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Friday, 20 March 1987
Page: 1101


Senator McINTOSH(3.33) —The bringing down of the 1987 defence policy information paper signals to us the end of the Brisbane Line mentality which has pervaded defence thinking and practice in Australia for many long and weary years. It commits us to the defence of Australia, through the defence of the north, from a threat which can come to Australia only through the north. Although no such threat is envisaged at this time, it would be foolish not to acknowledge it as a future possibility.

The paper recognises that the most positive aspect of our defence capabilities lies in our geographical position-the fact that our northern shores present a most inhospitable aspect to any potential future invader. But at the same time it recognises that a large and important part of our national assets is to be found in that region and is vulnerable to low or medium level attacks. Planning a defence strategy on this basis can only be described as sensible. The proposal to shift part of our naval capabilities from eastern Australia to the west and the north, an enhanced submarine capacity, the provision of greater battlefield mobility for the army, and the Jindalee over the horizon radar system are just part of the Government's commitment to defending the nation as a whole and not just the triangle which lies between Brisbane and Melbourne, and as such is to be commended. At this stage I prefer to reserve my judgment on the proposed satellite communications station in Western Australia. It could be that spying outside our own area of strategic interests could be carrying the new policy of `defence in depth' too far. This is not to say that I would not be pleased to get some real information, for a change, on the French activities on Kerguelen Island.

Secondly, this White Paper nails down the lid of the coffin of forward defence strategy as a viable defence option for Australia. This strategy was delivered a death blow with the withdrawal of the Australian forces from Vietnam in the 1970s. May it rest in peace. This is not to say that there is no possibility that in future Australian defence forces will not be committed outside our immediate area, but this commitment will be only incidental to the major requirement of the paper-that first and foremost we will be capable of defending ourselves. It will be this capacity to be self-reliant which will have the first priority.

The orientation is towards self-defence, not forward defence. From my reading of the paper it would appear that defence co-operation within the area is more of a diplomatic than a strategic initiative. The tabling statement of the Minister for Resources and Energy (Senator Gareth Evans) emphasises the Government's views on defence co-operation with New Zealand, the South Pacific island states and Papua New Guinea. It mentions also our older established relations with the nations of South East Asia. It is these latter defence relationships which still pose important moral and political questions for Australians.

In the last years of President Marcos's rule, questions were raised in Australia about our military aid to the Philippines. Even though the actual amounts which were expended were small, the symbolism of our association with the Philippines military was powerful. The White Paper suggests that our major defence concerns in the Philippines today are the New People's Army insurgency and the future of the American bases at Clark and Subic Bay. This view clearly suggests that Australia intends to continue military aid to the Philippines in its present form. If so, the Government can expect to be further questioned about the wisdom of that course.

On a much larger scale has been our military aid to Indonesia. The White Paper says that a stable Indonesia is important to our security and that Australia needs to maintain a constructive defence relationship with that country. This is not new. It repeats the long-standing conventional wisdom which has underpinned the policies of successive Australian governments for the last 20 years. What this has traditionally meant is that Australia has essentially defended and supported, through diplomatic silence or direct military and economic aid, repressive government practices in Indonesia. This has been done in the interests of `stability'.

There is considerable sensitivity in Australia about Indonesia. Some of it is ill informed and some of it is a racist hangover from the officially sponsored anti-Sukarno campaigns of the early 1960s. The last thing we need in the ongoing discussion of our defence needs is a repeat of the Indonesia threat atmosphere of that time.

The third area of the paper on which I wish to comment concerns the preservation of our part in the Western alliance. This preservation, I must state, is in accordance with the will of the majority of the people of Australia. Whether this is in their best interests is arguable. There has been a long history in this country of reliance on, and faith in, larger and more powerful allies. First it was the United Kingdom and then, since World War II, the United States.

Irrational perceptions of threats and a misguided belief that great and powerful friends would unfailingly come to our aid in any circumstances continue to exist today in the Australian community. These ideas continue to be promoted by sections of the media, academia and the coalition parties and have been a very real barrier to an honest, informed and rational debate on how we can best defend ourselves. The Dibb Review of Australia's Defence Capabilities was clear on the limits to the support we can expect from outside. On page 46, the report says:

. . . there are potential situations where we would not expect the United States to commit combat forces on our behalf and where we need a demonstrably independent combat capability.

On the ANZUS Treaty itself, Mr Dibb was also quite explicit. He said: `The ANZUS Treaty provides for consultation in the first instance'. Mr Dibb says, and I emphasise this: `There are no guarantees inherent in it'. None of this is new. Anyone who has read the ANZUS Treaty knows that this is the case. Anyone who has watched developments in United States policy, particularly since the so-called Guam doctrine was declared in 1969, knows that the United States expects-I repeat, expects-its allies to be primarily responsible for their own defence. Paragraph 1.25 of the White Paper reinforces this aspect. I think that the paper brought down by the Minister for Defence (Mr Beazley) certainly shows that we intend to try to be capable of defending ourselves. It is the policy of self-reliance which is the main thrust of this White Paper and as such is in accordance with the requirements of the alliance. I commend this 1987 White Paper, as presented by the Minister of Defence, Kim Beazley. I believe that the Senate as a whole should adopt such a paper.

Debate (on motion by Senator Reid) adjourned.