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Wednesday, 12 December 1973
Page: 2695

Senator MAUNSELL (QUEENSLAND) - My question is directed to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Has the Minister's attention been drawn to an article in yesterday 's Melbourne ' Herald ' written by the renowned Asian affairs journalist and author, Denis Warner? Did the Minister note that Mr Warner, on a recent tour of South East Asia, found widespread belief that Australia had adopted a double standard that turns a blind eye to communist contempt for human rights coupled with a highly critical attitude to its former friends? Is the Minister concerned that Mr Warner found 'even a fear that Australia has changed sides'? Is there justification for those fears, in view of the apology given in Hanoi by Australia's Minister for Overseas Trade about Australia 's involvement in the Vietnam war?

Senator WILLESEE -If honourable senators opposite were to have a look at the comments of leading Asian statesmen in recent times they would find that they give the lie direct to Mr Warner's allegations. There are several examples. For instance, General Romulo of the Philippines said when he was in Australia recently that Australia had begun to orientate itself to Asia in a decisive way and that his respect and admiration for Australia had been greatly enhanced. Mr Malik said several things; and so on. I am not going to talk about them. It is very easy for political journalists to criticise and to say that we are suddenly reversing decisions and upsetting people. I have no doubt that some of the countries of the world, particularly the big ones, have had to take another breath and do not like the fact that for the first time in its history Australia is going to have an independent stance in foreign affairs. Some of the big countries can no longer take it that we are automatically going to follow them in whatever they do. They ought to be mature enough- I believe that they are mature enough- to understand that that is the situation. That does not mean that we are going to be bad friends with them. It does not mean that we are going to disagree with everything they say. We are going to reverse what the previous Government did. We are to take an independent stance. At long last we are going to put the rights of the Australian people before the interests of any other government in the world, irrespective of which government it is.

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