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Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Transcript 2623


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: 14/06/1972

Release Type: Press Conference

Transcript ID: 2623

ISTANA TPA" 7_ U, "', LAYSIA 14 Juno., 1972.
yv intention, with yonr ap~ roval is to t:-. ke you fairly quickly
through the communique which was issued at probably somewhere about
two o'clock today, and wrhich has been agreed to .1. y the Governments of
Malaysia and my own country after fairly full and dotailed discussions
bet, 07cn Tun Razak and myscelf. if then subsequently you want to, by
all means ask me questions. I'll want to give priority in the asking
qf questions to members of the Malaysian rnress. So, if that is
satisfactory to you, I'll carry o-n in the way I've just mentioned.
i' Well, first of all, could I preface my remarks by saying
something to you. I came up hore, first to Indonesia, then Singapore,
and now Malaysia on what I t%-ermed initially a's a good-will mission.
I wanted to make certain that the relation~ ships bo~ twoen Australia
and the~ three countries I visited were based unon a sound fcoting and
that we had their confidence and good-,, ill. I ar sure that as I go
homne that objective has been achieved. Now, this gniodwill confidence
and trust is not based solely on historical consilderations or an
historical background. It'S based, to a large extent, on the fact
that we all know that we have tn play our part in the future in trying'
t%. o ensuro ocace and pros ority and progress iLn an area in which each
of us lives. And we knew t" H. 7. t none of us none of" the four
countries can -n -thdraw fromr It-he area, or withdraw fro,-m the
obligation that we've got to our own people, and in co-operation, try
to ensure the kind of oblectives that I Mentioned tro you a few
moments ago.
I could not have asked fo-r a better relatinnship with President
Soeharto than I have. AXs ' owu, we were able to rqive Indonesia
substantially increased defence and civil aid, for w,, hich they
expressed their approval. 11nd I think we could take it that on most
matters of mutual interert, there was a meeting of minds and'a
coincidence of views. Eqiually , too, when I went to Sing-pore, I
found exactly the same with Lee T.' uan Yew, who, is an old friend
of mine one who I have known for a long time and regard not only as
the groat Leader of his ow. kn c.-untry, but in a personal way as well.
Again, the relationship could not have been better, and we had a
common view on most of the problems that arose. / 2

I think I can summarise his views in a statement that he made
at a dinner that he gave for me. If you haven't got copies of it
the members of the Kuala Lumpur press pleaso let me give you a
copy, because it does show the strength of goodwill between the two
countries and the way in which our views coincide. He said he's got
faith and trust in the Five Power Arrangements: He wants them to be
sustained. He wants tourism to develop between our two countries, and
he knows that together we-must play our part in the development and
progress of the South East Asian theatre.
I'll just read it out our attitudes on South Vietnam are the
same. Our attitudes to development of the South Asian countries are
the same too. And what he does say is that the Five Power Defence
Arrangements have received a degree of importance that over-shadows
the other matters that we've discussed. He also says that the Dafence
Arrangements of the Commonwealth Five Powers have provided continuing
stability to an area important to us, the people who live in it, and
perhaps to you in Australia, and there is no reason why we should
not make further progress in regional co-operation to consolidate the
present stability of the area. He also refers to a position that is
exactly the same as ours relating to South Vietnam, and he expresses
the view that when the American forces do withdraw and he hopes not
in disgrace then the forces that are left behind can be allowed to
sort out their future by themselves without external interference by
force. That, of course, is a view that is shared by my own Government
and by my own actions. We've clearly indicated where our heart and
where our will lies.
Now to come here, I want to say this too, and I want to say it
frankly. I've known your Prime Minister for some time, I've known
him again on a friendly, and I believe, a basis of complete trust
between two people, and I could not have hoped for greater co-overation
and goodwill that I have found here during the course of the last
three days. Naturally enoug I talked to him when he came out to the
airport to bring me into Kuala Lumpur. I have had dinner with him on
two occasions, and I have had a long discussion with him on matters
of mutual interest. For a large pa'rt, the discussions centred around
what was happening in the Asian theatre.
His pre-occupation, as with our pre-occupa tion, in international
affairs, is what contribution could we make the people of goodwill,
the people who regard themselves as friendly and co-operative
neighbours what contribution we can make to the objectives that
I've mentioned in relation to the other countries, and the objectives
that Tiln Razak himself shares with the other three of us. But we also
went over a wiete range of other matters. But,-first o-f all, know
Tun Razak is very intereste' in the problems not only bijateral, but
multilateral ones as well and he did raise with me the question cf
the part that he took in the Kuala Lumpur Declaration, and his
attitude towards the neutralisation of South-East Asia.
For my part, after discussion with him and I think you can take
it that this joint communique is a summary of my discussions with him
of the occasions that I have mentioned I did confirm that the
Malaysian Government's goal that South Fast Asia should be a zone of
peace, freedom and neutrality, under effective international
guarantees, is entirely consistent with the policies of his own
Government. ./ 3

