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Monday, 23 February 1987
Page: 466


Senator Sir JOHN CARRICK(9.07) —The Government is seeking to stop-indeed, to gag-a very important debate in this Senate.


Senator Gareth Evans —Just to adjourn it; be fair.


Senator Sir JOHN CARRICK —The Minister is saying: `Just to adjourn it'. The Government's record is that when it adjourns such debates they do not come on again. Its record of promising debates is one of broken promises. The debate is on a very significant paper entitled `Defence Initiatives in the South Pacific'. The Government is seeking to gag the debate and the Australian Democrats are supporting the Government. I make it very clear to those who may be listening that there has been no arrangement at all for this debate to terminate tonight. There is a long list of speakers on both sides of the Parliament.


Senator Gareth Evans —One Labor member, one Democrat-that is all-and 11 on your side.


Senator Sir JOHN CARRICK —If the new Manager of Government Business is to engage in this kind of disruption, he will set his own execution. I warn him of that. For a Minister who is wet around the mouth as Manager of Government Business in this Senate to take this kind of action now is simply to make a rod for his own back. He must know, if he has any maturity at all, that one cannot run any parliamentary chamber by gag or heavy fist. One requires the co-operation of every single senator in this chamber if the business is to be done. Nobody who tries to use the technique of a fascist will be able to succeed inside this chamber.


Senator Gareth Evans —Mr Deputy President, while making due allowances for rhetorical over- kill on these occasions, I think `the technique of a fascist' is a little more than the situation warrants and I ask Senator Sir John Carrick to withdraw it.


The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —Senator, you will withdraw the remark.


Senator Sir JOHN CARRICK —Mr Deputy President, I am very happy, because of the Minister's tender feelings, to withdraw. Let me say that it comes very badly from a Minister who, when he and his colleagues were in Opposition, used every kind of gutter language, as it was used today. It comes very badly from a person whose Treasurer (Mr Keating) uses gutter language every day in the other place. My goodness, how they cite the scripture for their own purposes now. Let Senator Gareth Evans cleanse the mouth of Paul Keating and those in the other place. I will always be happy to observe the rules of this chamber.

My goodness, we are seeing tonight someone who is making an enormous rod for his own back. If this chamber is to work, it will work with the voluntary assistance of all 76 members; it will not work with the iron boot of a government, and it will not work with an Australian Democrat-there is only one member of that Party sitting in this chamber at this moment-who has pledged in writing never to apply a gag. The honourable senator who is sitting there now looks shocked at this situation; but the Party will break the promise even though these Australian Democrats are the hypocritical people who are going to keep the Parliament honest. So we have a new Manager of Government Business who is the keeper of human liberties and freedoms, is he not? He is that person who always talks of the rights of human dignity and freedom and he is attempting to gag this debate. It is no good his saying: `We will put it on some other time'. The Government said that about the report of the Dibb Review of Australia's Defence capabilities, a valuable document to debate and one that has enormous imperfections revealed by the defence forces and by the public. The debate has never come up. The Government has said it about defence papers, one after the other, over the months and years. The fact of the matter is that when the Government moved this adjournment tonight its intention was that this matter should never come up again. Why should it be adjourned until a later hour this day, as my colleague Senator Durack asked. We will support the motion with our amendment. If the Democrats do not support it those who look towards the Democrats should understand what this means. The Democrats are breaking a fundamental plank of their Party. Senator Chipp was as one in saying that the Democrats would never gag. They are going to gag tonight and we will watch this situation with great interest to see who keeps who honest in this place. They will support the gag; they make their little limpet fish arrangements behind the Chair all the time.

