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«THE RHODESIAN CRISIS IN BRITISH AND INTERNATIONAL POLITICS, 1964-1965 by CARL PETER WATTS A thesis submitted to the University of Birmingham For the ...»

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policymaking.’ 80 Canadian public opinion counted for very little in the formulation of foreign policy, provided that the Canadian Government respected the parameters of acceptable policies. 81 A strong public reaction would only have been seen on the Rhodesian issue in the event that the Canadian Government deployed military forces to assist African nationalists, or endorsed the policies of the Rhodesian Government, neither of which were likely. 82 In contrast to Canada, there was considerable sympathy in Australia for the European settlers in Rhodesia. This was particularly evident in the Australian Government and civil service, and to a lesser extent among the Australian public. In October 1965 Sir Robert

Menzies told the Australian Parliament:

[N]one of us would fail to understand something of the position of the European settlers, if I may so call them chiefly the British settlers, in Southern Rhodesia. They have made an enormous contribution to the Cooper, Canadian Foreign Policy, p. 41.

Farrell, The Making of Canadian Foreign Policy, p. 75. Farrell notes that from 1968 the Nigerian Civil War and the Vietnam War provoked some strong public reactions, which necessitated better communication between the Canadian Government and the Canadian people on foreign policy issues. Ibid., p. 76. The role of interest groups and public opinion in the formulation of Canadian foreign policy received no notable discussion until the 1980s. See Elizabeth Riddell-Dixon, The Domestic Mosaic: Domestic Groups and Canadian Foreign Policy (Toronto: Canadian Institute of International Affairs, 1985) Matthews and Pratt, ‘Canadian Policy Towards Southern Africa’, in Anglin, Shaw and Widstrand (eds.), Canada, Scandinavia and Southern Africa, p. 170.

country. They have rights which everybody would want to protect. So the

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In his memoirs Menzies explained why the matter was not ‘utterly simple’. He observed that although Africans consistently demanded ‘one man, one vote’, the emergence of oneparty government in many newly independent African states negated universal suffrage.

Further, he argued that ‘The right to vote should be approximately related to the capacity to vote … The recent history of the Congo should be sufficient proof that a premature

–  –  –

acknowledged that it was impossible to perpetuate white minority rule indefinitely but suggested that the 1961 Constitution in Southern Rhodesia offered the prospect of majority rule once the African majority attained a sufficient level of economic and educational attainment. 85 Menzies’ interpretation of the situation was therefore very close to that of the Rhodesian Front, which maintained that the African majority was not barred from political advancement. However, although Menzies showed strong sympathy for the Europeans in Rhodesia he consistently advised against a UDI. 86 When they did take this step Menzies reluctantly announced that his Government had decided to apply sanctions, but explicitly ruled out Australian support for use of force. 87 This drew a Parliamentary Debates (Australian House of Representatives), 21 October 1965. Quoted in Glen St. J.

Barclay, ‘Friends in Salisbury: Australia and the Rhodesian Unilateral Declaration of Independence, 1965, Australian Journal of Politics and History, Vol. 29, No. 1 (1983), p. 39.

Menzies, Afternoon Light, pp. 190-91.

Ibid., p. 218.

See next chapter for a discussion of Australian efforts to influence Rhodesia.

National Archives of Australia [hereafter NAA]: A5828/1, Vol. 4, Cabinet Decision 1373, 12 November 1965; Cabinet Decision 1374, 16 November 1965; Cabinet Decision 1375, 16 November 1965; Summary of stinging criticism from Edward Gough Whitlam, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, who declared that it ‘completely undermines the use of sanctions if we say we will never resort to the ultimate sanction.’ Paul Hasluck, Minister for External Affairs (1964-66), condemned UDI as foolish but suggested that the Rhodesian Government had acted out of fear to preserve ‘something the Europeans thought precious to themselves’. Hasluck appealed for restraint and understanding: ‘Let us try to appreciate as part of the situation, the fact that the Europeans in Rhodesia do face a great difficulty … For the time being and in the present situation we can see that the best hope is to support the Government of the United Kingdom.’ 88 One commentator later wrote that Hasluck’s statement was ‘cautious, unemotional and utterly oblivious to the passions aroused by the issue.’ 89 In the debates about UDI many prominent figures in the Australian House of Representatives went much further than Menzies and Hasluck in their expressions of support for Ian Smith’s regime, and questioned the wisdom of applying economic sanctions against Rhodesia. Sir Wilfred Kent Hughes, Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, observed that Rhodesia was ‘not the only country in Africa that needs time to establish the principles of a more sophisticated democracy, as out of 35 or 36 new African nations only 5 allow any freedom of opposition to the ruler and his party … it is a a Statement on Rhodesia by Sir Robert Menzies, House of Representatives, 16 November 1965, The Parliamentarian, Vol. 47 No. 1 (January 1966), pp. 93-95. The Australian decision to apply sanctions is discussed further in the next chapter.

