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Wednesday, 7 November 1973
Page: 1601

Senator GIETZELT (New South Wales) - The Senate is discussing the visit of the Australian Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) to Japan and China, which I believe was probably one of the most significant visits ever conducted by an Australian Prime Minister and parliamentary colleagues. I think it is significant also that within 24 hours of his arrival back in this country he took steps to report to the Australian Parliament about his visit and the success of that visit. But this move was thwarted because the Opposition shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs was not able to be present in the House of Representatives on the day the statement was to have been made as he had taken the opportunity to go to Melbourne to attend the Melbourne Cup. However, 3 days after the Prime Minister's return we are discussing his visit. It is clear from what has been said by Opposition speakers that they are suffering from sour grapes. The Opposition is still living in the past. It is still on that slow boat to China which should have reached the shores of that country many years ago. It kept Australia in the political wilderness in relation to its association with that important country.

However, the event has taken place. The Australian Government has recognised the People's Republic of China. The Australian Government supported the admission of that country to the United Nations. Members of the Australian Government have now visited that country and have established very important, new principles so far as Australia is concerned. What are those important principles? Firstly, it has been established that the Australian Government will pursue an independent foreign policy in relation to China, Japan and the whole of the Asian region. These are new departures. They are being applauded by the average Australian. They are departures from the previous inept policies followed by the Liberal Party and the Australian Country Party. After all, they have based the whole of their foreign policy for the last 23 years on the basis of: 'Have gun; will travel'. Our Government, the new Government which is concerning itself with relationships between all countries travels for the purpose of establishing relationships which are based on peaceful co-existence. We heard the statements made by Senator Greenwood who can best be described as the unofficial leader of the Opposition parties in this place. He gave another long-winded statement on the attitude of the Opposition to the important countries which have been visited by the Prime Minister in the last 10 days.

In 1949 the people's liberation army succeeded in affecting a change in government in the land mass of China. Anybody who has had the opportunity to visit that country in the intervening 24 years cannot but be impressed with its growth, with the endeavours of the new Government to bring China into the 20th century and to eradicate the remains of feudalism which was characteristic of that country, to establish a uniform government and to try to establish a relationship based on co-existence with other countries. Unfortunately this country was living in an atmosphere of fear. Supporters of the previous Government who now form the Opposition parties- that is the Liberal Party, the Country Party and the Australian Democratic Labor Party- sought to isolate us from that very important evolution which was taking place in the largest country in Asia.

It is to the credit of the Prime Minister that in 1971 when he was Leader of the Opposition he took the important initiative of visiting China and of establishing some connections with this important country. Of course, as it turned out he took the initiative only a few short months before that taken by President Nixon. One would imagine when listening to Senator Greenwood and Senator Carrick that they have not heard of moves for a detente which have been initiated by the American President. Maybe the American President is now so discredited that even the Opposition parties in this country do not want to refer to the important steps which he took to break down the barriers which had been built up in the cold war years.

Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.

Senator GIETZELT - Mr Acting Deputy President,I seek leave to continue my remarks.

Leave granted; debate adjourned.

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