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Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Transcript 3148


Photo of Whitlam, Gough

Whitlam, Gough

Period of Service: 05/12/1972 to 11/11/1975

More information about Whitlam, Gough on The National Archive website.

Release Date: 11/02/1974

Release Type: Speech

Transcript ID: 3148

M/ 19 11 February 1974i
The following is the text of an address by the
Prime IEinister, 11r Vhitlam, to the Singapore Press Club on
8 February 1974:
Iof Au's trali" aA wyaesa r toagooe xpmyl aipnr inthcei paclh antgaessk awse wa, , enreew ., m Parkiimneg i1r1inister
Australia's foreign policy in terms of our political inheritence
after twenty-three years of Opposition.
A year later my task is to put the established, firm
and irreversible policy of the Australian Government in terms of
the realities of the international situation we, with all the
countries of the region, now have to live with.
A year ago, it was very necessary, it iw. as quite
inevitable, that a new Government would stress those aspects of
its policies which emphasised its independence from its
p predecessors. Now I emphasise those great matters which
illustrate the inter-dependence of my nation with other nations,
with old friends as much as with new associates.
It's most appropriate that I do so here, to the press,
in Singapore, at this time.
To the press, because, naturally enough, properly
enough, your writings have tended to emphasise sometimes, dare
I say, dramatise the changes more than the continuity of
policies. In Singapore, because I acknowledge that no nation
has been more directly affected by some of our decisions and no
nation is better entitled to a full explanation of the purposes
of the Australian Government. And now, because there has not
been a time since the war itself that the inter-dependence of
all nations, not just the nations of our region, but of all, the
very greatest with the smallest, has been made so vividly manifest-

in all its complexity, all its fragility, all its vulnerability
and in all its urgent reality.
It's no longer necessary, and it was never really
correct, to measure the policies of my Government just by contrast
with those of its predecessor.
Contrast enough I trust there is, but it is a mistake
to see our policies only as a break with the past.
For four reasons. To do so ignores much that continues
and much that would be happening whatever government was in power
in Australia. Secondly, it ignores the steadiness of the
Australian people, and any elected Australian Government ignores
at its peril the determination of the Australian people to protect
their reputation for reliability and dependability. Thirdly, it
ignores the consistency of policy formulation within the Australian
Labor Party. These policies have long been a matter of public record
and public debate. It is just impossible for anybody to have been surprised
by our major decisions unless we were to accept that it is
surprising these days for elected governments to carry out their
undertakings. And fourthly and most importantly, it ignores the
fundamental fact that our policies are directed towards the future,
not against the past.
We are not merely repairing the past; we are preparing
for the future. Sure enough in matters like China, like Viet-Nam, like
Southern Africa, there is in our thinking and attitudes an element
of apology, of reparation. But the great thing is preparation
preparation for a future of unparallelled opportunities with
appalling consequences confronting us all if we fail to grasp
them. And the old attitudes, the old stances, the old frozen
postures were just not adequate for such a preparation.
So it is in the context of the future that I wish
our policies to be seen, because it is in that context that they
are being developed.

And if you try to see them in that context, you w,, ill
I believe be able to see their consistency and their true meaning.
They are all part of a pattern; it is a pattern for
the future. Basically, what we are trying to do for Australia, and
to the extent that we have any influence over opinion or events
beyond our shores, what we are trying to do in the region, is to
build a range and breadth of relations in order to prevent any
single preoccupation distorting or paralysing our actions and
attitudes. For most of the period that my party was in opposition,
the overwhelming preoccupation of Australian policy was China
arid that meant, of course, the containment of China by military
action on the Asian mainland.
The American alliance, SEATO, the war in Viet-Nam, were
forced into this single focus; all these matters were debated in
terms of that over-riding preoccupation.
It is precisely because my Government rejects the
premise of that preoccupation, precisely because we believe that
the preoccupation to the point of obsession harmed Australia that
we are determined to widen all Australia's relations to prevent
other newer preoccupations doing similar harm.
Yet in acting to redress the past we do not over react
against the past.
Take China itself. You should not get the idea that
because we moved so very promptly to normalise relations with
China after 23 years of mutual hostility that China is the
be-all and end-all of Australia's foreign policy.
It was the classic case of when it is not necessary to
delay it is necessary not to delay.
Again consider our policy towards the United States
because we choose no longer to beat the drum about the alliance,
that is not to say that ANZUS is not still our most important and
I believe enduring treaty.
And the same kind of consideration lay behind our
decisions affecting the Five Power arrangements.

You should understand that our decision to withdraw
the battalion and battery from Singapore following incidentally
on its withdrawal by our predecessors four years ago from Terendak
is part of a reconstruction and re-orientation of our whole defeunce
policy. In no way do we repudiate or down-grade the Yive Power
arrangements. Those arrangements do not of course require Australia
to maintain a battalion in Singapore.
Ve are convinced that the kind of army Australia necdi
for her own defence and for her raost effective contribution to
defence of her friends should no longer be structured upon the
concept of fixed garrisons overseas.
For a country like Australia the concept is unreal alk
anachronistic. And for Australia it is a concept which cuts across
her basic defence needs in modern times.
Her needs are for highly professional, high mobile,
finely-equipped forces capable of, and experienced in, proipt
cooperation with friendly forces.
This is the concept relevant to our needs.
The old concept worked as an inhibition economicail2
politically and logisticaly against creating the most effective
defence contribution Australia can make.
And I confidently predict that the next two years . ii
see Australian defence cooperation not only with Singapore,
Malaysia, New Zealand and the British presence in the region, btL.-I.
with Indonesia and Papua New Guinea brought to a more effective
and efficient state than could ever have been achieved simply by
keeping Australian ground forces with all their impedimenta
overseas. The desire for cooperation, the need for cooperation
has not changed; all that has changed is the view of the
Australian Government about the best way of achieving that
cooperation and making it more valuable for all of us.
Some components of Australian forces are going home,
but Australia is not going away.

