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Tuesday, 11 September 1984
Page: 796

Senator ELSTOB(4.44) —I wish to counter some of the allegations made in this altercation. It was the Australian Labor Party under the Chifley Government that first brought up the idea of having the ANZUS Treaty . It is true that it was not finalised when the Chifley Labor Government went out of office. But it was the Labor Party under Chifley that dreamed up the ANZUS Treaty and the need for it. To say that the Labor Party has not been involved in this is an outrage. The Labor Party has always looked to defence. We are not a militaristic organisation but on the other hand we do not bow to pressure from outside; we will defend this country to the very last, which was proved in the Second World War.

It is approximately 32 years ago that ANZUS came into being. It came in four days after Anzac Day in 1952. That is a long time. The Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence, of which I am a member, looked at the ANZUS Treaty. We produced a report on it. We also produced a report entitled 'Threats to Australia's Security-Their Nature and Probability'. That was another valuable report that the Committee put out. These two reports deal with the future defence of this country. In that latter report all political parties agreed with the ANZUS Treaty as a whole, although there was some small amount of dissent. We also said that it was possible to renegotiate some parts of the ANZUS agreement. It is a source of great pleasure to me that the Hawke Labor Government, when it came to office, took up the recommendations of that report and put them into practice. It did not renegotiate with the Americans the agreement on the bases and some other aspects of the Treaty. Credit should go to the Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee. All members of that Committee, irrespective of their party affiliation, act in the best interests of this country. We do not play politics, as Senator MacGibbon has done in his speech. I have been on that Committee for a number of years; all members of all parties on it have worked in the best interests of this country. That is the best way to go about it.

The Labor Party sees the ANZUS treaty as a valuable asset. Right from the outset, as I said, under Chifley and successive Labor Governments, including this one, the treaty has been seen as a valuable asset in the defence of this nation. A treaty is not just what is written in it. Anyone can sign a treaty and break it. The valuable part of a treaty is that it must be respected by the peoples of the nations who sign it. That is its real strength. I believe that the ANZUS treaty has the respect of Australians and Americans, and that gives it its strength. It saddens me to some extent to see New Zealand drop out of that treaty. I can understand-

Senator Chipp —They have not dropped out at all.

Senator ELSTOB —New Zealand is on the verge of dropping out or it is talking about it. I do not believe that is the way to go. If New Zealand got into difficulties militarily tomorrow and if it was being threatened it would look to Australia and to the United States for protection. I believe that it is important for the nations involved in any agreement to see to their own defences . Commitments have to be kept. I can understand the attitude of the people of New Zealand. I can understand that of the Australian Democrats and their fear of a nuclear power. There is not one person in this Parliament who would not agree with what Senator Chipp has said, but we have to face the realities. What is the use of one side disarming if the other side does not? That is the problem. I have always advocated that Australia has a great role to play. Certainly Australia talks to one of the other members of ANZUS, the United States of America. In some instances, Australia can play a great role in talking to the smaller nations. As I have said in this place, the troubles in Indo-China are a real threat to this nation and to the surrounding nations. It is up to us to try to solve the difficulties in that area.

We have played our part in ANZUS. We have provided the bases and this Hawke Labor Government is seeing that the ANZUS commitments are being kept. I believe that it is important for the safety of the world and especially that of our region that the ANZUS Treaty is maintained. It has been said that we would not allow American ships to come to our ports for recreational leave or for servicing. That is totally incorrect. At the last Labor Party conference we made our stand quite clear. The whole party made a decision. It was not made by any individual, and the Party must abide by it.

Senator Durack raised some questions regarding fear of invasion of bombers from Vietnam. The Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence in its report on ' Threats to Australia's Security-their Nature and Probability' looked at that question and did not see any threats to this country in he foreseeable future. The Committee admitted that only the United States and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics would have the capability to invade this country. The Committee also said that it did not believe that either one of those countries would want to do so.

We have to look at defence in a global sense. Although ANZUS involves only three powers, New Zealand, Australia and the United States, I believe the Treaty has a flow-on effect to other nations and to other areas. Many people in the world are envious of the ANZUS Treaty, the only one to be formed at its time. It was the only such treaty at that time. People in the Labor Party and, I must say , those in the Liberal and Country Parties, went ahead and negotiated the Treaty . I believe that it has been to the benefit of this nation.

I strongly believe that we must co-operate in this agreement. I do not believe that this country should be running along like a small dog at the heels of the Americans. We must maintain our independence and at times, if needs be, have some differences of opinion with the Americans. But basically the Treaty shows the strong relationship of the three nations involved. I hope the New Zealanders stay involved. It is easy to drop out of an agreement. The New Zealanders see that there is no fear of their being invaded. I do not see any fear of Australia being invaded but I also believe that, as I said earlier, we have a responsibility in world affairs. We have American bases here, and that is one of our contributions. We allow American ships to come to our ports, and that is a further contribution. If ever the day were to come, it may be generations ahead, when we need help it would be important for our two nations to maintain a very close relationship.

After the First World War there was a great relationship between many Australians and Americans. They fought together side by side. But those people have grown old and are not influential any more. In recent times, Australia's winning the America's Cup has brought new life to ANZUS, and there is a better understanding between Australia and America. We compete in all sorts of sport. We have differences of opinion but basically the friendship is very strong and growing stronger. That is the important part of the ANZUS Treaty as I see it. If any future Government of the United States were to say that it would not go to Australia's help in a time of crisis I do not believe for one moment that the American people would allow that. The same would apply to the Australian people if America were in difficulties. We went with America into Vietnam, and I acknowledge that, though I did not agree with the decision. We fought with Americans in Korea, and I think that was justified.

We have faced our commitment and we have a very strong agreement. I would not want to see any breaking of that agreement; I want to see it strengthened. I will do everything in my power to encourage the New Zealanders to stay in ANZUS. I would say to any New Zealand politician that he should re-think the matter. I would not want to apply any pressure or see any pressure applied but I believe that it would be in the interest of our countries and of the rest of the world for ANZUS to be maintained. I do not want to see it broken up. I think the majority of Australians do not want that either. They want to see it strengthened and maintained. The matter of urgency is somewhat frivolous. On one hand it is frivolous; on the other it is good because it informs the people of this country and of America about what the majority of people think about the Treaty. At least it gives the agreement some airing. I can assure members of the public that members of the Australian Labor Party have maintained and will maintain their important commitment to ANZUS.

In conclusion, the raising of this issue has been beneficial in some ways but a waste of time in others. I do not think it is good in world affairs to raise red herrings, as the Liberal Party has done. The Opposition should think seriously about that. The defence and the prosperity of this nation are above politics. The Opposition should think also about that. It is not good to create conflict between powers that have been very friendly. All parties and all Australians should not bring politics into this issue. The defence of this nation is far too important to be fooled around with.

Motion (by Senator Jessop) agreed to:

That the question be now put.

Question put:

That the motion (Senator Durack's) be agreed to.