SPEECH BY THE PRIME MINISTER AT THE AUSTRALIAN ALUMNI DINNER IN SINGAPORE - 18 JANUARY 1971
Period of Service: 10/01/1968 to 10/03/1971
Release Date: 18/01/1971
Release Type: Speech
Transcript ID: 2348
Document: Original Transcript (PDF 579.09 KB)
SPEECH BY THE PRIME MINISTER AT THEB
IN SINGAPORE 18 JANUARY 1971
Members of the Australian Alumni:
I found the introductory speech absolutely full of interest. I listened
with great attention to the suggestion that there should be much more Australian
investment in Singapore.
But you know there is Australian investment here. I think I have heard
of the Hume Pipe Company. Perhaps, Sir, your remarks which I have taken note
of might also be directed to a number of investors in Singapore, because there
is great investment in Australia from people in Singapore. They are constantly
building buildings, buying land and indeed, I met a gentleman the other night who
had such foresight that he had invested not in Australia but he did own 90 per
cent of the brewery in New Guinea. This indicates that there is a flow of
investment and investible funds generated from Singapore, which could well
perhaps be used here if the requirement for investment is so great.
But I don't know that the requirement is so very great. I come here from
time to time, and every time one comes, one sees immense changes in the skyline,
and onle sees a city really growing and growing apace.
I don't know whether there is unemployment but I gather there is very
little unemployment, particularly as far as the young is concerned. I gather there
is a shortage, indeed, of skilled labour and unskilled labour.
I had thought of Singapore as one of the success stories not onl y of this
part of the world but one of the success stories of modern times, comparable in
many ways with Venice of old a city state, a state dependig largely on commerce,
on export and on import, situated where the trade routes of the world cross. But
with this great distinction, that it has no danger of sinking beneath the waver.. but
rather is demonstrably day by day reaching for the skies.
And this is the feeling one has of Singapore.
It is possible I put it no higher than that it is possible that Australia
itself may have contributed a small amount to the capacity which had led to this
success story. I think that you members of the Alumni are living illustrations of
what I hope will be an enduring link between our countries though we may from
time to time criticise each other, as the previous speaker criticised me and as
I propose to criticise him later on but also I hope and believe that it is an
illustration of one very successful means of international co-operation. / 2
In the last twenty years, Australia has welcomed more than 10, 000 fellows
and scholars from Asian and African countries under the Colombo Plan and such
Government aid schemes alone not counting private students. Six hundred and
forty-two of these scholars have come from Singapore. Australia provided the
facilities for training of all kinds. But Singapore students took advantage of those
facilities with diligence, with success, so that in 1969, 96 per cent of Singapore
Colombo Plan students doing undergraduate courses in all years passed their
examination 96 per cent.
N1ow anybody who has a knowledge of the normal pass rate of Australians
and others in Australian universities would realise what an unusually excellent
result this is. We tend to have a 40 per cent failure rate i the first year, of
Australian students, and yet 96 per cent of the people from Singapore Colombo
Plan people passed their courses.
I think that this is a compliment to the calibre of the students that have
been selected by their Government to come to Australia, and I think that it is a
compliment to the students themselves that they have taken: full advantage of the
opportunities so provided. And it is clear proof that the cost of the Colombo Plan
courses, which now totals some $ 40 million, is being fully productive which all aid
schemes are not and is fulfilling the purpose for which it was designed, which all
aid schemes do not do.
As an illustration perhaps of this, I am informed that that magnificent
c-onference hall in which the Commonwealth Heads of Government Conference is now
being held was in fact designed by an architect who took his first degree in
Architecture in Melbourne, in Australia. He then went somewhere else, I gather,
to do a postgraduate course, but clearly because of his undergraduate course, was
able to design a building of such excellence.
Apart from the Colombo Plan itself Government-sponsored students, those
of whom I have spoken so far there were some 10, 000 privately-f inanced students
from Asia, Africa and the Pacific in our schools and universities and colleges last year.
