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Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Volume 36, Number 6. 4th April 1973

Changes in Foreign Policy

Changes in Foreign Policy

Salient: How much importance do you attach to the recent foreign policy moves by Australia and do you think they are going to have any lasting impact?

Since taking office the Whitlam Government has done a few things which are irreversible. Certainty they were things that needed to be done and which only brought Australia into line with a lot of other countries. But still these were steps which simply could not have taken place if the old Government had remained in power; specifically things like the recognition of People's China, recognition of North Vietnam, and the establishment of Diplomatic relations with China and North Vietnam. The Australian delegation in the United Nations has been instructed to vote with Third World countries on all questions pertaining to colonialism and neo-colonialism. The previous Government had always voted with South Africa, Rhodesia and New Zealand, and there is an effort to carve out more or less for the first time in Australian history, an independent foreign policy and orient it pretty much toward Asia. These are irreversible trends which are all to the good.

Photo of people carting plane wreckage

The Australian Government and, I suspect, the New Zealand Labour Government, is up against one thing in making these moves. That is, the permanent establishment of the Departments of External Affairs. They're extremely conservative and ultra-reactionary characters for the main part, and their automatic reflex when any question of change comes up is to check it with Washington. Last lime I went to Canberra, I walked into the main hotel, the Canberra Rex Hotel, and there's this clock in the entrance, which shows two times, Canberra time and Washington time, it was simply symbolic of this automatic reflex to check everything. As far as I know, every proposal that was made to change foreign policy, to take an independent line, especially if it was progressive brought an immediate reaction from Washington funnelled through the External Affairs Department. "We musn't move too quickly, this would offend the United States, this would put us in wrong with the United States", and so on. So even with the best will in the world the new Government in Australia and, I suspect, in New Zealand, has got that sort of braking process.

Australia's never had an independent foreign policy. In the old days before World War II it was a carbon copy of British foreign policy, since world war II it's been a carbon copy of American foreign policy. Now there's a clear trend to have an independent foreign policy even if it upsets the United Stales and Great Britain, and that's all to the good.

Salient: Could you tell us the reaction of people in socialist countries to the "normalisation of relations" with capitalist countries?

This goes back to a principle which was enunciated quite a long time ago — the principle of peaceful co-existence between countries with differing social systems. In China's relations with foreign countries this principle was enunciated very early in its first negotiations with the Soviet Union (it's not a capitalist country, but the principle was stated there). Relations between all states had to be on an equal basis, with mutual respect and non-interference in each other's internal affairs. That was the first time the Soviet Union had established relations with another socialist country on that basis, but Mao Tsetung insisted on those principles when he headed a delegation to the Soviet Union shortly after the setting up of the Chinese People's Republic.

China has used that formula as the basis of its relations with capitalist states right from the beginning. This doctrine, the five points of peaceful coexistence, was developed further in June 1954 when Chou [unclear: En-Lal] visited India, and together with Nehru formulated what became known as the Panchsila principles. At China's insistence it was also the formula accepted by Afro-Asian states at the Bandung Conference in 1955. This is the basis of the foreign policy cetainly of China and a lot of other socialist states: the capitalist world exists, it's a reality you can't ignore, so get the best possible deal you can with them. The "best deal" is the five principles of mutual non-interference in each other's affairs.

I visited Peking immediately after the decision announced by Australia and N.Z. to recognise People's China, and the decision by Australia to recognise North Vietnam (took place while I was in Hanoi) The official and popular attitude was, "well, so much the better, there are more areas of friendship". They came to think, rightly or wrongly, that Australia and New Zealand are not tarred with the same brush as the old imperialist powers or the new neo-colonialist powers like the United States. Now our governments have changed they believe they can look forward not only to formal relations based on the five principles but to friendly relations. They hope that this new independent foreign policy which is beginning to take shape will not only be an independent but also a progressive foreign policy.

Many countries in Asia have had enough of being tied up to military alliances and being put under the "protectorate" of S.E.A.T.O.

I think the neutral countries in Asia are looking for these new type of relation- page 8 ships. They've had enough of being tied up with the old type of colonial relationships which involve military pacts, military alliances, being put under the "protectorate" of things like S.E.A.T.O.

All sorts of countries in Asia which don't have anything like progressive regimes, want to have neutral and independent foreign relations and end the old type of cold war relationships.

Salient: I suppose Malaysia would be a good example of this development?

I was in Australia when the Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister was there and 1 saw him on television a couple of times. I thought it was significant that he was taking this sort of line: "we want to be independent, we want to be neutral and we want to get rid of all the old entanglements that plagued us in the past". I don't know whether to take that as a statement of government policy or as a reflection of what public opinion wants to hear in Malaysia. 1 think it's quite definite that public opinion wants this.

Even in Thailand after the Draft Agreement to End the War and Re-establish Peace in Vietnam was announced, the number two man in Thailand, General Parapas, made a statement that if the agreement was implemented Thailand would withdraw from S.E.A.T.O. and revert to its traditional neutralist stance. I don't think that that was a statement of government policy or government intention either but it was something the people wanted to hear. There's very strong public pressure reaching up into very important sections of the bourgeoisie and the intellectuals in Thailand to revert to its old neutralist stance. Thailand was always very proud it wasn't colonised and they're very unhappy to see themselves all of a sudden being taken from behind.

So there's a very definite tendency among the peoples of South-East Asia to end these old unequal relationships which have brought disaster and catastrophe, as has happened in South Vietnam.

The D.R.V. and P.R.G. leaderships see the Ceasefire Agreement as the concrete expression of very important gains for their revolution.

Photo of two men