PM Transcripts

Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Transcript 2561


Photo of McMahon, William

McMahon, William

Period of Service: 10/03/1971 to 05/12/1972

More information about McMahon, William on The National Archive website.

Release Date: 17/04/1972

Release Type: Speech

Transcript ID: 2561

2 r'APR1~ 97
SYDNEY, N. S. W. 17 APRIL 1972
Speech by the Prime Minister, the Rt Hon. W. McMahon, CH, _ MP
May I formally express to you the admiration that
I have for all that the Association is doing. And I believe it
is doing it in the int-6. rests of our two countries that is our
continuing friendship with the United States, which I want to
stress, the United States being the acknowledged leader of the
free world, and our great Partner, as you all know, in the
Pacific. Today I want to talk about that friendship in a
very special kind of context. That context is -the changing
situation in Asia, with all its great potential for good, and
also, of course, its dangers.
And I think that I'm speaking here at an appropriate
time too. Because even though a few weeks ago people could have
felt that the dangers were remote, I think the days have come
-when we all realise that the unexpected can happen, and can
happen in an unfavourable way for us. Because who would have
thought three weeks ago that we could have had another offensive
from the North Vietnamese on the South Vietnamese, with all the
attending danger and all the potentialities that that could bring
in its wake. Now I'm sure you know the position of the super and
the great powers in the Asian area. Japan, for example, has become
a superpower economically. China now moves into new associations
with the rest of the world. The Soviet is showing an increasing
interest in Asia and as you know, the North Vietnamese are
increasing attacks on So" th Vietnam. The Nixon Doctrine is one
which calls on nations of the world, Particularly in the Asian
theatre, to do more in their own defence and to have greater
regional co-operation. And running through all this, is what they call the
bilateral relations or relationship between various countries.
The most of these happens to be the dramatic visit to Peking and
other parts of Continental China by the President of the United
States. Now, I think you know t1-hat we have been busy for a
long time ourselves, trying to establish what is called a dialogue
with the Peoples' Republic of China. We were successful, hut
immediately after the admission of the Peoples' Republic into the
United Nations, the di'alogue ceased.
But it has again been resumed. I think it is not
unfair to say that even some time before the US took an initiative,
we were taking one because it was our view that the PRO should
be brought into the international world that it should be able
to talk at the United Nations, to make its views known, and to
permit others to make their views known to China as well. ./ 2

have been other developments, of course, but
I won't go into them to any great extent, oth -1; X-than to mention the
potentials of hostility between China and the6 USSR and America's
relations with Japan and the changing context in which these relations
are taking place. And also the visit soon to take place by President
Nixon to the Soviet Union, which we hope can lead to a greater detente,
disturbed a little, I must confess, by the events in North Vietnam
and South Vietnam over the last few weeks.
Now when I refer to the superpowers, I want you to
know that I refer to the United States and the USSR. These are superpowers
in strength of resources both -military and civil. W] hat I want
to point out to you is what the superpowers are doing, and consequently,
the way in which we must look at our problems. We must understand
what impact their influence can have upon us. Among the smaller
Asian countries and, I believe, in others in the region, including
Australia, tho idea of seeking Asian solutions to Asian problems is
growing. I remember when I went to the Djakarta Conference in
order to see what we could do about peace in Cambodia,' or a guarantee
of peace. That was the first time I heard the Asian peoples
themsel. ves say " Can't we create an Asian identity?-"-Not an identity of
disparate nations or independently pro-nations who weren't strong enough
to look after themselves, but couldn't we in fact create an Asian
identity that in terms of trade and mutual security will be able to
play our part in our constant growth and development, and would be
an impediment to aggressive or subversive action by others?"
But I did refer too, Mr President, to the necessity
or I should have referred to it under the Nixon Doctrine for each
country to be able to do more in the protection of its own interests.
Not that I believe that it means the Unitied States is likely to
leave them alone under all circumstances. But what I am sure about
i4 this. The more you do for yourselves within your own capacity,
the greater will be the desire and the wish of the United States to
make a contribution to the defence and to the freedom of those
countries as part and parcel of the defence and freedo-m of the free
world. But I want to emphasise that no country can go it alone
under all circumstances and conditions, and simultaneously make a
contribution to the peace and prosperity in this part of the world
in which we live. I emphasise, too, that this is not a wealthy part of the
world, leaving Japan and ouselves out of it. There are many parts
where for humanitarian reasons we all have to help, particularly,
Bangladesh. We've all got to try and make a contribution to see
that these people are able to have the good things of life in the
same way that our own people can enjoy them today.
So I want to turn to this question of co-operatn
co-oceration in order to cultivate a stable climate for neace and
development. This is what we are trying to do in the Asian context. ./ 3