I haven't got the figures on the pass rates of the privately-financed students but I do
kno v that they are not as good as the figures of the Government-sponsored Colombo
Plan students. Nevertheless they do come back and they do practice as accountants,
lawy ers, doctors, and engineers with a technical knowledge which must be and
obviously is of advantage.
This kind of operation seems to me to be one which stands high in any
attempt at international co-operation to raise the economic and living standards of the
countries of the world. For the aim of econorrc assistance, and this I believe it
is important to understand, the aim of economic assistance should never be to
provide a hand-out. It should be to provide resources, it should not be to provide
resources for consumer spending or for dissipation. Because if that were to be the
concept of international aid, then it would merely result in a requirement for a
continuing dole, and that would be as repugnant to the receiver as it would be to the
donor. And it would do nothing whatever to tackle the real problems of underdeveloped
The realI aim, surely, ought to be to provide capacity in the form of
technical expertise, professional expertise and capital, so that industries can be
developed, or when insufficient is produced in any country for its internal
consumption agricultural production can be increased. In fact, the aim should be
to provide developing countries with the means to produce and to try to see they
have the opportunity of selling any such increased production.
VWhat better way can there be to provide the means to produce than to see
that the elite of a country, as I believe you intellectually are, have the greatest
possible training in all those fields which, if applied to the growth of a nation, can
accelerate that growth and see that it goes in the proper direction. If,' when this
has been done, when this kinad of assistance has been provided, the resulting
improvement and there-always is a resulting improvement the resulting
improvement is swallowed up by an unrestricted increase in population, then I am
sorry, but that is a problem for the country aided to solve.
It is not an argument for more and more aid from donor countries. And
there is no place in which this is more realised than in this State of Singapore where,
I do not have to tell you, measures have been taken to ensure that increased
production, that increased prosperity is not dissipated . by . an unlimited increase
In population. So when we say that t he gap between the richer and the poorer countries
shou' I be reduced and this is something I have heard a considerable amount about
in the last couple of days I believe that that means that the richer countries should
provide the poorer with the means and the opportunity of closing that gap, and it
is then up to the less developed countries to use those opportunities to close that gap
by their own efforts.
And cau you find a better example of that being don-, e thatrds evident in
this State of Singapore? As your own Prime Minister so cogently said :" The
richer countries cannot be expected to adopt the role of beinig forever their
brother's keeper". And some of those in the less developed countriec. will have to cease to
adopt the role of expecting as a right that somebody will keep them no matter
what they do. But though we may not and should not be our brother's keeper, we
must be, and we try to be our brother's helper and then it depends on the brother
who is helped what the end result will be.
So in providing the advice and the technical education which we in Australia
are now able to do, and in seeing the graduates of these courses contributing so
greatly to their countries' own advance as we see it here, we have in action a proper
plan of assistance properly used by its recipients and resulting in that economic
advance and that self-reliance which must be the real, ultimate aim of all plans
of assistance. And I believe, quite genuinely,, that I can congratulate Singapore because I
think the principles which I have enunciated have been understood and applied and that
such assistance as has been given has been used to the full and that the results of
that use can be seen all around us. So I congratulate you. / 4
But the benefits of this kind of international co-operation don't stop there.
Thlere is the advantage to students, and let us again take Singapore, of being educated
not only in one country, not only in Australia. Some go there, some go to Canada,
some go to the United States, and some stay in Singapore. And this leads to the
opportunity for a cross-fertiisation of knowledge for people studying particular
practices with slightly different systems in different countries, and then coming
back and being able to marry the best of what they have got from each of the countries
in Which studies have taken place.
Over and above that, there is, think, the enduring advantage that people
who live in any country for a number of years come to know that country in which they
live. If they don't know a ccuntry from personal experience, they may read about it
and they may get a completely false picture. But if they have lived there, they know
it. Some don't like it. Most of them do. And knowledge of a country is the beginning
of understanding, and understanding between countries will be a most significant
"~ spin-off from the educational facilities provided.
Later, in the years ahead, one may hope for a cross -fertilisation of students
Australians coming to Singapore, Singaporeans coming to Australia, and so on.
