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Tuesday, 11 October 1983
Page: 1548


Mr NEWMAN(4.17) —Today we have heard a defence by the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Hayden) which has been uncharacteristic of his performance in this House since the Government came to power, for in this House and in his forays overseas he has been adopting the diplomatic stance of a reasonable man with a proper and rational approach to all our problems. Today we saw a defence which was nothing but bluster and which ignored the facts of the actions that the Government has taken. We are dealing with the Association of South East Asian Nations, probably the most significant bloc of countries which this country has to deal with. It is of immediate concern to Australia and this region. It affects radically our security and defence arrangements. Of course, as the Foreign Minister and everybody else well know, it is one of our major trading groups. It provides the fourth largest market and the fourth largest supply source for this country. It is absolutely essential that our foreign policy meshes properly with ASEAN. The Foreign Minister well recognises this. He is reported in the Weekend Australian of 8 October 1983, when speaking to journalists in the Philippines, to have said:

. . . unless Australia and New Zealand meshed in with the world's fastest growing economies in this region, they could find themselves in a global backwater.

That is a clear and direct. It demonstrates that the Foreign Minister knows that ASEAN has to figure prominently in his foreign diplomacy and that, as he puts it , if we do not, we could find ourselves in a global backwater.

What is the issue here? The Foreign Minister in his bluster has tried to confuse the issue. According to him, it is of no account that we were not a co- sponsor of this resolution and that, as long as we vote on the resolution finally, all will be well. Since 28 October 1982 Australia signalled very clearly to ASEAN its overall stand on the Cambodian conflict by co-sponsoring the ASEAN resolution. It has been that way since that time. The Foreign Minister well knows the nuances of diplomacy and that by not co-sponsoring he has signalled very clearly to our ASEAN friends we are now dealing with a change of policy by the Government. He said that this has had no effect. Some of the headlines that have resulted from the signalling of a change of policy include ' Malaysia walks out as Hayden speaks'; Asean likely to cancel Sydney talks'-we know what happened there; 'Kampuchea policy ''upsets'' ASEAN'; 'ASEAN, Canberra fall out over Kampuchea'; 'With $2,000m in trade at stake Hayden plays the hand he was dealt'. So the list goes on. That was exactly what the Foreign Minister was talking about when he was in Manila. That was exactly what he was signalling as being the danger, when he said that we had to mesh in with the world's fastest growing economies in the region. Now he dismisses that principle as nothing. He says that it is of no account and that it represents robust diplomacy on the part of ASEAN countries. God help us if they go beyond robustness!


Mr Peacock —ASEAN relations were to be his highest priority.


Mr NEWMAN —Exactly. What was the Foreign Minister's boast in this display? He says that he is putting Australia first, and that that is the reason for this change of policy and the resentment which he is causing amongst our ASEAN friends. He is really putting first the left wing of the Australian Labor Party. That is what has dictated this change of policy.


Mr Hayden —Thank goodness you told me.


Mr NEWMAN —The Foreign Minister laughs. I believe that many ASEAN countries would have that fear in their minds as they follow this change of policy by the Government. Let us look in more detail at what the five ASEAN countries are saying about the Government's refusal to co-sponsor. A report of 6 October of the speech that the Australian Foreign Minister made at the United Nations stated:

Malaysia's Foreign Minister . . . ostentatiously walked out of the United Nations chamber before the Foreign Minister, Mr Hayden, ended his speech . . . marking the split between Australia and the Association of South East Asian Nations over Kampuchea.

The Foreign Minister dismissed this as being of no account; it was just robust diplomacy. The article stated further that United Nations delegates said that the Foreign Minister's walkout was a remarkable breach of protocol and perhaps a sign of troubled times ahead. With regard to Singapore's attitude, a report in the Canberra Times stated:

Australia's stand on Kampuchea had antagonised quite a few South-East Asian countries and had lost it friends, Singapore's Foreign Minister . . . said last night.

Mr Dhanabalan said that Australia's Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Hayden, couldn't have done a better job of antagonising others and of losing friends'.

The Foreign Minister dismissed that with a wave of his hand, saying: 'That is of no account. What is the problem? We have not done anything wrong; this is just part of robust ASEAN diplomacy'. The Australian on 7 October, in what is claimed to be an interview with the Thai Foreign Minister, Air Chief Marshal Siddhi, stated:

He said Mr Hayden, by changing Australia's stand on Kampuchea, had deeply hurt Thailand and ASEAN.

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

. . .

Mr Siddhi summed up the tone of ASEAN's reaction when he said, very sadly: 'I am very disappointed in Mr Hayden.'

He stressed:

. . . that the rift in Australian-ASEAN relations was a very unfortunate thing to happen and 'a very serious matter'.

I do not know who is briefing the Foreign Minister, but it was absolutely silly of him to rebut the Opposition spokesman on foreign affairs by simply dismissing the whole thing as being exaggerated, of no account or not based on the facts. It was stupid, because the facts speak for themselves. They are clear to every Australian who reads any newspaper that has appeared in Australia over the last couple of weeks. The Government has caused a rift between our ASEAN neighbours and ourselves. It has caused great trouble in our region by changing this policy without consultation with our neighbours. The Age editorial of today, although in some ways sympathetic to Australia having a view, put the situation very clearly when it stated:

If . . . it did not prepare ASEAN for its policy--

that is, the Government did not prepare ASEAN for its policy--

change, it was wrong. It must always argue its case.

This, of course, is the position which the Government must recognise. It simply cannot go off on its own without consultation with ASEAN. It seems to be quite prepared to enter into discussions with Vietnamese officials and Ministers. In fact, it is something of a puzzlement that the Minister for Foreign Affairs in his speech talked about the consultation that he has had with Vietnamese officials. It is of grave concern to all of us that the Minister admits that he is happy to talk to the Vietnamese Government, Vietnamese Ministers and officials, but at the same time it is perfectly clear that whilst he had the opportunity at the United Nations to speak to people such as Air Vice Marshal Siddhi, he ignored the opportunity. Perhaps-I would hate to think that this is the truth-he went out of his way to avoid discussions with people such as Air Vice Marshal Siddhi and, therefore, to ignore the ASEAN view in favour of a Vietnamese view.

The Prime Minister (Mr Hawke) and the Foreign Minister have gone out of their way to try to play down the troubles that have been caused by their inept actions in this matter. It simply will not wash. The reports that have flooded in from Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand are too serious to be ignored. The Government and the Foreign Minister need to stop kidding themselves and they need to stop kidding Australia. They must come to terms with the reality of the troubles that they have caused. The reality is that Australia and ASEAN security relations are fundamental to the stability and welfare of each of us. The Government must act swiftly to restore ASEAN confidence in Australia as a reliable friend.