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Friday, 20 March 1987
Page: 1081


Senator CHILDS(12.26) —The White Paper `The Defence of Australia' establishes a defence framework that will protect Australia-a framework that is based on Australia's geography and conditions. The deployment of Australia's defence forces in the north and north-west of the country is long overdue. The emphasis on the development of our own defence capacity, with the development of our own submarines, light patrol frigates and over the horizon radar system, is a strategy that I strongly support.

In the short time that I have today I would like to comment on what I consider is a deficiency of the paper. Although I support the basic thrust of the paper, there is an omission in it. It refers, properly, in a number of places to the importance of disarmament, the prevention of nuclear war and the avoidance of global conflict. Of course, the Australian Government has a proud record of activism in world forums, particularly the United Nations, in disarmament negotiations. This is personified by the excellent work of Ambassador Butler. However, in my view the paper does not address the problem that President Reagan is wrong in his pursuit of the star wars strategy. It is as simple as that. I believe that the star wars program, the escalation of the arms race into outer space, only increases the threat of world catastrophe in the next decade or so that this paper examines. As an ally of the United States of America we have an obligation to use our special relationship to voice our objections. The part of chapter 2 of the White Paper headed `Australia and the global balance', particularly paragraphs 2.4 and 2.6, is far too trite, in my view.

The White Paper fails to reflect the criticism by the Australian Labor Party and the Labor Government of the star wars concept. We oppose any military bases in outer space. We condemn the testing, research and deployment of any anti-satellite weapons or any space based anti-ballistic missile weapons system in outer space. We support the regulation of all anti-ballistic missile systems in accordance with the anti-ballistic missile treaty. The document `Australia and Disarmament: A Step in the Right Direction' from the Department of Foreign Affairs states:

The Government has consistently called for agreements to prevent an arms race in outer space.

I am very critical of President Reagan's Administration. My view is shared by a whole range of commentators around the world, particularly a growing number of United States senators and congressmen. This is nothing to do with anti-Americanism. It is to do with one American President who is following a dangerous and destabilising strategy.

I refer to a typical example of responsible criticism from the very respected Denis Healey, a former Chancellor of the Exchequer and the shadow Foreign Minister in the Labour Party in Great Britain. For 30 years Denis Healey has been a friend of the United States, particularly in the development of the Atlantic alliance. Yet Denis Healey, in a Fabian Society pamphlet, when referring to the history of the United States isolationism before the Second World War and subsequently in the post-war period, and referring to the developments that have occurred under President Reagan's Administration, stated:

The danger today is not that the Americans will retire into pre-war normalcy, but that they will opt for a policy of global unilateralism under which they intervene all over the world without trying to win the consent or understanding of their allies or of the countries in which they operate.

He went on to say:

The Reagan Administration has been greatly influenced in its foreign and defence policies by anti-communist ideologues who reject the post-war settlement with the Soviet Union, want to overturn the agreements made at Yalta and Potsdam and believe that America can and should build up sufficient military superiority over the Soviet Union to compel it to make concessions to American hegemony. This trend in recent American policy has shown total indifference to world opinion in areas like Central America and the Caribbean.

So that is how Denis Healey draws attention in this Fabian Society pamphlet to the rapid change from previous administrations to the Reagan Administration. That is the point I wish to make.

James Ridgeway, writing in the Village Voice, put it this way:

To achieve that objective (of rolling back communism) the tacticians of the New Right succeeded in creating a foreign policy which ignored or skirted the `pragmatists' in the State and Defence departments.

Its aims were almost certainly approved by the President himself who has called the sacked Security Council aide (Oliver) North, its chief operative a `National hero'.

As Garry Wills writes in a new book on President Reagan's America, of which I have seen a review:

If Reagan is superb at making up things that did not happen, he is just as adept at forgetting things that did, particularly if they were unpleasant.

As I have said before in the Senate, we now know that President Reagan's obsession is in active defence through the deployment of mechanisms to destroy enemy missiles before they reach American soil. This is called the star wars project. Let us have no doubts about it: Star wars is an escalation of the arms race. As a previous Under-Secretary of State, George Ball, noted:

President Reagan has set in motion forces that seem almost certain to trigger a furious acceleration of the nuclear arms race, eliminate the last hope of controlling the weapons spiral by agreement and seriously jeopardise the confidence and support of our NATO allies.

The reality is that, when President Reagan made his abrupt public announcement about the star wars project in 1983, it was against the advice of some of his most senior advisers, including his Secretary of Defence. If, as the defence White Paper states, one of Australia's principal national defence interests is the avoidance of global conflict, we must continue to point out that the strategic defence initiative violates the 1972 anti-ballistic missile treaty. Article 5, paragraph 1, of that treaty states:

Each party undertakes not to develop, test or deploy ABM systems or components which are sea-based, space-based, or mobile land based.

It is the simplistic and aggressive world view that President Reagan and his followers possess that has prompted a retreat into the curious Disneyland-type fantasy of star wars. I believe very strongly that it is the greatest threat to the world at this moment. President Reagan's view is a quick fix solution that not even his most senior scientists are prepared to declare will work.

On behalf of the Australian Government, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Bill Hayden, has expressed concern at the possibility of the arms race going into outer space. Certainly, Australia has declined to endorse the Reagan star wars program. As Bill Hayden has said:

There should be no weapons in space, in our view. If there are such systems, and if those who propose the exclusively peaceful use of space have such systems already there, they should remove them.

As reported in the International Herald Tribune in mid-January, the President's new security adviser, Frank Carlucci, and White House Chief of Staff, Donald Regan, privately criticised Mr Weinberger for his public campaign for the early deployment of star wars and for freelancing his views without the permission of the President.

The other thing that is happening under the loose administration of President Reagan is that various people within the Reagan Administration are following different lines. I do not mind them having different views in the Administration but the danger is that this particular policy breaches the stability that the ABM treaty has given the world for some time. Since then, of course, Secretary of State George Shultz has been persuaded to Mr Weinberger's point of view that it may be advantageous to interpret the ABM treaty more widely. In the first week of February President Reagan expressed an interest in just such a wider interpretation of the ABM treaty. This revelation brought a warning of a constitutional crisis for the Administration if such a plan were implemented. The warning was delivered by Sam Nunn, a senior Democrat from Georgia who chairs the Senate Armed Services Committee.

In America a very strong and powerful debate is taking place and many are critical of this attempt to alter the interpretation of the ABM treaty. The reinterpretation of the treaty and the early deployment of SDI has been criticised by a whole range of American allies. The point I am trying to make is that a number of very responsible people agree with me that there is a danger in this new interpretation. Lord Carrington of Britain, the Secretary-General of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, is reported to have sent a letter to President Reagan asking that the Alliance be consulted before a decision is made on the early deployment of space weapons. Sir Anthony Acland, British Ambassador to the United States, maintained that the United States should not act on a broader interpretation of the ABM treaty. Conservative leaders such as Prime Minister Thatcher and Chancellor Helmut Kohl have said that the United States should keep to the traditional view of the 1972 treaty. Japanese diplomats are also reported to have expressed concern at the United States moves.

Time does not allow me to develop and to describe the detailed criticism in the United States of President Reagan's star wars initiative. On another occasion when I have more time I would like to show the comprehensive disagreement that exists within the American Administration. Because of that I would have no hesitation in saying that, while I support many of the thrusts and policies of the paper, as I have indicated, I think it is gravely deficient in that the criticism that the Government has of the SDI deployment has not been reflected and, therefore, the paper is disappointing to that extent.