What we want is a climate to which the United States
will continue to make a-contribution. We want this trend to
continue this trend of co-operation not only with us, but with
Sall people, of all free people, particularly in the Asian theatre.
I can assure--you,.. as. the Head of Government, that we will do all
in our power, to be able to make our contribution in whatever way
we can. These are the reasons why Australia has welcomed the
development of ASEAN, and is taking an active part in such regional
organisations as SEATO, ASPAC, ECAFE and the Asian Development
Bank. This is the reason why we have established the Five Power
Defence arrangements with Malaysia, Singapore, New Zealand and the
United Kingdom. I can assure you that those arrangements are welcomed
by the Malaysians and the Singaporeans, no matter what you mght have
heard from other sources. I add that the Prime Minister of
Malaysia, Tun Razak, does not regard these arrangements as
incompatible with the ASEAN objective of regional neutralisation.
It is for this reason, too, that we have a programme
of defence co-operation with Indonesia. Recently we had President
Soeharto down here, and I think we realised more emphatically than
we've ever realied before how much they wanted to co-operate, and
how much we think it desirable that we should co-operate with them.
Recently we have been able to aoprove the gift of
a fairly large number of Sabre aircraft to Indonesia and of help
in the construction of the airfield at Iswahjudi, so that they will
have aircraft that will be able to make a contribution to their
deterrent effect in the Asian region.
I also want to mention that for the last five years,
our programme of what is called Government aid, but frankly
which I should call your aid because you make the contribution in
terms of financial assistance and taxation. We are third in the
world as a giver of Government or national aid to the developing
countries, and a large part of this aid does go to Indonesia.
Government aid is the financial and material assistance
we give expressed as a percentage of our gross national production.
You will be glad to know that we are pretty high up in world
affairs with the amount we give something like 1 per cent
of cur gross national production. That is the goal that is set by
international organisations when they ask other countries to be
of assistance. Now it is sometimes said and I've said this before,
particularly at the National Press Club in Washington, that we are
a satellite of the United States and that this might affect our
standing in Asia. I want to assure you this is nonsense. We are
free and independent and, I believe respected throughout the world,
not only for our growing maturity and independence of thought and
action, but because they know we are reliable friends. / 4

During my recent visit to the tUnjted States, I
said more than once that Australia is a-!_ artrfer with the United-
States in many areas. In my discussions with the Amxerican leadexs_,_.
they responded warmly to the concept of partnership between our'
two countries. And I think I can emphasise that the ones who
responded most warmly to the concept of partnership were those
members of the Admi'nistration under President Nixon who had an
intimate concern with Australia and wanted to make sure that
relationships between the two countries improved.
As an act of policy judged to be in our national
interest, we have decided
closer relationship between the two countries will be to our
mutual advantage. Now this choice does not foreclose differenqes
of opinion nor does it foreclose different policies on different
issues. It is happily reinforced by a genuine warmth of feeling
and mutual understanding which your Association has done-so much
to achieve. But the point I want toemphasise now is that our
partnership with the United States is based', in the first place,
on a hard-headed assessment of mutual national interest. And I
think you can take it for granted that in international political
affairs, naturally enough each country thinks first and foremost
of its own national interest, and then of the contribution it can
make to the solution of the problems of world affairs.
I have to emphasise to you that when we are looking
at our international relationships, of course, the first consideration
is national interest rather than that of other countries.
our formal pqrtnershi.-finds expression in the ANZUS Treaty. The
assurances which I received from President Nixon in Washington,
spontaneol4sly received, have been reinforced by what he said in
his recent state of the world address.
We in Australia, I can assure you, welcome this
confirmation. And we also regard ANZUS as central to our
Asian policies. It is a defence treaty, and something morq.
It must not be turned into a solely social welfare concept as some
of our opponents are trying to turn it.
It is the framework for a wide-ranging system of
co-operatin covering all fields of international relations. ' The
emphasis on self-reliance has long been basic to our foreign defence
policy, and I believe that it antedated the Nixon Doctrine.
I say this only because I want to emphasise the
independent kind of action we take and the way in which I think
the new Department of Foreign Affairs is constantly alert to the
need for new initiatives whenever we feel that it will be in our
own national interest. But what thi * s elf-relance is, is one within the
framework of our alliance with the United States. Inevitably,
and this ought to be stressed, we have followed parallel policies
to those of the United States in a number of what I shall call
ASEAN initiatives. We have done so when we have thought it would
be in Australia's best interests that we have those mutually
accomdating policies.
May I take one exam Pie, and that is our negotiations