Why is there urgency? Can there be any more urgency than this? Next week there will be the first visit to Australia by a Russian Foreign Minister, Mr Shevardnadze. The discussions the Government and the people of Australia will have with Mr Shevardnadze are of great importance. It is vital that we should have the opportunity to express the views in this chamber on one great important subject, and that is what is happening in the South Pacific. The essence of the statement is that there must be some implied threat in the South Pacific although, seek as one may in the statement, one will never get any indication that there is even a nation called the Soviet Union or that it may have some kind of a movement into the South Pacific. How incredible are the priorities of this present Government? My colleagues here heard me last week and this week ask the Government to give us confirmation or otherwise of the most important piece of defence information that Australia confronts and that is this: Only a week or so ago the American Government released a series of satellite photographs of Cam Ranh Bay in Vietnam. The American Government, through its defence officers, analysed those photographs and showed something that was in complete denial and refutation of everything the Russians have said and much of what this Government has pretended over the years. The satellite photographs showed that Cam Ranh Bay is now a major military establishment in Australia's region of influence, in an area to which we must look towards our defence.

The importance of Cam Ranh Bay is that Russia has in Vladivostok in the Eastern capital an icebound port. It has been seeking to get an all-weather port in the Pacific straddling the Pacific and Indian oceans for years. `There is nothing significant about Vietnam' says the Labor Party. `There is nothing at all significant about the fact that the Vietnam war has ended and that the Russians are now in control there-nothing at all' it says. But the satellite photographs show an enormous buildup of not only aircraft and seacraft but aircraft and seacraft of superlative quality, long-range quality, great capacity for nuclear missile development and great capacity for undersea development of nuclear submarines. I have been asking a simple question: Will the Government confirm or deny this? What does the Minister for Resources and Energy (Senator Gareth Evans) say? He says: `We are too busy with our White Paper to worry about this'. I wonder how one has a White Paper on defence before one discusses whether there is a need for a particular defence. How can one understand the needs for defence in the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean-the two great oceans that wash the littorals of Australia-unless one knows the truth or otherwise of Cam Ranh Bay? Right in the teeth of this situation the Government says that this is not important at all. It says: `Let's not debate this. We can put it off until another time. What does it matter if in a few days we do not know the truth or otherwise of Cam Ranh Bay? We do not know whether they have these modern long range aircraft and nuclear missile equipped vessels, those modern nuclear submarines that can range over the Indian and Pacific oceans, and these modern surface craft. That does not matter at all. We will give the Opposition a defence White Paper, quite irrespective of that.' That is, of course, what Dibb did. We are basically looking at a paper on the South Pacific in the knowledge that the Government has basically accepted a Dibb report which just about every military authority has panned. It is a Dibb report which says that we should have defence by denial, that the only thing we should do is to wait for an opponent to come close to our shores and then do something about it.

You ask about the importance of debating this matter tonight, Mr Deputy President. I have tried to read this paper and I have to say to this chamber and to the people of Australia that platitudes and pious statements are no substitute for defence statements. We should debate this tonight because that paper is simply a string of pious platitudes. There is no defence undertaking in this paper at all. What this paper says-this is why we should debate it tonight-is that we should get some patrol boats and do some surveillance. If I can use a northern expression: `By golly, you need not worry. Don't you worry at all. Just leave it to us. Don't worry, by golly, the fact of the matter is that it will all come right.' What absolute nonsense. Here is a paper that purports to be defence initiatives. At no stage does the paper say anything at all about what we would do in the defence of this Pacific area. It says nothing about defence. It says: `By golly, we'll tell you if some opponent comes into the place. We will tell you about it if they come in. That is the sole extent of what we will do. We will get you some patrol boats; in fact, we'll build them for you. We will do some flights over the show and we'll send a few ships to have a look around, but don't expect to find from us any kind of statement of what our foreign policy will be to help our colleagues. Don't you eight major independent states in the South Pacific expect to hear from us, or that we will come to your aid. Not at all. We will be able to tell you with precision when the other fellow is coming near you, but don't expect anything else.' How astonishing that we should be faced in this place, a few days before the Russian Foreign Minister comes here, with a piece of paper that in itself is meaningless and we are denied the right to debate it and to ask in this Parliament what is the meaning of it and what does the Government intend.

After all, the Dibb report says that the ANZUS Treaty was a wonderful thing in terms of goodwill and trade and in getting information, but it never said anything at all about our requirements and responsibility in terms of defence. In fact, if one goes to the Dibb report and if one looks at this debate tonight one will find an interesting thing. It says that we should not construct any of our defence requirements-troops or hardware-on the basis of what might be our external needs. In other words, Dibb has said-and this is why we should debate this tonight-that we should not equip ourselves for any kind of commitment out in the field at all; we should simply look at a kind of fortress Australia defence.