We welcomed the declaration as a regional initiative directed
towards peace and stability in the area. These were words that I
believe we could generally say in paragraph eight that the Prime
Ministers agreed that the common objectives of the two Governments
was the creation of conditions of peace, security and independence
in this area, in which the work of regional co-operation and national
development can go forward.
Then we come to paragraph nine, which, as far as the defence area
is concerned, does, I think, clarify the relationships between the
two countries. Again, I could not have asked that my discussions with
him could have been any better. They were frank. They were free,
and they were based upon the idea of mutual interest, goodwill, and
a desire to co-operation.
What we did agree was that the Five Power Arrangements provide a
framework for close and effective co-operation, which is of value to
both Governments. Then the Prime Minister for Malaysia assured me t
that the continuing presence of Australian forces, both land and air,
in Malaysia/ Singapore in the context cf the arrangements is welcomed
by the Malaysian Government and contributes and confidence in the
area. I go on to add the two Governments have no differences under the
Five Power Arrangements, and I reaffirm that Australia would at all
times honour its obligations. I think that most of you are pretty
able and talented pressmen. I draw your attention to the whole of
paragraph nine. But I think I can just repeat that the Prime minister
of Malaysia assured me that the continuing presence of Australian
forces, both land and air, in Malaysia/ Singapore, in the context of
the arrangements, is welcomed by the Malaysian Governmnent and
contributed to defence and confidence in the area.
We then passed on I'm not giving you the actual sequence of
events in which events occurred because this is not the actual
sequence, but this is the ay in which they were drafted. We then
went on to the question of the second Malaysia Plan and the
desirability of having continuation of Australia's aid, which is
making a steady and continuing contributinn to Malaysia's economic
development. Various pr,.-jects were, in fact, mentioned, such as I won't go
through thorn, but they are in paragraph II a~ nd you will see some
of them there. We discussed a Pahang River basis study, and
assistance to Mardi in pastoral and fodder research. I did
subsequently arrange for one of my very senior officers who came
with me -the second in command of our Dep~ artment of Trade and
Industry -to discuss with three senior nfficers of the Malaysian
administration, a wide range of matters that had been raised by the
Malaysian Prime Minister with me. I thought it was better in these
cases, where technical problems were involved, that the,, 6fficials
should carry out the discussions.
Then we referred to the question of the numbers of students who
are visiting Australia, and we reaffirmed the strength of the
friendship and goodwill between our two Governments and people.

