9 Extracts From Statement In The House Of Representatives By Casey

27th September, 1951

Canberra

Although Australia was colonised and developed by people of European stock, and although our cultural past story and our present connections are such that our eyes turn most naturally towards Europe, our geographical situation is such that we must inevitably be brought into close touch with the peoples of Asia.

If we make no effort to understand their problems we can scarcely expect them to make an effort to understand ours. Differences of race, religion, language and culture could easily lead to regrettable misunderstandings which might adversely affect our relations with them.

It is not sufficient for us to be vaguely conscious of the existence of our near neighbours to the North-in fact it is essential that we should get to know them, establish personal contacts, exchange visits and study their problems as well as our own. By endeavouring, within the limits of our capacity, to help them solve their own great problems, we can do much to create mutual understanding, and develop close and friendly relationships with them for the future, which I believe is no less than essential for both them and ourselves.

[matter omitted]

On taking over the portfolio of External Affairs it seemed to me that a further initiative [1] should be taken by Australia to establish friendly links with Asian countries in the political field. I therefore decided to make an immediate personal contact visit to countries in South-East Asia to demonstrate by a public act our desire for friendly contacts. As I had not personally visited countries east or north of Singapore in the past, I felt that such a visit would also enable me, through direct experience on the spot, to understand far better the problems of the area and to be in a position to deal with them more effectively on my return to Australia. For similar reasons, I asked the Secretary of the Department of External Affairs to accompany me on my trip.

I left Australia on 20th July and returned on 22nd August. In the interval, I spent an average of about four days in each of the eight different countries. [2] In the time at my disposal it was not, of course, possible for me to travel to every country that I would have wished to visit. Nevertheless the area I covered was substantial, and in each country I had the opportunity of meeting and engaging in discussions not only with the leaders of the respective governments, but also with our own Australian diplomatic and consular representatives, the representatives of the United Kingdom, the United States and a number of other governments. As a result, I venture to believe that in spite of the shortness of my visits, it was possible to obtain a cross section of opinion which has helped me greatly to form a balanced judgement of the various problems of the area as a whole.

1 The preceding paragraph had dealt with the Colombo Plan for technical and development assistance to South and South-East Asia.

2 Indonesia, Malaya, Vietnam, Thailand, Hong Kong, the Philippines, Japan and Korea.

[AA : A1838/1, 558/4, x]