Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Current HansardDownload Current Hansard   

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Thursday, 15 September 1983
Page: 868


Mr HAYDEN (Minister for Foreign Affairs)(10.39) —Mr Speaker and colleagues , I applaud the expressions of concern which came from the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Peacock) on behalf of his side of the House. I endorse the sentiments which he has genuinely and movingly presented to the House. I share the commitment he has also outlined to the rights of a sovereign, intact and peaceful Lebanon, respected by the rest of the world, particularly respected by its own region, and with increasing success containing and overcoming the internal fissionable forces which are creating so many difficulties in that country. I also compliment him on resisting the temptation to politicise this matter-once or twice I thought only just, but he did resist the temptation.

Before I move on to make some directly relevant comments, I wish to respond to one set of observations made by the Leader of the Opposition. They concerned my mate from New South Wales, the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Lionel Bowen). I think in fairness we should acknowledge that the Deputy Prime Minister was conveying on the occasion referred to a generosity of spirit and a largeness of commitment to grieved people in terms which they would fully understand. These sorts of statements are always qualified by the implied responsibility of what can be reasonably done. Furthermore, bearing in mind what has been reasonably done in the past, I believe that the display of that generousness of that spirit was amply justified on the record of the Fraser Government last year, when it promptly provided $10m of humanitarian aid to Lebanon, which was badly torn and battered by warfare in circumstances which depressed the whole of the world. I believe that is the sort of generosity of spirit that the Deputy Prime Minister was seeking to describe. I believe that is the context in which it would have been understood by the Lebanese congregation who heard him. I do not believe there will be any genuine quibble on either side of the House in respect of those views.

The dominant concern for us is the condition of Lebanon today-the way the country is being torn apart, the way outside forces are manipulating circumstances there, either as part of their great power game or their regional aspirations. In the course of this, confessional differences are being inflamed in a most lethal manner. These are the things that worry us. We have a large Lebanese population in this country-nearly a quarter of a million, I believe-and we understand the grief and in too many cases the bereavement which is being experienced by those people. All in all, this Parliament shares a genuine commitment in respect of the condition of Lebanon today, a passionate wish that something should be done to resolve these problems, and a determination to contribute constructively wherever we can. In those circumstances, I move the following amendment to the motion moved by the Leader of the Opposition:

That all the words after 'That' be omitted with a view to substituting the following words:

'this House-

(1) notes with grave concern the violence and disorder in Lebanon and deplores the continuing presence of those foreign military forces, including the Palestinian Liberation Organisation, who are provoking and exacerbating the bloodshed and destruction, and

(2) considers that an essential step towards the establishment of peaceful co- existence amongst all Lebanese people lies in the cessation of the flow of arms from other countries and the withdrawal of all troops except those necessary to foster the conditions for the development of public order and who are in Lebanon at the genuine invitation of the government'.

I do not intend to dwell long on differences in presentation and style, and they are the only differences between the views put by the Opposition and those held by the Government. We believe that our amendment is more comprehensive and addresses itself more effectively to the range of factors which are at work in Lebanon, creating the chaos and devastation which we see day by day replicated on our television screens and reported through other outlets of the media. To the extent that the motion proposed by the Opposition addresses itself specifically to certain matters, I feel that it does so too narrowly, referring to the problems of the multinational peacekeeping force created by Syrian-backed militiamen. We endorse the expressed view, but I repeat that we believe that the concatenation of circumstances at work in such a deadly fashion in Lebanon today ranges more widely than that. We are talking about the agony of a Lebanon stricken, bleeding, despairing, divided, and in serious danger of fragmenting. We are talking about a war that is estimated to have cost at least $6,000m and in which tens of thousands of people have been killed and wounded-a depressing spectacle that grinds on day by day and year by year. The Prime Minister (Mr Hawke), on several occasions, has expressed his concern on this matter. On 18 May this year he said:

I think everyone-whatever may be his emphasis of view in regard to the tragic position in the Middle East-would recognise that Syria has legitimate interests in this area. On behalf of the Government I express regret that at this stage the Government of Syria seems set, according at least to its public statements, to undermine the agreement that has been reached between the Lebanon and Israel. The Australian Government hopes that the Government of Syria will think again about this issue and see virtue for itself and for all countries in the area in trying to move towards a position in which there could be a removal of all forces from the Lebanon; that is, Israeli forces, Syrian forces and armed Palestine Liberation Organisation forces.

The Leader of the Opposition, Mr Peacock interjected:

We are in absolute agreement.

That bipartisanship is as firm now as it was then. We are all keen to see the cruel torture tearing Lebanon apart terminated. But the problems, I repeat, are complex ones. They are rooted in history and the nature of the peoples of the Lebanon. They are compounded by the activity of outside forces; they are undermined by superpower machinations; and they are not helped by the frustrations of a United Nations machinery seizing up under a veto overload.

