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Tuesday, 11 September 1984
Page: 779


Senator DURACK(3.10) —I move:

That in the opinion of the Senate the following is a matter of urgency:

The need to demonstrate Australia's commitment to the ANZUS Treaty by maintaining joint defence facilities and guaranteeing port access to allied naval units regardless of means of propulsion or armament.

There could be nothing more important for the consideration of this Parliament, Mr President, than the subject that I have put down today as a matter of urgency . It goes to the very heart of the defence of the nation. Although we in this chamber spend a great deal of our time, and properly so, in discussing the good government-and, indeed, the bad government, from time to time, of the present Government-of the nation and the many and varied subjects that that involves, there is certainly always a primary obligation for us to consider, and to continue to consider, the defence and security of the nation. It behoves us to raise that subject for discussion at regular intervals. I believe that in view of a number of events in recent times, not only the actions of this Government but also those of the New Zealand Government, we should, as a matter of urgency today, reflect upon this problem and express, as a Senate, our very firm views on it in the terms which I have submitted, which read:

The need to demonstrate Australia's commitment to the ANZUS Treaty by maintaining joint defence facilities and guaranteeing port access to allied naval units regardless of means of propulsion or armament.

I believe there are two aspects to the subject I have put down today: Firstly, the need for a firm and practical commitment to ANZUS and, secondly, a need to express in a very specific way how that must be done as an absolute pre- condition of our commitment to ANZUS. It is all very well for the Prime Minister (Mr Hawke), in his rhetoric, to express commitment as he has done from time to time since he took office. But there is more to it than just rhetoric. Actions are required as well as words in this vital matter.

Let me spend a few minutes setting the scene for a debate on this subject. I do so not because I doubt the understanding of honourable senators of the problem, but simply because it is as well for us to repeat it and to ponder on it. This is vital to the conclusions we draw. I am afraid that many people, particularly supporters of the Government and the Australian Democrats, do not seem to be able to understand the conclusions that are inevitable. Australia's isolated and potentially dangerous geographical situation and our extended sea lines of communication can be very easily threatened by the naval and air power of the Soviet Union and its allies. They can be easily threatened at choke points such as the Malacca Straits or the Lombok Strait.


Senator Chipp —Which of its allies threatens us?


Senator DURACK —I am just setting the scene, Senator, with regard to the very recent and dangerous alliance between the Soviet Union and Vietnam. For some time the Soviet Union has played a very considerable role in the Indian Ocean and is now exercising greater influence in the Pacific region. In those areas there are two great sea lines of communication which are vital to Australia. They are now viewed with great interest by the Soviet Union, which has generated activity in them. In order to satisfy Senator Chipp, who has expressed his doubts about that, I will give a classic example of what I was saying earlier. Recently a Royal Australian Air Force Orion aircraft photographed one of the most modern Soviet Kilo class submarines in the Indian Ocean; the first time one of these has been sighted there. That photograph was recently put on the front page of one of the national newspapers. Three amphibious assault ships which are nuclear-powered and capable of carrying about 100 barges of 3 to 5 tonnes each have been deployed in the Western Pacific and northern Indian Ocean. Two Kiev class aircraft carriers are also now deployed in that region. This is why the Vietnamese alliance with the Soviet Union is so significant. There are many Soviet vessels using Cam Ranh Bay as a forward base, and at Da Nang there is a fully equipped Soviet air base. The Soviet Union is capable of launching a direct strike on Australia from Vietnam using its squadron of Badger aircraft and long-range Bears, which are also based there. This is evidence of the sort of threat which is coming ever closer to Australia. We are aware of the Soviet naval presence in the Indian Ocean and of its growing presence in the South Pacific Ocean. The benefit of using Vietnam as a base, due to its relations with the Soviet Union, is an ever-increasing threat.

It is all very well for us to build up our conventional forces, which we must do-we are required to do that both in our own interests and as part of our alliance in order to support our allies-but it is completely unrealistic for us to believe that we, as a nation, can alone cope with the type of threat which I have just instanced. Therefore the ANZUS alliance, which is now over 30 years old, is even more significant and important to us than it was when it was established. Clearly for over 30 years it has been the very keystone of our defence and, no matter what efforts we may make, it will continue to be so because of the enormous geographical and strategic factors which I have outlined . What I have said has set the scene for the conclusions that we should be drawing in this Parliament.

The ANZUS alliance is one which the United States of America sees as being of importance to it just as we see it as being of importance to us. It is of mutual benefit, and thank goodness it is. How could we expect the United States, entirely out of regard for our safety, to maintain the sorts of forces and commitments which we expect from it if there is no mutual interest? Leading officials from the United States have repeatedly emphasised the importance of the alliance to world security, not just for the protection of Australia. Admiral Long, the Commander-in-Chief of the Pacific, said in June last year:

Australia's contribution in the alliance is not only for its own self-defence but also it contributes significantly to stability in that part of the world.

He was talking about the South East Asian region. The United States Secretary of Defense, Richard Perle, said in Australia earlier this year that the significance of ANZUS went way beyond regional defence considerations. I believe we do have a very important mutual interest in ANZUS. As I said, it is terribly important for us that the United States continues to maintain that view of ANZUS . It is one of mutual benefit and importance and of security of the whole region in which we are placed.