This is perhaps, at this stage, a dream. And yet we are at the moment in the middle
of a Commonwealth Prime. Ministers' Conference where Heads of Governmenzt are
meeting to try to see if they can overcome the exigencies and exacerbations of the
present and keep together in order to have a chance of making ideals and dreams come
true. I believe that it will be useful if this Heads of Government Meeting says
what the Commonwealth is. And I hope they will say it properly and that means
they will say what I believe. I believe that the Commonwealth is an association
of free, independent nations with some common tradition,. meeting without decisions
being taken by vote there are no majority opinions binding on any member of the
Commonwealth, there is no consensus which has any binding effect whatever on an~ y
member of the Commonwealth who does not agree with the majority who have a
consensus. Rather it is an association through which people can exchange their ideas
of what should be done, and in what fields it should be done. And there has developed
during the course of this Conference clear indications of what all members of the
Commonwealth feel are the fields in which action should be taken.
Looking forward through this decade and into the -future, what are the
problems likely to face not only the Commonwealth but nations generally? It appears,
and I agree with this, that most believe that one of those problems is the maintenance
of peace in the world. Some think peace is threatened by a disparity of wealth in
countries. I beg leave to differ. I do not think Cambodia was invaded because she
was poorer than the invaders.
I do not think that the wars we have seen since the second great war resulted
from a disparity of income. I do not think that the Five Power Pact which we Britain,
Singapore, Malaysia, New Zealand are to enter into is designed to try and protect
this'region from an attack by people who are poorer.
Rather do I feel it is an ideological urge for conquest, then that ideological
urge will be able to be met, and more importantly, more hopefully, that those who
may have such an ideological urge or nationalistic urge will see that the game is not
worth the candle. At any rate the maintenance of peace is one of the items which the
Commonwealth Association sees as significant for the future.
Anoth, 7r is the freeing of trade. I-don't . want to go into this in any great
depth because & early every country is thoroughly in favour a! freeing trade and reducing
tariffs except for the commodities which they manufacture. But they can see the
unarguable principles in favour of doing it for the commodity other people manufacture.
But there still is a need to see what can be done so that new countries who
are pulling themselves up by their bootstraps, who are using the technical knowledge
they get to produce more, will have an opport unity at least of selling their produce.
And this is another matter which all those sitting around the conference table in
Singapore believe it will be difficult to solve Mks, as I thinktc it would be difficult
to solve it. But does that matter so much if the problem is first isolated and then,
difficult or not, attempts are made to seek to overcome it.
There is next the question which I have touched before, the provision of
aid between country and country. I don't think I need to add anything to what I have
said as to how I and my country approach this problem. But it is not one-sided. And
as an illustration of this, may I give you a brief anecdote of what happened this
morning during the Commonwealth Heads of Government Conference. ( I shouldn't
do this, I know. I am breaking secrecy but there is nothing much in it, as you will
see when I have finished.)
But it was suggested by a great friend of mine from a Caribbean country
that sometimes donor countries came to these conferences with a rather patronishing
kind of approach you know, " What can we do for you sort of thing, one that I
thoroughly understand. But it just so happened that Australia is a sugar-producin-g
country, as the Caribbeans are sugar-producing countries, and England is going
into the European Economic Community and is going to seek, I think, to look after
the interests of Caribbean sugar-producing countries, but not necessarily Australia
as a sugar-producing country.
But the Caribbeans are inclined to help us. So I was able to point out to my
friend that we didn't go there with a patronising air at all. What we went there for
really was to ask him and his Caribbean brother to help this brother within the
Commonwealth, and was able to paraphrase those remarks of the late President
John Kennedy that we do not come here to ask what we can do for Barbados, but
rather to ask what Barbados can do for us. / 6
And this is an illustration of the tW07way traffic which can take place in
this field of trade.
Another matter which wil occupy the Conference for long is under the
heading of racism, which I think you described, Sir, as the White Australia Policy.
Heads of State are prepared to say, as I am, that racism is an unmitigated evil, and
it is. I am prepared to say and mean that we will abolish racism within Australia.
