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Tuesday, 20 November 1973
Page: 3497


Mr PEACOCK (Kooyong) - Mr Speaker,I bring forward for discussion this matter of public importance on behalf of both the Liberal and Country parties. I believe it to be justified. It does not denigrate the Government for all its foreign policy initiatives - there have been some which both my leader and myself have commented upon favourably, albeit that the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) has misquoted me in relation to some of these - but it gives voice to some doubts and uncertainties which have occurred during this Government's period of office so far as its foreign policies are concerned. Australian foreign policy should serve this country's national interest, but the Government's new nationalism in foreign policy is not in Australia's interest. It is not new nationalism but old-style aggressive nationalism, a petulant self-assertiveness that has already harmed relations with the United States, the United Kingdom, Singapore, the South Pacific countries and Japan. Such a claim does not suggest that Australia should adopt a servile attitude towards other countries or that their approval should be sought before decisions are made.

Australia's national interest is best served by recognising that we are living in an increasingly interdependent world - interdependent in terms of peace and security, in terms of human well-being and prosperity - a world in which Australia could and should make a substantial contribution. Whatever the proclaimed intentions of the Australian Government, its conduct of policy has not inspired co-operation; but rather it has aroused suspicion and uncertainty among the countries of our region and damaged our relations with many countries - damage that throws serious doubt upon the Prime Minister's claim that he had been the greatest Foreign Minister Australia has ever had. As Mr Maximilian Walsh, in the 'Australian Financial Review' of 9 November this year, commented, the Prime Minister had described himself in this way with characteristic lack of modesty' and had ascribed to himself ' a role which many would regard as somewhat larger than life itself.

In addition to earlier tensions created by the Government in its relations, for example, with the United States of America, the tenor of a reply by the Prime Minister to a question at the National Press Club luncheon on 8

November is said to have further strained relations. When asked about the United States international precautionary alert to its forces, the Prime Minister was reported as replying:

I do not know if they were put on alert. I was not told. I believe the announcement was for domestic American consumption.

As Allan Barnes of the Melbourne 'Age' commented, Mr Whitlam's statement: . . shocked a number of foreign diplomats, including some from the American Embassy who were present. His remarks are certain to be reported to the State Department in Washington. They will do nothing to help improve the relations with the Nixon administration.

They are not my words; they are the words of an objective reporter. What the House must realise is that with those remarks the Prime Minister also attacked the integrity of the United States Secretary of State, Dr Henry Kissinger, a man whose achievements in the field of foreign relations, to put them at their minimum, have not only been more significant but also infinitely more successful than have the Prime Minister's.

It ought to be remembered that in answer to the charge that President Nixon had ordered the alert to distract public attention from the Watergate scandal, Dr Kissinger conducted the most searching examination of the matter and nailed it as a lie. Dr Kissinger's statement predated the Whitlam statement. The Prime Minister knew that, rejected it and hurled it back at the United States Secretary of State. His statement, therefore, is tantamount to calling Dr Kissinger a liar. To make it even worse, if that is possible, it follows the occasion last month when the Prime Minister trenchantly criticised the United States Administration for sending arms to Israel, arms that were forwarded subsequent to the massive re-supply by the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics to the Arabs. I am advised that such criticism caused Dr Kissinger to write to the Prime Minister explaining the true position. I am advised further that it was a temperate letter, couched in diplomatic language, but its message was clear: Do not criticise at least until you know the facts - a thoroughly reasoned and reasonable response. What was the Prime Minister's reaction? At the next opportunity it was to criticise the United States' handling of the Middle East crisis. He turned the heat on Dr Kissinger himself. But this is the pattern of the Prime Minister's actions - a history and record in the domestic sphere of over-reaction to criticism. Now he is performing predictably on the same plane in the international arena. But the men scorned, men such as Nixon, Kissinger, Prime Minister Heath, Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, should not feel too bad. Only last week, in Melbourne, he told us that his own Ministers were headline seekers; talked too much; were not able yet to perform properly in their jobs, and he threatened to resign last week because of a Labor member's resolution before Caucus. Again, as Mr Allan Barnes has said, this action was entirely unnecessary - shades again of his swiping at his critics.

Now let us look elsewhere. Consider the Prime Minister's visit to Japan. There again the actions of the Government in the international field are akin to its actions in the domestic sphere, namely, to act first and think later. We have heard so much about the Treaty of Nara, announced with great ceremony, but frankly no one knows what the Treaty will contain. As the Japanese Foreign Minister, Mr Ohira, said after the Tanaka-Whitlam agreement:

From now on between the 2 Governments the officials will be wracking their brains and will be working hard to come up with a draft of the treaty.

