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Monday, 1 December 1986
Page: 3107

Senator SHORT(9.57) —The South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone Treaty Bill 1986 obviously is a very important piece of legislation. It is a Bill to bring into the South Pacific region, and the countries of the region bound by members of the South Pacific Forum, a range of measures to restrict the use of nuclear energy for military purposes. Therefore, it does have a superficial and an emotive appeal, I am sure, to many people regardless of their particular political affiliations. It is, I think, accepted by all of us that we all want peace, that peace is the number one objective for all people in Australia-I venture to say for most of the people of the Western world. We all want nuclear disarmament. There is no dispute about the desirability and the wish for nuclear disarmament in this over nuclear armed world. No single political party, I believe, could claim the high ground of morality on this issue. We all have the same end in mind and that is a progressive reduction and hopefully an elimination of nuclear arms in the world. Where political parties vary is on the means of achieving that agreed end.

People and parties in Australia believe that we ought to take steps down the road of unilateral disarmament, that the Western world should set an example which the rest of the world would follow. Honourable senators on my side of politics regard that as a very dangerous path to follow. It is in that area that the main disputes about nuclear disarmament arise-the question of unilateral disarmament compared with balanced and mutual multilateral disarmament. I believe that the debate on the Bill we have before us tonight very importantly revolves around that area because, as I will come back to later on in my remarks, this Bill imposes restrictions on the Western world and, in particular on the nations of the South Pacific in a way which alters the balance of relationship and power between those countries and the Soviet Union.

In my remarks tonight I would like to talk about the region of the South Pacific, which is such a vitally important region to use. It is a rapidly growing region of the world and it is becoming important not only to us but also to the rest of the world. We are in the middle of seeing major changes to the region. An ex-British diplomat, Mr John Colvin, writing in the August edition of Asian Bulletin, said:

The South Pacific is no longer-if it ever was-as depicted in Rogers and Hammerstein's musical comedy, which featured genial and unsophisticated natives attendant upon gentle, boyish European masters.

Instead, what we have today and what we have seen increasingly over recent years are economic difficulties, fledgling governments and Soviet expansionist designs combining to make the south Pacific region an area of flux. The South Pacific is made up of more than 1,300 islands and atolls. Five million people inhabit the nations and territories formed by those islands and a very large population surrounds them and makes up the rest of the region, including Australia. When the Second World War ended five colonial powers-Australia, Britain, France, the United States of America and New Zealand-administered the Pacific island dependencies. Initially, the South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone Treaty we are now discussing was one of those oddball ideas of the United Nations. It was adopted enthusiastically by the Melanesians and especially by Father Walter Lini of Vanuatu, who wanted to shut everything nuclear out of the South Pacific, including international waters. The South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone Treaty produced at the Sixteenth South Pacific Forum therefore prohibits the acquisition, manufacturing, testing or stationing of nuclear weapons in the region. It does allow for the transit of nuclear armed and nuclear powered warships and it allows individual countries to determine port facilities for such vessels. As has been said, the Treaty has been signed by 10 Pacific nations, including Australia, out of a total of thirteen. Vanuatu and the Solomons have not signed because they consider the Treaty too weak. On the other hand, Tonga has refused to sign because it considers that the details of the Treaty are too strong.

The Opposition and I have a number of concerns regarding this Treaty. Most importantly, I believe that it will severely damage Australia's long term security. The South Pacific island states play a vital role in Australia's strategic security. The sea routes to America and Asia are affected by circumstances in the South Pacific. This was highlighted very dramatically during the Second World War when the Allies relied on the route from the Pacific through the Tasman Sea and Bass Strait to the Indian Ocean to defend India and the Middle East when the Japanese cut off the north and central Pacific to allied forces. Today the South Pacific is more important to Australia than ever because it has increasingly important strategic, political and economic factors. It is for these reasons that the region is also attracting Moscow's attention. The Treaty encompassed in the Bill before the Senate serves as a signal to the Soviet Union that Australia, under the present Australian Labor Party Government, has radically changed its stance. It amounts to an attempt to coerce the United States to do something that it cannot do without abandoning its allies, including Australia-that is, station ships in the area. In the last month or so the national journal of the Australian Defence Association quoted a senior officer in the Department of Foreign Affairs as admitting that the whole process of the Treaty `was designed to coerce the British, French and the Americans, but especially the latter two'.

