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Tuesday, 26 February 1985
Page: 207

Senator CHANEY (Leader of the Opposition)(5.54) —I acknowledge that a number of honourable senators on both sides of the chamber have very kindly agreed not to speak this afternoon because it was agreed that we should bring this matter to a vote. I acknowledge that on our side Senator Teague and Senator MacGibbon were generous in that respect. I see that Senator Crichton-Browne is waving at me. I take it that he was also generous in his preparedness not to speak. I do not wish to delay the Senate for long, but we do face a procedure which, if it is not carefully explained, might be capable of being misquoted, not least by the Government. We now face a situation where the Government has moved an amendment to the amendment I proposed at the beginning of the debate. The amendment proposed by the Government is, of course, a watering down of what was put forward by the Opposition. The Minister for Resources and Energy (Senator Gareth Evans) rose in this place and said:

The reality of the matter is that the fact of the Western alliance and, indeed, the eastern bloc alliance for that matter, is crucial to the common security concept and the move we all want to see occur towards arms reduction and, ultimately, disarmament. The network of alliances that exist around the world are crucial from this point of view. They are a stabilising factor politically and in security terms.

It is strange that at the same time the Prime Minister of the country, the Hon. R. J. Hawke, says that in approaching its responsibilities in these matters 'the Government unequivocally rejects the attractive but unrealistic idea that unilateral disarmament would be an effective way to bring about an end to the arms race'.

I remind the Senate that the Prime Minister of this country is on the record as saying that unilateral disarmament would not be an effective way to bring about an end to the arms race. Yet Senator Evans has moved an amendment which very carefully removes from what we are proposing to put to the Senate any suggestion that unilateral disarmament is to be avoided. It is important to understand that what the Government is seeking to do is to remove some important elements from the Opposition's motion, elements which make clear what we believe Australia's interests are and elements which we think are important to this debate.

What Senator Evans is doing and what the Government is seeking to do is to remove the statement 'That the Senate is of the opinion that unilateral disarmament measures can only undermine the cause of peace and contribute to instability' and the expression of concern by the Senate 'at the attempt unilaterally to place restrictions on the military forces of Australia and its allies'. The fact of the matter is that the Prime Minister of this country, when talking about bases and other matters, made a statement last June which certainly made it quite clear that the Government purported to reject unequivocally the attractive but unrealistic idea that unilateral disarmament would be an effective way to bring about an end to the arms race.

I wanted to make that explanation because the Opposition's position is as set out in the amendment I have moved on behalf of the Opposition. The present stance of the Government is to seek to water down that statement to remove any reference to the undesirability of unilateral disarmament, and that is not a view which can be supported by the Opposition. I want to make it quite clear and put it on the record that, insofar as the Government has purported to put forward a positive motion which is in accord in part with the views of the Opposition, we are, of course, accepting of that proposition. In other words, we firmly support the need for continued access by allied ships to Australian ports. We see that as a matter of fundamental importance to Australia. I want the Senate and the gentlemen upstairs to understand that what the Australian Labor Party is proposing to do is to weaken--

Senator Gietzelt —You will need to say it in words of one syllable.

Senator CHANEY —It is good to hear Labor members saying: 'You will need to say it in words of one syllable'. I am aware of the warnings that were made by honourable senators opposite that they would be briefing the Press in a certain way. I make it quite clear that this attempt by the Labor Party to water down the motion should be seen for what it is. The fact of the matter is that this Opposition believes it is in Australia's interest that there should be access to Australian ports on the part of allied ships. The Australian Waters (Nuclear-Powered Ships and Nuclear Weapons Prohibition) Bill proposes that that be denied. It is also the view of the Opposition that attempts to unilaterally weaken the United States of America are damaging to the security of the Western alliance and are damaging to our ability to advance world peace and disarmament. They are propositions which apparently the Government is not prepared to subscribe to in these votes.

I make it quite clear that we oppose the amendment that has been put forward by the Labor Party. It is a watering down of the Opposition's position. We believe it is totally inconsistent with the view the Government purported to adopt last year. It is inconsistent with the words of the previous Attorney-General in this debate and it is inconsistent with the Prime Minister's statement of last year. We reject the amendment that has been moved by Senator Evans.