Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Current HansardDownload Current Hansard   

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Monday, 1 December 1986
Page: 3097


Senator WALTERS(8.49) —Madam Acting Deputy President, I am well aware that tonight we are debating two Bills-the Environment Protection (Sea Dumping) Amendment Bill 1986, which is a non-controversial Bill and with which the Opposition certainly agrees entirely, and the South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone Treaty Bill 1986, which is the one that you mentioned and which we strongly oppose. The words sound fine. A nuclear free zone treaty Bill sounds wonderful. But the point is that it just will not work. As Senator Sir John Carrick said earlier, unless we have a nuclear free world, a nuclear free Pacific is a farce. Should a nuclear war take place, no one will be protected. No one pretends for one minute that, in the result of a nuclear war, the South Pacific would get off scot-free. The resulting nuclear winter would affect the whole world. It would not matter what treaties had been passed, the South Pacific would be affected just as much, whether or not it had been declared a nuclear free zone. If we are serious about declaring the South Pacific nuclear free, all warships, be they nuclear fuelled, nuclear armed or otherwise, would be prohibited from going through the area. But the Government, very rightly, would not allow this in the Treaty. I could not agree more, because while the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics has the largest navel fleet outside the Warsaw Pact at Cam Ranh Bay, this is impossible. It would be a very one-sided affair.

Let us turn to the crux of the world problem. Without doubt, the most important decision to face this generation is how to avoid nuclear war and how to maintain world peace. This is the overriding desire of us all. We may have different ideas as to how we go about it, but we must pay each other the courtesy of acknowledging that none of us wants nuclear war. From that disaster there can be no winners. It is usual, if one wants to avoid mistakes, to look at how things have been done in the past. I believe we must look at history to find our answers. If we do not, and attempt to look only towards the future, we can only guess the outcomes.

The things we know are the facts shown to us by history. Following the 1914-18 war, people were so disillusioned by the brutality of a world war on such a large scale never previously witnessed-there were about 50 million deaths-with the use of new technology at that time, such as gas warfare and air bombardment, they felt that that must be the war to end all wars and vowed that never again would such inhuman acts be allowed to take place. The way they chose was disarmament-a very familiar demand today, about which we have just heard from Senator Sanders. So four years after that war ended, in 1922, a treaty, the Washington Treaty, was agreed to by Great Britain, the United States, Japan, France and Italy. They agreed to restrict the numbers of battleships and their sizes, the cruisers and aircraft carriers. They agreed to scrap those existing ships that were in excess of the numbers agreed upon. After the initial arguments, France and Italy eventually withdrew from the Treaty, leaving the United States, Great Britain and Japan. This was the first time that three major powers in any area of international dispute had agreed to limit their navies. At that time the battleships were the most destructive weapons that man had made. As a result of that agreement, Australia, as a member of the Commonwealth, sank her only battle cruiser, HMAS Australia, in 1924. After all, we thought, that if we set the example, surely others would follow-again, a very familiar phrase today.

The Treaty was meant to last until 1936, but by 1934 Japan had withdrawn from certain clauses of the Treaty, and the Treaty foundered. Further efforts at disarmament, regarding other weapons, met similar fates, with some nations abiding by the agreements and others opting out as they chose. The largest international conference on disarmament at that time was attended by 60 nations in 1932, with President Hoover of the United States taking a prominent role. He proposed that land, sea and air weapons should be drastically curtailed, even to the extent of abolishing tanks and other heavy artillery. While this was not agreed to, some nations such as Britain did make efforts to disarm, but as the negotiations wore on it was obvious that Germany was not abiding by the spirit or the letter of that agreement, and so the negotiations fell down. As the Senate can imagine, while these disarmament agreements were taking place between the nations the public was also heavily involved. Similar public debates on disarmament were going on as they are today.

An example of such debate was in 1933 when some of the students of the Oxford Union held a similar debate as that held recently when Mr Lange was invited from New Zealand as the speaker. On that occasion in 1933 they passed a resolution which read: `This House refuses to fight for King and country'. How similar are those sentiments to the ones being expressed by the so-called peace movement today? We have all heard them. We have heard the lot: `Get rid of the American bases; get rid of ANZUS; declare the South Pacific a nuclear free zone'. After all, it is claimed, that if we set the example others will follow. We heard Senator Sanders talking like that tonight. What was the end result of all this disarmament talk in the treaties? What was the result of the peace debates of that time? Again, we are looking at facts-just facts.

Great Britain's armed forces had been whittled away by the disarmament agreements to such a degree that they were no longer a problem of the peace movement at that time had, by their sentiments, encouraged Germany into the belief that Great Britain had gone soft. Why not? After all, some of the young people of one of the most famous universities of the world said they would not fight for King and country. Finally, when Britain tried through negotiations to stop Hitler's further invasion of Europe it was negotiating on such a position of weakness that Hitler ignored the pleas for peace. After all, Hitler knew Mr Chamberlain, the British Prime Minister at that time, had been only too eager to believe him when he said he would not invade Poland, when he promised that he would never go to war with Britain. Do honourable senators remember the talk of `peace in our time'? He knew England did not want to enter the conflict completely unprepared as she was.

