PM Transcripts

Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Transcript 2618


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: 10/06/1972

Release Type: Speech

Transcript ID: 2618

Soeech by the Prime Minister, The Rt Hon.
' illCiam Mchon, CH, MP. JUNE 1972
SMr Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen of the Press and Guets
I am honoured to address the Singapore Press Club today. I am
your guest in opulent surroundings and I now believe what I have often
suspected that at least here pressmen live better than politicians
in Australia. Thank you for your welcome. It is good to be here. I do not
need to tell an audience of your experience that the world is moving
pretty fast under the impulso of technological, economic, social and
political changes. These changes are grist to the mills of the oress.
And through your craft, you mirror the times ir which we live.
The changes are new-. s for you. They are basic problems for the
politician. The factors external to one's country are among the most
difficult for a Prime Minister to contend with, so foreign affairs
and defence policies tend to be high on the list of my preoccupations.
And for that reason I have welcomed the talks I have had with
Mr Lee and his Ministers on these matters. They were frank and
free, and I found them tremendously helpful and informative. So, today,
I want to put to you some thoughts about recent international developments.
I want to define Australia's policies in the light of some df
these developments. It is a truism that the -ctions and policies of the larger
powers have, since the last ,. orld war, and particularly in the past
few years, brought about an extremely fluid political situation in
Asia. The European countries, and the military strength with which
they protected their colonial assets, have in large measure withdrawn.
China, consolidated under communist rule, and for long intent upon
internal problems, has rightly taken its place in the United Nations.
Peking has been visited by the Presi. e'nt of the United States. And
this has been followed by a visit by President Nixon to Moscow. / 2

Japan is developing rapidly and has become a major industrial
and economic power. The Indian Sub-Continent remains beset with
unique problems, and a new member of the community of nations,
Bangladesh, has been born. Australia gave early recognition to
this new nation. The Soviet Union has shown increasing interest in
the Sub-Continent, in South-East Asia and the Indian Ocean.
The United States, beginning with the Guam Doctrine, and its
progressive withdrawal of ground forces from Vietnam, has given
clear notice to countries of the region that there is a limit to
the burden that American will carry alone. So we have to ask how
these developments affect Australia, where do we stand, and what
initiatives have we taken and what we will do.
Mr Chairman, it is hardly necessary for me to say that we encourage
and welcome the independence and freedom of countries of Asia and the
Pacific. That is a cardinal principle with us in our foreign relations.
I digress here, if I may, to emphasise two matters of special
importance to us.
One is that Australia has recently joined with several newly-
Sindependent South Pacific countries and New Zealand in the Pacific
Forum. Here, at the highest political level, the many problems of
the South Pacific area will h. regularly discussed and mutual solutions
devised. The other matter is that, in accordance with the wishes of its
people, Papua New Guinea ( which embraces an Australian Territory and
a United Nations Trust Territory will very shortly become internally
self-governed and, perhaps not much later, independent.
We hope that other countries will recognise the needs of this
emerging country and will be nreDared to assist the products of Papua
New Guinea to enter international markets more freely.
To return to my main theme, Australia has welcomed the signs of
some thaw in the relationship between China and the United States and
Sof China's readiness to play a fuller part in international affairs.
While Foreign Minister of Australia, and well before President
Nixon's significant and praiseworthy visit to Peking, I had made a
critical re-examination of Australia's China policy, and had announced
our objective of starting on the road to normalise our relations.
We welcomed the seating of China in the United Nations and supported
its accession to permanent membership of the Security Council. At
the same time, we made it clear we were not prepared to abandon our
friendship with Taiwan. l
We are, through various contacts, seeking to establish a dialogue
with China designed to load eventually to the normalisation of relations.
We are also active in the development of two-way trade. In
all this, of course, Australia's national interest is paramount.
We are watching closely China's actions and policy statements,
especially relation to tts declared support for so-called " Wars of
National Liberation". But if we could be convinced by actions as well
as words that China is willing to live at peace with countries with
different social systems, then the uncertainty and anxiety of Australia
and other countries of the region would undoubtedly be reduced. / 3