It is clear that the United States also places great importance on its ability to carry out exercises with particularly Australian warships and aircraft. The whole question of the use of Australian facilities is absolutely fundamental to that. Nuclear powered vessels represent 65 per cent of the Seventh Fleet of the United States of America. Of course, although the United States will not disclose which vessels are nuclear armed, we know that numbers of their vessels are nuclear armed as well as nuclear powered. The attitude we adopt to that is of vital significance. That has been made perfectly clear time and again by the leading figures of the United States.

The Senate may remember that two years ago the present Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Hayden), then Leader of the Opposition, expressed doubts about the visits of such vessels to Australia. There was confusion within the leadership of the Australian Labor Party when Mr Cain, the Premier of Victoria, threatened to ban such vessels from entering Port Phillip Bay. The then Deputy Leader of the Opposition, Mr Lionel Bowen, also expressed doubts similar to those of Mr Hayden. But there was a special visit to Australia by a leading official of the State Department to straighten out Mr Hayden. He straightened him out and Mr Hayden had to eat his words very promptly.

We recently had the visit of the United States Secretary of State, Mr Shultz, to Australia and New Zealand in the light of threats at the time from what is now the new New Zealand Government. That Government has now made decisions to ban United States warships from entering New Zealand ports. Secretary Shultz made it perfectly clear that this is a threat to the whole alliance, that it is absolutely vital to the alliance that those facilities should be made available.

To come a little closer to the present, one matter of great concern to us should be the confusing statements that have been made in recent months by the Foreign Minister, particularly on the question of American bases in Australia. The situation now is that the Foreign Minister is travelling around the world-I think seeing himself as some new Kissinger-and in so doing seems largely to be playing to a domestic constituency dominated by the left wing of the Labor Party . He has been making some very strange statements about American bases in Australia, if the Government is really to be believed in its commitment to maintain those bases. Mr Hayden said in Geneva early in August:

We are reaching a point of critical assessment in Australia about what our role is and our commitment in some of these things.

That was referring to the need for a nuclear test ban treaty. In a background briefing at that time he said:

The implication will be very clear that the Americans shouldn't take us for granted on these matters.

In an interview on AM on 8 August this year, Mr Hayden said:

Now if we were to discover that the things we're working towards are not being supported, and a key part of that would be a comprehensive test ban treaty, we would have to reassess generally our policies and attitudes and I wouldn't care to say any more than that.

Later he said:

It's our belief that our association with the United States, particularly in relation to joint facilities, gives us certain special standing and special privilege, the opportunity to very properly apply leverage so that hopefully we can push the Americans in the direction we want to go towards.

In the light of those sorts of remarks from the Foreign Minister of Australia, I can well believe, and I am concerned that the Americans will believe, that major elements of the Australian Government-apart altogether from the left wing of the Australian Labor Party or the Australian Democrats-have some reservations about ANZUS. There should of course be no reservation whatever in the light of the importance of this treaty, the history of our relationship with the United States, our strategic defence needs and the Prime Minister's rhetoric.

It is not just Mr Hayden's statements which are a matter of worry; we have the notorious attitude of the left wing of the Labor Party to the bases and their future in Australia. The recent ALP conference made a decision on visits by United States warships to Australia. The conference resolution called on the Government:

. . . to ensure in consultation with its allies that the frequency and pattern of naval visits to Australian ports is not such as to constitute in practice the home porting of such vessels . . .

Mr Hayden is now meeting with local officials in Western Australia and hopes to set up a working party to implement this decision. It seems quite clear that as a result there will be a substantial reduction in the number of those naval visits to Western Australian ports by the American task force in the Indian Ocean. So that shows the attitude of the Foreign Minister and of the Labor Party . Another example was the attitude of the Minister for Defence (Mr Scholes) to the docking last year of the HMS Invincible. I do not want to repeat what happened. All these things have added up to cause great concern on the part of our American ally in regard to our support for and commitment to the ANZUS alliance.

We now have the situation with the Labour Government in New Zealand and the attitude expressed last weekend by the New Zealand Labour Party, and I think it is impossible for the Americans really to maintain the ANZUS alliance as far as New Zealand is concerned in the light of that country's attitudes and policies. Such policies must have greatly endangered the very foundations of the ANZUS alliance. So in this atmosphere, if we really believe in the alliance, which we in the Opposition certainly do, and the rhetoric of the Prime Minister would indicate that the Government does, we must take very firm steps to assure our American allies of our commitment. We have to affirm that commitment to our responsibilities as part of that alliance in the specific way that I have outlined in the matter of urgency that I have submitted for discussion today.

Fortunately, the United States sees the ANZUS alliance as a two-way process, one of mutual benefit. Nevertheless, we cannot go on in the way so many leading elements in Australia have been, particularly in light of the very specific and fundamental changes in the alliance which have been announced by our New Zealand partners.

As I said, we are fortunate that our American leaders have repeatedly stressed the importance of the alliance from their point of view. They have been reassuring Australia that their country's commitment is not limited to dealing with any threat, rather it extends to dealing with any potential aggressor. That is vital to Australia's defence in the future. If we are not to become just another non-aligned country we have to give some real affirmation of our stand. The rhetoric of the Prime Minister is not enough. There must be a commitment not only from the Government; we believe there also ought to be a reaffirmation and commitment on the part of this Parliament. I believe that the Senate should make this commitment in the very clear and certain terms of the matter of urgency that I submitted today.