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Evaluate The Impact Of Key Policies And Legislation Enacted By The Australian Federal Government During The Vietnam Era.

1409 words - 6 pages

The Vietnam Era (1954-1972) was a very tense period for the entire Western world as the threat of Communist expansion in South East Asia had arisen again, the second time since the Korean War. Australia was no exception. It was one of the countries that had an exceedingly high threat of falling to the domino theory due to its proximity to the hot spot called Vietnam. So it was no surprise that the Federal Government imposed various policies and legislation in order to try and keep this threat to a minimum. It was also no surprise that these actions would have various impacts, both expected and unexpected.The most important foreign policy that the Federal Government enacted during the Vietnam Era was Forward Defence. In its strictest sense it means the deployment of forces across the approaches to Australia to prevent a potential enemy reaching Australia (Barry, 1997). Forward Defence was enacted as a response to the increasing Communist threat in South East Asia after WWII. The policy was maintained throughout the Vietnam Era because now with the French defeated at Dien Bien Phu and Communist North Vietnam being established, the prospect of Australia falling to Communism control under the domino theory was becoming more realistic. The Federal Government wanted to keep this threat as far away from Australia as possible.With a fledgling diplomatic service and a numerically small defence force, Australia had only a limited capacity to deal with this challenging strategic situation and collective defence was the most affordable way of providing security (Barry, 1997). But although the ANZUS treaty (with the USA and New Zealand) had already been drawn up in 1951, Menzies did not feel it was specific enough on the matter of providing collective military support to fight communism. When he raised this issue in his parliamentary statement on foreign affairs on 5 August 1954, discussion towards what would become the South-East Asia Treaty Organisation (SEATO) was well under way (Martin, 1999). This organisation and the treaty that established it (the Manila Pact) tied Australia to the USA, UK, New Zealand, France, Thailand, the Philippines and Pakistan in terms of a collective defence if one country faced armed aggression.With the establishment of this new alliance, Australia was brought into the Vietnam War, which started in 1961 when the North Vietnam Army and the Viet Cong began to forcefully take over South Vietnam and reunify Vietnam under a Communist regime. This was the high point of the policy of forward defence (Barry, 1997) as Australia's fears of communist expansion in South-East Asia were being realised. It was also one of the first impacts of a policy enacted by the Federal Government in the Vietnam Era. With South Vietnam calling for help from its capitalist allies, the USA sent soldiers into Vietnam straightaway, following their own foreign policy of the containment of communism. Menzies declared that Australia was at war with little...

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