Let us sum up this situation. We have here a newly-fledged Manager of Government Business in the Senate. One would have thought he would come here tonight seeking the co-operation of this place. He knows that there was no arrangement at all made between the parties. He knows that there was a long list of speakers. He must know that this is an important subject and, out of the blue, he attempts the gag. He says: `Oh well, we will bring it on some time; it doesn't matter whether the Foreign Minister is coming next week; it doesn't matter whether Cam Ranh Bay exists in all its strength or not-some time or other we will have a debate on it'. If this Minister sets out to use his jackboots in running this Senate he will fail. Numbers can never win. Numbers, I can tell him as one who had the great privilege of being Leader of the Government in the Senate for five years, will never succeed in this place. If this chamber is to be run, it will be run properly with the consensus of all its members and without the jackboots of the Government. It must be run with full understanding and co-operation.

The sad fact is-and the Minister knows it because I have said it in this place-that this chamber is no place for the gag. I applied the gag once-to my sorrow-in five years. I regret very much that I did that and I would advise all in this chamber that the Senate itself, by its very nature as a House of review, should reject the gag. The essence of this Senate is that we should be able to take a subject, worry it out to its conclusion and by consensus carry the program. The fact of the matter is that the Senate has got through its business over the years by co-operation and goodwill. Whenever the gag has been applied the Government has failed to get through its business. We cannot be bullied and no honourable senator should ever put himself in the position of being bullied. If the Minister comes to us and asks us to co-operate, he will get that co-operation.


Senator Gareth Evans —I did and I got 11 speakers on the list. I asked for co-operation and I got 11 speakers when it was expected that the debate would take about an hour. What sort of co-operation is that?


Senator Sir JOHN CARRICK —Let the Minister speak because that statement in itself is naive. His idea of co-operation on this debate on our defence initiatives in the South Pacific is not to have 11 speakers, but something less. Four? After all, that is what the Minister said-a couple from the other side and one of the Democrats, and that is that. Does the Minister really say to this place that his idea of co-operation is that everybody must co-operate with him? I want to tell him that that road is absolutely in ruin. Does anyone suggest that on a subject like this 11 speakers is excessive?


Senator Gareth Evans —When you have another debate in three weeks time.


Senator Sir JOHN CARRICK —Let us hear this, because this is the Minister who has been down the road to ruin in this place. This is the Minister who sent the F111s to photograph Tasmania. Could anyone else have done such a crass thing? And what did he say? He thought it was a good idea at the time-the streaker's defence. Now comes the streaker's defence tonight. He is stripped to his own nudity--


The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Colston) —Order! Senator Carrick, we should get back to the motion before the chamber.


Senator Sir JOHN CARRICK —With great respect, Mr Acting Deputy President, I am talking to the motion. What I am saying is that if this Minister uses these tactics, we will never have this debate and the idea of this motion is to have this debate tonight, at a later hour this day, and not perhaps never or at some time in the distant future. So I am pointing out that this Minister, instead of seeking co-operation, uses the jackboot all the time-or is it the F111? I plead with the Minister: It cannot be done. He should have learned this in the past though, true, he does not take his lessons; he does not learn very readily.


Senator Boswell —He is a slow learner.


Senator Sir JOHN CARRICK —He is a very slow learner indeed. After all, he has not taken his defeats very willingly. I plead with the Minister: This chamber is designed in our democracy to allow full review. It is run best when there are no gags. It is run at its worst when gags are thrust upon us. It is run at its worst when Government Ministers are so arrogant that they believe that they know best, that 11 speakers on one of the most important subjects in this Parliament are too many because Senator Gareth Evans says so. That in itself is the epitome of arrogance and one has to learn in this place a little humility when one sits on the Government benches. After all, it is a privilege and a responsibility to be a Minister; it is a Minister's task not just to use the jackboot to marshal his own votes and those cringing Democrats who are now breaking their word and supporting a gag as they promised the people of Australia they would never do. The Minister and the Government owe to the whole of this chamber the respect that this chamber is due, and that involves co-operation and consensus. I cannot think of a subject that demands more full debate than this; I cannot think of a matter more urgent than this; I cannot think of more contempt than that shown by the Minister last week when I asked him an important question and he did not take that matter to finality and speed up his handling of one of the most important matters that this Parliament has before it. Even now he is unable to answer the matter I raised. All he has to do is tell us whether the Americans were right or wrong.

