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Thursday, 13 October 1983
Page: 1794


Mr HAYDEN (Minister for Foreign Affairs)(10.08) —Mr Deputy Chairman, the honourable member for Cook (Mr Dobie) correctly observed that since becoming Minister for Foreign Affairs I have not made a comprehensive statement to the Parliament on the matter of foreign affairs. If that is an issue of some concern to him, it must be a matter of even greater anxiety for him to have noted tonight that his party spokesman on foreign affairs is absent. The shadow Minister ceases to be a shadow; he becomes invisible.


Mr Dobie —He is on special leave tonight, and you know it.


Mr HAYDEN —We did not hear from him yesterday, we cannot hear from him today and we will not hear from him tomorrow. I merely make that observation in passing. The honourable member for Cook seeks to interject some defence for his colleagues. I allow him to get it on the record.


Mr Dobie —It was known all day that he would not be here this evening. We tried to shift this debate-we were unable to do so-to meet his convenience. It would have met your convenience as well. It is unfair to make that comment about him.


Mr HAYDEN —Fine, but the point was made with some humour, and I hope the honourable member observed that.


Mr Dobie —It will not be in Hansard.


The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Millar) —Order! The honourable member for Cook will remain silent. I call the Minister for Foreign Affairs.


Mr HAYDEN —The honourable member for Cook is correct; I have not made a comprehensive statement on foreign policy since becoming Minister. That is not the product of wilful discourtesy but rather follows a conscious purpose. We have already made a major statement on the ANZUS alliance in the Parliament. It followed the ANZUS consultations a little earlier in Washington. In a few weeks time at the latest I hope to make a substantial statement about another regional aspect of foreign policy. I had rather hoped to get in place a series of statements about particular aspects of foreign policy and then to link them together in a general overview.

What has concerned me-I am quite candid about this-is that if one were to rush in as a neophyte in the practical terms of being a Foreign Minister, make a comprehensive statement on foreign policy and thereafter seek to force fit all major perceptions on foreign policy into that matrix, one may well discover in the light of experience that one would have preferred, having been given more time and experience, perhaps to have shaped a different mould. That is what I am about. I take seriously the criticism of the honourable member for Cook.

At the first opportunity which I believe to be appropriate I will make such a comprehensive statement. I do not think it would be accurate for the honourable member to assert dogmatically that there has been no communication in the Parliament on the matter of foreign affairs. There have been a number of debates on this topic. I freely concede that most of these have come about as a result of matters of public importance or, in one or two instances, notices of motion given by the Opposition on matters of concern in the field of foreign policy. But there is nothing novel or special about that; that is the proper function of the Opposition. As I recollect it, in each instance, with the exception of one occasion this week when there was a slightly more vigorous exchange between the Government and the Opposition, we have pretty much settled on bipartisanship. There have been instances of disagreement in those debates. Not surprisingly, there has been a general view that respective parties would have done whatever the job was much better in government than the other party would have done. I think that is a well known symptom of the Australian style of politics and government in this chamber.

What is more important is that one sees fairly clear evidence of a consistent pattern showing up in foreign policy in which there is a substantial area of agreement on both sides of the Parliament. I suggest that that pattern really started in the period 1972-75 under the Whitlam Labor Government. I argue that, as in many other fields, but particularly in foreign policy, under the then leadership of Prime Minister Whitlam it was a period of inspirational activity in foreign policy. New directions were adopted and fresh approaches were accepted. I believe that the Opposition at that time-the present Opposition-and the new government in power under Gough Whitlam had a coincidence of views which were much more relevant to the modern age than had been the case in the past. I suggest that foreign policy in that earlier period suffered from a mustiness of perception that had become dimmed over the years-a form of perception that had been shaped in a much earlier time and which had ceased to be relevant to the needs of this country.

In all those circumstances, if one accepts that, one can see that even under the succeeding government of Mr Fraser, under the foreign ministry of the present Leader of the Opposition (Mr Peacock) and then the honourable member for Corangamite (Mr Street) whilst there were differences on particular issues or on some aspects of foreign policy, a common thread had been established in that earlier period which was evident and developing. I assert that that is very much the case today. The reason I stress that point is that I believe that as much as possible it is important, if in no other area, that the spokespeople in the various political parties try to adopt some common understandings about Australia's position in the world, its national interest within the international scene and how best to promote those matters. That is especially true when any of us are speaking overseas.