All in all, therefore, I can only comment this way. I personally
believe it was a successful mission. I know it was carried out with
a maximum . of goodwill. I can repeat and these are the words of the
Prime Minister of Malaysia himself, referring to the Five Power
Arrangements that there are no problems between us, and I can
specifically refer you to the paragraph that relates to the Asian
theatre, and the ideals that the Malaysian Prime Minister has set
himself and the goal he wants to achieve in the K~ uala Lumpur
declaration. Have said all that, I now ask, and narticularly the Malaysian
Press, if there are any questions you would like to ask me.
Q. Mr. Prime Minister, I read this communique and I found there is
nothing said regarding the problem of the Straits of Malacca...
PM. The problem of what?
Q. The problem of the Straits of Malacca, because this is a
matter of concern to the Malaysian Government. So I would like
to find out from you the Australian view or opinion on the matter.
Pm. The problem of -, the Straits of tMalacca was not mentioned
between myself and the Malaysian Prime Minister.
Q. Sir, in what way can your country help the countries of this
region achieve the objectives of neutralisation of South East
Asia? What role can your country hope to play?
Pm. I have to look at this Problem of neutralisation in the Asian
context. And., as you know, we are not, and have not been, invited
to join ASEAN but, as I see the concept, it means that the
participating countries of course and at the moment they are
only the Asiancountries of course would give up their bilateral
arrangements and they would join together, whether it happens to
be five or ten of the South East Asian countries or up to ten
anyhow, and they would seek international guarantees by the super
powers and by China.
But, as yet, tho concept of neutralisation has not been
defined. I said it is the statemce. nt that is hore this sets
Out my Government's point of view and our attitude towards it.
I think you will get a completecrystallisation oIf how it is in
the relevant Paragraph there. Is that what you were seeking?
Q. What I intended to ask is, in what way can your country
contribute towards neutralisation or these objoctives?
PM. I don't know at the moment what can he done because that's
purely a hypothetical question. The goals, or the immediate
intention of the ASEAN countries is to try and get a greater
number of countries to co-ordinate their effort. And when
they have done that and they don't expect this to happen for
some time, probably two, probably three years then when they
have got co-operation amongst the 01outh East Asian countries,
themselves, they will ask at least the two super Dowers and the
People's Republic of China to give effective international

Whether they would ask us to be one of the quarantors, or to
join with a group of other countries as a guarantor, is something
that has not yet been raised. So I can't be any more precise on
that aspect than I have been.
Q. Sir, in this context, did you discuss the future relations
with China and how China would come into this strategy on this
neutralisation plan. In the context of this neutralisation, did
you discuss future relations with China and how to go about it?
PM. We discussed President Nixon's visit to Moscow and to Peking.
We discussed the problem of effective guarantees by the Soviet,
by the U. S. A. and by the People's Republic of China. We didn't
go any further than that. But the Prime Minister did mention
that in time perhaps it would be accepted as a fact of life that
Australia was one of those who could bo regarded as a supporter
of Malaysia, and our common approach to the problems of
neutralisation as set out in the communique.
Q. Could you tell us about policy towards China in the future?
I mean when do you hope to normalise relations with China?
PM. No. China is not one of the problems that I choose to say
very much about. JWo've made it clear that, from our point of
view, we are prepared to normalise our relationship with them and
to move steadily towards recognition. But it is on two conditions.
The first one is that we do not, and will not, desert Taiwan,
and the second one is, of course, that Australia's national
interests must be paramount in our thinking.
Q. Mr. Prime Minister, speaking of defence in this area. In
Canberra in June 1969, your predecessor said the defence of
Malaya, not Malaysia, and Singapore was indivisible. Is that still
the Australian Government's position?
PM. Let me say this. I am not going back over the past, and I've
made it as a rule, as you should know, that I will not discuss
statements that have been made by my predecessor in office.
The Five Power Arrangements so far as I and my Government
are concerned, cover, in terms of consultation, both East, West,
and East Malaysia. The obligation to consult is one that we would
recognise covering Malaysia.
Q. ( Inaudible only a couple of words)
PH. Well, I'm talkingnow only against the Malaysian background.
Of course it covers Singapore too. But you asked your question
specifically relating to East and West Malaysia.
Q. Sir, paragraph nine. The words at the top of page three
" and contributed to the defence and confidence of the area". Do
you regard this as a complete deviation of Prime Ministerial
approval, i. e. Malaysian Prime Ministerial approval, of the
official briefing given us that the Malaysians are not overly
concerned about the withdrawal of the presence of land forces? / 6

