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Thursday, 12 May 1994
Page: 788


Senator HARRADINE (5.17 p.m.) —The Senate has before it a motion moved by Senator Short regarding the visit by the Prime Minister (Mr Keating) to Vietnam, to which there is an amendment moved by Senator Chamarette. I have a further amendment, copies of which are being circulated. The first part of Senator Short's motion is a statement of fact. It reads:

. . . notes that the actions of the Prime Minister (Mr Keating) during his recent visit to Vietnam have offended a wide range of Australians . . .

That was perfectly clear from the reactions that one read and heard after this matter blew up. I am concerned about the delay in giving due recognition to the service to Australia of those 50,000 soldiers who fought in Vietnam. An official gesture of due recognition was not given until the fifth day of the Prime Minister's visit to Vietnam. I do not know whether that was because of poor advice given by the Prime Minister's advisers, departmental or otherwise. It is not for me to make a judgment on that. I simply regret that.

  The fact is that the Prime Minister did make an official gesture of due recognition prior to his leaving Vietnam. Therefore, I do not think it is appropriate for the Senate to condemn the Prime Minister. I do not think it is appropriate for a couple of reasons. One of the reasons is that it might send a negative message to Vietnam. After all, the Prime Minister did make an official gesture of due recognition. How that came about is another question, but he did do it.

  However, I believe we need to note what occurred, and to that extent agree with Senator Short. I foreshadow an amendment to delete paragraphs (a) and (b) of the motion and insert in lieu thereof the following:

  (a)notes that the Prime Minister delayed until the fifth day of his recent visit to Vietnam an official gesture of due recognition of the service to Australia of the 50,000 Australian soldiers who fought in Vietnam;

  (b)expresses its deep regret at this delay which offended a wide range of Australians;

The government cannot deny the fact that a wide number of Australians were offended. It is important to recognise that and to ensure that sort of thing does not occur again. I cannot envisage where it could occur, but such a failure by a leader of this country to give priority to a very important obligation must not occur again. I think the statesmanlike approach is to simply express deep regret at the delay.

  Who is responsible for the delay? Well, I suppose ultimately the Prime Minister is responsible. But it would be interesting to see and hear what sort of advice he was given. The Senate can express regret. The message goes to whoever gave him the advice. Those advisers may have given him the advice to put the matter into a higher priority bracket. Maybe we will never know the answer. In the end, the Prime Minister on behalf of Australia gave an official gesture of due recognition to

the service to Australia of the 50,000 Australian soldiers who fought in Vietnam. I think Senator McGauran also acknowledged this, although he did it in a different way from me.

  The proof of the pudding is in the eating. It has not been discussed here, but I know that a report was made by former senator Peter Baume which in my view would have caused great concern amongst the veteran community if the government had adopted it. The Minister for Veterans' Affairs (Mr Sciacca) and the government have rejected it. We are yet to hear that officially in this chamber, but if some of those recommendations have been rejected, the government deserves support in that regard. Senator Short and Senator McGauran have been strong advocates for the veteran community, and no doubt they recognise what I am saying as accurate.

  Senator Chamarette proposes to move an amendment to deletes subparagraph (c)(i)—


Senator Schacht —Are you still supporting (c)(i)?


Senator HARRADINE —Have you seen Senator Chamarette's motion?


Senator Schacht —Yes, I have. She is deleting it. Are you supporting her deletion or not?


Senator HARRADINE —She is deleting it and substituting the following paragraphs—

  The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Teague)—Senator Harradine, I should point out that the order of the day contains the amendment moved by Senator Chamarette. However, there is also a paper that has been circulated which differs from the amendment that has been included in the Notice Paper. The amendment that has been circulated by Senator Chamarette has no status at the moment. Someone needs to ask leave for that to be substituted.

  Your amendment is a foreshadowed amendment. We need to deal with Senator Chamarette's amendment and, when that is dealt with, we will deal with your foreshadowed amendment. When that is dealt with, Senator Short, if he wishes, can close the debate. The amended motion, if it is amended, will then be put. Senator Short also has the right to speak to the amendments before that.