Whilst we may, within the elegant style of parliamentary exchanges in Australia , resort to the cudgel rather than the rapier, I do not believe that overseas it pays to denigrate this country or to undermine its credibility or the respect to which it is entitled internationally. I think it is to the credit of all of us that this is very much the practice these days. That is a reflection of greater maturity in respect of these matters which is evident in the Parliament.

Parenthetically I observe that the role of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence has been invaluable in injecting this sort of maturing process. I recall how much resistance there was in the 1960s on the part of the Australian Labor Party to joining that Joint Committee. I recall all sorts of dire predictions and quite genuine objections to that Committee being articulated by opponents within the Labor Party. Accordingly, the Labor Party stood apart from the Committee for several years. I believe that to have been unfortunate for the Labor Party in that it deprived the Labor Party, at an important stage in foreign policy development in this country, of access to important information and, accordingly, of the opportunity better to shape and refine the perceptions of foreign policy. Since the Australian Labor Party joined the Joint Committee it has become abundantly evident that there is a very high level of co-operation and common understanding between the representatives of the various parties who are members of that Committee on this important topic .

One of the material results has been a series of splendid reports-very largely enjoying bipartisan support-coming from that Committee. Its reports have been commended widely. I have quite unrestrainedly commended them in this Parliament. I observe that among those who have served on sub-committees of that Joint Committee responsible for some of those reports has been the honourable member for Cook whose comments tonight, while critical in some respects-I note those criticisms with respect, although I do not necessarily agree with them-were measured, thoughtful, constructive and, I believe, helped to contribute to a positive debate on the subject of foreign policy.

It is the view of the Government that there are a number of issues in foreign policy which we wish to see presented much more actively and formulated in sharper tones in appropriate forums. Prime amongst the instances is the issue of disarmament. It is not my intention to go over the initiatives we have already taken in this area but I can report to honourable members that the overwhelming impression of the delegates to the United Nations General Assembly, currently convened in New York, is that there is a greater evidence of concern about this single issue, more than any other apparent at that Assembly. More than that, not only is this the dominant concern but also there is more concern about the stability of international relations across borders and security and continuity of government administration within borders evident at the current United Nations General Assembly, according to observers who have many years participation at such assemblies behind them, than can be recollected at any time in the past decade or more. The reason for that, of course, is, as the honourable member for Stirling (Mr Ronald Edwards) emphasised in what was a rather masterful display, covering a wide field, compactly but in an informed way, that there is throughout the world today evidence of serious conflict. That serious conflict, in a number of instances, has a latest capability of providing a flashpoint that could ignite a major conflagration. That in turn could draw the major powers of the world into a most undesirable confrontation with consequences for all of us.

It is in that context that we have decided to promote much more actively- certainly much more publicly-the issue of disarmament and arms control; the issue of peace. We are not talking just about nuclear weapons although these are dominant in out minds these days. We are also talking about conventional arms. Some $700,000m a year is being spent on armament-an extraordinarily huge amount of money. I always find it perplexing that it is comparatively so easy for countries, developing countries as much as the developed countries, to divert resources into armament spending and yet so extraordinarily difficult for them to make an adequate effort in the production of investable funds for the development of underdeveloped countries. Accordingly, we find that the North- South dialogue today, while at full heat in rhetoric, is extremely deficient in actual action on the ground.

There is talk about proposals for a global dialogue as a sort of touch stone for getting moving the principles explicitly espoused in the North-South dialogue. Associated expressions such as the Brandt Commission report, the New International Economic Order and so on have been a touch stone for getting these principles moving. My great reservation is that in trying to get a great global dialogue under way all we will be doing will be shifting the discussion, the talk, the lung beating which has been under way for so long in forums of the United Nations-not productively I regret to say-into another big tent with just as little productivity. My own hunch is that if we are to get those principles moving a series of ad hoc initiatives will have to be undertaken. They can be undertaken concurrently from different spheres.

