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Tuesday, 11 October 1983
Page: 1543


Mr MacKELLAR(3.47) —All honourable members will have seen Press reports of last week concerning the developing problems between the Association of South East Asian Nations and Australia over the policy to be adopted in dealing with Vietnam and its continued occupation of Kampuchea. They will also have seen reports of the Minister of Foreign Affairs (Mr Hayden) and the Prime Minister (Mr Hawke) denying any serious difficulties, and they will have read now the statements of explicit concern about Australia's policy by the Singapore Foreign Minister and the Thai Foreign Minister. We have now reached a stage when ASEAN has been forced to exhibit its public disavowal of Australia's policy. ASEAN has now sought a postponement of the next meeting of the Australian-ASEAN Forum. This is a most unwelcome and a most significant development. The misunderstandings that are prevalent are having an unfavourable effect. Media supporters of the Government are now taking sides against ASEAN without any understanding of the issues. One even accused ASEAN of conducting a disinformation campaign. This is both gratuitous and mischievous. It amounts, in the final analysis, to a developing crisis for which the Government must take the responsibility by appearing to give greater credence to Vietnam's interests than to those of ASEAN.

The Minister may try to excuse his contribution to such undesirable outcomes- undesirable for ASEAN and undesirable for Australia. He may like to say that ASEAN is to blame for the public exposure of the differences, but he will have difficulty in discounting the contribution made by the clumsy contradictions of his own remarks and diplomacy. Much of the trouble stems from the efforts made by the Labor Government to attempt to implement a resolution of the 1982 Conference of the Labor Party, which called for aid to be resumed to Vietnam and , inter alia, for Australia to encourage a dialogue between ASEAN and Indo-China . Honourable members will know that ASEAN put in a vigorous protest at the proposition that nations such as Australia should resume aid to Vietnam, while leaving Vietnam in occupation of Kampuchea. The Government at this stage has backed off implementing that aspect of the resolution, but the uncertainty remains as to how long it will continue to do so.

But the central part of the concern is somewhat more deep-seated, and it relates to the suggestion flowing from the Government that ASEAN pursues a rigid approach to Vietnam. The Foreign Minister has based a whole diplomacy on the presumption that Vietnam's continued occupation of Kampuchea is more the result of international hostility against Vietnam than it is the result of preferred and long standing Vietnamese policies. He argues that the policy of diplomatic pressure on Vietnam has left Vietnam only the more exposed to Soviet influence. The Opposition agrees that the Soviet Union's presence in South East Asia is menacing. It does not agree with the assumption that Vietnam can be induced to take the same view. The Opposition argues that any action by Vietnam which reconciles Vietnam to a process of settlement will minimise the problems of ASEAN but the Opposition does not agree with the mistaken proposition liberally sown abroad and in Australia that ASEAN is pursuing a course which is heedless of the need to create prospects of a dialogue.

It is clear that the ALP resolution makes that assumption. It is also clear that the Minister acts on that assumption. It is the dramatisation of that assumption, its uncritical reception in the Australian media, backgrounded by the Minister, and the clumsy diplomacy it entails which has caused ASEAN deep concern, the more so as it has the potential to hurt ASEAN's international reputation. For those tempted by this mischievous nonsense, I refer to a very fine and conciliatory statement. On 21 September last the ASEAN Foreign Ministers issued a joint statement which was called 'An appeal for Kampuchean Independence'. The statement begins:

The central issue in the Kampuchean problem is the survival of the Kampuchean nation and the restoration of its independence and sovereignty. The total withdrawal of foreign forces, the exercise of self-determination and national reconciliation, are essential elements for the survival of an independent and sovereign Kampuchea. The continuing foreign occupation of Kampuchea and violation of Kampuchean sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity, threaten regional and international peace and security.

