of the cold war with all its tensions, suspicions, isolation, and tremendous waste of resources and opportunities forgone for peace and international understanding. Its constant political fodder is fear - fear of the yellow hordes or the Russian reds or whatever other non-white colour that comes into its lexicon.

Can one imagine a McMahon conservative Government making the tremendous breakthrough in international relations made by the Prime Minister and Government of Canada in regard to China, or will one ever forget the stunned shock of the Australian Government when the announcement was made of President Nixon's proposed visit to Peking? Of course we all recall the Prime Minister's extravagant denunciation of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) and his Australian Labor Party delegation for their bold initiative in trying to make a breakthrough with China.

I turn now to the matter of foreign aid. We talk so much about forward defence in this country. How that contrasts starkly with the small, miserable amount of aid that we are extending to the 9} million Pakistani refugees at this time. We are spending $5im and that only after a lot of public pressure. We are spending $54m altogether, whereas the poor country of India is spending over %2im a day. India spends in 2 days or less than 2 days what we spend altogether - and we are a country of affluence, with a high standard of living, and a country that can afford to budget for a $600m surplus in this year. Would the extension of aid do anything to inflate our economy? Of course it would not. If the Prime Minister wants to talk about pillars of peace let him plant a few pillars of peace among the Pakistanis, the refugees who live in such wretched poverty at this time. Likewise there has been our resistance to increase civil aid to South Vietnam. At a Press conference in Washington on the 2nd of this month the Prime Minister was asked:

Is there any suggestion, Mr Prime Minister, that Australia may he called upon to put forward more aid to South Vietnam?

The Prime Minister answered:

There might be but I doubt whether it would be practicable.

We can afford to spend $300m on military efforts in Vietnam, but when it comes to the matter of peaceful reconstruction we are not able to help, it is not practicable. The same goes for aid to Indonesia. Still we give a drop in the ocean - $57m over a. 3-year period. Our programme aid to Indonesia is tied. It is made payable in Australian dollars. I wish we would follow the example of a lot of other countries around the world and untie our aid. Untied aid gives a greater flexibility to the recipient country in expending it on the things that it most needs. We will not miss out. If all countries untie their aid we would get our fair share of the purchases in the long run. A strong suggestion has been made that much of our aid in training could be best carried out in the benefiting country. It would be more relevant to their local needs. I saw in northern Thailand the work of the Snowy Mountains workers. Not only did they provide aid but by their association with the people in their own habitat they did a marvellous job in propagating our way of life.

Seeing that time is running out I want to make only one other suggestion. I would like to see the matter of foreign aid taken away from the Department of Foreign Affairs. This is not original thought; it has been put up by a number of eminent people in the past. As it stands, foreign atd is just one of those other things that I understand a hard working Department of Foreign Affairs has to carry out. We would do a lot better by setting up a statutory authority with an advisory council to spend our aid. I think that a good deal of research needs to be done into this matter. We need some continuity in the people who will be carrying out this task rather than its being the job of some members of the Department of Foreign Affairs for a matter of a short time and then passed over to somebody else. I believe Canada uses this kind of independent device, and it makes probably a more efficient job of using scarce resources than we apparently do in extending aid.

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

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