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Thursday, 24 May 1973
Page: 2651


Mr SPEAKER -Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.


Mr N H Bowen (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) -I welcome the Prime Minister's statement early in his speech indicating that since the elections he has not, to use his own words, 'been forcing new directions upon Australia's foreign policy but rather seeking new definitions of the role of foreign policy'. But the fact is that even when the Prime Minister and the new Government are following the direction of the previous Government's policy the style adopted by this Government and particularly by the Prime Minister himself - which I can only describe as being on occasions impulsive and to a degree insensitive to the interests and feelings of our northern neighbours - has created a belief in those countries that there have been significant changes in direction. This has led unfortunately to some concern and loss of confidence by our neighbours. They are at present uncertain about Australia and about Australia's intentions. The respect which those countries had for Australia and their confidence in our integrity and firmness of purpose have been shaken. Ground carefully won by the previous Government has been lost, and I specify in particular countries such as India, Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore, and there are others. This ground must be regained.

There have of course been some changes in direction. However, not all of these changes appear to be in the long term interests of Australia. In a brief statement such as this I will not deal with this except perhaps to take one by way of example. This is the Government's attempt to secure Australia's attendance at the next conference of non aligned nations in Algiers. The Government is seeking sponsorship by Yugoslavia. But the Government still maintains the ANZUS States treaty. Are we aligned or are we not aligned? The Prime Minister's attempts in his speech to rationalise the situation of being a member of the ANZUS treaty and at the same time attend a conference of non aligned nations is a feat of mental acrobatics. This attempt to join the non aligned nations is part, as I gather from other remarks made on other occasions, of an attempt to bring Australia into the third world and is seen by some other countries as somewhat ridiculous. Furthermore, the non aligned conference of which Yugoslavia may historically be described as the originating genius is not notable for its understanding or concern for the interests of the South East Asian nations; and these of course are our closest neighbours.

The attempt to join the non aligned conference again is causing uncertainty about what the real direction of our foreign policy is at the present time. The Prime Minister speaks as if what he describes as a constructive flexible and progressive approach in Australia's foreign policy is something new. He seeks to depict the previous Government as slow moving and resistant to change in foreign affairs. The facts, if honsetly considered, will show that this is a contrived and distorted appraisal of what has happened in the past. The fact is that it was under the Liberal-Country Party

Government that Australia matured as a middle ranking power. During the whole of the past 20 years and more Australian foreign policy was in a constant process of evolution and change, and particularly from the time of the announcement of the withdrawal of Great Britain from the region the evolution of Australian foreign policy was vastly accelerated. It was the previous Government which announced regional policies in Asia and in the Pacific and we took the significant practical steps toward achieving them. For example, the Prime Minister refers in his speech to his attendance at the South Pacific Forum recently as if this was a great initiative of his own. The fact is that the Forum was established with out encouragement and joined by us in the previous Government. The previous meeting of the Forum was in fact held in Canberra and we were the hosts. There was no mention of this in the statement. It is an entire distortion to put forward his trip to the South Pacific Forum as showing a new concern in regard to the South Pacific area. This kind of approach runs through this statement. But this is only intended to be a brief statement from me in response this evening. I shall say no more at this stage because I wish to reserve my detailed remarks for the debate on the statement.

Debate (on motion by Mr N. H. Bowen) adjourned.







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