Parliamentary Debates (Australian House of Representatives), 17 November 1965. Quoted in Glen St. J.

Barclay, ‘Friends in Salisbury’, p. 40; and Richard V. Hall, ‘Australia and Rhodesia: Black Interests and White Lies’, in Stevens (ed.), Racism, Vol. 3, p. 178. Hall was Private Secretary to the Leader of the Opposition.

Hall, ‘Australia and Rhodesia’, in Stevens (ed.), Racism, Vol. 3, p. 178.

sad moment for this Parliament when the Government feels it has to take the actions outlined by the Prime Minister.’ Charles E. Barnes, the Minister for Territories (1963stated that ‘those of us who come from rural areas and who have rural associations, particularly, I think, must have a great deal of sympathy for those people in Rhodesia … The great measure of prosperity that Rhodesia enjoys has been brought about by the

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Government’s Deputy Whip in the House, was by far the most vociferous supporter of the Europeans in Rhodesia. In May 1965 he tabled a parliamentary question asking Menzies to confirm that he would oppose efforts to debate the Rhodesian issue at the forthcoming Commonwealth Prime Ministers’ Conference (which hardly seemed necessary given that Menzies had always maintained that it was not a matter for Commonwealth scrutiny). 91 In September 1965, just before Britain and Rhodesia were about to enter another round of negotiations, Killen enquired whether the Australian Government would be willing to send a parliamentary delegation and accredited journalists to Rhodesia, with a view to obtaining ‘a more particular understanding of Rhodesian difficulties’. 92 Later, during the parliamentary debates after UDI, Killen made his position perfectly clear: he claimed that Parliamentary Debates (Australian House of Representatives), 17 November 1965. Quoted in Glen St. J.

Barclay, ‘Friends in Salisbury’, p. 40.

NAA: A1838, 190/10/1, Part 4, DEA to Australian High Commission, London, Cable No. 2339,14 May 1965.

NAA: A1838, 190/10/1, Part 5, Question Without Notice – House of Representatives (16 September 1965), 17 September 1965. Paul Hasluck replied that the Australian Government took the view that the issue of Rhodesian independence was a matter between the Governments of Britain and Rhodesia, but it might be useful to send a parliamentary delegation to Africa, not Rhodesia only. Hasluck suggested that such a delegation would be more likely to gain access to officials and politicians if journalists did not accompany MPs.

the Labor Opposition had its facts wrong; drew attention to African violence in Malawi, Zambia, Tanzania and Rwanda; described the nationalist Patriotic Front as a terrorist organisation that did ‘not stop at murder’; and concluded that the Rhodesian cause was ‘greatly misunderstood’. 93 Killen later wrote that in Rhodesia ‘a mere handful of Europeans are valiantly striving to maintain standards against tremendous odds … The fact that Rhodesia’s efforts provide the only hope for a multi-racial society in the whole of the African continent is studiously ignored.’ 94 Killen was also associated with Eric Butler and the Australian League of Rights, which brought Killen into disrepute. In November 1965 the Opposition alleged that Killen had passed information about Cabinet views to Butler, who had in turn written to the Rhodesian Government advising that ‘the Australian Cabinet was divided 50-50 on the wisdom of the Government’s sanctions against Rhodesia.’ 95 Whether or not the allegation was true, it nevertheless indicated a perception that there were some in the Liberal Government who were unhappy with Australian policy towards Rhodesia. Over the course of the next few years a ‘Rhodesia Lobby’ was discernible in the House and the Senate, distinguished by its ‘White AngloSaxon Protestant solidarity, a hankering for the lost Empire, a deep suspicion of black regimes who rejected the deserving whites and a feeling that communism lurks behind most critical thinking’. 96 Parliamentary Debates (Australian House of Representatives), 17 November 1965. Quoted in Glen St. J.

