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Tuesday, 1 November 1983
Page: 2096

Mr LEO McLEAY —My question is addressed to the Prime Minister and relates to foreign affairs in which I have taken some interest in the last month. Could the Prime Minister advise the House of the Government's attitude to relations with the Association of South East Asian Nations countries in the light of reports of serious disagreements with them over the situation in Cambodia?

Mr HAWKE —I welcome both the return and the question. It is an important question. I want to assure the House that this Government gives the highest priority to the further development of close and co-operative relations which we enjoy with the ASEAN countries. Let it be quite clear, we have also attempted to develop a more mature relationship with Vietnam. Our close relations with ASEAN as well as our very close relations with the United States of America and with China and our capacity to talk to Vietnam provide, in our judgment and in the judgments of others, a basis for our attempts to make a contribution to the peaceful settlement in Indo-China. Australia fully shares the very deep concerns of its regional neighbours, including their security concerns, at the tragic situation which continues to face the people of Cambodia. Because of that concern the Australian Government supported the ASEAN resolution at the recent meeting of the United Nations General Assembly. We voted in favour of it on 27 October.

Mr Hodgman —Why didn't you co-sponsor it?

Mr HAWKE —If the honourable member contains himself he will hear about that aspect too. It is a fact that we did not co-sponsor this year's resolution. In a statement to the General Assembly on 26 October the Australian representative in that body touched, in particular, on our difficulties in this year's resolution and the text dealing with the Cambodian resistance coalition which, as all honourable members know, includes the Khmer Rouge led by Pol Pot. This Government acknowledges the integrity of the strenuous efforts on behalf of the Cambodian people which have been exercised by Prince Sihanouk and Mr Son Sann, who lead the other components of the coalition. But speaking for this Government , and I believe the overwhelming majority of the Australian people, we cannot forget the repugnant and brutal record of the former Pol Pot Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia.

Having said that, I point out that at the same time our permanent representative at the United Nations emphasised our agreement, the agreement of the Australian Government, with the fundamental principles underlying the approach of the ASEAN countries. In that speech to the United Nations General Assembly, Mr Woolcott reiterated the Australian Government's condemnation of Vietnam's invasion and occupation of Cambodia. Let it be quite clear-I trust that the Leader of the Opposition at least and other members of the Opposition understand this-this Government in no way condones Vietnam's invasion and occupation of Cambodia. We want-I believe this is a bipartisan position-to see an independent, non-aligned and neutral Cambodia free of foreign forces and with a government of its own choice. We want to see a total Vietnamese withdrawal from that unfortunate country. We are not simply uttering words on this matter; we are actively seeking areas in which there may be dialogue between all the parties and we are trying to assist that development.

It is a matter of record that in recent months we have discussed these issues with the ASEAN countries. I personally have discussed it with the President of the United States, with President Suharto and with Premier Zhao, and the Foreign Minister has pursued these discussions equally. We recognise-we cannot do otherwise-that the decision of this Government not to co-sponsor has upset the ASEAN countries. We believe that the subsequent clarification by our representative in the United Nations has assuaged the initial feelings of the ASEAN countries. I am certain that in a couple of weeks time, having accepted the invitation of the Government of Thailand to visit Thailand, I will be able in conversations with the Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister of Thailand to indicate to them that there is no ground whatsoever for the ASEAN countries to feel that in any way the position of the Australian Government in support of the fundamental position in regard to Indo-China has diminished.