In this I bear in mind the work of the Commonwealth Secretariat in introducing a working paper on a new Bretton Woods agreement. One may have reservations about the expectations which some countries seem to have about a new Bretton Woods agreement. It will not be a panacea should some new arrangements be put in place. If there are fundamental deficiencies in domestic economic management for a country, bringing about some sort of new arrangement will not remedy those. But I believe there is a very strong argument for exploring what the deficiencies are-they are quite clearly there in the present international financial arrangement-and working to try to establish again within the ad hoc initiatives, a series of ad hoc responses to some of those problems and incrementally bring about a process of change. The point I am making, however, is that here is an illustration of how a particular principle which is quite explicit in the North-South dialogue is now being put into operation. Perhaps other types of platforms can be brought into being or mobilised where they exist to take up other aspects of these principles and to start getting some movement. I can see no other way for any really concrete movement in the future unless it is done in this sort of manner. The need of the developing countries in the world is not so much for great gushes of the wisdom of what Western thought is all about but rather some very material things which will allow them to get access to sufficient investable funds at reasonable rates of interest and to have real access to trading opportunities instead of the florid flourish of politicians' promises about freer trade when they are overseas and practising more protection when they are at home.

I move on from the North-South debate and our clear commitment in that respect to the issue of human rights, which is another matter that exercises us greatly as a democratic socialist party. The first thing one has to acknowledge is that, of course, there are clear cultural differences between societies and therefore between countries. There are different ways of approaching the way in which the rights of people are regarded in a society as a result of cultural experiences and historical background. But when all these things are said I have to say that I continually come to one conclusion from my experience over a long time now, and that is simply that no one likes to be deprived of freedom. People, wherever they are, like to be free. They like to be free in the political and social sense but they also like to be free in the economic sense. Those of us in developed countries who have the deep commitment to small 'l' liberal principles of human rights and freedom for individuals in the community must also recognise that these things become very abstract and remote and could become quite irrelevant if, at the same time, in a developing country the riches are not there and the abundance not available that we are used to. These things do not have the relevance they have for us unless bread and cheese is also available by which people can live. It is a simple metaphor. We are talking about guarantees for economic rights. To be effective these things must be linked as well.

One could raise a number of other matters if one wished to but I do not wish to delay the House much further on those matters. I will make one brief reference to the development assistance program, the overseas aid program, of the Australian Government. This year, in real terms, the provision of funds represents a 4 per cent increase. That is a substantial increase. One may look at the gross domestic product figure, that is aid as a proportion of GDP on a deposit basis, and note that in spite of the real increase of 4 per cent this year there is a reduction in the amount of aid as a proportion of gross domestic product as against the preceding year. Last year there was no growth in the economy-in fact it went into reverse. This year we are expecting growth of between 3 to 4 per cent. That is a simple explanation for that statistical quirk . I think that the more important comparison or statistical reference, however, is the proposition of aid as a proportion of gross domestic product on what is called an encashment basis. This means the actual spending of money, as distinct from an undertaking to provide money which may not be called upon until some later time in the near future. Encashment means the actual demand on funds from within the Budget. In that respect we have the figure up to 0.48 per cent of GDP , which is the highest it has been since 1975-76 when the last Budget of the last Labor Government was presented.

I do not want to labour the point that we are smarter than the conservative coalition parties were when they were in government. The conservative coalition parties had a commendable record in the provision of aid during their period of office. It was a very difficult period in terms of economic management. It is still a very difficult period in terms of economic management. They set out to maintain the Australian Development Assistance Bureau at respectable levels allowing for all of those difficulties. We aim at doing the same. I do not believe, except that we work very hard at manufacturing them, that there are any significant or important differences between us in that field.

The final matter I raise concerns South Africa. The honourable member for Kingston (Mr Bilney) referred to South Africa in his comments. I will concentrate on one aspect alone. I noted in one of the morning newspapers a reference to Mr Oppenheimer, who has declared that the so-called constitutional reforms in South Africa are not reforms. He will be voting against them in South Africa and urging people in South Africa to vote against them. Of course he is correct. They are not reforms. They are nothing more than a thin and fictitious veneer aimed at trying to give some respectability to what is a very poisonous and a very cruel form of racial dictatorship which has been practised in that country intolerably for too long.

