PM Transcripts

Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Gorton, John

Period of Service: 10/01/1968 - 10/03/1971
Release Date:
Release Type:
Transcript ID:
00002072.pdf 4 Page(s)
Released by:
  • Gorton, John Grey

Parliament House, Canberra. K
19 june, 1969
Gentlemen: What am doing now is outside the Conference proper but
it is something which gives me great satisfaction to do. That is, in the
first place, to have the opportunity to welcome here in Canberra, the
capital of Australia, distinguished Prime Ministers, Foreign Ministers
and Defence Ministers and those who have come with them, and to say
that we are fully conscious of the honour which is done us by your travelling
to confer in our country.
1 think we have come together because we have a common
interest a common interest in the economic progress of the region
in which we live and in which we ha-ve been, and I trust will continue to be,
interested. I believe we all think the economic progress of this region
must be reflected not only in bank statistics or statistics as to the
holding of foreign exchange or matters of that kind, but must be reflected
in an improved standard of living of the individual citizens who make up
the countries of the region.
And 1 believe that all of us think and I certainly think that
this kind of progress can best occur ( now that the situation is completely
changed from what it was previously because of the British decision to
withdraw), that this progress can best occur as a result of continuing
stability within the region, and as a result of all countries present,
including Britain, contributing to military forces which can help to defend
the region against external attack.
Stability within the region, that sine qua non, that requirement
for the proper progress of the region, will depend on the absence of
attacks or threatened attacks by any nation within or close to the region
against any other nation within or close to the region. It will depecnd on
the dim-inution and ultimate elimination of racial tensions in nations
within the region. It will depend on the creation of communities in each nation
in which all citizens have, and are seen to have, the same opportunities
for advancement in any chosen field of endeavour which the individual
may wish to enter. And it will depend on growing and more widelyshared
prosperity. 2

The defence of the region against outside attack external
attack will depend, I think, on the full acceptance of the fact that the
defence of Malaya and Singapore is indivisible, and on the acceptance of
the requirements the general planning, the provision of assistance, and
the acceptance of the req uirements which flow from the acceptance of
that basic fact. Our own approach, our Australian approach is, I hope and
believe, well known. We wish to co-operate with countries in our region
and to help when we can in all the ways in which we can*. I believe that
in fact we are doing so, though there is always room for argument as to
whether we are doing so to the extent which others might wish. Still, . we
are doing so, and for the reasons I have given.
One of the ways in which we decided to do so is by the ret ention
of some Australian forces in the area, a visible presence, a continuing
visible presence, a presence which has been described not by me but
I see the validity of the description as something which may appear to
others -at any rate to be the tip of the iceberg. We are retaining ground
forces which will, for the best military, logistic and financial reasons
and for great reasons of commonsense, be based in Singapore, provided
Singapore wishes them to remain in the area; forces which will not,
however, be confined to operations or exercises in Singapore, forces
which are there under the concept that defence against external attack
is, as far as Singapore and Malaya are concerned, in our view indivisible.
And we are retaining, as you know, air forces which will be
based in Malaya, provided the Malaysian Government wishes us to
remain in Malaysia, and provided, in the case of our ground forces tha
the Government of Singapore wishes us to remain ! u the best place to
base our troops, namely, Singapore.
These forces have the objective of assisting and I emphasise
the word assisting in defence against external aggression or subversion
which can be clearly seen to stem from -without the region and can be
clearly seen to be supported by external regimes. And our forces are
there for no other purpose. The maintenance of i ' nternal order in any
country or the involvement in internal quarrels in any country are not,
and will not be, our business.
I don't envisage that this meeting will arrive at the acceptance
of firm m-ilitary plans for operations or that it will attempt to lay down
firm conditions, and spelt-out circumstances under which the various / 3

forces which are available to assist against external aggression will
be used, Indeed, I think it will be better for this not to be done and
not to be attempted to be done,' but rather that general understandings
will be reached and actual decisions on the use of forces left to be made
on each country's judgment of circumstances as they may . arise in the
future. But I do believe and hope that this meeting will advance
further the general concept of Five Powers being interested in providing
assistance for a most significant region against attacks which may
develop against that region from outside. I hope this meeting will
advance planning on such things as radar control of aircraft; advance
planning on such things as the joint exercises which may, and I sincerely
hope will, continue to take place after the end of 1971.
1 also hope this meeting will advance still further the idea
that not from Australia, New Zealand or Great Britain alone, but that
from Singapore and from Malaysia as well, there will be a capacity
for joint opposition to any external threat which may arise and a full
acceptance of the fact that the countries in the region I include
ourselves and New Zealand in my mind will jointly exercise; will
jointly be prepared to resist ( again in each case subject to the judgments
of each individual around this table or rather of each government
represented by the individuals around this table) any external threat
which may arise. I do not think that I should, in making brief opening comments
at this meeting, make any long speech. But given conditions of
brotherhood inside the countries of the region, given conditions of
progress because of stability inside the countries of this region, then
we, all of us, have a duty to try to see to the best of the ability of
each of us, that this progress and this stability is not endangered from
w itho~ ut. If the task, as is possible who can tell what the future
holds if the task, as is possible, might at some future time become
great, greater than the resources all of us are able to put together to
counter, then we would hope and expect that there would be others that
would come to our assistance. But whether that be so or whether it be
not, if this conference does advance further concrete practical plans for
how to operate, how to command, how to control joint forces, then I
think it will have made a step forward. Not the only step because the
protection of existing regimes or the protection of governments of individual
countries, including mine, is not dependent in the last resource on 4

force but rather on the judgment of all the individuals that make up
those countries that they are well off comparatively and are therefore
prepared to fight to retain that comparative position if it is threatened
but one significant step.
This, I think, is what this meeting is about, and I wish it
God-speed in its deliberations. I believe that because of the calibre
of those sitting around this table, either leading the countries which
they represent or playing the most significant part in the defence
plans of the countries which they represent, that there is every hope
that this conference will achieve what it sets out to achieve That in
great degree is up to you.
And the measure of the success which you achieve in the next
two days will be shown by events which occur in the next ten or fifteen
years in the countries to our North and be shown by the effect on the
world because there will be a significant effect on the world, including
Europe of what happens in the next ten or fifteen years in this region.
I wish you gentlemen the best of luck and I believe that not
only my own prayers and the prayers of Australians, but that indeed the
prayers of all whether they be Moslems, whether they be Buddhists,
whether they be Christians, whatever they be, are with you in your
deliberations, and I trust will sustain you ii them.