The religious leaders of the day-indeed, the Dean of Canterbury-had even sought permission to go on a prayer campaign for peace to Germany, so why should Hitler have worried when everyone rightly believed that Britain did not want to fight? She did not want to call Hitler her enemy. She believed that if she disarmed other nations would follow suit, but they did not. Germany had secretly armed and Hitler continued his march into Europe. When we finally took up the fight we were weak; we were irresponsibly weak. I remember when I was a schoolgirl watching the map change-I am sure Senator Coleman would remember this too-as Hitler marched slowly across Europe to Britain.


Senator Sheil —Not so slow; a blitzkrieg.


Senator WALTERS —No, not so slow but he marched well on to Britain. No one was able to stop him. Britain, with so few arms, was no match for the invaders. All that the disarmament agreements and the peace rallies had done was to weaken Britain to such an extent that Hitler had free reign. It was not until after Japan, with the support of Germany and without warning, attacked Pearl Harbour and the United States entered the war on our side that the tide turned. That is what we are learning from history. Those are the hard facts. It is not something imagined-just hard facts.

Let us look at what is happening today. We are being told by the peace movement that it is wrong to look upon the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics as a threat to the free world.


Senator Coleman —Oh no you are not; that is a load of rubbish, Senator. You are talking about the peace movement. They don't make statements at all.


Senator WALTERS —I am not accusing Senator Coleman of that. I am accusing the peace movement. It says we should not be looking upon the USSR as a threat to the free world. We should be showing trust and setting an example by disarming. What happened when we did that last time? We were then told that we should not look upon Hitler as a threat. Along with others of that view, Mr Chamberlain decided to trust Hitler, and that trust was totally misplaced. Hitler took advantage of Britain's trust and invaded Poland. Did Britain have a right to call nazi Germany a threat? She did not want to but the atrocities carried out by that regime particularly against the Jews resulted in six million Jews being put to death in gas chambers or by starvation in concentration camps and all the other horrors in the biggest and most inhumane massacre in the world's history.


Senator Gareth Evans —What has this to do with the South Pacific, Shirley?


Senator WALTERS —If Senator Gareth Evans has not been listening, as the Minister in charge he should have been. The aim was to wipe out the Jewish race. Those atrocities were committed against the Jews by nazi Germany. There were many other atrocities. Another five million civilians were murdered in cold blood. Britain, as leader of the free world, could not stand by and allow such dreadful acts to take place. She did not want to fight but was it not legitimate for her at least to call Hitler the enemy?

Why should we see the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics as a threat to the free world? Let us look at her history. We can start when Russia took over East Germany after World War II. In 1953, because of her inhumane treatment and lack of freedoms allowed the people, mass demonstrations broke out against communist rule. The Soviet Union sent in troops to break dissent, killing many unarmed protesters and arresting thousands, but despite that the protests continued. Eventually in 1961 the Soviets were forced to build a wall around East Berlin to keep their people from fleeing the country. I have seen this wall. It is a monument to Soviet oppression. I have seen the documentation of those who have attempted to flee but were not successful. What sort of regime has to build a wall around its people to stop them leaving? Following the massacres that occurred in East Berlin, further uprisings occurred-in Hungary in 1956 and in Czechoslovakia in 1968. The Hungarian uprising resulted in a particularly cruel assault when Soviet tanks ploughed into members of peace groups who stood unarmed shoulder to shoulder in the streets. Some 3,000 unarmed peaceful Hungarians were slaughtered.

Suppose we come more up to date. Over seven years ago the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan. The year before, through a military coup, the communists overthrew the republican government of Afghanistan, but they were unable to control the protests that took place against the new regime. As a result, the Soviet Union sent in its troops to assist President Amin. Then it deposed him in favour of a president more to its liking. President Karmal had the inevitable mass demonstrations that occurred in all Soviet-dominated countries. Sixty students were killed and 7,000 people were arrested in April 1980. According to reports, six months later the majority were still awaiting trial. We are told that during the whole of the communist takeover 4,854 people were killed while in gaol and 9,000 people were arrested and just disappeared during that six-month period. Presently there are 115,000 Soviet troops in Afghanistan. An independent report from Helsinki stated:

Just about every conceivable human rights violation is occurring in Afghanistan on an enormous scale. The crimes of indiscriminate warfare were combined with the worst excesses of unbridled violence against civilians.

The atrocities committed against the young in particular resulted in most females and their children fleeing the country. They are presently residing in Iran and Afghanistan. They make up a third of the pre-war population. No international or non-government organisations are allowed in the country-not even the Red Cross.

These are just a few of the facts of the USSR's international history. What of its human rights record at home? We are told that the USSR allows peace movements, but there is a vast difference: Those marching in the peace movements in the USSR must belong to the official peace group and carry banners abusing the United States. Otherwise, demonstrating is quite illegal and those participating are arrested.


