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Wednesday, 16 March 1977
Page: 261

Mr FRY (Fraser) - It is very difficult to decide just at what point to begin in discussing the foreign policy review of the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock). It covers a very wide range of issues but it covers them to a very large degree in generalities. In my view it glosses over some of the most critical questions concerning our attitudes to foreign policy and, indeed, substitutes rhetoric for substance on most of the issues. It is so general that it is difficult to distil the actual policy content of the statement. To be fair, I think it should be said that at the level of general rhetoric it is a more sober and mature account of Australian foreign policy and of the wider aspects of national security than has been any previous statement made by a Liberal Foreign Minister. I am happy to concede that to the present Minister. It eschews the threatmongering that has characterised most previous ministerial statements as well as statements by some current Ministers, including the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser). The statement implicitly rejects any possibility of returning to the old posture of the pre- 1972 period, despite the personal predilections of the Prime Minister. At least at the level of rhetoric the Government has to some extent come of age. For instance, it was heartening to hear the Minister at the beginning of his address acknowledge the general trend in the international system towards the break-up of the bi-polar structure and the increasing role of economic matters in international affairs. Of course, they were apparent some 5 to 10 years ago and were readily acknowledged and acted upon by the Labor Government.

Where substantive policy content can be distilled from the statement, virtually all of the initiatives appear merely as the consequence of pressures of the Australian Labor Party and decisions by it when in government.

Mr Graham -Fair go!

Mr FRY -I shall spell them out for the honourable member: The initiatives in regard to Japan, the recognition of China, the withdrawal from Vietnam and the recognition of Vietnam, and the normalisation of relations with those neighbours. There is no question about this. These were Labor initiatives which this Government was glad enough to go along with. But we initiated them; not the present Government. The appreciation of the legitimate interests of the Third World and the recognition of the global issues and their implications for Australia are other such initiatives. However, what is different is that this rhetoric is not represented by the actions of the present Government. The Minister's discussion of the Government's intention to change our trade relations with the member countries of the Association of South East Asian Nations, is humbug. In practice, as the Minister said, any change is to be deferred until the Australian economy improves. When that may take place under the present Government is anybody's guess. Meanwhile, actions such as devaluation make the relations worse. There has been plenty of evidence of that in the reaction of Malaysia recently to the recent changes in our currency.

The hollowness of Government policy when it comes to actual situations is revealed in a number of sections of the Minister's statement. The one to which I want to pay particular attention is that dealing with the question of Timor, about which so much has been said in this debate. I believe that the issue of Timor is quickly developing as the conscience of the Australian people in foreign affairs. Australia has turned its back on the wishes and aspirations of the Timorese. In fact, it has tried to forget the considerable sacrifices which the Timorese made for Australian servicemen during World War II. This is not just a matter of what we did or what the Government did; it is a question of Australia's interests in relation to our credibility and our standing in the community of nations on the question of the preservation of human rights and on the question of self-determination. In the area of the community of nations I suggest, from my own experience in addressing the United Nations Security Council, that our credibility was decreased considerably by our failure to take a moral stand on the Timor question. When many other nations looked to Australia for a lead Australia failed to give that lead, and that was noted by countries throughout the world.

It is also a question of whether it is in our long term interests to have Indonesia in Portuguese East Timor rather than to have an independent nation such as the East Timorese want. Australia's present position threatens our own security interests. Most particularly, since any major threat to Australia is likely to come either from Indonesia or at least through Indonesia, it makes strategic sense to oppose Indonesian territorial encroachment in this region. More generally, it is an essential part of Australia's security posture to work for general acceptance of international principles of national sovereignty and non-intervention in the internal affairs of neighbouring states- principles simply violated by the recent Indonesian action.

It is interesting to note that Indonesia is becoming so upset about Mr Dunn's appearance before the Donald Fraser Congressional Committee in America. That merely highlights the growing importance of this issue as a matter of principle. I suggest that it is highly insolent and impertinent of Indonesia to question the propriety of Mr Dunn's actions. These actions are concerned with discovering the truth of what went on in Timor, including the truth as to how 6 Australian citizens met a brutal death there. It is interesting to note that the Indonesians have invited Mr Donald Fraser to inspect the situation in Portuguese East Timor on behalf of the Committee. If he is prepared to do this, the Indonesians might be prepared to accept an inspection by an Australian parliamentary committee. It will be interesting to see whether the Minister for Foreign Affairs puts this proposition to the Indonesians. It would be consistent with the Indonesians inviting an American committee to have a look at the situation in Timor.

I doubt that the Indonesians would accept that proposition, because we could not even get them to agree to let a member of the Australian Red Cross or the International Red Cross go to Timor to supervise what was happening to our aid. On the evidence that Mr Dunn has produced, our aid was used by Indonesians, not by Timorese. I think it is an even greater impertinence to call in the Australian Ambassador in order to ' reprimand ' him for his actions. If Mr Woolcott 's status is such that he is regarded by the Indonesian Government as a servant who can be reprimanded, I think the Government must give consideration to recalling Mr Woolcott and replacing him with someone who will not be seen as being so identified with Indonesia on the Timor question and who is prepared to concentrate on explaining our point of view to the Indonesian Government rather than trying to tell the Australian Government the best way that it can accept the Indonesian point of view on Timor.