The recent visit of President Nixon to Mosco and the results which
so far have been made known also give support to the idea that the
great powers are moving away from confrontation to negotiation and
detente. It is too early, however, to predict with any confidence the
effects of " The Summit" on the various trouble spots in the world
like Vietnam and the Middle East.
Perhaps the most important conclusion is that both sides appeared
to recognise the over-riding importance of not allowing commitments
to third parties to prejudice the vital national interests of both
sides. I
So far as our relations with Russia are concerned, the Australian
Government wants to develop a more normal relationship with thd Soviet
Union. We want to expand mutually beneficial areas of co-operation
such as trade and scientific and cultural exchanges, and the interchange
of visits with Soviet officials. So far the trends have been
somewhat favourable.
Despite these trends, and recognising the legitimate interests of
the Soviet as a world power, we have watched with some concern the
increasing Soviet interest and influence in the Indian Ocean. We do
not think that 1eir oresence constitutes -an immediate and hostile
threat from their naval ships in that ocean. But the increasing
Russian presence is a fact of growing importance to Australia.
Strategically, the Indian Ocean links us to our nearest neighbours
to the North, the coutnries of South-East Asia. We do not want to
see naval or any other form of military competition develop between
the great powers in the area. But we think the Russian activity in
the Indian Ocean is sufficiently significant for us to consult with
the United States and Britain. We believe these two countries share
our concern.
This brings me to Australia's relationship-with the United States
of America. We continue to enjoy what I believe to be a very cordial
and beneficial relationship. The United States has given powerful
leadership in the free world. It has shown courage and determination
in Vietnam, and it has shown clearly that it will not desert its
friends, S
We regard -our own relationship with America as of crucial importance.
This is in no way incompatible with our pursuit of an independent
policy in this region or elsewhere. In fact I believe it is
heloful to the stability of the region that we have this close relationship.
The ANZUS Treaty, as you know, joins us with the United States and
New Zealand in an intimate defence relationship. It is one enduring
expression of the mutual trust and goodwill between us.
Our experience in two world wars, and the events of the 1930' s
and 1960' s brought home to us, as a medium-sized power, the concept
that countries, like people, have a right to security, and that
people and nations are stronger through collective action taken
under and in accordance with the principles of the Charter of the
United Nations. We have, since World War II, demonstrated, through
collective security arrangements under the Charter of the United
Nations, our beliefin this concept. / 4

I believe also that we should be flexible in pursuing defence
assistance and co-operation under the arrangements we have made with
Singapore, Malaysia, Britain and New Zealand. The five Governments
agreed on measures appropriate to their respective needs and interests
in 1971. It was understood then, and is understood, now, that the forces of
the three external countries will remain in Singapore and Malaysia
for so long as the Governments concerned see this as in their interests.
Australia will at all times honor its obligations. My Government
believes that the Five Power Arrnaements will contribute to stability
here, and fill a vacuum. I would stress the continuing relevance and
importance of these Arrangmenets and the significance of the physical
presence of our forces in Singapore and Malaysia.
It goes without saying that Indonesia, Singapore and Malysia and
other countries of South-East Asia to our immediate north are of great
strategic and security interest to Australia. Our concerns are related
less to the immediate security situation than to the fact that the
long-term peace and security of the South-East Asian region is important
to Australia. It is imortant, too, that 7ustralia should maintain an individual
and constructive interest in the politico-economic development of these
countries, and especially to develop relationships with them which
Swill promote economic growth and increased opportunities for mutual
My Government accepts and, within the limits of our resources, has
for a number of years been oursuing policies d. signud to achieve these
objectives. I think I can fairly say that we have, as a result,
developed a particularly close bilateral relationship with each of
the Governments of Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia, a relationship
which encompasses a web of mutual concerns and interests across a
wide range of official and non-governmental activities.
ASu stralia has since 1950 provided many millions in aid to development
countries. This has been not loan aid but grant aid, and aid
without strings. We do not ask for debt payments. Let me say frankly
that we have developed such aid programmes not solely for humanitarian
reasons nor through a fear of communism.
I Our basic motivation has been our belief that Australia's stability
and prosperity are closely tied to the stability and prosperity of our
neighbours, and that this in turn depends to a large extent on economic
development and the satisfaction of the needs and wants of the peoples
concerned. Looking at the general field of international trade and economic
development, we have closely watched the evolution of the ' European
Economic Community. With the development of that Community and the
entry of Britain into that Community, Australia has, in its own
interest been seeking for some years to diversify its export trade
and particularly to build up markets in Asia.
We have been successful. Now about 42 per cent of our exports go to
Asia. As part of this orocess, there has been a steady expansion of
mutual trade with countries of South-East Asia, as well as agreement
on joint projects and Australian investment.

