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Tuesday, 1 November 1983
Page: 2120


Mr MACKELLAR(5.41) —We have just heard one of the most inept performances of any Foreign Minister in the history of this country. Every time the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Hayden) steps up to the despatch box he seeks to downgrade the argument and the debate by his frivolous approach. He did exactly that again today. It does no credit whatsoever to the Minister or to the Government which he purports to represent. Every one of us on both sides of the House listened with increasing desperation for some content in the Minister's approach, and we found none.

Mr Deputy Speaker, we are debating today the consequences of the the leftward lurch in Australian foreign policy. This movement to the left is becoming characteristic of the decisions coming from the Government. At the same time the Government seeks to manufacture public opinion by a process of obscuring the facts from public scrutiny. There has been no lack of reassurances. There is no lack of overseas confidence in Australia, we are told. All our friends understand and support our positions, we are told. These positions, we are lead to believe, derive from the Government's independent assessment of the international facts. Let us look at those facts more closely.

Let us consider Grenada. The Government was initially cautious and there can be no criticism of that. The circumstances of the action taken needed clarification . But whatever view the Government took of events, it apparently was not prepared to take seriously the role of Grenada's Governor-General, Sir Paul Scoon. No mention was made by the Minister for Foreign Affairs of the role of Sir Paul Scoon. He was under house arrest. He was the only man in a position of legitimate authority. The Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister had been assassinated. A strong contingent of Cuban troops was present on the island. Sir Paul's actions and statements since that time show that his concerns were very decisive in bringing his Caribbean Commonwealth colleagues to exercise their security treaty rights with the United States under the 1981 Treaty for the Organisation of East Caribbean States. The Foreign Minister made no mention of that. This is a regional security treaty and it is consistent with the purposes and principles of the United Nations Charter. Grenada is a member country of that treaty, and the view of the only legitimate voice in Grenada clearly was of paramount importance in determining the action against those who had usurped the Constitution and placed the Governor-General under house arrest. The action taken by the Commonwealth Caribbean nations was not against Grenada or the legitimate authority of Grenada; it was an action in support of the legitimate authority and against an assassin group backed by a contingent of Cubans. As is now being demonstrated, the action is one which enables the Constitution to function under the leadership of Sir Paul Scoon. This will allow an appeal within months to the full processes of democracy.

For the Government to sustain its interpretation it has to be able to argue that the coup group-the assassins-were legitimately in position. Is that what the Minister for Foreign Affairs is arguing? Is that what the Government is arguing? The action has not invaded the rights of the people of Grenada. It has restored the rights to the people through the leadership of the Governor-General . I repeat that the action was not against Grenada, but against the murderers who installed themselves, because the Government would have us believe that the voice to speak for Grenada was that of the coup leaders-the assassins. On its performance here today this Government would have criticised Tanzania's role in the overthrow of Idi Amin.

Even if the Government had decided on a different interpretation from that of New Zealand, and found support in the initial Canadian attitude, the fact is that there is now a great gap between Australia and her old Commonwealth friends , Canada, New Zealand and Britain. Yesterday the Foreign Minister made an historic decision to reject association with Commonwealth initiatives to restore conditions of a peaceful settlement to Grenada. He said:

It does not contemplate Australian participation in such a force should it eventuate.

Let us hope this weasel-wording will allow him to crawl out of the difficult situation in which he has found himself. The Canadians had reservation, but compare our response to Canada's which was:

I indicated to the Secretary-General that Canada approved of his initiatives and that, if such a force is found to be useful and is constituted, that Canada would be prepared to participate and Canada would be prepared to be of assistance in consultation with other Commonwealth members, if the Secretary- General so desired.

That, Mr Deputy Speaker, was the position put to the Canadian Parliament by Canada's Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Regan. The problem for Australian foreign policy is that the Minister and his Party have so many hang- ups that their actions end up giving more comfort to those who are opposed to Australian interests than to those who are our friends.

As we are considering why we should have this approach to the Commonwealth initiative I will quote for the record from a speech on Commonwealth Day made by the Minister, when in Opposition, on 5 March 1981. He said:

. . . I said that it was an anachronistic institution, a talk shop of dubious value to Australia.

He has backed those words up now. He has set the Commonwealth aside. He has denigrated it in a way that has never before occurred in this Parliament.

