Section 10. Situation in Oceania


1. Birth of laborite administrations


In Australia, the Labor Party led by E. Gough Whitlam, the party president, beat the coalition government of the Liberal Party and the Country Party led by former Prime Minister William McMahon in the general election in December 1972, and the Labor Party Cabinet was born. In New Zealand, the National Party led by Prime Minister John K. Marshall lost the general election in November 1972, and the Labor Party Cabinet came into being with Norman E. Kirk as Prime Minister. Thus, the laborite parties came into power to replace the conservative parties which had been in power for many years in Australia and New Zealand in Oceania.

The Labor Party's strong leadership and unity was cited as a factor contributing to its victory in the Australian general election. Basically, it seems that the Labor Party's vision for coping with (i) changes in the industrial and trade structures of Australia, (ii) various social and economic problems that stemmed from such changes, including urban, housing, traffic, population and social welfare problems and (iii) the Australians' changed sense of national identity appealed to the people more than the policies of the Liberal and Country parties.

In New Zealand, it is believed that the policies of the National and Labor parties on social and economic problems mainly determined the result of the election and that the people of New Zealand wanted a change, as the Australians did.


2. Active diplomatic activities


Australia's diplomacy under the conservative coalition administration adopted the attitude of coping with the new international situation with prudence after ascertaining the trends and put emphasis on the strengthening of its relations with its allies and the promotion of friendly relations with its neighbors. Foreign Minister Nigel Bowen's visit to India, Pakistan and Bangladesh (in May 1972) and Prime Minister McMahon's visit to Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia (in June 1972) were manifestations of Australia's efforts to promote closer relations with Asian countries. At the same time, Australia continued to endeavor to preserve its friendly relations with the United States, Britain and New Zealand and maintain the ANZUS, SEATO and the five-nation defense arrangement. On the other hand, there was no major change in its bilateral relations with the People's 'Republic of China and the Soviet Union.

Like Australia's diplomatic policy, New Zealand's attitude on external relations showed prudence. Prime Minister Marshall's visit to Australia in mid-June 1972 was regarded as an indication that New Zealand was attaching greater importance to its relations with Australia than before at a time when the relative importance of its relations with Britain was diminishing.

By contrast, Australia and New Zealand came to show greater interest in Asia and the Pacific area and carried out a series of positive diplomatic measures after the inauguration of the laborite regimes. New Zealand showed comparatively prudent moves, but the new government in Australia adopted a diplomatic policy that became increasingly idealistic. It recognized the People's Republic of China, the German Democratic Republic and the Democratic Republic of Vietnam and established contacts with North Korea. Its attitude became increasingly independent in its relations with Britain and the United States. Australia was looking for a unique and new plan for regional cooperation in Asia and the Pacific area to replace ASPAC.

Both Australia and New Zealand considered it necessary for them to have close consultations in carrying out their diplomacy and, therefore, Australian Prime Minister Whitlam chose New Zealand as the first foreign country to visit (in January 1973) after assuming the premiership and held talks with New Zealand Prime Minister Kirk. Their joint communique issued at the end of the summit talks showed that the two countries would take the basic attitude of seeking their national security and prosperity in Asia and the Pacific area. Prime Minister Whitlam's visit to Indonesia (in March 1973) and the New Zealand Defense Minister's tour of Asian countries can be understood in the context of this basic framework.


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