This Treaty can only serve to limit the capability of the United States and therefore to weaken our own security to the extent that we can no longer rely absolutely on the United States to come to our side in the event of possible conflagrations. It would not physically be able, for example, to come within the same proximity as would be the case if this Treaty did not go through. The Treaty ignores the growing Soviet influence in the region. I believe many Australians have ignored the significance of the Vladivostok speech by Soviet leader Mr Gorb- achev in July, when he served notice quite unequivocally that Moscow intends to become a Pacific power in the fullest sense of the term. This has been underlined time and again since Gorbachev made his speech. For example, it was underlined by Mr Peter Hayes, the defence analyst from the highly respected institute, Nautilus Research, who in an Australian Broadcasting Corporation interview on 23 August said that Gorbachev's speech:

. . . reflected the fact that the Pacific is now on the Soviet foreign policy agenda for good and this upgrade is reflected by the creation in the last year of Pacific region units in the various prestigious Institutes of Oriental Studies, of world economics and politics, of USA and Canada studies and so forth, in Moscow. These are the technocrat advisers to Gorbachev.

Professor Lukin, a Soviet academic in the newly created Pacific Department of the Institute of United States and Canadian Affairs in Moscow, has echoed Gorbachev's views:

We understand more and more that the Pacific area becomes more and more important. Maybe in the more distant future it will be the most important region in the world. We are frequently occupied with the fact that the Pacific region is, I would say, one of the most important, mostly developed economically and technically, region in the world. And one of the most retarded politically.

That is from Professor Lukin, a noted Soviet academic. So there is no doubt that Moscow sees the South Pacific region as of increasing importance and significance to it.

From time to time we see an attempt to equate the Soviet Union with the United States in terms of morality. This is the so-called `moral equivalence' doctrine. Nothing could be further from the truth. If one considers such fundamental values as freedom of speech and of association, freedom of migration, and respect for the individual and for basic human rights, it is monstrous to equate the Soviet Union morally with the United States. I am appalled that the Prime Minister of Australia, Mr Hawke, has personally endorsed this moral equivalence doctrine, the most recent occasion being in the other place only last week. The moral equivalence doctrine is not only monstrous; it is, as well, extremely dangerous. For example, it makes no distinction between the Soviet Union and the United States in terms of territorial aspirations. But there is overwhelming evidence to demonstrate that the Soviet Union is aggressively imperialistic-that is, that it is hell-bent on territorial expansion and on the domination of weaker states. Initially, this expansionism and imperialism was confined to Europe. But in more recent years it has spread and is now becoming apparent in our region of the world.

Militarily, the Soviet Union's Far East fleet and air force have been heavily built up. Economically, there is little doubt that the Soviets are interested in what the region can offer. Diplomatically, the Soviets are striving to become presentable to key Asian nations, such as Japan and China, as part of an attempt to reduce tensions on their eastern border. However much we might decry it, the realities indicate that super-power rivalry is now here to stay. Soviet forces in the Asia-Pacific region are far larger than what is required to protect the Soviet Far East and they continue to increase. The march of Soviet naval forces in the Asia-Pacific region has been proceeding for nearly two decades. Since March 1968, naval deployments to the Indian Ocean have been followed by a series of Soviet manoeuvres, including the 1971 treaty with India which allowed the Soviets the use of Indian port facilities.

Two very significant actions in 1968 squashed any thoughts that the Soviets were inclining towards a defenceless neutrality in the region. In November of that year the Soviets fortified their bases in Japan's northern territories and concluded their treaty with Vietnam. In December 1979 Vietnam invaded Kampuchea. In March 1979 it announced the arrival of Soviet warships at its ports. During the past five years the Soviets have gained access not only to facilities at Cam Ranh Bay and Da Nang but also to the ports of Kompong Som and at nearby Ream in Kampuchea on the Gulf of Thailand.

Since 1965 the Soviet Pacific fleet has nearly doubled in size and it is now the largest of the four Soviet fleets. It consists of over 800 modern surface ships and well over 120 submarines, half of which are nuclear powered, and some of the Soviet's best available ships. In 1965 the Soviet Pacific fleet contained 25 per cent of all Soviet naval assets. By 1975 that percentage had grown to 28 per cent, and today it stands at 32 per cent. Almost one-third of all the Soviet naval assets are in this region of the world in the Pacific fleet. Vietnam's Cam Ranh Bay has been upgraded into a major naval base for Soviet warships. With the establishment of an electronic intelligence gathering facility, it is expected to handle regional communications for the Soviet Navy and Air Force in both the Indian Ocean and the South China Sea.

Cam Ranh Bay is now the largest Soviet naval base for forward deployment outside the Warsaw Pact. Over 2,500 Soviet military advisers are presently in Vietnam. By being able to station contingents and air power in Vietnam, the Soviet fleet's problem of having to pass through the narrow straits of the Sea of Japan to gain access to the Pacific is solved. As a result of these efforts, the Soviets are now 3,500 kilometres closer to the Indian Ocean and to Australia than they were just a decade ago.

