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Tuesday, 24 February 1987
Page: 541


Senator JESSOP(8.58) —I have listened with great interest to Senator Vallentine, who is increasingly becoming an apologist for the Soviet Union.


Senator Vallentine —Rubbish! I don't like their being here any more than you like their being here. That is misrepresentation and you know it.


Senator JESSOP —It almost appeared to me, on hearing Senator Vallentine's speech, that it could have been written by the Russian Ambassador, but I will give her some credit for some embellishment from her own resources. It seems to me that the paper we are discussing is very serious. I heard Senator Vallentine talk about the Indian Ocean. Certainly the Indian Ocean is of very great interest to the Soviets. The African continent, from Libya down to South Africa, is dotted with countries which have definite Soviet influence in the form of marxist governments. Looking at the Pacific on the other side, with which we are dealing tonight, it is important that we discuss the question of Australia's future defence in a very rational way. I was pleased to note in the paper that the Minister for Defence (Mr Beazley) at least pays lip service to the holistic nature of security in the Pacific by claiming that `our policies must encompass aid, trade, immigration and a host of other issues'. One would hope that he includes foreign affairs among the other issues, although having regard to the capricious nature of our foreign policy under the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Hayden) I can understand the reluctance of the Minister for Defence to include foreign affairs specifically in his statement.

The Minister for Defence is now paying for the nonsense of relegating his responsibility by giving two academics tasks that he and his Department should have undertaken. Dibb's isolationist outlook, together with his benign view of the Soviet Union and its aspirations, have been reflected in this report. I await to see, with some anxiety, whether the defence White Paper overcomes those deficiencies. The report of the Dibb Review of Australia's Defence Capabilities stresses the concept of self-reliance and emphasises that the forces he recommends are not designed to intervene in Asia or the Pacific, or to fight with its allied units in a global conventional war. Dibb saw the Australian Defence Force as primarily a deterrent to an attack on continental Australia. In other words, Dibb opted, as has been stated by my colleagues on this side of the Senate, for a fortress Australia. Moreover, although the Government continues to fulminate about its support for ANZUS, it increasingly looks upon that Treaty not so much as an alliance prepared to fight a war, but as an alliance designed for mutual ongoing support, primarily in technological and intelligence matters.

The Dibb report has had a depressing effect among the ASEAN nations, which viewed the ANZUS Treaty as an umbrella for peace within the South East Asian and South Pacific areas, and saw Dibb's isolationist views as effectively destroying what was left of the ANZUS Treaty. Tonight, with Senator Kilgariff and a few others, I was able to talk to some of the Association of South East Asian Nations leaders, and I noted their very grave interest in the subject about which we are speaking at this time. I was in South Korea last year, before I had the chance to examine the Dibb report in full, and the Ministers and the foreign affairs people that I spoke to expressed concern-even though they had received the Dibb report only a day or so prior to my arrival in Seoul-at the isolationist policy that was implicit in that Dibb document. So it is not only people in the Pacific island states who have a great concern about the defence of the region; it is also the people further to the north. I referred to the ANZUS Treaty, and I saw some comfort from the belated recognition by the Minister that:

An unfriendly maritime power in the area could inhibit our freedom of movement through these approaches and could place in doubt the security of overseas supply to Australia of military equipment and other strategic materiel.

On the other hand I cannot but wonder why the Minister at no stage mentions the Soviet Union, the one and only unfriendly maritime power that could possibly do that. Perhaps it is because he is not sure from one day to the next how his Government views the penetration of the Soviet Union into the Pacific.

The Minister for Defence also stated that our defence policies and activities in the South Pacific are being developed in close consultation with our allies, the United States and New Zealand. There is no mention of France, as though France had no presence in the Pacific. The Minister mentioned in the report that `as long ago as the middle of the last century, Australian leaders recognised that events in the islands to our north and east could have a decisive effect on our security'. In those days France and imperial Russia were seen as a main threat to the Australian colonies, but neither represented then the threat that the Soviet Union does today. Recently, much has been said about Mr Gorbachev's statement in Vladivostok last July, which declared the Soviet's intention to extend its power into the Pacific. Senator Durack and others from our side of the House have mentioned Cam Ranh Bay and the fact that that Russian presence would represent approximately 30 per cent of its total fleet. In fact, as early as 1981 in the Soviet Union at the Sixth International Seminar of Youth Researchers, the theme was `Problems of Co-operation in the Pacific Region'. The principal conclusion, which was agreed to by the Australians present, was that `matters in the Pacific could not be finally determined without the participation of the USSR'. One of our representatives at that forum was Professor Ted Wheelright, a none-too-youthful researcher, but a close associate of Mr Halfpenny and his Pacific trade union forum, which Senator Short mentioned in his speech not so long ago. The other Australian attending that Soviet seminar is now employed by the Attorney-General (Mr Lionel Bowen), so the Government does not lack for a certain type of advice on Soviet intentions in the Pacific.

