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Wednesday, 17 November 1976
Page: 2757

Dr RICHARDSON (TANGNEY, WESTERN AUSTRALIA) -My question is addressed to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Is it a fact, as suggested in today's Melbourne Age, that Australia has taken sides in the Sino-Soviet dispute?

Mr PEACOCK (KOOYONG, VICTORIA) (Minister for Foreign Affairs) - I read with some interest the editorial referred to. I recall that same newspaper in an editorial commenting favourably on a lengthy statement I made on Australian-Soviet relations some months ago. It would appear that the newspaper does not always rely on its own research material or the published facts on government policy before writing its editorials. The editorial did accuse the Government of joining the Chinese side in the Sino-Soviet conflict. This certainly is not so. We have sought to improve Australian-Chinese relations not merely for bilateral contact but because we believe strongly in the desirability of China being better integrated into the international system of diplomatic communications and discussions than it has been to date. Any other course would be totally unnatural and potentially dangerous. It seems to me that it is totally wrong for people to assume a one-to-one relationship between our policy towards the Soviet Union and our policy towards China. Our policy towards one is not a function of our policy towards the other. We do not accept that there is for us a necessity to choose between them or to take sides. Our policy towards each country will be shaped by our perception of the relationship between our needs and interests on the one hand and its policies on the other. Any other view ignores the facts and frequent Government statements.

We of course recognise China's links with insurgency movements. We do not approve of them and we have said so. We hope, for the sake of stability in the region, that these links will be broken, albeit that we recognise that it would be unrealistic to expect that to happen overnight. As far as alleged anti-Sovietism is concerned, I have stated publicly before on more than one occasion that it is our desire to have friendly and extensive relationships. During our period in government we have had ministerial exchanges, participation in trade exhibitions, further sales of beef, the signing of a cultural agreement and new programs of co-operation in science and technological areas. Nevertheless, as we have indicated, we believe there is ground for reasonable concern about some of the Soviet Union 's policies, in particular the magnitude of the Soviet arms buildup. What I have said today is a mere summation of detailed statements which have been made publicly, which are on the record and which have been variously reported in the past. One would presume that there is a duty on an editorial writer to check the stated policies of the Government before setting up his own straw man only to knock it down. In other words, the criticism fails because the interpretation is false. The editorial is attacking its own creation and not the policy of the Government.

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