with China, which is now after years in the wilderpness a member of
the United Nations.' Iannounced that-Auatralia-was seeking--t6-...
normalise relations with the People's Republic of China shortly
after I became the Prime Minister..
I well remember that paper, prepared as it was by
the Department of Foreign Affairs and myself, because I think it
did start a new epoch for Australia, and drew attention in the
most forceful way to the changes that were occurring in the Pacific.
And I want to emphasise that it was taken at a fairly early date so
far as the Western countries are concerned. It is the nature of
things that a superpower, such as the United States, would have much
more scope for a dialogue and for a wider range of issues with
another great power, than one of the medium-sized countries like
ourselves, because it is not so exposed to a demand for making
important concessions on major issues.
Now Australia is, understandably, in a different
position to the United States. As I said following the Nixon
" isit, I hope that all nations would be treated alike by China. That
hope has not so far been realised. But we hope it will come. Now
I can assure you that the dialogue which did temporarily end
immediatel) after China entered the-United Nationg has now been
reopened, and I believe, is proceeding on a sensible and, I believe,
reasonable course. Now, Mr President, we have parallel policies on
many issues with America, so, too, do our policies diverge in other
areas. Let me give you an example from the past. During the
confrontagion in Indonesia a few years' ago, Australia maintained
its relations and contacts with that country. And we did so betause
we believed that if we weathered the storm, a firm foundation would
be prepored for better relations in the future with Indonesia.
And our wish and our intentions have-come true.
This policy has paid handsome dividends, and is
underlined by the recent visit of the President that I referred to
a few moments ago. Again, but not so Much on exactly the same scale,
but again during the recent crisis on the Indian sub-continent, our
policy again tempcrarily diverged from that of the United States.
Although we were, and remain, anxious to maintain
our friendly relations with Pakistan, we took the view that peace
and stability in the region were likely to be best served by our
immediate recognition of Bangladesh. So Australia did take the
initiative, not only in the Asian theatre, but in the United States
and amongst the continental countries in order to see if like-ipinded
countries could join, and join as quickly as they could in recognition
and in giving assistance to that country.
The fact therefore is this. I hope those two points
that I have mentioned make it clear that our policies are Australian,
and I believe recognised as such and respected as such in Asia.
Much as our opponents contest this view, our alliance
with the United States is understood and accepted in Asia azd in
many cases it enhances our standing and importance in the region.
So we do get the indirect benefit of the very friendly and worthwhile
relationships which we have with our great neighbour over to the East.
But of course we can't affQrd to let this be taken
for granted. We must continue to develop a distinctively Austra'lian
role in the Asian region. And we are. moving in the right direction
in demonstrating that we are helpful and we are cp-operative with
them. / 6

I have spoken alroady of the hopeful signs of great
power accommodation, of growing confidence and co-operation within
the region itself. There remain problems in the region which
are cause for concern. I mention again the position in South
Vietnam. The invasion by the North in blatant defiance of the
Geneva Agreements is causing the South Vietnamese Government its
greatest test. This, I emphasise, is aggression, naked and.
unashamed, and is being increasingly accepted as such by most
people even those in the Western world who a few months ago were
critics. Now it's still too early to speak with confidenqe about
the outcome. But what we can say, and what we can emphasise, is
that because the Americans and their Allies, including Australia,
have done so much fighting and training and rehabilitating in the
South, the South Vietnamese Army and the South Vietnamese people
are now better trained, better armed and able to take this onslaught
in a way they would not have been capable of taking three or four
years ago. I can assure you, too, that it is giving a good
account of itself.
I do ask you all to note that the offensive now is almost
wholly by the North Vietnamese. The Communists have not launched
this offensive as ' they did at the time of the ' Pet offensive in
the mistaken belief that there would be a spontaneous uprising of
sympathisers throughout South Vietnam. The war in Indochina is
likely to remain with us for some time to come. We want to negotiate
a settlement. And we will continue to seek a peaceful one, but
the inflexibility of the Communists is against an early settlement
and we can see no prospect at the moment however much we and
America and our friends will try in the intervening period to get
one. In the meantime, the Oc~ ernment will continue to assist
the South Vietnamese in other~ ways, even though our troops are home
now. In particular, in economic development and other aid, we
will continue to play our part.
Now there are, of course, other areas of concern for
us in Asia, including the great humaitarizn tasks and development
problems facing the peopl. e of th( region.
This is the situation in Asia as we see it today. The. Ai
picture is a hopeful one. It is also a dynamic one. Recent Changd liv,
have bQen staggering compared with centuries and centuries of little
change. Change is everywhere and everything is changing. we must,
in Australia, be alive to these changes, flexible in our approach,
and we must be willing to take the initiative in meeting the
demands of this new situation, whether it might be in terms of
defence and security, whether it is in terms of aid or personal
visits, whether it is in terms of friendship and co-operation.
In each and every one of these areas, we and the United States must,
and I am sure will, be prepared to play our part.
The free world does hold many initiatives. Australia's
policies in Asia, based on our alliance with the United States,
are, I believe, one of the keys to a stable and prosperous future
for the world in which we have to live.

Transcript 2561