The South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone Treaty applies only to the South Pacific. It does not apply to any other region, such as Cam Ranh Bay which, as I have said, has nuclear warheads aimed at Australia. An extraordinary feature of the Treaty is that the South Pacific Forum nations, by unilateral act, have extended the geographic area of the Forum nations to include the territory of countries which had no part in drawing up the rules of the Treaty. Whilst the United States, Britain and France have been invited to sign the Treaty-that is, to declare their intentions to be good-their signatures would have no impact on whether or not the Treaty comes into force. At this stage Britain and the United States are still pondering the Treaty. France has indicated that it will not sign. China and the Soviet Union were invited to sign and they have already agreed to this regardless of their lack of traditional or legitimate interest in the region. Ratification of the Treaty will serve, rather than hinder, their strategic interests. So, of course, they are likely to go along with it.

The South Pacific is extremely dependent upon aid from the rest of the world and in that regard Australia has an excellent record, although I think certain South Pacific nations deserve and require more assistance from us than we have given them in the past. I believe that in future our foreign aid policy ought to be directed increasingly towards that region. It is interesting that it took the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Hayden, I think some three years after becoming Foreign Minister to undertake his first visit to that region. Hopefully that neglect has now been overcome, at least to some extent. The total and individual populations, minute geographic and economic size, colonial history, and economic and capital limitations make these countries extremely vulnerable to world economic trends.

As I said, Australia has been a very important provider of assistance to the South Pacific. For historical and regional considerations Australia and New Zealand have been the main outside economic forces in the region. A smaller portion of assistance has been provided by the multilateral agencies, including the Asian Development Bank, the United Nations development program and one or two others. In 1985-86 Australia's economic aid contribution of $368m to the region was by far the largest component of our aid. Of course much of that money went to Papua New Guinea but still a very important contribution went elsewhere in the region, including military aid of over $20m per year and another several million dollars through the Australian education system by providing free tuition for secondary and tertiary Pacific students.

While the island states intensely oppose nuclear testing at Mururoa, they are divided on the issue of banning nuclear armed or nuclear powered ships. For instance, Fiji and Papua New Guinea understand the United States requirement for nuclear powered and armed ships and welcome a United States naval presence. On the other hand New Zealand and Vanuatu-I point out that Vanuatu has recently forged links with Libya-ban all naval nuclear armed or powered ships. The pro-Western disposition that until now has kept the Soviets in check in the Pacific region has, in recent times, undergone profound questioning. Today all the islands are independent, with the exception of American Samoa, the French territories of French Polynesia, Wallis and Futuna, the Pitcairn dependency governed by Britain, Tokelau, a New Zealand territory, and Niue and the Cook Islands, which are self-governing but associated with New Zealand. The current generation of Pacific Island leaders, who have emerged in the last decade or so following the departure of the colonial powers, generally favour the West but this may not remain so for a number of reasons. The present leaders are aging. Those who will succeed them will have no recollection of being protected or liberated by the Australians during the Second World War.

For the majority of Australians the major issue regarding our alliance with the United States is the implicit pledge that America stands as a defender of last resort. At the Australian Labor Party conference in Hobart the Hawke Government's Foreign Minister, Mr Hayden, indicated that the overwhelming majority of Australians support our continued membership of the 35-year-old ANZUS alliance. Along with the rest of the Opposition, I welcome that support, as did the Government.

There are those who argue that the recent termination of Kiribati's agreement with Moscow within hours of an American offer being accepted shows that the Soviet Union's influence in the South Pacific is just a toe-hold, and a tentative one at that. But the march of Soviet military and other influences through South East Asia over the past 20 years or more puts paid to this view. Moreover, the Soviet's continuing stranglehold over so much of Eastern Europe, its activities in Angola, its support for Vietnam and that country's invasion of Kampuchea, its invasion of Afghanistan and its long history of severe violations of the must fundamental human rights all serve to remind us of what sort of country totalitarian Russia is. On the morning after New Zealand excluded the United States warship some time ago, thereby effectively ending ANZUS, Radio Moscow predicted that this event `would set off a chain reaction leading to the collapse of the ANZUS bloc', with the New Zealand example to be `followed by Australia'. So we should make no mistake about Soviet intentions in our part of the world. Those intentions are for real.

The Soviets quite clearly wish to break our alliance with the United States to weaken our position in the region. The Hawke Government's proposal for a South Pacific nuclear free zone plays into the Soviets' hands. It imposes major restrictions on the United States, Australia and the South Pacific island nations, but it imposes no equivalent restrictions on the Soviet Union, despite the fact that the Soviet Union now has enormous military capability poised on our doorstep. This Bill is no more than a sop to the left wing of the Hawke Government and the ALP. It is a dangerous proposal. It weakens Australia's security and it enhances the position of the Soviet Union in our region. For these reasons, as well as others that time does not permit me to go into tonight, the Opposition strongly objects to this Bill, because it is contrary to the interests of Australia's future security.