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Friday, 28 November 1986
Page: 3964

Mr HOWARD (Leader of the Opposition) —by leave-The Opposition welcomes this statement from the Prime Minister (Mr Hawke). I am also very pleased to say, on behalf of the Opposition, that the goals and objectives set out in the statement are ones with which the Opposition can fully identify. The goal and objective of having bipartisan support in the Australian community for international efforts to secure a lasting peace is something that ought to command the attention and the energy of members on both sides of the House.

I join the Prime Minister in addressing a few remarks to the young people in our community and recognise, as he endeavoured to do, the genuine passion, to the point of understandable obsession, on the part of many of our young people to maintain a secure and lasting peace. The Liberal Party of Australia and the National Party of Australia recognise the profound yearning and desire of young Australians for peace. We associate ourselves with it, and we will identify ourselves with bona fide attempts to marshal the concern of young Australians for the cause of peace around the world. In doing that, we identify ourselves with a realistic approach to the cause of peace. We counsel against belief in simplistic slogans. We counsel against the unnecessary use of fear. We counsel against any kind of misplaced faith in the doctrine of unilateral disarmament. We remind the young, as we are all reminded by history, that the path of unilateralism invites only a false peace and a peace ultimately of totalitarianism. The history of the twentieth century is strewn with lessons to those who seek refuge in acts of unilateral disarmament.

It is a welcome opportunity for this Parliament to say something about the issue of peace and about the International Year of Peace. As I said at the commencement of my remarks, as to the goals and the objectives of what the Prime Minister said, he can rest assured that there is a bipartisan spirit in this Parliament on the issue of peace. The matters on which my colleagues in the Liberal and National parties and I depart from the Government and from the Prime Minister are not matters that surround our bona fides on the peace issue; they do not in any way diminish our desire to have an effective peace around the world but, rather, they represent a judgment on our part that in some areas the Government has mistakenly identified itself with false paths to peace and has mistakenly seen refuge in arrangements, treaties and objectives that, rather than securing a more peaceful future, may make our future less secure and therefore less peaceful.

I deal with three issues in that context. I deal, first of all, with the nuclear free zone in the South Pacific. We do not believe that the treaty giving effect to that is all that it has been painted to be by the Prime Minister. We do not believe that that arrangement has made that part of the world a more peaceful or more secure one. We believe the Government has an overoptimistic view of the benefits of the South Pacific nuclear free zone. We should remind ourselves that nuclear free zones do not protect us from the effects of nuclear war. That zone does not enhance security in that region. The zone does have the capacity to erode the potential and the capacity of the United States of America to match the growing Soviet presence in that part of the world. The treaty does dilute the responsibility on Australia to help maintain in that area an integrated resistance to the expansion of Soviet power. It implicitly denies the likelihood of a deteriorating international and regional environment. Given the circumstances that have unfolded in that region, we regard that as an overly optimistic approach. It restricts our ability to respond to what might be a radically altered strategic environment. We share the Government's continued opposition to the dumping of nuclear waste in the South Pacific and we strongly identify with the Government's opposition to nuclear testing in the region. The House will be aware that that was a policy zealously pursued by the Fraser Government during the seven years it was in office.

The next area where we depart from the Government is, of course, on the question of the Reagan Administration's strategic defence initiative. The Prime Minister, during his speech, made an impassioned plea for an alternative to the present balance of terror around the world-a balance of terror which, incidentally, has kept the world from nuclear destruction over the last 40 years but, nonetheless, is the cause of the continued concern and sense of foreboding and insecurity on the part of so many of the young in our community.

Honourable members on this side of the House see in the strategic defence initiative a highly moral purpose, as indeed the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Hayden), who was praised only a few moments ago by the Prime Minister, once saw in it a highly moral purpose. As the Foreign Minister pointed out in 1985, it has the highly moral purpose of holding out the hope of a non-nuclear alternative to the existing balance of terror. I find it passing understanding that a government and a group of people, who I accept are bona fide committed to the cause of peace and genuinely want to find an alternative to the existing balance of terror, could adopt an attitude of opposition to the strategic defence initiative that is more belligerent, more hostile and more uncompromising than that of just about any other Western nation, particularly against the background of the Foreign Minister having once said that the Reagan Administration's proposal had a highly moral purpose. I think it has the highly moral purpose of providing a non-nuclear alternative to the existing balance of terror. Therefore, in this International Year of Peace, in identifying fully, as we do, with the goals that have been outlined by the Prime Minister, I just have to express on behalf of the Opposition our astonishment that the Government should so vigorously dissociate itself from an initiative which offers the only possible hope at present of providing a realistic alternative to the balance of terror. That is a fact. It passes comprehension that the Government should have a different point of view.

I say in that context, deliberately and without any equivocation, that in my view, the great thing that emerged from the Reykjavik summit between President Reagan and Secretary-General Gorbachev is to be found in two areas. Firstly, it demonstrated what progress can be made on a basis of trust and good will between two super-powers. Even more importantly, as far as the defence and the security of the Western world are concerned, the utter determination of President Reagan not to bargain and trade away his strategic defence initiative is something that all of us in the West should applaud. He deserves the support and the applause of the Western world for having emerged from that summit with that attitude intact.

