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Wednesday, 9 November 1983
Page: 2501

Mr MORRISON(3.48) —There appears to be a fashion developing in this House to quote ex cathedra statements emanating from Singapore. With the indulgence of the House, I will add to the passing parade of those quotations. I will quote what Mr Rajaratnam had to say on the Australian action. He stated that Australia's actions:

. . . will certainly damage the foreign-policy interests of Australia, seriously question its credentials as a reliable ally of those who have taken up the Soviet challenge in South East Asia and bring comfort to the Vietnamese.

That statement was made in May 1981, in response to the previous Government's decision to derecognise the democratic Kampuchean regime. If honourable members want another quotation, it is in these terms:

. . . the Philippines Foreign Minister described Australia as being ' recalcitrant' on the issue, and reservations were also reported to have been expressed by the US and Chinese officials.

That statement was made in June 1981. This is the second occasion within the week that I have spoken in similar vein. I made an observation in the defence debate and pleaded with this House on behalf of the Australian national interest to prevent--

Mr MacKellar —What do you think we are raising?

Mr MORRISON —Just wait for it-to prevent petty political point scoring on a subject on which there has been and there still is, if the Opposition is prepared to be honest, complete bipartisan support.

The Australian position today has developed directly and logically from a decision made by the Opposition when it was in government, and that decision was a correct decision. It was a decision that the Australian Labor Party, then on this side of the House in opposition, supported. We did not quote Rajaratnam or Dhanabalan or anybody else in the Association of South East Asian Nations because they were making the same comments that they are now making about the Opposition. But we believe that there was a purpose in maintaining a common Australia united front. I only ask honourable members opposite to give away the petty point scoring that they are indulging in and think primarily of an Australian national interest. There are very strong differences of opinion between the countries of ASEAN and within the countries of ASEAN on these matters and there are differences of opinion in Australia.

Mr MacKellar —We will agree with you if you are right.

Mr MORRISON —We happen to be right and I applaud the honourable member for finally saying that we are right. The Opposition has now agreed that we are right and I accept that point. The point that we must keep in mind is that there is a logical-and I challenge the Opposition to say that this is not so-and consequential development of our policy. The present Leader of the Opposition ( Mr Peacock) made a very famous speech. This matter comes down to the question of Pol Pot and the question of the coalition. In a rather dramatic speech on 28 April 1981 he stated:

On principle-

that is strange for members of the Opposition, but I will accept it-

I could not remain part of a government committed to recognition of the Pol Pot regime. After the Cabinet meeting I called on the Prime Minister and resigned. I told him that I resigned because I could not sustain a credible foreign policy for this country while we continued recognition of this regime.

That point was accepted. When the previous Government voted on this issue in the United Nations, I remember publicly commending in this House the then Minister for Foreign Affairs, the honourable member for Corangamite (Mr Street), for the decision that was made by the then Government. I pointed out that I was aware of the pressures that had been exerted by the United States. I was aware of the pressures that had been exerted by China and the pressures that had been exerted by ASEAN in making that decision. But that decision was made. It was supported by the Labor Party and we did not seek to point-score because of the statements emanating from that very same source, Singapore, about the position of Pol Pot. In that statement of 28 April 1981-and it is ironic that Singapore keeps being brought out in this debate-the present Leader of the Opposition pointed out that the Prime Minister had issued on behalf of Mr Lee, the Prime Minister of Singapore, a Press statement dealing with the Kampuchean question which was selectively quoted to do damage to the present Leader of the Opposition. So we have had a continuity of policy. I again make the plea that we consider the Australian national interest. I submit that on the question of Pol Pot and the influence of Pol Pot there is no difference in the Australian political party scene. There has been a continuity of concern about the proposition. There has also been the continuity of criticism emanating particularly from Singapore.

The Foreign Minister (Mr Hayden) referred to the very extraordinary presentation by the Singapore Foreign Minister, setting out a guideline to Australian foreign policy. I do not mind people making observations about Australian foreign policy. But as an Australian, I believe it is Australia that decides what its foreign policy will be and we do not need the obiter dicta of people such as Mr Dhanabalan in making these observations. He wants us to end public denigration by Australia of the Kampuchean coalition. Let me say very clearly that it hardly constitutes a coalition. There are three groups and they make very strange and uncomfortable bedfellows. As the Minister for Foreign Affairs has pointed out, they spend a lot of time realistically sniping at each other.

I had the pleasure of meeting Sihanouk many years ago. He is a mercurial character and is always on the point of, or having just returned from, resigning from something or other. He is always on the verge of withdrawing. In the unlikely event that the coalition did succeed-I make this point very clearly because I challenge the Opposition to contest it-the Pol Pot section of that coalition would reassert itself. I had a discussion yesterday with an eminent American. The eminent American's observation was: 'Yes, this coalition is good stuff for propaganda purposes, but God forbid that they ever succeed, because then Pol Pot would reassert himself in any future government that may come about in Kampuchea'. I am not questioning this. I want to refer to some very eminent people. This is an eminent statement by a very eminent Australian:

I put the view very strongly that if international support is wanted for the coalition, it is going to be much easier to obtain if the figure of Pol Pot is not part of it.

That was a statement made by former Prime Minister Fraser after discussions in China. This is another observation by another eminent Australian:

I think it's too early yet to make any judgement on the coalition, how it will work, whether it will work. But a settlement in Cambodia must involve a return of sovereignty to the Cambodian people over their own country . . . The Cambodians don't want the Khmer Rouge back, they don't want a government imposed on them.

That statement was made by the honourable member for Corangamite. I accept those propositions and I always have. I have never disputed them in this House. In fact, we have supported those propositions. The official report of the Australian Parliamentary Delegation to Indonesia-I will read it quickly- refers to discussions we had with representatives of the Indonesian Foreign Office. It states:

ASEAN would like to exclude Pol Pot from any solution but China will not agree. Peace in Southeast Asia will not be achieved until there is peace between China and Vietnam. China should realise that it does not belong to the Southeast Asian region and should not attempt to interfere in Southeast Asian affairs.

Those views came from ASEAN. Again, I make the plea that the Opposition should not try to denigrate Australia in the propositions that honourable members opposite have put forward over the last few weeks. There is an Australian national interest. There is Australian bipartisan support for our fundamental position in relation to Pol Pot and a future resolution of the conflict in Kampuchea.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Rocher) —Order! The time allocated for discussion of this matter of public importance has expired.