Salient: Victoria University Students' Paper. Vol. 25. No. 12. 1962
View from the Left
View from the Left
Unfortunately the last four paragraphs of my last column were omitted. Readers may remember that I had traced the attacks upon N.Z.'s Security Police and the vain attempt by Brigadier Gilbert to stymie his critics by an "exposee" of the menaces of Communism at the R.S.A. conference in June. Obviously a new approach was needed. Now read on:
Twelve days after this attack, from what must have been a highly unexpected quarter Mr Holyoake announced in the House that the security police had caught two members of the Russian Legation spying and the government had ordered their expulsion from New Zealand.
The result is that the critics of security are routed and the existence of the security police justified. As the Lobby Letter of the 16th of July puts it: "the exposure of the activities of the Russians, will provide the Prime Minister with an effective answer to the critics of the security police."
There are many disturbing aspects to the case, but one that I find hard to swallow, is the allegation that the Russians were going around offering, what were little more than casual contacts, one hundred pounds in return for information. Firstly, the price is too low. Secondly, how could the Russians know that these contacts, of such a casual nature would not betray them? Thirdly, we are told by Brigadier Gilbert, that the Russians are master spies. Are these the acts of master spies, or are the Russians fools?
Guilty until Proven Guilty
One of the most disturbing aspects of the case is the failure of the Prime Minister to take the people of the country into his confidence. What is the irrefutable evidence of spying that the Prime Minister possesses? The most effective means of defending our democratic heritage against the activities of those who would subvert it is to have an informed and intelligent population. Democracy cannot be defended by dictatorial methods
These uneasy feelings that some of us have as to the validity of the charge of spying, have increased with the P.M's recent appeal for those with information to come forward. This appeal can quite validly be interpreted as an attempt by the government to obtain the information that it claims it possesses and has acted upon. Has the P.M. acted too hastily on too little information? Has he been lead up the garden path by his security department? These must remain valid questions until the government provides the people with satisfactory proofs of its allegations. This is our right.
The expose of the alleged spies was preceded by a long and growing attack upon the security police; what will follow it? Many fear that the government will mount a full-scale witch-hunt. After all the government faces a general election next year and it is well aware that it is losing the confidence of the people by its "wait and hope" attitude to the multiplicity of problems that face New Zealand. Red scares have provided useful ammunition in the past to governments facing a hostile electorate. It is interesting to note that Brigadier Gilbert's speech has been republished since the exposure of the spies, by the local papers although they have still failed to publish the more asinine of his remarks.
The only event that has provided support for the government is the failure of the Russian Government to lodge a protest about the expulsion. But this is circumstantial evidence and is not sufficient. We need more evidence and we are entitled to it. One thing is certain only. The heat is now off the security police.
By the time this article will appear the King and Queen of Thailand will have left these shores and the local social climbers will be putting their tiaras back into cold storage. It is quite possible however that pictures of the "oh so lovely Queen" and the "boyish saxophone playing King" will still be appearing. Conditioned reflexes! One thing about the visit is certain and that is the success of the PR boys. For at least two weeks before the visit one could not pick up a paper that did not contain stories about the Royal couple. The King was "handsome, democratic, musical, intelligent and concerned for the welfare of his people."
The fact that Thailand is run by an oligarchy which has prohibited the existence of opposition parties and will shortly introduce a constitution already famous for its brevity and lack of provision for democratic institutions, was ignored.
The fact that the ruler of Thailand, Sarit, personally supervises the execution of political opponents was conveniently forgotten.
In all fairness, however, it must be stated that most of the political sins of the Thai rulers are of omission rather than commission, but this fact does not make it any less repugnant to me that we should fete the representatives of that country. Whether or not the King has any real power and whether or not he supports Sarit is irrelevant.
Government by Default
The National Government continues to sit up in parliament and wait for time to resolve the many problems the country faces. Deputy P.M. Marshall has returned from his overseas junket with, as could be expected, nothing gained except the illusion that the government is awake and alert. Although some attempts are being made to obtain alternative markets for our primary produce, we have so far concentrated on markets with a limited absorptive capacity for our products.
Critics of the government's "wait and pray" policy appear to still be voices crying in the wilderness. Harvey Franklin, Senior Lecturer in the Geography Dept., still conducts his lonely battle in favour of using the technical skills that exist in N.Z. to develop specialised industries, without a taker.
Jack Batt, President of the Public Service Association, is regarded as prophet of doom because he sees N.Z.'s immediate economic future as one of a continually declining standard of living with an annual drop in the Gross National Product and a falling Rate of Investment. Mr Batt's prognostications are based upon a fairly realistic appraisal of the present trends and unfortunately correct appraisal of the economic policy of the National Government.
The alternative to the Government's present policy is a vigorous policy aimed at a diversification our primary production; an acceptance of the fact that the farmers will have to accept a lower income; greater government investment in industrial research laboratories; a rapid and sweeping change in our industrial production aimed at producing goods which are capital intensive, skill intensive and easily transportable; and finally an acceptance, in the interim of a lowered standard of living by all New Zealanders.
This policy would necessitate planned control of the economy and planned production, which is completely unpalatable to the National Party. The need for the workers to accept a lowered standard of living would have little appeal to the Labour Party but this the workers will have to accept anyway.
I personally do not expect a particularly vigorous or intelligent approach by National Party Government but abdicated its responsibility without it being passed to anyone else. In reality the present situation in this country amounts to Government by default.