Senator HARRADINE —I know. What I am referring to is the document that is on my table. I should have referred to it as the further amendment that is proposed by Senator Chamarette, namely, to delete deleting paragraph (c)(i) and substitute the following subparagraph:

  (i)allowed the agreement with the Vietnamese Prime Minister, Mr Kiet, for a human rights delegation from Australia to Vietnam in late 1993, to be delayed until July 1994 and allowed the words `human rights' to be excluded from the title of the delegation;

I very strongly support that because, unless we have the human rights title in the delegation, I believe it detracts from the focus of the agreement and the concern of the Australian people about this. I am rather concerned that we might go along with China in the way that the United States of America did. I am reading a very interesting book by Dr Steven Mosher entitled, China misperceived: American illusions and Chinese reality. It gives a very humorous account of the visit of Nixon to China and the earlier visit of Henry Kissinger, who paved the way for President Nixon's visit to China. There was a buttering up of the American public before the visit and the White House had virtually decreed that there was to be no mention of the word `communist'. The former chairman of the communist party, Mao Tse Tung, the premier of communist China, Chou En-lai, and so on, were to be referred to as merely as Chairman Mao and Premier Chou. That was the first thing.

  The second was to ensure that Chou En-lai was to be regarded as an urbane, witty, very intelligent character when America believed, with a great deal of justification, that Mao Tse Tung's cultural revolution and before that the Great Leap Forward, were nothing more or less than the acts of barbarians. Yet these people were to be regarded as highly witty, intelligent and urbane—and so it went on. The press was conned, and human rights violations continued.

  I am concerned to see that the world never goes through that again. Had the world stood up strongly at that time, instead of playing the China card as Nixon did, there may well have been a bigger difference in China today than we have seen thus far. I am concerned also, as is Senator Short, that there has been an official invitation to Do Muoi, who is not the Prime Minister of Vietnam but the head of the Vietnamese Communist Party. It has been stated that he is the mover and shaker of things in Vietnam. That may be so. I am not suggesting that he should not be spoken to, but it is a different matter when a head of government invites a person who is not a head of government to make an official visit.

  I do not know whether this counts as an official visit to Australia—perhaps it does not. I would be a bit careful about what Do Muoi says. I have in my hand a document authorised by him and dated 14 January 1993; a resolution adopted at the fourth meeting the central committee of the Communist Party of Vietnam, seventh session, which involves directions which are violations of human rights. I am not saying that he necessarily was involved in that decision. It is under his name—but I suppose that is to be expected as he is the secretary-general of the party. What I am saying is that this delegation must be properly briefed before it goes to Vietnam and must be able to examine all the areas where there are believed to be violations of human rights.

  I agree that the title of the delegation to Vietnam should definitely not be a `consultative delegation' but should include the words `human rights delegation'. I hope the Senate will be convinced to accept the amendments that I foreshadow. I will vote for Senator Chamarette's existing and proposed amendments.

  Amendment (by Senator Reid, on behalf of Senator Chamarette)—by leave—proposed:

Paragraph (c) subparagraph (i), omit the subparagraph, substitute the following subparagraph:

  "(i)allowed the agreement with the Vietnamese Prime Minister, Mr Kiet for a human rights delegation from Australia to Vietnam in late 1993, to be delayed until July 1994 and allowed the words `human rights' to be excluded from the title of the delegation; and".

Paragraph (d), omit the paragraph.

  The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Teague)—I will clarify Senator Chamarette's revised amendment. I understand that it is still in two parts. With regard to Senator Short's motion, Senator Chamarette's amendment omits subparagraph (c)(i) and replaces it with the words just moved. Her earlier amendment omits paragraph (d). That is now Senator Chamarette's amendment.

  Amendment agreed to.

  Amendment (by Senator Harradine) agreed to:

Omit paragraphs (a) and (b), substitute the following paragraphs:

  "(a)notes that the Prime Minister delayed until the fifth day of his recent visit to Vietnam an official gesture of due recognition of the service to Australia of the 50,000 Australian soldiers who fought in Vietnam;

  (b)expresses its deep regret at this delay which offended a wide range of Australians;".