I mentioned the history and nature of the Lebanon. The accommodation of 1943, seeking to get a balance and to sustain some harmony between the various confessional groups of the Lebanon, was based on a 1932 census figure. Unfortunately, even then its durability was questioned, its relevance in some doubt. It sought to establish a very fragile balance on census statistics which were perhaps not as contemporarily relevant as they should have been, given the task which was before the people of Lebanon-to form a government and to maintain a wholeness of statehood. The consequence of all that is that we have, even today, a reflection of this. The President must be a Maronite Christian, the Prime Minister must be a Sunni Moslem, the President of the parliament must be a Shi'ite Moslem. The confessional balance is maintained in other positions wherever possible. The Minister for Foreign Affairs is usually Greek Orthodox, the army commander a Maronite, the governor of North Lebanon a Druze, and so on; and parliament itself reflects this sort of confessional balance. I mention that to indicate the complexity of the internal circumstances of the Lebanon. Of course, extruding from all this has been, in more recent times, the development of local militia forces supported by various factional groups. This is divisive.

I mentioned the matter of outside forces interfering in the affairs of the Lebanon-Syria, with about 40,000 troops implanted in the Lebanon; Israel, with between 20,000 and 25,000; the PLO, with at least 8,000; Libya, with over 1,200; and Iran, with over 10,000. One readily observes the way in which outside powers have made the Lebanon an unhappy trampling ground for their particular machinations; and they are not seeking, in any case as I weigh it up, to serve the best interests of the Lebanese people, of the statehood of the nation of Lebanon. All that they are creating is a grim mosaic of disruption and disorder in a place which was once beautiful and the preferred fashionable international retreat. Now it is a devastation.

Within the country itself there is the problem I mentioned of the confessional forces and the troops which they have deployed about the State of Lebanon. All of this is reflected in the way in which the Lebanon is being fragmented, with the Druze in the Chouf, the Israelis south of the Awali River, the Syrians to the north and the west, and the Phalange in East Beirut, Mount Lebanon, and up to north Tripoli.

I mentioned superpower influences in the Lebanon generating or adding to the tensions which are quite evident there. The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics has been responsible for frustrating genuine efforts on the part of the United States of America designed to put in place processes which could bring about a peaceful settlement. The Syrian interference results in an obstruction of a settlement. There is stubbornness on its part about co-operating in proposals which could stop the bloodshed which has been taking place for too long.

So the conflict grinds on with a lethal appetite. One must have nothing but the most melancholy prospects about where things are likely to end up. Dr June Verrier of the Parliamentary Library has produced a splendid publication headed 'Israel's Lebanon War and Its Aftermath'. It is of the high quality one has learnt to anticipate from Dr Verrier. It includes a reproduction of an article which appeared in the Canberra Times of 23 August last year, headed: 'Timetable for PLO to leave West Beirut'. It stated that on 21 August the advanced elements of the multinational force were to be put in place. The program was replicated step by step and was to have been completed on 21 to 26 September with the departure of the multinational force. There was a general conclusion that stability would have been established within that relatively short span of time. That was an optimistic hope that has been destroyed. Twelve months later the multinational force is still in place. The war still grinds on with all of its lethal aspects and the problems of the Lebanon are intensified and protracted.

The question is: What can we do about this? Of course, the Leader of the Opposition is correct in saying that at this distance and given our size there are limitations. But there are things which have been done in the past and some things which we can do now. This Government supports and encourages-it will do so with practical demonstration if applicable, if sought-the efforts of the Saudi Arabian and United States of America authorities to bring about a cease- fire, to establish negotiations and to have this matter sorted out, hopefully through some sorts of processes at the United Nations. For our part, the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr West) has made it clear that applications for immigration on the part of Lebanese nationals will be processed as expeditiously as possible.

What is needed is the following series of initiatives: An immediate cease-fire and withdrawal of all foreign forces, except those which are there on genuine invitation and whose presence is necessary to allow the establishment of the conditions of stability and order and to create circumstances whereby the Lebanese Government can assert a proper government authority for the benefit of that country. There must be an end to the outside supply of arms which is flowing into the Lebanon. Two major regional powers are supplying arms to the Druze in the Chouf. One of them is also supplying arms to the Phalangists. There will have to be an exercise in restraint. There will have to be a conference between the confessional leaders to try to sort out these internal tensions, this fissionable conflict. There will have to be a humanitarian relief program. In that respect Australia would, as it has before, regardless of the government of the day, stand ready to contribute wherever it practicably and properly could . We would see an effective role for the United Nations in the provision of observers but this, in turn, would require a more realistic and responsible attitude on the part of all members of the Security Council, including the Soviets.

Over and above this, it has to be recognised that the objectives of Syria in the Lebanon as to whether there will be peace or war are a key factor. In that regard, the manipulative role of the USSR in association with Syria becomes central. The challenge, as I see it, is very serious and worrisome. It is the determination of whether there will be permanent partition of the Lebanon into several areas, or reconciliation and a restored Lebanon or an eviscerated Lebanon. That is the sort of challenge we are all contemplating with great concern.


Mr SPEAKER —Order! The Minister's time has expired.

Amendment agreed to.

Original question, as amended, resolved in the affirmative.