Senator Coleman —I raise a point of order, Mr Acting Deputy President. I draw your attention to the fact that Senator Walters has not mentioned the South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone Treaty. In the whole of her speech, which has now taken more than 15 minutes, she has filibustered. She is determined to take her whole 30 minutes, and I think it is about time her attention was drawn to the contents of the Bill.


Senator Peter Baume —On the point of order, Mr Acting Deputy President: Senator Walters is discussing the context within which this Bill is set. She is doing so rather widely but she has considerable time remaining and I ask for your indulgence as she is putting the Bill into a quite relevant context.


Senator Walters —On the point of order, I have mentioned the South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone Treaty at least four times in this debate, and it is a pity members of the Government have not been listening. If they listened to the history they might learn something.


The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Elstob) —The Senate is discussing the South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone Treaty Bill and the Environment Protection (Sea Dumping) Amendment Bill, and perhaps Senator Walters will get around to explaining to the Senate just how her comments relate to those Bills.


Senator WALTERS —I am not sure why the Government is so sensitive. I really do not understand. I have gone through the history to explain why we are opposing this legislation: We cannot call one area of the world nuclear free and so give an advantage to those countries that are a threat to the free world. That is exactly what I am relating this history to. If we look back we can come up with a little knowledge on this matter. At the moment I am particularly talking about the supposedly official peace group in the USSR. It is quite illegal for members of that group to carry banners criticising the USSR. We were told that the unofficial group is called the Group of Trust, and that it has completely disappeared from the USSR. Its members have been expelled, imprisoned, or sent into internal exile. They were told that, if they did not carry the appropriate banners, they could not march in the USSR. We know that there are ways of forcing these people to make disclaimers. They have made public announcements that, should any of them be arrested and be said to have changed their minds, they would have been forced to do so. We are well aware of the use in the USSR of psychiatric institutions. We are aware of internal exile, and of the intimidation of Russians outside the Soviet Union regarding relatives left behind. It has all been recorded by those brave enough to have their writings smuggled out of the country. We are well aware of it all.

Is it legitimate for our country to label the USSR a threat to the free world? We are one of just a handful of independent countries-one of the 19 countries out of 167-that are really free. How precious is freedom to those 19 countries? How precious are the freedoms that our ancestors fought for so that we could have the privilege of living in this wonderful country? If we value our freedoms, we must take the most secure path to maintain them and to avoid nuclear war, the consequences of which would be so horrific that no country at all would escape the nuclear winter which, as I have said, we are assured would follow. The situation has been reached where both sides realise the perils. When Senator Sanders asked during this speech what has been accomplished, I interjected and said that we have had an unprecedented 40 years of freedom from world wars. That is what has been accomplished. If we decide to learn from history, I believe that that time can be doubled. The Western world must unite. We must have defences to deter the aggressor. The free world must show the USSR that its strength cannot be ignored. The USSR must agree to the verifiable arms reduction treaty proposed by the Western alliance. We must continue to maintain our defences until the USSR agrees to do this.

Australia has been asked to forsake the free world and get rid of the American bases from our soil. We have been asked to make the South Pacific a nuclear free zone, to prohibit navies from the free world entering our ports, and to destroy the ANZUS alliance.


Senator Coleman —Oh, come on!


Senator WALTERS —We have been asked to do all of that by the Left of the Party to which Senator Coleman belongs and by the Australian Democrats. What we have not been told is that the Soviets are currently spending 15 per cent of their gross national product on their military, while the United States spends about 7 per cent. We have not been told that the USSR is expanding in our area, and that in return for the Soviet's, support of Hanoi's occupation of Kampuchea, Vietnam, as I have already said, has allowed the USSR to transform Cam Ranh Bay into the largest Soviet naval depot outside the Warsaw Pact area, using not only surface vessels but also attack and cruise missile submarines, in addition to reconnaissance and fighter aircraft. All of this is occurring as close to Darwin as Darwin is to Melbourne.

Again, few of us realise that the USSR is now entering our own immediate area with negotiations going on between Vanuatu and the USSR. Vanuatu is about the same distance from Brisbane as Hobart is from Brisbane. Yet, some in the peace movement tell us to get rid of the United States bases. They say that if we set the example, the USSR would follow suit. We have been told that the Soviets do not want war any more than we do. It is all so familiar, because 40 years ago Great Britain was told all of this and she believed it and was very nearly defeated in the early years of World War II. Indeed, it nearly brought about the destruction of Western civilisation. It did not stop that war when Great Britain believed the German people did not want war any more than she did. It did not stop that war when she believed that if she set an example and disarmed, others would follow suit. Indeed, it did the opposite; it made Hitler realise he could demand the world. He had little opposition, because Britain was negotiating from a position of great weakness. We never want to go through that again. We must never allow a similar situation to arise. We must always be capable of negotiating from a position of strength. We must never allow a World War III. As I have said, from that disaster there can be no winners.

I wonder what the demands of the present peace movement are doing to the will of the United States when it negotiates with the USSR? What has the recent decision of New Zealand to destroy the ANZUS Alliance done to the resolve of the Soviets? What would happen if once again the free world were undermined sufficiently that it was forced to negotiate with the enemy from a position of great weakness? I will leave it to the lessons of history to tell us.