In the reverse direction, there has been some investment in Australia,
and I am sure that these reci~ rocal trends w,-ill intensify during the
coming years. A11s a t%. rFding natioin, Piustralin has traditionally followed
policies designed to encourage liberal multilateral trade, but we have
also recognised the speci al problems of the develoning countries in
seeking tro gain markets for theii products, and hava acted to give
prefor--ntial access in tho 1Au-tralian market to a '& road range of
thoso products.
T'Aere: are othar areas of mutual interost I could discuss such as
civil aviation, telecommunications nnd tourism, education, cultural
and sporting exchanges. In rill of these, Australia is becoming more
closol:> involved in the affairs of South-East Asia.
MyIcnldei hswy I want to stress the imoortance
Austr '. JAa attach-es to the growth of regional co-operation. Coopiaration
on the basis of goodwill and mutual understanding.
We ar. members of several rgiona-l organisrati., r') s, all of which in
their own way are d~ signed to contribute to economic progress and
stability in the region. They include the Colon'bo Plan, theAsa
Develonment Bank and the Economic Commission for hAsia and the Far
East. ( ECA2FE).
1, Caiirman, while I have2 bh'n here, I have se~ en thie impressive
building . which houfao the Regional English Lanquage Centre, and also
Othoe Jurong Vocational Instituta. These arre the result-of the
practical and far-sighted schomo e volved by the South-East A-' Sian
Ministorsof Education, to whlich 17ustralia has lent cffoctive support.
More broadly, we will -ritch with interest and will do what we can
to encourage the activitie s of countries of Sout-East P. sia in seeking
to bu~ ld1 new and more effectiv-: forms of co-operation.
Win Australia, havoe also tzaklen an interest in prooosals being
discus : cd by the ASFAN countries.:-F teo evolve arrangements which might
leaed to the South-East Asian area being declardd a zone of peace and
neutrality. T" ime will show the 1. est way, to-_ se. curPe stability and peace, and
Lustrali~ i stands ready at all time-_ s to discuss . n-ea sures to help achieve
thcsE! obje-ctives.
0In conclusion, Gentlemen, I would repeoat thlat Australia is and
must rnmaln involved in the ouh-as Asia~ ri area. Your security and
stability affect our own security and ztability your prosperity
affects our Prosperity.
I hone and oxncct that we ccontinue to build and develop the mutual
ancd1 friendly relationshins bet-we: n our Governments and between our
neo-, Ies.
The results can Le really rewarding. The conse-quences dramaitic;
the int' erests of the peonle dIevotedly served, and our joint contribution
made to tho neace and s; ecurity of the people of S. utiv-ast Asia