The statement calls for an intensification of effort by the international community to work for a settlement which will respect the neutral and non- aligned status of Kampuchea, which, 'is essential to the legitimate security concerns of all countries in South East Asia'. The ASEAN Foreign Ministers expressed their concern for the plight of the people, resulting from the ravages of war, and called for the cultural and economic rehabilitation of the country as an essential part of the settlement. The concept of settlement does not involve preferences for any particular political groups. That is important for those who think a settlement inevitably means the restoration of Pol Pot. The act of self-determination will involve internationally supervised elections. I now come to the specifics of the ASEAN position, which are:

In consonance with the on-going international efforts, the Foreign Ministers reiterate their willingness to consult with all parties concerned regarding possible initial steps that could be taken in pursuit of a comprehensive political settlement of the Kampuchean problem. These steps could include the following:

(A) With regard to the declared intention of Vietnam to conduct partial troop withdrawals, such partial withdrawals should take place on a territorial basis, and could begin with withdrawal from the western-most territory of Kampuchea along the Thai-Kampuchean border. These withdrawals should begin as soon as possible in phases within a definite period to be worked out as part of a comprehensive political settlement.

(B) In this context, a ceasefire should be observed in these areas, which should then be constituted as safe areas, for uprooted Kampuchean civilians under UNHCR auspices. In addition, peace keeping forces-observer groups should be introduced to ensure that the withdrawals have taken place and the ceasefire and safe areas are respected. International economic assistance programmes should be encouraged in these safe areas.

This ASEAN position is not new and it has a long history. Indeed, I think if the Foreign Minister had been briefed more intensively and had been more circumspect , he would not have let the Australian media run away with the idea that ASEAN had opted for a policy of unfriendliness to Vietnam rather than conciliation. I think it is useful for this House to recall the history of ASEAN's efforts and to get this matter into perspective.

Mr Deputy Speaker, last week Australia refused to co-sponsor a most vital United Nations resolution on Kampuchea. The resolution calls for a settlement on the terms of past resolutions on bases outlined in the ASEAN Foreign Ministers' appeal for Kampuchean independence. Behind the resolution is a history of creative and conciliatory diplomacy by ASEAN. After Vietnam invaded Kampuchea in 1979, seven non-aligned nations of the United Nations Security Council sponsored a resolution calling for the withdrawal of foreign troops. The resolution was vetoed by the Soviet Union. Failure of these efforts in the Security Council led to a decision of the General Assembly to refuse to seat the government Vietnam had installed in Phnom Penh. Subsequently countries such as Japan, Denmark, Australia and Britain withdrew economic aid. It is now well known that ASEAN countries emphasise different aspects of the issue, but their resolve in the United Nations reflects a deeply felt consensus, and this resolve has been remarked upon by many observers.

ASEAN's international stature has grown remarkably as a result. It remains an important objective of Vietnam to diminish the international stature of ASEAN. It is important when we consider this issue to take that very much into account. What do we gain by diminishing ASEAN's international position? Moreover it is entirely unjustified by any impartial policy analysis.

In 1979, as a response to the Vietnamese invasion of Kampuchea, an ASEAN resolution sponsored by 25 countries, including Australia, called for the withdrawal of foreign forces. It won the support of 91 countries. The resolution authorised the Secretary-General to explore the possibility of an international conference to resolve the problem. Honourable members well know that Vietnamese policy in Vietnam and the military action in Kampuchea created a massive exodus of refugees, causing great problems in the region. Massive humanitarian relief measures were put in place. Vietnam and Vietnam alone shaped the events which led to that situation.

In 1980 ASEAN made a special appeal to Vietnam for a settlement. Vietnam rejected the idea of an international conference as a means of reaching an international political settlement and even refused to attend the conference in Geneva called by the Secretary-General of the United Nations to work out proposals for humanitarian relief to Kampuchea. Let that point be noted by all who argue that aid should be given to Vietnam. Although Vietnam had given Thailand repeated assurances that it would not violate the border with Thailand, Vietnam in June 1980 carried out cross-border attacks. ASEAN proposed through the Secretary-General that a demilitarised zone under United Nations supervision be set up along the Kampuchean border. The Vietnamese Foreign Minister told the international Press that Vietnam could live under the situation for '30 years if necessary'. A new resolution on the issue received increased international support, and today 105 nations support that resolution.