PM, I would never come into that sort of a discussion overseas,
and, if I did, the ones who would resent it most bitterly would
be the Australian press and media backc home.
I think it is unforgiveable for any member of the Government
to raise political, or to * iiscuss political matters of this kind
openly when he is the quest of another Government. But, to put
it absolutely clearly and. beyond any doubt, that is the
arrangement I have made on behalf of Australia with the Prime
Minister of Mlalaysia.
It is a communique issued at the top, and carries the full
authority of the two Governments.
Q. Pir. Prime Minister, could I -ask when was it dLacidecd to issue,
a communique here and why there was no similar communique issued
in Singapore?
Pm. I wanted it issued because I thouaht -that so much confusion
has been caused in the Australian press, that it was highly
desirable that our attitudes should be clarified, and they shouild
be definitive and on paper. That was the reason why I felt it
was better that it should be done.
Q. Sir, you said before that the things which and didn't
necessarily appear in the order in which they appear here.
Could you tell us when you had your discussions with the
Malaysian Prime Minister concerning the Five Power Defence
Pm. I won't go into that because, quitc frankly, I've talked
to him each time I've met him on it. So its been running
discussion since I've boen here. I couldn't identify when each
mlatter was raised. We continued t1-he discussion when it was
finalised, hut it's gone on during the whole of the time I have
been here.
A. Did you discuss th.-t in your first talks?
PM. Which one is this?.-Five Power. Yes, but not in the
definitive sense in which it is here. But I did discuss it with
Q. Mr. Prime Minister. Could I just clarify that? Did you
contact the Prime Minister of Malaysia on this matter of the
Five Power Agreement following the-briefing that was given to
the Australian press here on the first day of our visit?
PM. Following which briefing?
Q. Following the briefing the Australian press was given by the
Foreign Ministry. On Monday morning, the Australian press party
here was given a briefing by the Foreign M-. inistry.
PM. By one member of the foreign office.
Q. Yes. The Deputy Sccretary of the foreign office. On
Monday afternoon we received word that you, through Mr. Rowland,
had been in touch with the Prime Minister, and that the Prime
Minister had asked. thiat he would prefer the statement to be
made from the foreign office. Did you contact the Prime Minister
that afternoon on this mat1-ter? _/ 7

PM. No. I didn't contact the Prime Mirnister that afternoon. You
ask me did I contact the Prime Ministor. ' go, I did not.
Also tho statement that is contained rel~ ating the field of
defence was not in the specific tsrms in which it is contained
here, but in general terms as discussed in my first meeting with
Q. Sir, could you outline for us the promise on which the
Australian military commitment to Malaysia and Singapore was
P. M4. The premise.
Q. The principal premise on which the commitment was based?
PM. If somebody could give me a copy of the memorandum issues
I would want to quote exactly I am sorry. What
You want is what is the foundation, what is the rason dletre.
What I have said about the top of page throe that it is
welccmed by the Malaysian Government and contributes to defence
and confidence in that area. And I will also find out for you,
because wev got about four different principles set out
relating to Five Power Arrangements. I can get those for you and
I can let you have them as soon as this conference is over.
0. What I really wanted to know, Sir, was whether the pro-mise
was still that we, Australia, has its forces in thesetwo countries
because these two countries want Australian forces there, or is it
some other reason.
Pm. These are the reasons set out here as agreed to by the Prime
Minister of Malaysia and myself as the reason by
To set out the last four lines, the Prima Minister of Malaysia
assured the Prime Minister of Australia that the continuing
presence of Australian forces, both land and air, in M. alaysia/
Singapore in the context of the arrangements is welcomed by the
Malaysian Government and contributes to defence and confidence
in that area. That is the premise on which it is based.
Q. Prime Minister Meyer, ABC.
By that area do you moan Australia. To what extent does it
contribute to the defence and confidence of Australia.
PM. Well, if you read it, you will see that in Malaysia/
Singapore in the context of the arrangements is welcomed and
contributes to defence and confidence~ in that area. The words
are these clear enough.
Q. Sir, to put the question again and perhaps re-phrase it.
From the Australian view the presence of Australian troops here.
On what premise is that based? The question is what Mr. Reese
was trying to get at.? And does this in any way contribute to the
defence of Australia and the confidence in that area?
PM. What we are aiming at in this is clear enough and so far as
tho Five Power Arrangements are concerned they are making for
Australia's contribution to the defence and security of, using
the words that are there, Malaysia/ Sinaapore, in the context of
the Vjv P' Arraign-mants. ' 8