We find this leftward lurch is well illustrated in the way the Government has tried to implement the Australian Labor Party's resolution on Indo-China.

The Foreign Minister feels that he should continue to give moral support to the Vietnamese as a way of inducing the left wing of the Party to stop pressing for economic aid to be given to Vietnam. Of course the whole policy has had to be put across in conditions which required the Government to cast doubts about the way the Association of South East Asian Nation countries were handling relations with Vietnam. As we remember, matters came to a head over the United Nations resolution, which Australia refused to co-sponsor. But the fat was in the fire before then, and I made efforts in this House to draw the Minister's attention to the developing concern in ASEAN.

On 24 August, when I raised the concern of ASEAN in this House, the Minister reassured the House, affirming that in no way would Australia allow our friendly relationships with the ASEAN countries and China to be impaired. The House was left with the sense that the ASEAN countries would be sustained in relationships with Australia. In New York, the ASEAN concerns were renewed during the delegation's discussions on the UN resolution. Despite these concerns, widely reported in the Australian Press, the Prime Minister (Mr Hawke) issued a statement of reassurance to the people of Australia. It was similar to the one he gave today. The Prime Minister claimed that his Government's relations with member countries had in no way been diminished by Australia's refusal to co- sponsor a resolution. I emphasise that: Relations had in no way been diminished. It was a firm, categorical reassurance at the highest level. He went on:

I am confident from reports that I have that, while there may be some elements of disappointment that Australia had not agreed to co-sponsor there is an understanding of our position.

Well, that produced a very vigorous reaction in ASEAN. The Prime Minister was believing the Foreign Minister's press release, and it brought a swift reaction: ASEAN Foreign Ministers, within the space of two days, decided to postpone indefinitely Australia-ASEAN talks scheduled in Sydney for 24 October. I raised the issue again in the House. It is clear the Foreign Minister again discounted the strength of ASEAN views. He tried to liken the situation to a difference not unlike the differences which had occurred over trade and civil aviation questions, but he overlooked the fact that ASEAN views Vietnamese policy in Laos and Kampuchea as a security question. In the past Australia and ASEAN have been very keen to ensure that any differences there may have been over particular questions are quickly dealt with. There has not, however, been a breach in relations on a security matter, and when breaches occurred, the then government made major public efforts to get them remedied. That is not the mark of this Government. Even today we find reports cabled to Australian newspapers voicing concerns, such as that ASEAN Economic Ministers endorsed the position of the ASEAN Foreign Ministers.

As recently as today we have the Foreign Minister of Indonesia, Dr Mochtar, quoted in a dispatch from Jakarta as saying that ASEAN did not need Australia as a mediator to solve the Kampuchean problem. Asked whether ASEAN Foreign Ministers might impose limited sanctions against Australia, Dr Mochtar replied:

The possibility is not excluded.

It is clear that Dr Mochtar is now very concerned to emphasise the continuing deep worries ASEAN has about our policy. Those remarks are a signal from a country which the Foreign Minister thought important for his position, when he quoted Dr Mochtar at great length on 18 October to fend off questions put in this House by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Peacock). It is all part of a pattern: Play it down; do not let public opinion focus on the matter; give reassurances in the Parliament; the Press Gallery will fall for it; nobody will listen to the Opposition. This treatment in the end establishes its own reputation. The Australian media and public opinion are now much more aware of the issues and are more sceptical of the Foreign Minister's debating and Press backgrounding techniques.

But there are other issues which cause grave concern. The Foreign Minister gave prominence to a meeting with a self-styled Palestine Liberation Organisation representative and left unclear the direction of Australian policy on the Middle East. We now have the spectacle of the African National Congress being given permission to set up an office here, presumably to justify its car bombing of innocent civilians, when that occurs in South Africa. It seems that if one is a member of a Soviet backed organisation, even one specialising in terrorism, one has a great chance of recognition and support from this Government.

Whose interests are being served by these so-called foreign policy initiatives? Are they in Australia's interests or are we really seeing the faction fight in the Labor Party being played out on the international stage? What we have is a Prime Minister shackled by both elected and non-elected elements of his Party, powerless to act in what he must know to be the best interest of this country. What we have is a Government signalling to the world its ideological support for the forces of the Left-whether they be represented by the Soviet Union, the Vietnamese, the Cubans or by guerrilla forces seeking change through bloodshed and violence.


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