I don't think that those of you who have been there will have noticed
any racism unless you were extraordinarily unfortunate while you were livig
in my country. There is legal discrimination still in some Australian States
against Aboriginals, but my Government has told those States that those laws will
be repealed by those States within two years, or if they are not, we will move in
and repeal them. So there will be no Governmental discrimination inside Australia.
I am prepared to say that and to mean it.
I think there are other countries where racial discrimination may be
more pronounced than it is in my own. I know people always tend to talk on this
subject as if it were just a matter of Negro versus European that was involved
in the word " racism", but I think all of you will know that it is not. I think that
all of you will know that there are grave strains in a com munity when there are
two races or more each forming significant proportions of the population.
You are a lucky State. You are able, quite properly, to call yourself
a n-. ilti-racial society, and get the good feeling that comes from being able to
say that. And if one replies and says yes, but you are 90 per cent Chinese or
per cent Chinese and therefore Singapore is homogenouc" as we will keep
Australia homogenous, that nevertheless still enables you to say you are a
Well, we are moving a little bit that way. There were 6, 000 non-
European people who became Australian citizens last year we probably have a
little higher percentage of homogeneity than Singapore but there is a good deal of
similarity, I do assure you.
As far as the application of an immigration policy is concerned, I have
no hesitation in saying what I am now going to say, and I propose to make no
apology for saying it.
Looking around the world, I see social problems between Negro and
European in England, I see grave danger to normal living in the split between
the races in the United States. I read not long ago, of some riots between races
not far away from where I am standing now, riots which could easily have spread
to Singapore. I am not going to allow that kind of danger to occur in Australia. There
are racial tensions, and whether there ought to be or not doesn't matter. We live
in a world of reality. We don't live in a world which would be different if we could
shatter it to bits and then remould it nearer to our heart's desire. And in reality,
there is thought there ought not to be tension between races when there are / 7
large numbers of different races living in one country, and terisions between peoples from
different regions. Sir, in reply to what you said, I can only say this. As far as I am concer.-ed,
any Governmental discrimination of any kind on grounds of race will not exist in
Australia. It will be abolished. I cannot say that feeling won't exist because that is
not under the control of Governments. It will take time aid education for the vast bulk
of a population to have no difference feeling whatever when they are talking to a Negro
or somebody with a different colour skin. It will take time.
At the moment, there are brighter people from any race you care to mention,
and less intelligent people from any race you care to mention. The bright ones have no
trouble, have no difficulty. They are on the same wavelength. They get together, but
it will take some time before we attain the ideal which I think I share with you in common,
where even those who are not so bright will not feel -prejudice towards people who
are different. I think that the coursa which we are following holds great chances of achieving
real racial tolerance. I think it holds better chances than, if we were to risk the ' Kid
of racial conflict that other countries have. I think that if wie build up gradually i-nside
Australia a proportion of people who are not of white skin, then, as that is gradually
done, so there will be a complete lack of consciousness that it is being built up, and
a complete lack of consciousness of difference between the raceg. And if this can be done,
as I think it can, then that may provide the world with the first truly multi-racial
society ;. ith no tensions of any kind possible between any of the races within it. At
any rate this is our ideal.
And if we are misguided in the way in which we, anre seeking to attain it, then
all I can say, Sir, is that we have got the responsibility to try and do it. We have got
the responsibility to try and explain it, and for my own part, I don't propose to
apologise for it.
Now I think I should finish where I began by sayig once again what an honour
it is for me to be here with you who have, I hope, happy memories of my Own country,
who have a true knowledge of my own country, who may assess it differently from me,
but who I hope would have a friendship for Australia, as I have got a friendship for
Singapore. When I first came here there was no wall that was not pock-marked with
, shrapnel. When I first came here, my friend the Australian High Commissioner to the
United Kingdom had close aquaintance with Changi when it was quite a different building
from that which it is now. From that time I have been here occasionally not often
enough met many people from here and steadily grown to admire and like this State.
It prcyides stability. It provide~ s a success story.
And for all those reasons I thank you greatly for this opportunity to talkto
V, 6u tonight.