It is clear that ASEAN has been very active in leaving the door ajar for Vietnam to be conciliatory. The full machinery of the United Nations has been available, and the refusal of Vietnam to use that machinery is Vietnam's decision alone. Does the Government disagree with the basic propositions that the United Nations has accepted as a basis for a settlement? Of course it does not, but it has gone into the issue with pre-conceived ideas which reflect unfavourably on the constructive and prodigious efforts of ASEAN to create the preconditions for a settlement.

In August, in this House, when I drew the attention of honourable members to the murmurs of concern in ASEAN, the Minister was very reassuring, and he continues to be. Some of his remarks in that debate could have had unfortunate effects. It makes no sense he said then, to continue to isolate and punish Vietnam. We are left to speculate about the target of those remarks. He quoted the Foreign Minister of Thailand, Mr Siddhi, as supporting the visit to Hanoi. The Premier of China thought so highly of the Foreign Minister's work that he invoked, according to the Minister, a divine blessing. 'I hope the Lord will bless you', said the Premier.

With all this good will attending the mission, one is entitled to ask in the light of recent events: What has gone wrong? There are those who say that the origin of the dissatisfaction goes back to the outcome of the Hanoi discussions. It appears that the Vietnamese Foreign Minister was minded not to press for economic aid, but he let it be known that the support and sympathy of the Australian people for Vietnam was even more important. This Australia-Vietnam consensus which emerged from the meeting in Hanoi could help explain certain ASEAN misgivings. Does it also reveal the real reason why the Foreign Minister decided not to co-sponsor the United Nations resolution? Certainly Mr Siddhi whose support was so quotable last August, is not so useful now. He is reported now in the Australian Press as saying that the Foreign Minister, in changing Australia's stand, has deeply hurt ASEAN. He said:

We have to consider what has happened and adjust to Australia-if you don't want us as a true friend, we will have to consider that.

He also complained that the Foreign Minister, who had talks with the Vietnamese Foreign Minister 'seemed to ignore ASEAN'. 'I am very disappointed in Mr Hayden' , he said. The statement by the Thai Foreign Minister, which the Prime Minister dismissed in his statements over the weekend has now been followed by the postponement of the ASEAN forum meeting. The voice of Singapore's Foreign Minister, who made a very strong statement, has added to the concern. This morning the Foreign Minister in effect said: ''So what? They gave the Fraser Government a bad time''. They will give us a bad time. I point out to the House that the Fraser Government conducted a firm debate on all issues, but no differences were allowed to disturb the fundamental support ASEAN received on basic security issues. We must not forget that the Vietnamese occupation of Kampuchea basically affects the security of South East Asia. The fact is that the public loss of confidence in ASEAN about Australia's security posture is without precedent. The Prime Minister will serve the Government's and Australia' s interest well if he takes cognisance of that fact.

Thus we are faced with a serious diplomatic problem. Let us look more closely at Vietnam's canditure for conciliation. It has the fourth largest army in the world; it is backed by massive Soviet aid; it has a defence treaty with the Soviet Union, which has access to a major naval facility and airfields; it is run by a small pro-Soviet clique, of which one of the great strongmen is Le Duan , the Secretary General; and it insists on dominating Cambodia and Laos. On this point it should be noted that there are 40,000 Vietnamese troops occupying Laos. If the Vietnamese have a policy of being willing to respect the sovereignty of their neighbours, Laos would be a good place to start. It becomes a poor argument for the Vietnamese to pretend that their occupation of Kampuchea is entirely governed by the presence of Pol Pot forces.

Mr Deputy Speaker, we ought to examine proposals for negotiations on their own merit against a background of realism. We must now seriously ask: What are the prospects for a fruitful outcome? At present they appear non-existent. If this is so, it is foolish to give a contrary impression. The best opinion seems to be that Hanoi is not at present seeking a formula for settlement. The diplomacy which has produced uncertainty about Australia as a reliable friend and ally, which has created unprecedented tensions with ASEAN over security issues, is the brainchild of this Government. The Foreign Minister has identified himself in a very special way with this dangerous and ill-thought through project.


Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Hon. Les Johnson) —Order! The honourable member's time has expired.