The proposals are to replace a unicameral system with an arrangement whereby there will be three houses: A House of Assembly with 168 white members, a House of Representatives with 85 coloured members and a House of Deputies with 45 Indian members-no black members. Let us put that to one side and note the combination of 85 coloured members and 45 Indian members respectively in the House of Representatives and the House of Deputies which is a total of 130, falling well short of the total of the 168 white members in the House of Assembly. The mathematics are obvious. The whites maintain their dominance. It is merely a manipulation for the purposes of deception. It is a crude deception. It is an objectionable deception. And it fools no one.

Under the so-called constitutional reforms-and they are certainly not reforms- the pivotal function will rest with the Executive position of President. That of Prime Minister will be abolished. The President will have wide-ranging powers. He will have the authority to appoint and dismiss Ministers, convene and dissolve Parliament, proclaim martial law, declare war, asset to or refuse Bills and to send Bills back to Parliament for reconsideration. Very importantly he will have the authority to determine whether matters are matters that are called 'own affairs', that is they are peculiar to a particular House and are therefore dealt with only by that House-or are 'general affairs', in which case they will be dealt with by all of the Houses. That means, of course, that in the final result the white conservatives from the National Party will continue to determine the destiny of that country and, where it suits them, ignore as crudely and as cruelly as they have done so often in the past the views of the non-white members of the South African community. In other words, they will maintain a process of steady strangulation of the expressions and the aspirations of the non-white people in this newly formulated political system, if it ever comes into existence.

The President, of course, will be elected by a college of 50 whites, 20 coloured people and 13 Indians. So, again, all the power has been concentrated in the hands of the whites. As I said, this is a contrivance-and a very crude contrivance-which deceives no one. The blacks are not represented. That is the most appalling aspect of this cruel mockery that the practitioners of apartheid seek to masquerade as constitutional reform. The blacks number more than 70 per cent of the South African population. But they are excluded from any meaningful role at all in the political processes of South Africa.

The flimsy pretext put up to seek to excuse this exclusion is that the blacks will have their political role, their authority and their destiny decided by themselves in their own homelands. Putting to one side the economic disadvantages of many, if not all of these areas, one discovers that some simple statistics show the brazen unfairness of what is being practised here. There are 20 million blacks in South Africa. Under the homelands arrangement, they will have 13 per cent of the total area of land. There are five million whites in South Africa. They will have 87 per cent of the total area of land in South Africa. So the rampant injustices, the crudeness of the policy and all of the cruel malicious and nasty excesses that we have seen in the past will continue. This is not reform at all. It is a mockery, a provocation and a crude caricature that is being foisted on the people of South Africa, and all in an attempt to deceive the people of the West. For our part, we revile this grand but malicious infamy against the fundamental rights of man in South Africa.

The final point in all of this is that to this stage, since the election of this Government, we have been following the principles-in relation to our responses to apartheid where it affects sportspeople and the apartheid policy where it affects our relationships with South Africa-we have been following the principles which were pursued by the last conservative government-the Fraser Government. Those principles were very much laid down by the earlier Whitlam Government. So, there is continuity in this area. There has been no deviation at all.

I noted, when I was absent from Australia, some critical commentary about South African women squash players participating in a squash competition in Western Australian. The advice I received was that on balance-and a very fine balance-we followed the principles which had been followed by the previous Government and which, before that, had been established very much by the Labor Government. It had to be accepted that the women from South Africa participating in that competition did not come forward as representatives of their country or as members of a team from that country, but that they were there as individual participants very much in the same way as individual participants in golf have come forward and have been allowed to compete in such competitions in Australia in the past. Accordingly, in those circumstances and bearing in mind the Brisbane code of conduct which was thrashed out last year on this subject, it was decided to allow those women to participate in that competition.

We have not deviated-and we do not intend to deviate-from the principles which were laid down. We have instituted a review which should come before the Cabinet next week when it considers the sporting aspects of apartheid policy. The Prime Minister (Mr Hawke) has declared unequivocally that at the very least there will be no reduction and no diminution in the principles which will be pursued as a result of that review as against those which are in place at the moment. That is my view. That is the objective which I will certainly be firmly pursuing in any discussions on this matter.

Proposed expenditure agreed to.

Remainder of Bill-by leave-taken as a whole, and agreed to.

Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.