Q. You have spoken of Australia's role in South-East Asia and
of your interest in ASEAN. Do you think it is practical for
Australia to seek members hip o~ f 1\ SEan or at least more closely
associated with it C.
PM'~ So far the~ intentions and obj e-ct'vus. of the ASEAN nations
are to keep it clearly within the bounds of the South-East A7, sian
countries themselves. They 4 ve not sought to invite us to
beacome a membar, and althouglh we have taken a very definite
interest in the activities of the ASEAN countries, and of ASEAN
itself as an institution, we have not positively sought to
berome a member and whon wyc h,-) ve asked various countries for
thne reasons -% hy they blvethey should ? eon thcoir pre3sent
meibershirn, we have boon nrenared to accept th~ kt. I believe
it is Proper that tho~ countries thl-emselves sho-uld make up their
own minds and I do not think it would bE prudent in our own
interests if we tried, as it were, to exert on influence on them
tI-o permit us to become a member.
Q. The ALP immigration policy now is that 7people who migrato
to Lustralia they do sc on a ba! is free of consideration of
race, creed or colour. Do you agree with :. this principle
PM only yesterday, talking to the Prime Minister of Singapore,
I informed ' him that I had not come h-3re to take nart in Pa--rty
politics in his country. That I hbelieve is a policy that ought
to be ado'nted not only -by myself but by members of the
Oppcsition as well. I have no intention of becoming embroiled
in this sort of ;,' olitical struggle in Singapore. I like the
place too much and I woant to comae back again.
Q. If understand correctly, you consider your first line of
defence is South-East Asia. Yo-u referred to what you called
11ou generous offer" of military aid to Indonesia is this
part of it
PM I think31 there are many miore influences Involv,; ed in our
relationshipT-with South-FstA, and aruicularly withi
Singanore, Indones: LiI an tCnh ay~ dae fence ones. Because
there is not only defence and security that are important I
believe the relationshins therc are mutual and that our
security is inextricably bound up, the one with the other, so
we want the South-East 7I. sian countries, and narticularly those
witil which 1we have co--onerated very closely in the ' past, to
remain. -rec_ and inde. p-,-ndent. of course, security is one of
the prirmary considerations. But equally, too, based on an
araof peace, we want the whole of South-East Asia to develop.
We wa-nt Indonesia 1we-waant the other countri es that I have
mentiotibd !;-tha'Filininnes, the Thais, the Malays, we want
them to be able to rnrovide decent standards of living, to be
able to have a just and, I believe, a truly humanitarian society.
We have tradD, and becaiusc with trade will also flow great
wealth, so we want our trade relationshiPs to be improved. 12

6 0 8 L
And it, too, is a better means of being able to understand one
another, and a better means of being able to understand the
psyches and the motivating forces that move the various countries
of South-East Asia, we want the cultural relations between our
two countries to be improved as well. So, looking at this
subject, I can't isolate any one element. I have to look at
it in the most general way and then to be able to decide where
our best interests lie. l1y colleague, the Minister for Foreign
Affairs, said only yesterday " Our destiny is inextricably
bound up with yours, and yours with ours", and I think in those
words you will find a crystallisation of all that I think and
all that I feel. And as my feelings in these matters are just
as important on many occasions as the thinking process, could
I say this to you again that there is one thing that I have
found in the few days I have been out of Australia, in Indonesia
and in Singapore, and that is the respect that is held mutually
and the confidence that there is between the two groups of
countries. I believe I go back _ refreshed and I use that word
deliberately and I use it again I go back refreshed with
the discussions I have had here because they have given me a
great deal of confidence in the future security of this area
and its destiny in terms of development and the future I hope
it will offer to the neoples of the various countries I nave
had the good fortune to sea.
I have been based here for a couple of years, living in
this region, and during those two years, the auestion that
has been raised is the question that Asians always put to
Australians about Australia's immiaration policy. I have been
in some very embarrassing situations trying to explain our
immigration policy. LToaving aside the party politics side
of it, I am sure there are a lot of people here who would like
to hear the Prime Minister of Australia say a word or two
about the present immigration policy with regards to Asians.
This is a subject that requires very sensitive handling, and
I hope I will be able to handle it in precisely that way. I
believe, first of all, in terms of conitutional principles,
that every country has the right to determine its own policy
whether it be us, whether it be India, whether it be France,
Germany or any other country. Secondly, I have got to make
it abundantly clear tha. t what we want in Australia is not
only a big immigration programrme, because we have absorbed, well,
certainly well over a million migrants in the course of the
last few years I don't like to specify the exact number of
years but it has takan place. And, consequently therefore,
migrants from other countries have been welcomed in Australia.
But we welcome them on t: is basis, and we want to be sure that
migrants who come to us European, non-European or of partially
non-European stock are capable of being integrated into our
society and of becoming true Australians within a period of one
generation. That is our policy. We have certain....
Jwe try to determine the oace of ncn-Euroreans..... we have
certain conditions we apply. I can't go any further than the
statements I have made, not only in Australia but I made in
Indonesia a few days ago. They are set out vely fully in a
document that has been prepared by my I'inister for Immigration. / 3

