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
Wednesday, 3 December 1986
Page: 3288


Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE(5.40) —We are debating the report entitled `Disarmament and Arms Control in the Nuclear Age' from the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence.


Senator Georges —You debated this yesterday.


Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE —No, I did not debate it yesterday, Senator Georges. I referred to it in respect of another issue-the South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone Treaty. That impinged, in a very modest way, upon the content of 715 pages of report. It was a very good report, perhaps the most definitive report in respect of matters nuclear put down in this Parliament and perhaps any other parliament in the Western world in recent years. I support the vast majority of the recommendations in the report, but there are some matters where I and a number of my colleagues found ourselves departing from the route being taken by Australian Labor Party senators and members. Firstly, we were not prepared to accept the assumption, as the report does, that one can equate, in a very real sense, the morality, the integrity, the response, the actions and the reactions of the Soviets and, particularly, the United States of America or the Western democracies. There is a very real distinction between the two.


Senator Georges —You take them as the source of all evil.


Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE —If the honourable senator is asking me whether the Soviets are the source of all evil, the answer is no, just most. Any primary assumption based on the conclusion that both superpowers have the same moral plane, the same moral plateau, is to completely misunderstand and misread the real world. It is certainly not the case. This report in many ways, in the areas where we depart in respect of the recommendations, is seduced into believing that the conduct, behaviour, reflex and response of the Soviet Union can in some way be equated to those of either the United States or any other Western power. They simply cannot. I am sure that even Senator Georges will understand that. I will quote from the dissenting report:

The adoption of such a spurious `even-handedness' defies history, morality and our basic national security interests.

Of course it does. It makes us very fragile if we work on the premise that the Soviets will respond in the same way as an open Western democracy and an open Western society. For instance, in my view, to assume that the global ambition of both super-powers is parallel, equal and the same shows a remarkable streak of naievite.


Senator Georges —It is.


Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE —Of course it is not. To seek to place the United States and the Soviets on the same plateau in respect of expansionist policies is quite misguided. One only has to look at the spoils of the Second World War to see the difference, the contrast. Countries have been kept and taken in as satellites and have had whatever democracy they had gutted, whereas countries were invaded temporarily by the allies. Even Senator Georges, with his aging eyesight, will understand that. He is not that myopic. There is a very real difference. There is a very real difference between an open society and a closed society. Can one ever imagine the Soviets having an inquisition or an inquiry? If they had been selling arms to Iran or sending money to the Contras in Nicaragua can one imagine them having an inquiry? The person who inquired would lose his head. Of course there would not be an inquiry. The very societies themselves are so fundamentally different. It is those differences that dictate the responses and the direction. They are the very essential elements which make the two super-powers so removed in terms of seeking to identify what they have in common.


Senator Lewis —The radical left wing of the Labor Party is still alive and well.


Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE —That is absolutely right. The real difference is that foreign policy of a democratic society is a reflection of domestic policy. It is a reflection of the views of the community; it is a reflection of the views of the public. Any President, any Prime Minister and any leader who so departs and is so out of step with his public and his voters will soon be out of office. He has responsibility, an obligation, a commitment and political constraint and restraint imposed upon him by his society, by his community, and by the public. It is not a constraint or a restraint in terms of decisions, negotiations or commitments that a leader of a closed society has. The difference is that one is accountable and one is not. In a closed society such as the Soviet Union, the Soviets' only responsibility is unto themselves and unto the armed forces leadership.


Senator Lewis —But Georges wouldn't understand that.


Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE —Of course he would not. We have seen in the United States that, when a leader is out of step with public opinion, such as President Carter was, he is cast from office. There is a very real difference. The population in the Soviet Union, the population in the satellite states and the population in the Warsaw Pact countries have no say, absolutely no influence and no control on the leadership and its decisions-quite the opposite to the situation of the Americans. The Soviets are kept ignorant; the truth is shrouded from them; and they are bathed in darkness. They are not intended to know and they are not intended to make a contribution. Hence their leadership are in no way shackled to making judgments which are in the best interests of the public, but simply only ensure that they are ensconced. As long as the hierarchy is in place so that they are able to impose their views of the world on the rest of society, that is what decision-making depends upon-quite the contrary to democratic societies. I will just touch on some of the matters where we differed. Firstly, we differed on the South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone Treaty. We took the view that the Treaty is but a political statement, and nothing more.


Senator Georges —Senator Lewis, you are so-


Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE —Do not let me interrupt Senator Georges! The South Pacific nuclear free zone is nothing more than a political statement. In no way does it inhibit Soviet penetration from the north Pacific where one quarter of the total Soviet fleet is seeking the capacity to penetrate at any time into the South Pacific. The only people who will be inhibited and affected are the Americans. We have ruled out home porting under any circumstances, under any event and on any occasion when we might find ourselves threatened in any shape or form. The Americans can no longer come to our aid or in any way be stationed or home ported in any country that is a signatory to that Treaty. Of course, we have the Russians up in Cam Ranh Bay. Honourable senators might remember the spoils of war.


Senator Georges —When are you going to come to the United States?


Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE —The United States has a base in a democracy-the Philippines. In fact it was intended as a term of the new Constitution to have the United States bases excluded from the Philippines. They will have a say. Do honourable senators think the people in Vietnam have a say? Do honourable senators think they have a plebiscite? No chance. Let me move quickly past that point. Another matter where we vary dramatically is in terms of the strategic defence initiative. It seems to me that the opponents of SDI have two premises. The first is that SDI will not work and, therefore, we should not be involved in it; the other is that it will work and that makes it dangerous.


Senator Georges —Yes.


Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE —Which is the honourable senator opting for? I can never be certain. My view is that any form of deterrent, any invention that man can possess which eliminates the capacity for a nuclear war, is something we ought to commend. Anything that makes nuclear weapons obsolete has virtue and merit. It seems to me that there is a real conflict in the minds of those who are opposed to SDI. I have never been able to find people who will articulate one point or another in precise terms. They seem to waffle and say: `If it works it is bad, but it probably won't work anyway. Whatever happens, we don't like it and we don't want to know about it'. President Reagan has said from the outset that the knowledge that is obtained from research on SDI will be passed to the Soviets. We will then have two defensive mechanisms which will make nuclear war obsolete, in the event that SDI is effective. In the last arms limitations meetings the Soviets decided they wanted to experiment in a laboratory for 11 years-for crying out loud!

I will touch, very briefly, on deterrence. The difference between those of us who signed the dissenting report and those who signed the majority report is that we do not find ourselves shackled to mutually assured destruction. Our view is that there ought to be some negotiating room before we blow ourselves up. We believe in a sense of deterrence and we believe in extended deterrence. That is the very real difference. It is regrettable that the majority do not understand that.


The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Giles) —Order! The honourable senator's time has expired.

Debate (on motion by Senator Kilgariff) adjourned.