Let me just take that as a classic example for the Minister. From the moment that the Americans published those photographs it was imperative that the Government find out, within minutes or hours, whether they were right or wrong because the whole basis of our defence, of the security of Australia, depends on whether those photographs are right or wrong. He does not know, or if he does know now he is hiding it from the Senate. If the Government does not know, it is not fit to govern-and indeed it is not because, frankly, no debate on this matter should come before this place without those photographs, without these revelations to the people of Australia. The Government will never want to reveal that the fall of Vietnam to the communists was a tragedy for South East Asia and for Australia. The Government has built a fantasy about Vietnam; it has pretended that it does not matter.


The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT —Senator Carrick, I again remind you of the motion in front of us.


Senator Sir JOHN CARRICK —I am very conscious of it, Mr Acting Deputy President, and will not offend the Chair. I am simply pointing out that if this Government wants to give true credit and basis to the subject before it, it must bring before the Senate, urgently and in substance, the information we have been seeking. I conclude by reminding the Senate that there was no agreement at all on this and, on the face of it, 11 senators were to speak. I also remind the Senate that the Democrats have not just broken another promise but have provided more proof that their own ethics are not what they say. They are not keeping the Government honest; indeed, nothing at all could keep it honest.

What we have had tonight is a show of arrogance by the Government. The Manager of Government Business in this Senate has proposed a course of action which, if pursued, will result in huge delays, in huge resistance. The only thing that any honourable senator has here is his power to use the Standing Orders to ensure that ordinary debates shall be carried out. That will happen. On the other hand, if the Minister shows his willingness to co-operate, if he does not set his supercilious judgment on what is or is not important, we will co-operate, but of course the reason he gags us is that the matter is important, because he does not want to hear that the Government's pack of cards argument about defence and Vietnam, about Dibb and everything else, has fallen apart. That is the reason the gag is on tonight-he does not want to reveal to us that the Government's story about Vietnam is of no consequence. Its story that there has been no Russian intrusion into the Indian and Pacific oceans has fallen apart. Why would he want to have a debate that would reveal that? Why would the Government want to bring this out, and why would it want to bring it out ahead of the visit next week of the Russian Foreign Minister? But it is for us to bring it out. After all, was it not a Russian diplomat in Australia recently who said that there was no such base in Cam Ranh Bay? Indeed, the Government has not in fact refuted that. What kinds of cringers are the people in the Government that such a statement can be made? The Government must know it is wrong, that it is fundamentally a danger to Australia to persist--


The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Colston) —Senator Sir John Carrick, you are straining the patience of the Chair. There is an amendment before us that we leave out `the next day of sitting' and insert `a later hour this day'. I would like you to direct your remarks to the motion and that amendment.


Senator Sir JOHN CARRICK —Mr Acting Deputy President, I do not want to offend the patience of the Chair, but I want to point out that the patience--


The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT —You were not offending it; you were straining it.


Senator Sir JOHN CARRICK —Mr Acting Deputy President, the patience of this Senate has been stretched to breaking point by the attempt to break the ordinary consensus and co-operation under which this Senate works. That is what this debate is about at this moment and that is why I have addressed myself with relevance, I put to you, on every part of the subject. The reasons why the Government wants to gag the debate and not bring out evidence are quite clear. I simply conclude by saying that this is a sad day for this Senate. The new Manager of Government Business has shown that he is going to rule by gag and not by co-operation. I know no more bitter lesson than is to be learnt by a government with that kind of path. I ask the Minister to go back, look at his philosophical navel and reform.