Ana this, of course, is the very crux of the matter.
I hear in some quarters concern that Australia, or
the present Australian Government. may go isolationist.
Isolationism i~ s not an option for Australia or for
any Australian Government.
Indeed, it was precisely my belief that we were
isolating ourselves from half the world, from a quarter of the
world's people in China, from the whole of Eiack Africa, from the
other half of Europe east of the Elbe, from Latin America and
even from India in any meaningfol way, and my belief that our
relations with Japan and Indonesia lacked their proper warmth
that has informed, inspired and maoulded the policies, actions and
decisions of my Government and which dictated my own overseas
visits and those of my Foreign Miister.
This Government -by action, by association, by
inclination, by philosophy and above all by the necessities of
the times in which we live and the region in which we live is
the most genuinely internationalist government Australia has ever
had. And even if our wishes were different, Australia's own
needs wouid force irnternationalismn upon is
How could this great trading country t; hose lifelines
lie througn here be indifferenit to what happens here?
How could this great resource producer whose prospority
depends upon: the prosper~ ty of the great resource users be
indifferent to their success and well-be. Ing?
Eut we do make the dictinctaon between internationalism
and interventionism. Ve beiieve that the end of the old interventionism is
the beginning of a new internationalism in which Australia will
play a constructivze, cooperative, and generous part.
\ ie know only too well that peace arnd security do not
come because we want them or merely because we proclaim their
desirability. Peace and security have to be built brick by brick
and bonded by the efforts, energy and imagination of the leaders
of this regio.

Vhenr. people use the phrase Asian problems should be
settled by Asian countrLes they sometimes tend to forget that
the Asian continent does not end where the borders with Communist
Asian couantr: es start.
The present government, in formulating its policy,
does take account of the views of countries like China and, to
a lesser extent, North Viet-Nam and North Korea although,
naturally, it does not take as much account of their views as
those of traditionally fr-: endly countries and geographically
closer countries. Ir. its bilateral relations with some Asian countries
Australia is going through a period of adjustment, but we are
confident that in the longer run, once this adjustment has been
made, our relationships would be more soundly based than in the
past. The confluence of our history and geography, our
origins as Europeans, our location onr the edge of South-East Asiagive
us a unique opportunity to demonstrate to the international
community that countries with very dafferent cultural, religious
and ethnic backgrounds can evolve intimate and lasting friendships.
To this end we shall spare no effort to ensure that in
the years ahead, Australia is accepted as a cooperative and
helpful member of the Asian and Pacif. c region and a neighbour
of the nations of South-East Asia.
The signs of tnis new approacr, are round us in this
region. In ASEAN, Sirngapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand
and the Philippines have and have sustained an organisation which
is workable and relevant, and which reflects the common needs of
the countries of South-East Asia.
Australia applauds the achievements of ASEAN, and
the hope which it offers for the economic and social progress of
the people of the region.
But we have no desire to intrude; I have said many
times before that Australia does not seek membership of ASEAN.
What we do hope is that we can cooperate with ASEAN
imaginatively and constructively as a neighbour and a friend.

We think we have certain skills to offer if these
skills are needed; we know that we have much, in turn, to learn
from you and your ASEAN partners.
The sort of fruitful cooperation which I have in mind
is illustrated by the recent discussions which Australian
officials held with representatives of ASEAN in Bangkok on
possible Australian assistance to regional ASEAN projects.
The discussions which Prime Minister Lee and I have
held about concluding a cultural agreement between our two
countries an agreement which we both favour in principle and
which we will work quickly towards formulating is a further
indication of our desire to broaden the form and the depth of
our relations with South-East Asian countries.
W~ e know that you in Singapore, your Government and
your business leaders, are looking to extend the fruits of your
own hard-won economic progress to the region as a whole.
We hope that we, in some way, if only in a small way,
can assist as a catalyst in this process.
There are certain fields of endeavour, in agriculture
and technical and scientific training to name but tio, where we
believe we can make a valuable contribution to regional
development. Ny government is not alone in recogniaing the need
for the promise of a new spirit of international cooperation,
and this region is not the only one where nations are attempting
to establish new forms of cooperative relationships, or where
Australia is anxious to assist with that process.
Put to Australia, South-East Asia is, of course, our
immediate north. Your hopes, your problems, your future are necess4arily
and for ever, part of our own future.
Much is written about Australia' s " new nationalism";
I would rather put it in terms of Australia's new internationalism.
Of course, there is a national spirit awake and abroad
in Australia.

But Australia wants no more for herself than Singapore
wants for herself, and what all the nations in this region are
seeking a national identity within the international community,
reasonable control over our own destiny and our own resources in
a world where all nations are increasingly inter-dependent.
This is now the task exercising statesmanship throughout
the world to reconcile these three desires and needs of the
peoples of the world their desire for independence, their
dependence upon others and our inter-dependence, all of us with
one another. We are living in times when these three great principlesindependence,
dependence, inter-dependence show themselves to be
interlocked as never before.
Upon their resolution and reconciliation depends the future
even the survival of civilisation itself.
You will not, I believe, find Australia with a very strong
sense of her own nationhood and identity, Australia with a very
real sense of the dependence of her prosperity upon the prosperity
of her neighbours, Australia with a very deep sense of her
inter-dependence with and her responsibilities towards the
international community, failing in her responsibilities or
faltering in our determination to make the most of the opportunity
for a better, safer neighbourhood at this very critical time in0
modern history."

Transcript 3148