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Wednesday, 9 November 1983
Page: 2493


Mr MACKELLAR(3.02) —This past week Australians have been observing a foreign policy of disarray. Serious questions which were raised by the Opposition in the proceedings of this Parliament as matters of public importance are now claiming public attention and concern. It is no longer possible for the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Hayden) to treat the matter in some manner imitative of Paul Hogan-however much he admires the physical resemblance. It is no longer a matter to trivialise by a schoolboy psychology of poking fun. The facts are that for a number of weeks the Association of South East Asian Nations has been signalling the Australian Government to treat seriously its concerns about our policy towards the Vietnamese occupation of Cambodia. These concerns were triggered in the first instance by a clumsy exercise in diplomacy and by statements made in defence of that diplomacy. The crisis was not triggered by ASEAN but by the Foreign Minister.

According to him, the policy has a validity, independent of his courtship of the left wing of the Australian Labor Party. He tended almost to pretend that the faction did not exist, and if it did exist it did not have any suasion over his thinking. We all know that the stength of the faction is no longer to be denied. It runs the Victorian Branch, and it is so powerful there that the Victorian Premier, Mr Cain, did not dare venture out of his closet to pass a view on the uranium issue, notwithstanding the fact that his branch wants to deny Australia an industry which will increase Australia's prosperity and create jobs for thousands. He and the left wing, it seems, would rather increase charges on the Victorian taxpayer than increase Consolidated Revenue. Members of the Victorian Left are not to be denied or ignored in national politics. Uranium is not the only thing they are interested in. Foreign policy is their chief concern, and even now they are busy capitalising on using their protest movement resources to attack the joint facilities at Pine Gap. Anti-Americanism is their stock-in-trade.

Let us recall that even yesterday, with Dr Henry Kissinger present in this House, the honourable member for Casey (Mr Steedman) referred to Pine Gap as a United States spy station. Where does the honourable member come from? What branch ensures his pre-selection for this Parliament? The Victorian Branch is the socialist Left, so the problems piling up for the Government are not centred on the uranim issue only, but on all issues connected with those obvious relationships which reinforce the defence and security of this nation.

But it was the leadership of the Government which launched Australia into the crisis with ASEAN. The Left could be pacified, it was apparently argued, by a strong thrust to bring Vietnam out of the cold. The arguments for doing this were specious enough. It would even, it was said, weaken the influence of the Soviet Union in the region. There can be no argument about the theory of the proposition. If we could produce a resistance to Soviet policies on Vietnam, we would weaken the position of the Soviet Union. But the job of the Australian Foreign Minister is to assess the realities and argue from that premise. The left wing leaders know the reality. They know that any leftward lurch to Vietnam will create divisions with ASEAN, and the isolation of ASEAN from Australia is a very desirable Soviet objective. It is a nice result, from their point of view, and for this situation to be triggered by an anti-Soviet line was a very small price to pay.

The cost to Australia's reputation in the international community is now reaching unacceptable proportions. The Prime Minister (Mr Hawke), despite his obvious reluctance to do so, has had to intervene to restore the ASEAN situation . The Prime Minister should have acted much earlier. But the concern, according to the Melbourne Age, is now deeper than even the critics of the government had been led to expect. The Age newspaper, to its credit, has given its main lead story to ASEAN concerns. Under the headline 'ASEAN lashes out at Australia', the Age features a report from the meeting of ASEAN Foreign Ministers in Jakarta on Monday. The report is above the name of Australia's most distinguished correspondent in South East Asia, Mr Michael Richardson. Mr Richardson said that Australia's Foreign Minister has been accused of 'trying to bend over backwards to please Vietnam'. Mr Richardson was quoting Singapore's Foreign Minister, Mr Dhanabalan.

Mr Dhanabalan, according to Mr Richardson, attributed the cause of the problem to recent statements by Australia's Foreign Minister. That is the significant point. Recent statements by Australia's Foreign Minister, according to Singapore , had caused serious doubts in ASEAN about the Australian Government's initiatives. The Singapore Foreign Minister said:

Any role that Australia had as a facilitator has been greatly undermined because there is definitely some loss of confidence .. . . We are questioning what role Australia has to play.

Asked what Australia could do to restore confidence, Mr Dhanabalan said:

First, it is necessary for-

Australia's-

political leaders to make clear where they stand on Kampuchea in terms of rejecting the Vietnamese occupation and a clear indication that they would maintain political and diplomatic pressure to get Vietnam to change its policy.

They-

that is, the Vietnamese-

must get the clear message that there is no erosion in the rejection of their action. This is very important because they are very optimistic the non- communist world hasn't got the stamina, hasn't got the patience to wear them out and that all they have to do is keep stonewalling and sooner or later we will give in.

The kind of moves that have been signalled by Australia will confirm to them that they are right in their course.

Mr Richardson in his report referred also to the failure of the Minister's statement to condemn the Vietnamese invasion and occupation. He also stated that ASEAN Ministers were upset by Australia's decision not to co-sponsor their resolution in the United Nations. Certainly, this switch in Australian action has been very unsettling. It is the first time since the Vietnamese occupied Kampuchea that Australia has failed to co-sponsor.