The Liberal Party would not proclaim a treaty if there were none in existence. These are the actions of our self-proclaimed greatest Foreign Minister ever. When he saw Chairman Mao the occasion led to extraordinary ecstasy. I remind Australia's answer to Mohammed Ali that only a fortnight before his visit to China the Canadian Prime Minister, Mr Trudeau, also had visited China, had been received with the same organised enthusiasm, had secured a trade agreement to plan long term commerce between the 2 countries, had secured agreement to the establishment of the first non-communist consulate in China, probably to the established Shanghai, and Mr Trudeau had also met Chairman Mao - but no shades of Cassius Clay from Mr Trudeau.

Also in China the Prime Minister of Australia said that Australia's new aspirations are symbolised more in our relationship with China than our relationship with any other country. Just what does this statement mean to us? Just what does it mean to the countries of South East Asia? Ties with China are important, but there must be limits on the extent to which Australian 'aspirations' depend upon them or are symbolised by them. As I have said before, perhaps it is just a matter of style, but it is important in international relations that style and aspirations be matched. This the Liberal Party in government would do. Undoubtedly the Liberal Party whilst in government had closer relations with the countries of the Association of South East Asian Nations than this Labor Government can claim. Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and the Philippines have all had difficult times during the period of this Government and have been offended by remarks of the Prime Minister.

The uncertainty regarding the future of the Five-Power Arrangements as a result of the Australian Government's decision to withdraw were well put last week by the Singapore Foreign Minister, Mr Rajaratnam when interviewed on the Australian Broadcasting Commission program 'Monday Conference'. He said:

There are 5 partners to this Five-Power defence agreement and I think 4 of them are more or less in accord;

I pause at this stage to indicate clearly that at this stage of his remarks he was referring to Australia - one of the partners has a slightly different approach which, if pursued to any extreme logical extent, could materially alter - and very substantially, possibly, alter - the relationship between Singapore and Australia and perhaps the others as well.

It will be recalled that the New Zealand Labor Government has stated unequivocally that it will not walk out of the Five-Power Arrangements. So far as Papua New Guinea is concerned, we have had numerous changes of direction and stated attitudes by Ministers of this Government leading to the most extraordinary uncertainties. At the commencement of this year the Minister for External Territories (Mr Morrison) boasted that the Labor Government would make Papua New Guinea independent by 1974. He was forcibly and publicly challenged by the Chief Minister of Papua New Guinea and told that this was primarily a decision for Papua New Guinea. The Minister for External Territories later retreated from this assertive position.

We then had the dogmatic statement by the Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr Charles Jones) that he would dictate the terms of Papua New Guinea's national airline. Again the Chief Minister was forced publicly to rebuke a Labor Minister and policy was changed. Then we had the riots in Port Moresby in August of this year which the Minister for External Territories dismissed as a mere stoush after a football match. Again the Papua New Guinea Ministers thoroughly disagreed with this assessment. Later the Prime Minister at first refused to allow Papua New Guinea's Defence and Foreign Relations Minister, Mr Albert Maori Kiki, to travel with the Australian delegation to Japan and to participate in discussions. He was forced to change that attitude only after the Chief Minister personally pleaded with him to permit Mr Kiki to participate in the talks in Japan.

The period of Labor administration of Papua New Guinea has revealed a record of misconceived intent, confusion of policy and a regrettable continuing state of convulsive colonialism. In contrast, the Liberal Party's policy towards Papua New Guinea was and is clear and unexceptionable. It is the country of the people of Papua New Guinea, it is their future and they should be the determinants of that future. So far as our relations with the South Pacific are concerned it will be recalled that the Prime Minister attended the South Pacific forum at Apia in Western Samoa in April. It was alleged that the Australian delegation would adopt a low profile strategy. As the 'Australian Financial Review' on 9 November this year said:

Mr Whitlam'sone foray into the Pacific was se close to a disaster it was embarrassing.

The low profile strategy was somewhat distorted by the presence in Apia harbour oi HMAS 'Vampire' and the Fiji Prime Minister, Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara, manoeuvred an internal dispute over Fiji unionism into a regional crisis involving Australian trade union interference in Fiji affairs. No wonder the 'Australian Financial Review' referred to the visit as being close to a disaster.

The Opposition, therefore, censures the Government and brings before the House a matter of public importance referring to the uncertainties that have been created by the Government's foreign policies. It condemns the Government - and the Prime Minister - for its handling of international relations, for its facade, for its old-fashioned aggressive jingoistic nationalism and above all for its undiplomatic diplomacy. The Prime Minister has created uncertainty. He has misquoted me, for example, to support his arguments. He deserves criticism in the specific areas to which I have referred and the criticism that will be referred to by my colleagues following me in this debate. Undoubtedly amongst the countries of South East Asia and even within

Australia itself there is grave uncertainty as to the future direction of Australia's foreign policy.







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