Barclay, ‘Friends in Salisbury’, p. 40.

Denis James Killen, ‘The Traducers’, Australian International News Review, 23 November 1965.

Quoted in Barclay, ‘Friends in Salisbury’, p. 41.

Parliamentary Debates (Australian House of Representatives), 23 November 1965. Quoted in Barclay, ‘Friends in Salisbury’, p. 41.

Hall, ‘Australia and Rhodesia’, in Stevens (ed.), Racism, Vol. 3, p. 178.

Officials in the Australian Department for External Affairs took a less emotional view of the Rhodesian problem than their political masters did, though this did not preclude them from expressing pro-Rhodesian views. They recognised that the issue was multifaceted and could potentially hurt Australian interests in several ways. First, it was a Commonwealth problem; if Rhodesia became independent in circumstances short of African majority rule it would not be recognised as a member of the Commonwealth and sanctions would be imposed, to which Australia would have to adhere. Second, it was a United Nations problem; because Australia was a member of the Committee of TwentyFour (the UN’s Special Committee on Colonialism) it had become involved in the search for a solution in Rhodesia, and in the event of UN intervention Australia might have to bear some of the costs. Third, it was a problem of decolonisation; Australian officials noted that ‘As an administering power in New Guinea, we wish to appear to African and Asian countries as enlightened and reasonably progressive.’ Fourth, it was an international problem; officials anticipated that failure to find a solution could lead to a general conflict in Southern Africa that would be exploited by the Communist bloc.

Fifth, it was a problem of race relations; officials warned that:

Failure in Southern Rhodesia would hasten the drift towards an irrevocable cleavage between black and white leading to race war in Africa. As a country of European settlement practicing a discriminatory immigration policy, and desiring Asian goodwill, Australia has reason to fear any

–  –  –

NAA: A1838, 190/10/1, Part 2 and Part 3a, Briefs prepared for Commonwealth Prime Ministers’ Conference, [n.d. but April 1964].

Despite these concerns about the damage that a UDI could inflict on Australia’s international reputation, there was some sympathy for the Rhodesian settlers among Australian diplomats, and even apathy in some official quarters about the prospect of a UDI. In October 1965 Sir Laurence McIntyre, a very senior official, argued that whilst it was desirable not to antagonise Afro-Asian opinion: ‘Our general policy should not be to victimise the Rhodesians.’ 98 J. C. G. Kevin, the Australian Ambassador to South Africa, also counselled the Department of External Affairs to take a cautious approach towards the Rhodesian problem. Kevin argued that there was little that could be done to influence the Rhodesian Government, and suggested that the danger to the Commonwealth posed by a UDI had been much exaggerated. 99 Kevin felt that in negotiations with Ian Smith, the British Government adopted a position that was too rigid, and after UDI he argued that there was a divergence between Australian interests and British policy. 100 Kevin observed – with evident distaste for principles of racial equality – that ‘demographic forecasts being what they are and some Asian thinking being what it is, we in Australia may not be left alone in the future’ and lamented that if Rhodesia, the Portuguese territories and South Africa were ‘forced radically to dismantle and rebuild their social NAA: A1838, 190/10/1, Part 5, McIntyre, Acting Secretary, to Hasluck, Minister for External Affairs, 19 October 1965. McIntyre later became Australia’s Chief of Mission at the United Nations.

NAA: A1838, 190/10/1, Part 4, ‘Southern Rhodesia: Mr Martin’s Message’, Memorandum by J. C. G.

Kevin, 25 February 1965.

NAA: A1838, 190/10/1, Part 5, Kevin, Pretoria, to DEA, Canberra, Cable No. 170, 15 October 1965, passim; A1838, 190/10/1, Part 7, Kevin, Pretoria, to DEA, Canberra, Savingram 65/65, 17 December 1965, para 3. Kevin’s point about the divergence of British and Australian interests is examined further in the next chapter. Kevin’s view that the British had mishandled negotiations was strongly challenged by the Australian High Commission in London. See A1838, 935/9/5, Part 9, A. J. Eastman, Senior External Affairs Representative, to DEA, Canberra, Cable No. 9138, 22 October 1965.

and constitutional structure, we shall be the only survivor.’ 101 On the basis of such evidence it may be argued that official advice tended to compound the natural dispositions of Australian ministers on the issue of Rhodesian independence.

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