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Tuesday, 1 November 1983
Page: 2114

Mr PEACOCK (Leader of the Opposition)(5.11) —The Opposition has submitted for discussion this matter of public importance:

The disturbing trend in Australian foreign policy, and particularly the failure to support peace initiatives in Grenada.

Behind it is a strong criticism of the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Hayden), who is at the table. In seven to eight months this man has had the relationship with the Association of South East Asian Nations torn into tatters; has been dismissed on more than one occasion by the United States Secretary of State as a dangerous lightweight; has changed the nature of our attitude towards African affairs by seeking to recognise those who engage in terrorism and bring about change in apartheid attitudes, thereby supporting terrorist organisations rather than continuing the strong support we gave for change in Southern Africa by non- violent means; and has sought to bring about a change in foreign policy throughout the Australian Labor Party by taking on the Prime Minister (Mr Hawke) time and again and-on this point I should give him credit-winning time and again .

However, we are nearing the end of the calendar year, and this man has not come into this Parliament and given us any global assessment by the Government of international affairs today. Even the most adolescent observer of foreign policy knows that one must explain one's strategic and global assessment and comprehend it before one can get any of one's regional relationships right. That is probably why, as a starting point, our relationships with ASEAN today are in such a poor state. Singapore is appalled by our attitudes. Malaysia is similarly appalled. Their Foreign Minister walked out on this Minister in the United Nations. Thailand has accused this Government of being in bed with the Vietnamese. In the last 48 hours the Indonesian Foreign Minister has indicated that ASEAN is considering reprisals against Australia. The Minister says that, behind it all, the attitude is that should the alliance and the coalition take over in Kampuchea they would be concerned with Pol Pot's presence. So too would I. In the early part of my remarks I remind the House that it was the party opposite that recognised Pol Pot as the legitimate government of Kampuchea, and it did that against the strongest concerns indicated in this Parliament by members who were here in 1975. When Government members make statements of moral turpitude about that regime they should remember that it was the Labor Party in government that blessed that government with legal and moral recognition before it even comprehended the nature of the regime. So Government members should not coddle their consciences here and give that as the excuse for shattering their relationships with the place of allegedly first priority in foreign affairs.

There were three areas of significance to Australia where we had particular purchase and particular leverage under the previous government. We have lost that altogether in two of those areas. I have referred to ASEAN. Anyone who takes any note of the Prime Minister's apologia today for the State of our poor relations with ASEAN will have no understanding of what is transpiring in that relationship at present. The other area was our significant role, indeed a leadership role, in the Commonwealth itself. Just as the Minister for Foreign Affairs embraces socialism, which was outmoded before it was in the Labor Party platform, so too has he sneered at the Commonwealth as an outdated organisation. That view is a dated view. The strength, the leverage, the purchase that Australia exerted in the Commonwealth was something of which the overwhelming majority of Australians were proud. We worked for change, peaceful change, and a return to peaceful conditions in countries within the Commonwealth. This Government, with the latest threat to a Commonwealth country, has walked away from any real role in Commonwealth affairs. It is no mere remark in passing to say that foreign policy has become the pawn in the Labor Party's internal power game. I now turn to the facts about Grenada, which is mentioned in this matter of public importance.

Mr Milton —It is about time.

Mr PEACOCK —If the honourable member is complaining because he was hurt by those quick remarks, the reality is that they referred to the disturbing trend under this lightweight Minister, who spends time playing with the left wing and as yet has not put down a policy of substance in the foreign policy arena. Honourable members would need to search beyond the time of the last Labor Government through to the 1930s, when we were only playing with foreign policy at Britain's apron strings, to find a less effective Foreign Minister. He has damaged relations in every important area in which we had a significant role. Whilst he might determine his effectiveness by the column inches he can produce against the Prime Minister, that is not the determinant of foreign policy.

Let us look at the facts on Grenada which from the time of the American incursion with the Caribbean Commonwealth countries, this Minister sneered at, and then said hour by hour that he was becoming increasingly concerned with. He disagreed with his Prime Minister, who clearly did not indicate last week in that telephone conversation with the President the sort of line that the Government has now adopted, who clearly did not notify the President of the United States about the changing line. The Government of Grenada had been overthrown in a bloody coup. The Prime Minister had been assassinated. The Foreign Minister and other Cabinet Ministers had been assassinated. Civilians had been assassinated and the Governor-General had been placed under house arrest. All this lightweight will do is wring his hands and say: 'I am a trifle concerned about it'. He is ignoring the request of the Organisation of East Caribbean States, he is ignoring the concern of the United States and putting to one side the tragedy that is being enacted in the Caribbean.

