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Wednesday, 3 December 2003
Page: 23616

Mr BARRESI (2:11 PM) —My question is addressed to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Would the minister update the House on the significance of the United States alliance to Australia's national security? Is the minister aware of any alternative views?

Mr DOWNER (Minister for Foreign Affairs) —Firstly, I thank the honourable member for Deakin for his question. I know he is a strong supporter of the alliance we have with the United States. The ANZUS alliance now goes back some 52 years. There is no doubt that, since this government has been in office, we have strengthened that alliance in a very dangerous and difficult time internationally. We negotiated the Sydney Statement back in 1996 to put the ANZUS alliance into its more modern context and, after the events of 11 September 2001, we invoked the ANZUS alliance for the first time. I think what it gives us in terms of access to leading edge technology and, of course, as I was saying yesterday, vital intelligence from American intelligence agencies is absolutely fundamental to this country's national security. Our reinvigoration and revitalisation of the alliance has been one of our key achievements.

There are alternative views. I think the House knows that the member for Werriwa, the Leader of the Opposition, has doubts about the alliance. And these are not new doubts—these are not doubts that have just emerged over the last few months. Not only has he reiterated this by refusing to withdraw his remarks in relation to the current President of the United States but I note that, in a parliamentary debate on a defence white paper on 8 December 1994, the member for Werriwa, the Leader of the Opposition, praised the white paper for `downscaling the significance of ANZUS'. So there we have it: right back in 1994 the Leader of the Opposition made it perfectly clear that he thought one of our objectives in Australia should be to downscale the significance of ANZUS. More recently his language has been the language of a university debating chamber or a student demonstration. For example, on 5 February this year, he referred to the American administration's foreign policy—designed to counter terrorism and to stop the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction—as `American imperialism'.

Today, curiously enough, an article written by the Leader of the Opposition appeared in the Age newspaper. There were very interesting references in this article to Iraq. I would have thought that, whatever your position on the issue of Iraq, if you were a reasonable person you would recognise that one of the good things that has come out of American led action in Iraq recently has been the liberation of the people of Iraq. At least Saddam Hussein is no longer there. But the Leader of the Opposition says that what the Americans did was `invade and occupy'. He makes no reference to liberalisation and liberation. He makes no reference whatsoever to the overthrow of Saddam Hussein. He makes no reference to the discovery of 300,000 bodies in mass graves—no. This is the old left-wing argument about American imperialism `invading and occupying'.

I thought it was equally curious that, according to the article, in a discussion about the war against terrorism the Leader of the Opposition wrote that this must be a war against terrorists—that the Americans should fight terrorists and `not the women and children of nation-states'. To suggest that the Americans are somehow deliberately going out and targeting women and children instead of fighting a war against terrorism is completely absurd and indeed a very offensive proposition.

Now we have the Leader of the Opposition, a bit worried that his inherent anti-Americanism is going to seep through to the Australian public, trying to spin a line about his support for the American alliance, but he has a whole history of disregard for and criticism of the United States and the American alliance. These glib words of the Leader of the Opposition will not reassure the Australian people about a man who says that being a hater is part of what he is about.