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Wednesday, 9 November 1983
Page: 2499


Mr COLEMAN(3.38) —We have just heard an extraordinary speech from the Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Hayden) which can serve only to deepen the Association of South East Asian Nations crisis which, because of his handling of it, is already far too deep. For example, we read in the Age this morning:

. . . the Federal Government last night was unusually sensitive about a meeting --

the Foreign Minister has just described this meeting-

between the head of Foreign Affairs . . . and the ASEAN ambassadors . . .

Yet, at the same time, in the Sydney edition of today's Sydney Morning Herald- the report was confirmed by the Foreign Minister a few minutes ago-we see that the Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs yesterday called in the five ASEAN ambassadors and told them that their comments on Australian foreign policy were 'not acceptable'; that they would get no further explanation of Australian policy; and, in effect, he rebuked them. This is an extraordinary state of affairs, created, of course, by the Foreign Minister.

What is supposed to justify this reported rebuke? This is the position: The Foreign Minister, obviously not looking to Australia's interests but to the interests of his own Caucus, has radically changed established foreign policy. He has, of course, an Australian Labor Party policy which is pro-Vietnam, which does not condemn Vietnam's occupation of Cambodia and which, in effect, condones it by wanting to resume aid to Vietnam. To follow this policy entirely would be much too much for the Australian people. So instead of dealing in aid, the Foreign Minister wants to give Vietnam moral support. He made a speech at the United Nations in which he discussed the Cambodian situation without mentioning the Soviet-backed Vietnam conquest of the country. That is quite a victory for Vietnam and an insult to ASEAN. Then he ordered Australia to withdraw from co- sponsorship of the ASEAN-United Nations resolution on the settlement of Cambodia although a record number of countries co-sponsored it. That is another victory for Vietnam and another insult to ASEAN. We get no explanation from the Minister , other than that there has been some changes in the resolution. At least that is what he told the House on 11 October. He repeated it today. On neither occasion did he explain it.

Let us look at the changes. There are three changes between the 1982 and 1983 resolutions. The 1983 resolution adds a reference in the preamble to the renewed attack on civilians by those forces-referring to the foreign forces-in violation of humanitarian principles. If that is one of the reasons why we could not co- sponsor the resolution this year, that is an extraordinary state of affairs. Surely the Foreign Minister does not deny the attacks in January and April and other attacks on civilian encampments on the Thai-Cambodian border. That is one of the changes. Can it seriously be assumed that that justifies a withdrawal from co-sponsorship? I do not believe that it can.

The second change is a reference to reported demographic changes being imposed in Kampuchea by foreign occupation forces. Surely the Foreign Minister does not deny a large scale, officially sponsored Vietnam immigration into Cambodia. There are disagreements about the scale and the size. That it is large scale, that it is officially sponsored and that it amounts to a demographic change cannot possibly be denied. So can this justify our withdrawal from co- sponsorship? We are told that these changes do justify it.

The third change is that the 1983 resolution refers to an increasing effectiveness of the anti-Vietnam coalition. Can the Foreign Minister deny that? Can he deny the reports of the demoralisation of the puppet army in Kampuchea and the general increasing resistance to the occupation? I refer briefly to the statement made a few weeks ago by John C. Monjo, Deputy Assistant Secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, before the House Foreign Affairs Committee's Subcommittee on East Asian and Pacific Affairs. I will quote two paragraphs to make my point. They state:

The Heng Samrin regime's own army is weak and inneffective. Widespread conscription has brought its strength to 20-30,000 men but morale is low and desertion a widespread problem. Even the main force units are considered unreliable by the Vietnamese while some local militia are apparently suspected by the Vietnamese of collaborating with the resistance.

The Vietnamese, however, have been unable to eliminate the resistance threat and face the prospect of protracted conflict.

There are many other sources that we can rely on. That is the third change between last year's resolution and this year's. It is on the basis of those changes, and only on the basis of those changes, which are all sound changes or at least extremely defensible changes, that Australia withdrew from co- sponsorship. That is the only justification the Minister has given for withdrawing from co-sponsorship, which is an extremely unsatisfactory state of affairs and one on which the ASEAN countries could not place any credibility. This is all against a background of years of patient and careful diplomacy, including conciliatory offers to talk with Hanoi by the ASEAN powers aimed at refusing recognition of the puppet regime in Cambodia, in bringing about a withdrawal of foreign troops and at self-determination in Cambodia.

Australia now, under the new policy, has gone as far as it can without actually giving Vietnam full support. It will not condemn the occupation in the most appropriate forum, the United Nations General Assembly. It will not co-sponsor the ASEAN-United Nations resolution. It attempts to undermine the ASEAN stand. For what? For Australia's national interests? Of course not. To use one of the Foreign Minister's own metaphors, it rolls over like a poodle waiting to be scratched on the belly every time Vietnam clicks its fingers. This is presumably to appease the left wing of the Labor Party. Is it any surprise that Malaysia's Foreign Minister walked out of our Foreign Minister's United Nations speech? The Foreign Minister told the House that the Malaysian Foreign Minister had to go to lunch. Our Foreign Minister was apparently satisfied with that explanation. If he believes that, he will believe anything. No wonder the Malaysian Foreign Minister walked out. This is how the Australian Foreign Minister described the Cambodian situation:

We are naturally concerned that a stalemate continues over the Cambodian question.

This perpetuates a situation of instability between the countries of Indo-China and neighbouring countries, in which the immediate victims are the Cambodian people themselves.

What fine impartiality. There is 'a stalemate' in which, by strong implication, both sides-Vietnam and ASEAN-are to blame equally for the instability between the countries of Indo-China and neighbouring countries. There is no statement of Vietnamese conquest, not a word about Vietnam's basic responsibility to the whole situation. Even worse, the Foreign Minister went on:

We do not support any approach based on a continuation of the present military activity.

This obviously implies a criticism of ASEAN for supporting armed resistance to Vietnam's occupation. In my view it is one of the most deplorable speeches ever given by any Australian Foreign Minister. No wonder the Malaysian Foreign Minister said that the Australian Foreign Minister could not have done a better job of antagonising others and losing friends. No wonder ASEAN cancelled last month's annual ASEAN-Australian talks or deferred them indefinitely.

No sooner had the dust begun to settle on this matter than the Foreign Minister announced a major change of policy in refusing to co-sponsor ASEAN's Kampuchean resolution. No wonder Singapore's Foreign Minister made the serious statements on Monday-they have been mentioned in this debate-that Australia was bending over backwards to please Vietnam, that Australia was signalling that it lacked the stamina to sustain an anti-Vietnam position, that the Australian Foreign Minister had taken the pro-Vietnam view that the anti-Vietnam coalition in Kampuchea was a wasting asset. Singapore's Foreign Minister said simply: 'We are trying to work at something which can offer the people of Kampuchea a non- communist alternative. One would have thought that if others did not have a better idea they would at least support us'. After all these Australian provocations-I believe that that is not too strong a word-the Secretary to the Department of Foreign Affairs is reported to have called in the ASEAN ambassadors and told them that their criticism of Australia's egregious policies was 'not acceptable'. They are acceptable to many Australians, probably to most Australians who writhe with embarrassment at the way in which the Australian Foreign Minister is conducting his foreign policy. Last week it seemed that the fiasco of Australia's vote supporting Nicaragua against the United States because the Foreign Minister could not send clear voting instructions was the symbol of Australia's new foreign policy. Now the paradigm of Labor's policy is the tragic undermining of Australia's relations with ASEAN, all to please a detestable regime in Hanoi and to appease the lunatic Left of his own Party.