And if you want any further explanation of that policy, I will
get copies of the document as many as you want sent to you
so that there can be a full explanation given to the people
of Singapore. We have our policy. We think it is humanitarian.
We regard it as selective, but it is certainly not racist
because la. st year we did nermit non-Eurooeans and part non-
Europeans to come to Australia to the order of about 9 ,000
people, clearly showing that it is a liberal policy and one
designed to achieve the purpose I have mentioned and that is
to ensure that those who come fit into our community, are
good Australians and play ". their part along with the people
who are there today in ensuring we move along steadily, progressively
towards developments and towards policies that we
regard as not only right and sensible but in the long term
destined to help our own people and are humanitarian in
content. In your discussions here and in Djakarta, what role have you
and the representatives of both Governments been assuming that
Japan will be playing in South-East Asia over the next decade
Australia's attitude and I don't think it is up to me to
be recording the attitudes of other c~ vernments that is for
their Presidents Or Prime Ministers to do so you will forgive
me for not entering into any controversy about this other than
to say that I believe their attitudes on a wide variety of
international affairs are much th; e same as my own and my
Government's. Japan, undoubtedly, is a great power, a great
eo-nnom. c power, and must in time assert increasingly powerful
political influence throughout the Asian theatre, but I do not
believe, at least in the foreseeable future or as far ahead as
we can see that Japnn will become a military power. Second,
we believe that is in the deen interests of Japan, the fundamental
interests of Japan, that it must increasingly take its place
as one of the agencies for develoment in the Asian theatre.
And, consequently, not only must it increase trade in that area,
but lend its material and its financial resources towards
develonment projects there. We feel, too, that due to the Nixon
initiatives not only in Peking, in the People's Republic, but
also in Moscow that the whole of this area becomes as it were
in the cauldron again. But I w-uld liTk to use-the words of
Mr Lee Kuan Yew when he said " It is far too early at this
moment to work out . what the impact of the rapprochement and
detente between these three countries might mean in the Asian
theatre. W'it until the winds have died down. Wait until the
storms and tempests have abated a little bit.." and, particularly
when the dust has abated, we can then have a look around
and find out where it lies in our best interests. Of this I
can assure you that in both cases, we have looked very carefully
to think what the consequences might be, but as yet we look at
various areas where we feel that progress might . be made and
none of us is orepared to make a forecast at the moment of what
the future is likely to hold, certainly in the immediate
future in front of us.
You said in your sneech you believed in collective security
arrangements under the Charter of the United Nations. At the
same time, you say you would like to have the South-East Asian
area declared a zone of peace. Do you mean in the Asian
context, Sir .4 ( C 63
PC,-, x Z_

a-tL Z_
PM Q. PM Q PM Yes. If the people of the ASEAN countries want peace and
neutrality, yes we would give them whatever support we were
capable of giving. But I , ant to emphasise that our attitude
here is therefore directed towards the ASEAN countries seeking
peace and neutrality. From my own point of view, I have to make
this statement that when we are looking at this problem, of
neutrality or zone of neutrality and peace, we would also beconsidering
in which direction our vital interests lay. And
under no circumstances would we be considering the renegotiating
or the termination of such treaties as the ANZUS Treaty on
which our future depends. But of course if it became a
historical fact that we were asked to give direct support to
the ASEAN countries in order to try and ensure that they were
able to obtain a satisfactory and effective guarantee, international
guarantees of security and integrity and right to live
in peace and freedom, of course we would be willing to consider
what kind of support we could provide in helping to achieve
their objectives.
Sir, you described your Government's immigration policy as
being one based on humanitarian and non-racism. Can you tell
me, Sir, why your Goverrnment discriminates against non-Europeans
in its assisted passage programme.
I don't like to use the word " discrimination", and frankly
I think it is not a term that exactly defines our attitude at
all. The second noint that I want to make about the policy of
assisted nassages is thir. It is designed to ensure that we
get people with the right type of technical background for the
development of our own country. And it was designed at a stage
when it would be critically imnortant that we try and encourage
people with special skills to come there. That is the basis f
of it, and it is in no sense discriminatory in terms of race,
creed or colour. The second noint that I would have to say to
you is this, that having put that as the basic policy of it,
I am not the Minister for Immigration. While I can enunciate
to you what general policy is, I am not an authority on details
associate dwith that our assisted passage programme. What
I do know is that while Biritain will be somewhat reducing,
perhaps in time her contribution to assisted passages, we at
least will be keeping up cur contribution at least as far as
. it happens to be at the moment.
What are your views on the current situation in Vietnamr
please I do keen a pretty careful look at the cables that come
through on Vietnam, and my mood changes between unadulterated
pessimism and then slight optimism. I believe that the North
Vietnamese have carried out an attack which at least in terms
of intensity and severity is as great as the Tot Offensive.
And they have had successes in Phuoc Tuy Province and in Kontum
and An Loc, and makes it extremely serious and doubtful whether
the northern provinces can be held and whether these territories
could be retained by the South Vietnamese. But with the massive
help of Americans supported by the strength of the American
Administration under President Nixon, the South Vietnamese look as
though they are turning the tide back. The centre of Kontum has
now been cleared and is free of North Vietnamese troops.