Some can say that it is a long way from Australia's sphere of influence. Australia's sphere of influence is the Commonwealth, and to run away from that is to run away from a most powerful forum of which we are the most powerful member. In saying that I do not denigrate the United States. Honourable members should look at the role we play. The lightweight at the table will not face the facts. There was a sole remaining source of legitimate constitutional authority in Grenada. That source was the Governor-General. He was placed under house arrest, but nevertheless he requested that the United States and other Caribbean countries intervene. Why? It was to restore law and order and to restore democracy to Grenada. They responded to that request. Those who criticise their actions ignore the very real concerns and the legitimate interests of those countries involved. I have no doubt that the United States will be absolutely dismayed by the Government's statement of yesterday. It will be dismayed at the weakness of the Prime Minister, dismayed at the vacillation of the Prime Minister, who told the President of the United States in Washington in June:

There is no country . . . that this country (that is, the United States) will be able to rely on more as a constructive ally than Australia.

That is the sort of thing he used to tell the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young). That is the sort of thing he used to tell David Combe. He takes the same manipulative approach he uses in domestic politics into the international sphere. The Prime Minister either has, as the honourable member for Casey (Mr Steedman) recognises-he called him a two-faced hypocrite once-one face and one voice abroad or another at home. If he is two-faced on uranium, he is two-faced in international relations. He just cannot deliver the goods when it comes to hard decisions in the national interest. As I said, no one can take any joy at all from the situation in Grenada. We all regret the loss of life, both before and since the intervention by the United States and other countries. What our efforts have to be directed to now is the early restoration of peace and democracy to Grenada and stability to the Caribbean region. That will require, of course, the earliest possible withdrawal of United States and Caribbean troops and the holding of democratic elections. But it is facile and irresponsible to suggest, as the Government has done, that this can be achieved in a vacuum. The Government says that there is a constitutional process in Grenada it can point to.

Mr Milton —Who says?

Mr PEACOCK —Who says? The Government said. In a statement yesterday, the honourable member's Government, which he chooses to disown from time to time, said that while acknowledging the concern of the United States and the regional countries regarding the developments in Grenada, it calls for the utilisation of the Grenadan Constitution. It indicates in the statement that the constitutional processes could be followed. How does one follow processes when a Prime Minister is assassinated, the Government as a whole is moved out of office and assassinated, citizens are slaughtered and the Governor-General is under house arrest? The Government wrings its hands in its pacifist approach and tells us to refer to the Constitution. The Constitution of Grenada was torn up, and torn up in a bloody way. There are no present provisions that guarantee return to law and order once the outside forces withdraw. Unless and until law and order is restored there can be no basis for a return to stable democratic government in Grenada. That, of course, is precisely where the Commonwealth has a vital role to play and where Australia, as a senior member of the Commonwealth, can make a real contribution to restoring peace in Grenada. Grenada is a member of the Commonwealth. Its welfare is a matter of concern, not only to the Commonwealth Caribbean countries, but also to the whole of the Commonwealth. Proposals are currently being developed by the Commonwealth Secretary-General for a Commonwealth security force to be established there to maintain law and order after the foreign troop withdrawal and to supervise democratic elections. What the Australian Government should be doing is keeping in constant contact with the Commonwealth Secretary-General and with the leaders of other Commonwealth countries such as Canada and New Zealand and exploring with them what sort of Commonwealth presence might be required and what terms of reference might be given and indicating a willingness to contribute constructively to a peace settlement.

Australian participation does not have to be military participation alone. It does not even have to be military in nature. It could be police, it could be civilian contribution or observers to the election. The Government has not made one positive, constructive suggestion regarding this tragedy-not one. It has simply denigrated the United States. It has denigrated the Caribbean countries and washed its hands of the affair totally. It has not made one constructive suggestion. It is constantly denigrating the Commonwealth under this lightweight Minister. The Commonwealth has demonstrated, as I said, a unique capacity to bring about peaceful solutions in areas of conflict. Zimbabwe is a classic example as is, to a lesser extent, Cyprus. Australia has played not only a constructive but also a leading role in these efforts. It has been a motivating force in many areas. Here was a real opportunity to assist in a humanitarian way and to contribute substantially to peace efforts. But unlike the previous Government's support for Commonwealth initiatives, this Government walks away from responsibilities. Not only has it closed off its options for Australian participation without consultation and without receiving a firm proposal but also its abrupt and precipitate actions will make more difficult, undoubtedly, the Secretary-General's efforts to find a peaceful solution to the problem.

The Government's attitude to an Australian role, of course, has not always been so negative. Let us hear what was said last week. It makes interesting reading, in the light of the actions to date. The Prime Minister said last week that Australian participation in a Commonwealth peacekeeping force 'would be considered if, in fact, a request was made'. In the statement to the House today he said that the Government 'does not contemplate Australian participation in such a force should it eventuate'. There was no discussion and no consistency. He was rolled by the Left again.

Mr Howard —Again.

Mr PEACOCK —That is it exactly. The appeasement of the Left has resulted in the instability and the unpredictability of Australia's foreign policy and the ultimate result tragically is the complete irrelevance of our great country in international affairs under this lightweight and duplicitous man who is Prime Minister. There was one thing last week and another thing this week. There was one thing in New York, one thing in Washington and another thing here. The Government destroys alliances, walks away from responsibilities and does not grasp the opportunity to exercise the leverage, the purchase and the influence that Australia unquestionably had in Commonwealth affairs. The Commonwealth is an area of great responsibility to us. It is a sphere of influence to us. It has been abused by this Government.