It is highly desirable that we maintain good relations with Indonesia, but I suggest that these relations should be based on a mutual respect for basic human rights and the right of selfdetermination for all nations. We get no marks and no prestige at all from Indonesia by appeasing its territorial ambitions. It is only through the activities of a small band of people who have been prepared to speak up for basic human rights and particularly through the actions of Mr Jim Dunn- shame on those who seek to frustrate his actions- coupled with the advent of the Carter Administration that we now have been able to get the United States of America interested in the Timor question and in looking at the allegations of atrocities and of the use of American military aid in Timor.

The other question, to which I want to refer briefly, is the Indian Ocean. Of course, on this the

Government has been caught floundering in a very sad way. It has been government policy to try to commit the United States to a military presence in the area, as it tried previously through the instruments of the Vietnam war and the United States defence intelligence facilities in Australia. Manufacturing a Soviet threat is a basic ploy in trying to generate this commitment. Again this policy is short sighted. For one thing, it only antagonises the Soviet Union. There is no point in ignoring the realities of growing Soviet strategic power and internal repression, but nothing is to be gained by exaggerating the Soviet presence in the Indian Ocean, particularly in the scare-mongering terms sometimes used by Government Ministers.

More importantly, it flies in the face of the direction of American policy developments. President Carter's recent call for super-power disengagement from the Indian Ocean while the Prime Minister and the Minister for Defence (Mr Killen) have been arguing for an expanded American presence is outstanding only for the stark way in which it contrasts differences. These differences have been apparent for some time, as evidenced in the quite lukewarm response which the Minister for Defence received to his proposals last July for a joint United StatesAustralian naval presence in the Indian Ocean. The fact is that, apart from patrolling areas for its Poseidon submarines, the U.S. is not interested in a major presence in this region. The U.S. is having to take stock of its world-wide deployment and has realised that it must give greater attention to Europe and especially to the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. The Indian Ocean and the South West Pacific are quite low in the American order of priorities, I suggest. I should like to refer to a recent publication by Mr Malcolm Booker, a senior officer of the Department of Foreign Affairs with some 35 years service. I shall quote a very significant passage at page 2 1 5 of his book, The Last Domino. It reads:

The decline in American power in the Pacific must be expected to continue. It is becoming increasingly unacceptable politically- both at home and abroad- for United States bases to be maintained in Japan and the Philippines. Even in the Indian Ocean- where the Americans seemed at one time to have contemplated a forward policy- it would be rash to assume that they would wish to maintain major installations on a long-term basis.

This next part is very significant:

It seems unlikely for example that Diego Garcia will ever serve as the base for a major American fleet.

Such bases have ceased to be strategically necessary to the defence of the United States. Although, because of the inertia of the United States defence establishment, the withdrawal may be gradual, the logic of new naval technologies may eventually be manifested in a virtual abandonment of fixed establishments overseas. The safety of the United States rests upon the maintenance of superiority in nuclear striking power and upon that alone.

America's reorientation away from South East Asia, the south-west Pacific and the Indian Ocean towards its more traditional centres of interest will not be immediate and may be subject to temporary reversals. But it will undoubtedly occur and any Australian policy which is based on other assumptions is doomed inevitably to failure.

The Government has seen fit to introduce a new concept- that of balance at the lowest level of balance at low levels- in an attempt to adjust its desires for an American presence to the fact of an American withdrawal. The concepts of 'balance' and of 'low' have not been defined. What do they mean? I suggest that they are completely meaningless concepts. The first, that is, balance has been one of the most intractable terms in the history of international relations. It is doubtful whether this Government has produced a formulation which has any real meaning. Who is going to judge when balance is reached? Would it be that the Russians or the Americans would have the same idea about when a situation of balance is reached, or would somebody like General Suharto be called in to referee as to when the balance has been achieved? This is a ridiculous gimmick. It is an unreal concept. It is a form of words that has been dished up by the Department of Foreign Affairs to get the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) off the hook, to try to rationalise a statement that could not be substantiated about balance in the Indian Ocean. How can the Soviet balance the United States Poseiden submarine presence in the Indian Ocean? Putting some of its own submarines there is no answer. It may require a surface fleet including anti-submarine vessels which the United States must then respond to with carriers. Because of the quite different structures of the 2 navies and their different strategic interests in the region, the only balance which could work in practice is at a zero level. The Government should go all the way in this case with President Carter in his call for the Indian Ocean as a zone of peace and should stop talking about these meaningless concepts of balance at a low level.

The third question to which I wish to refer briefly concerns the fact that east Africa, although it is a major focus of turmoil in the world today, hardly rated any reference in the Minister's statement. Obviously the Government has not realised the full significance of what is happening in south and east Africa.

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