The third area that I wish to comment on relates to the importance of the contribution we make to the Western alliance. Barring the achievement of an effective, verifiable agreement on nuclear disarmament, which must be the continuing goal of people of good will around the world, we need to maintain an effective Western alliance. Although the Government constantly repeats its commitment to the ANZUS Treaty and although the stance taken by the Government in relation to the New Zealand Government's behaviour concerning the ANZUS Treaty has the broad support of the Opposition, on this occasion it has to be said that the Government is taking an increasingly minimalist approach to our alliance with the United States of America. We have to remind ourselves of what the Government did about the MX missile. We have to remind ourselves of its hostile attitude towards the strategic defence initiative. We have to remind ourselves, as the Prime Minister did in his speech today, that, as far as disarmament is concerned, this Government takes an attitude of moral equivalence towards the United States and the Soviet Union. I want to say on behalf of the Opposition that we do not take an attitude of moral equivalence as far as those two countries are concerned and we will never take an attitude of moral equivalence to the United States and the Soviet Union.

Mr Robert Brown —What do you mean by that?

Mr HOWARD —I will tell the honourable member what I mean by that. The prime culprit for the level of international tension and aggressive action in the world today is still the Soviet Union. That is what I mean by that statement. How can the Prime Minister of this country wash his hands, Pontius Pilate-like, of any attempt to make a moral judgment about the conduct of the United States and the Soviet Union when four million Afghan refugees are in Pakistan, when hundreds of thousands of Soviet troops are in Afghanistan, and when we know of the aggressive conduct of the Soviet Union in relation to Afghanistan and the Soviet build-up in the South Pacific? How can the Prime Minister come into this House and deliver a serious speech on the cause of peace and pass absolutely no judgment at all on that? How can he behave as though the Australian Labor Party believes that, when it is all boiled down, the United States and the Soviet Union are equally to blame for peace being at threat and equally to blame for the level of international tension? That is an attitude that will never be embraced by the Liberal or National parties and it will never be embraced by the overwhelming majority of the Australian community.

Finally, I would like to say something about the domestic activities associated with the International Year of Peace. The Prime Minister waxed very lyrical about all the things the Government has done. The largest expenditure under the International Year of Peace appears to have gone to the Government's favourite advertising agency. Some of these odd-ball grants that have been identified by the Opposition's Waste Watch Committee are prime examples of the view that the International Year of Peace has something to do with what I would call the cue card approach that the Prime Minister is increasingly taking to Australian politics. If he has a problem area one of his minders puts up a cue card which states: `Talk about peace. Talk about the environment. Talk about the young. Talk about families'. And so it goes on. When we go through some of these grants we find, for example, that Senator Vallentine got $1,500 for a conference called `Just Defence', which reviewed Australia's defence needs.

Mr Hayden —Do you know that the Liberal Party applied for funding for a conference, too?

Mr HOWARD —My colleagues will be saying something about the Liberal Party. The Foreign Minister interjects about the Liberal Party. When the Government had that opening conference, that spectacular gala occasion at the beginning of the year-it involved all the school children; it was meant to strike a bipartisan note; it was advertised and sponsored by the New South Wales Department of Education-why did it not invite representatives of the Opposition along? If the Foreign Minister is going to hold up himself and the Prime Minister as having taken a bipartisan approach to the International Year of Peace, he had better look at the correspondence that was exchanged between himself and me on that issue. That was nothing more than a blatant attempt to use the natural affection of Australians towards schoolchildren to promote the Prime Minister and the Minister for Foreign Affairs. The International Year of Peace has been littered with grants to all sorts of strange organisations, all of which have a particular view about the peace debate, a view that is not shared by the mainstream of the Australian community; and many of those examples have been demonstrated and brought out by my colleagues on the Waste Watch Committee.

I conclude by saying again that there is bipartisan support for the goals and objectives set out in the Prime Minister's speech. We on this side of the House yield to nobody in our concern and our desire to match the aspirations, particularly of the young, for a more peaceful and a more secure world. We recognise the ever-present danger of nuclear war. We recognise, as all honourable members do, the horrendous consequences of that. We therefore share the Government's goals. We disagree with some of the Government's methods. We do not place benign, naive faith in nuclear free zones. We remember the lessons of history about flirting with unilateralism. We do not adopt an attitude of moral equivalence towards the United States and the Soviet Union. We believe that all Australians should remain profoundly in the debt of the United States for the moral and other leadership it has given to the Western world over the last 40 years. We on this side of the House will never be silent in the face of a Prime Minister who can talk for 20 minutes about the cause of peace and offer not one word of criticism of the imperialist expansion and anti-peace conduct of the Soviet Union since the end of the Second World War. It is only through recognising those realities that the true and lasting peace that all of us share as an objective can truly be maintained.