I take it no further than that, other that it is our objective,
that happens to be the~ objective too of the other four countries
or powers under the Five Power Arrangements, that we want peace
and security. We believe that it will be a contribution to the
peace and security here, and for that reason we strongly support
it and are taking concrete action of a kind such as standing our
forces here, giving military and civil rai~ d as our contribution
to those objectives.
Q. Well, Sir, do you still regard the positioning of Australian
forces here as being part of a forward defence concept of
Australia and, if the Five Power Arrangements are no longer
considered necessary by the member Governments, what will be
your attitude then?
PM. If the governments we are up here and we have an
indefinite commitment to stay here. If there~ were... and I
Would be raising now a very hypothetical question and one that
frankly because of the communique that is being issued and
the precision with which it is being expressed shows the
attitude of the Malaysian Government and what they feel about
the presence of forces in the area. ' That shows the present
position. If they change their minds, that is a matter for
them, and we have made it clear again and again that if they
said that they did not want our forces to remain of course that
would terminate it. I want you toi understand this, I don' t
want to get irnvolved in semantics about this, but his speaks for
itself. It is a document of goodwill and of intention, and if
you read the words carefully, I think that you can tak~ e it that
goodwill in our intentions to assist them not only in their
development, not only in sustaining confidence, but in helping
them to build up their own defences and to be -ible to develop
their own sense of security and to look after themselves.
Q. Sir if I could perhaps put one last question
PM. No...
MR. GAUL Just two last questions. It's already gone on for more than
thirty minutes.
PM. I don't mind thcir going on, but I
Q. Sir, did you fi-nd at any times an indication on the part
of Malaysians Prime Minister that for discussing more serious
issues like China and neutralisation after the elections in
Australia is over so that they will know who will be in the
PM. I think I have already given an answer to that. First of all
I would not relate in detail what discussion took place .' etwee-n
myself and the Malaysian Prime Minister except to the extent that
it was in the communique. But what I can assure you of is this.
I think of him as a friend, and the warmth and goodwill seems
to move from him to my own country and from him to the people
of Australia, and I think the same goes for the Deputy Prime
Minister, too.

Q. Indistinguishabhle.
Pill. Yes. Its now a long time and I can't elaborate on that. I
would refer to that in the sense as to what was said by Mr. Lce
Kuan Yew, the Singaporean Prime Minister. I can't elaborate on it
other than that the objectives of his Go-, vernment are the same
as ours and we want South Vietnam and for that -matter the other
countries Laos and Cambodia, to(-be able to-. live In peace free
from external agcression.
Q. Sir, do you detect that noutralisation, Palaysia's intere: st
in neutralisati " on, has diminished its interest in the Five Power
Pm. No.
Q. Sir, d o you want yoursel1f -a: nd your Governimnt, in the event
of proven substantial external assistance ' f-r Malaysia's
continuing insurgancy p~ roblem with the. . Malayan Communist party
if this were a proved -Fact in tk-he future would you consider it
a reason for consu7lt ti c-. n under the Five Power Agreemenint if agreed
and if necessary Jfor intervention.
P. You are putting too big a hypothce-tical question to mne. 1-T
have our obligations under the Five Power , rrangement, which we
will koeep, findl they are in obligation to consult under cortain
circumstances. I can assur-e you and I h-nvo set this out in the
communiquo th-1l -e'live, up to our oblig~ ation and that is
understood and -iccept-d by the Ma lays ian Go-. vernmont.
Q. Sir, I don't want to quote but 1 don't want to bring in
internal Australian politics..*., but I mean it is a matter of
substance to Mlalaysiai, when the-Deput ' y Loadcr of the Labor
Opposition was through here, the Shadow Minister of Defence, he
ruled out all these conditions categorically. Do you imake the
same exemotion? I
Pm. Again I nave to inform You that I will not enter into
controversy with any other person, any other Australian Member of
Parliament whi lst am overseas. You have got to listo-p to what
t-he Deputy Leader of the Opposition said and judge him on what
he says and what hco has sublsoquentlyI. said, and I h-ope mpost of
you have see, n titel comment that lhe made on the IADS and'the
Australian Air Force component as reported in this morning's
Malaysian newspaPers.
Q. SiJr, this referonce to the Ku& la Lumpur Jaclaration. Would
this be a'far more nc-sitive reaction of Australia than before?
Pm. It may be a little more concrete, but it was cleared with Mr.
Bowen and at least still the paragraphs himvo been drafted by
him the stateme~ nt he made in our own House on the
telephone about three timesthis morning, I could not give you the
precise time.

Transcript 2623