It is useful, Mr Deputy Speaker, to compare this position with that of another ASEAN dialogue partner, the United States of America. The delegation spokesman for the United States at the United Nations was Congressman Solarz. As all would know, Congressman Solarz is a New Yorker with a reputation for supporting very liberal causes. He is by no means a shell-backed conservative. Congressman Solarz informed the General Assembly that the House of Representatives unanimously endorsed-note that; unanimously endorsed-the ASEAN resolution at the United Nations. He reported this fact to the United Nations in the following terms:

As far as my own country is concerned, let me state that, although there are, under our democratic system of Government, inevitably differences from time to time between the executive branch and the Congress over key policy issues, on this issue both branches of Government are clearly united. Only three days ago, the House of Representatives unanimously adopted a resolution unanimously endorsing the resolution.

Congressman Solarz stated that this resolution-the resolution from which we withdrew our co-sponsorship-provides the mechanism to address all Vietnam's fears. He said:

It would produce a free and neutral Kampuchea, a threat to none of its neighbours, respecting the fundamental rights of its citizens. Hanoi should accept this opportunity for a settlement.

Ravaged by conflict, famine, genocide, and foreign oppression, Kampuchea's recovery will be a long-term and formidable task. The task to bring peace to Kampuchea, however, is potentially less formidable. It would also end Vietnam's international isolation.

It is no good this Government allowing the argument from its Left wing that the ASEAN resolution and policy does not limit the proposal of Pol Pot to return to power. That is the argument that this Government and this Minister have consistently put to this House. As we have heard in the United Nations, the resolution creates the conditions for a non-aligned Kampuchea whose future would be determined not by Vietnam, not by Pol Pot, but by the Khmer people themselves . The truth is, and we all know it, that the reason Australia refused co- sponsorship lies more in the politics that motivate the Labor Party as it tries to accommodate the pressures from the Left than anything in the resolution. The fact that the resolution drew the unanimous support of the United States Congress may provide a good reason for the socialist Left to oppose our co- sponsorship. However an Australian government which finds itself in a situation in which its position contrasts so markedly with a unanimous United States Congress and Executive needs examination.

The situation with ASEAN is now acknowledged by the Prime Minister as serious. But the Foreign Minister, who has been a central figure, will not be present in Bangkok when these matters are to be discussed with the objective of sorting out the differences. Why, having caused the problem that Australia now finds itself in, is he not there to play his part in repairing the damage that he has caused? Was it his decision not to go, or does the Prime Minister believe the presence of his Foreign Minister would only add to the problems? I believe that may be closer to the mark.

The Prime Minister has important tasks in the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting and the Foreign Minister is not attending that meeting either. Does this mean that the Foreign Minister seeks to downplay the role of the Commonwealth in world affairs? That would be utterly consistent with his previous remarks in relation to the Commonwealth and the worth of the Commonwealth. It would certainly not be out of character for him to take a negative position on the Commonwealth. The Minister, in his speech in this House on the ASEAN issue, justified his stand by arguing that his position on ASEAN proceeded from his desire to make a contribution to the stability of the region. This is the whole point. We object to his position not on the ground that he is adding to stability but on the grounds that he is destabilising relations with ASEAN and in so doing he is enticing the Vietnamese to believe that their intransigence is paying off.

I refer again to the concerns of ASEAN, that Vietnam may be inclined to work to the view that:

The non-communist world hasn't got the stamina, hasn't got the patience to wear them out, and that all they have to do is to keep stonewalling and sooner or later we will give in.

I think that the way the Government has gone about the task, the way it has allowed the relations with ASEAN to develop into a critical issue, is not encouraging the Vietnamese hardliners to change their stance. Let us hope that Australia will take full responsibility for the problems this Government has caused and get on with the job of working closely with ASEAN for the security of the region.

Last week Cabinet made two important policy decisions. We all know about them. One was on uranium and one was on Grenada. It was clear that it would complicate Cabinet's task with the Left in Caucus if it gave a clear-cut lead on Grenada. When the issue of a Commonwealth role in Grenada came into public focus the Foreign Minister quashed the idea of Australian participation. The confusion in the handling of this matter led to a considerable confusion in the Department of Foreign Affairs and particularly in Australia's United Nations delegation. There is no need to dwell on this unhappy chapter in the administration of our foreign policy. Suffice it to say that the Government made no effort to put the technical facts of this matter to the Australian people.

Sir Paul Scoon, the Governor-General of Grenada, emerges as a central figure. He is recognised by the Secretary-General of the United Nations and the Secretary-General of the Commonwealth as the legitimate authority in Grenada. Sir Paul invited the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States to intervene to drive out the assassins and the Cubans. How could such an action be recognised by Australia as anything but an act of self-defence? But this Government and this Minister gave no leadership on this matter of tremendous public importance. It contented itself with a statement of what it would not do. It is basically afraid to speak out on such issues, because if it does, Caucus will split down the middle. So what do we have? We have a paralysis in public leadership on foreign policy, and the toleration of attacks on our closest friends-ASEAN and the United States. The ASEAN crisis and the Grenada vote are not monuments to out national pride but how many more obstacles and debacles are in the pipeline given the record of this Government and particularly this Minister? That is an extremely worrying question not only for this House but for all Australians.