At the time of Federation, the newly formed Australian military forces sent Major William Throsby Bridges, under a pseudonym, to New Caledonia as a spy to investigate invasion points of entry and routes to the capital, and the first military plans made by the Commonwealth as a nation was to invade New Caledonia. That did not eventuate but it pointed to the concern of the Australian Government of the day of the problems and the strategic significance of the Pacific islands in our region of the world. I am sure that no such plans exist today, of course, but we do seem to be doing everything in our power to undermine the position of the French in the South Pacific. Why invite the Soviet Union and freeze out the French? The action of the New Zealand Labor Government in undermining the security of the Pacific by proceeding with its New Zealand Nuclear Free Zone, Disarmament and Control Act has done more to open the way to Russian penetration of the Pacific than any other single event. What has the Government done to counter this among the Pacific states? The Cook Islands, Tonga and Fiji have all expressed their fears about the effects of New Zealand's actions and, of course, those effects have been reinforced, by any analysis of the Dibb report.

I visit the Pacific region on occasions. I was there last year for a regional seminar run by the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association. Most of the island states were there, including New Zealand. The topic of conversation around the dining tables and at the social functions was quite clear to me. They rely on Australia and New Zealand for advice, support and encouragement in what they are doing in their particular countries. They rely on us through the Australian Development Assistance Bureau and other organisations to provide aid to them to build infrastructure, ports, and so on. They all expressed grave concern about the fact that New Zealand had withdrawn from the ANZUS Treaty. I believe that is a very important consideration in the minds of our Pacific island neighbours.

The proposed ship visits that have been mentioned in the statement might be of some value as a flag waving exercise, but none of these ships have extensive fighting capability or range and the citizens of the nations of the region will not feel more secure unless our small ships are seen as the foremost tangible part of the greater Western alliance. The patrol boats Australia is giving to those nations-those, of course, that can afford to operate and maintain them-will add much to the surveillance of the fishing activities within each nation's exclusive economic zone, but they have little fighting capability. Moreover, they will hardly counter the presence of the Soviet fishing and scientific ships which are an important extension of the Soviet navy. In fact, during a conference in Fiji a couple of years ago a retired commander of the United States Seventh Fleet expressed his concern about the Russian infiltration into the Pacific region and he made the comment that, once the Russians established a fishing base in the islands of the Pacific, that would become a de facto naval base. These ships now have a legitimate reason for being in the region subsequent to the fishing agreement Russia has made with Vanuatu. That was mentioned earlier in the debate. These ships will possess a wide range of ancillary intelligence and communications monitoring capacities, and political and cultural opportunities will be provided by the Aeroflot landing rights which go together with the port access for Soviet naval vessels.

Doubling our Royal Australian Air Force long range maritime aircraft patrols around our coast in the Pacific region will still leave over 300 days in which no such surveillance is maintained. I suggest that this will not match the continual surveillance from the Soviet fishing and scientific fleet operating out of Vanuatu. I congratulate the service men and women who have been deployed to help these nations under our defence aid policy, including providing aid during emergencies such as the recent disasters in the Cook Islands and Vanuatu. I believe that planned defence aid, given as part of the Defence Force training program, has many beneficial aspects, both to the recipients and to the Australian Defence Force.

Such actions, although helpful, do not replace the general area security which once prevailed in the Pacific. I refer to the long period after the Second World War during which Australia and New Zealand, as parties to ANZUS, maintained a benign Western influence throughout the region. In the meantime the colonial powers, quietly and in an orderly fashion, withdrew from the region and since 1970 most of their island possessions have become independent politically, in accordance with their wishes, but remain generally economically weak and defenceless. Although fiercely independent, they remain extremely vulnerable. Australia must do everything in its power to bring New Zealand back into the ANZUS alliance. However, Australians must realise that, while most New Zealanders want this, many cannot accept the fact that the US navy is both nuclear powered and nuclear armed. They do not seem to worry too much about the fact that the Soviet fleet at Cam Ranh Bay is largely nuclear armed and nuclear powered. With New Zealand effectively neutralised through its own internal weaknesses, Australia must not alienate France simply because it does not agree with its policies on nuclear testing or the internal affairs of New Caledonia. That does not mean that we should not be concerned that what the French are doing is not damaging the environment in this part of the world. As with the Dibb report, the return from the considerations of Dr Cooksey has proven to be of very little real value. It is time that the Foreign Affairs and Defence departments took control and effectively co-ordinated foreign affairs and defence policies, enabling the other departments concerned with economic and defence aid to make their contributions. Under the Hawke-Hayden Administration foreign affairs policy is in a shambles and I feel some sympathy for the Minister for Defence, who is trying to reinforce such a mixture of expediency and opportunism. We need as a matter of urgency a foreign policy which fits our long term national interest.