Supplies are continuing to be given to them. The.. third
division which was the source of all their trouble in Kontum
and the approaches to Hue, has now been re-established and at
least we can think this way. The South Vietnamese are now
doing pretty well, much better than we cruld have expected a
month ago. All I can do is t: o join with your own Prima
Minister when he said he hoped the day would come when there
could be a negotiated settlement. I hope that, too. When
America could withdraw and withdraw without dishonour, and
particularly those that remain in South Vietnam will be able
to carry out our most precious ideal to determine their own
future free from interference from outside and able to conduct
their lives internally in the way the people themselves choose.
Q The Straits of Malacca has become of late a fairly hot topic.
The countries in the region, particularly Indonesia and
Malaysia would like some form of control of the Straits to
naval vessels. Some major maritime powers notably Japan and
the Soviet Union, have ixpressed strong opposition to such
restrictions. What, if any, is Australia's position on this
PM I did have some very useful discussions with President
Soeharto about the Indonesian's attitude to the Straits of
Malacca and I think I know their attitude very well, so I
understand the attitude of the Singaporeans, not only with
regard to the limit of the territorial sea and the extension
of jurisdiction from three to twelve miles, but also associated
with the problems of nollution. Our attitude is a clear one.
As yet, we have not made up our minds definitively as to what
our policy should be but we are watching the problem very
carefully and we think it is a matter when the United Nations
Conference reconvenes on the law of the sea, that that is the
annrooriate nlace for this nroblem to be discussed and where
the final resolution sho. uld be made.
Q Your Foreign Minister is saying that you have to see that
in the Indian Ocean if the Russians do have a presence there,
you would like to see the Americans have a counterbalance.
Would you care to comment on that Ovr ~ c. R
PM I would have to start off with this preface to you that the
Indian Ocean, of course, is vital to us as it is vital to the
United Kingdom and is of major importance to the United States
as one of the two superpowers in the world. And what we want
to ensure is that the Indian Ocean can remain an area where
people can ply their trade and carry on their rights to a
peaceful passage through that Ocean in accordance with their
own national interests.
We have, it is true, a feeling that we would like to see
therefore, competition reduced to a minimum, knowing always that
the great powers would never be prepared to give up their rights
to move their navies into those oceans Ywhen they felt that
their political interests were involved or their trading had
to be supported. So what do we think We do not believe at
the moment the presence of the Soviet fleets at any given moment
of time present an immediate threat to the security of my own

PM ( cont'd) But we do know that they are capable of rapid mobilisation
and think they could increase the strength of their merchantgoing
fleets pretty rapidly and can support them by a float
suonort and can let them carry on for a considorable period
of time. So what can I say about this I, of course, would
like to see the area in which neople can move freely without
a great deal of worry or inconvenience from anyone else. I
can't go any further than that at the moment. We are
anxiously watching the position. We cannot see a position
immediatley arising where this idea of the neutrality of the
Indian Ocean is a likelihood, but nonetheless we will keep
this under pretty careful control and will see whether in time
we can't co-ordinate some efforts towards a greater degree of
or a greater reduction of tension and uncertainty than we have
at the moment.

Transcript 2618