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Wednesday, 18 September 1974
Page: 1208


Senator BISHOP (South AustraliaPostmasterGeneral) (Postmaster-General) - We have just listened to a speech from Senator Sir Magnus Cormack. We all came to recognise him as a great President of the Senate, but I think his facts on foreign affairs at this stage are somewhat out of date. He put up the argument that has been put from the Opposition benches, namely, that a good deal of the foreign relations trends that are now being developed by the Government and by Senator Willesee, who is an outstanding Foreign Minister, have been developed because the Minister wants to be appointed President of the General Assembly of the United Nations.

All the countries to which Senator Sir Magnus Cormack referred as having a voice in the election of the President of the General Assembly of the United Nations have no voice at all. Everybody in this place was rather surprised to hear the honourable senator refer to many democratic countries, such as Barbados, as being under dictatorship. The last time I was in Barbados I saw a typical British parliamentary system. It was very much a copy of the Australian system, with a strong British influence and parliamentary traditions. I mention in passing that apparently I have a relation there in the form of a police prosecutor. He is a coloured person and his name happens to be Bishop. Certainly the recent history of the countries referred to is good. The history has not been one of dictatorship. As Senator Willesee has pointed out previously, the argument put up by the Opposition to the effect that Senator Willesee is bending towards certain countries with a view to gaining votes is quite false because these countries are not entitled to cast a vote.

As everybody knows, since the Labor Government came to power there has been a breath of fresh air in our foreign relations. Senator Willesee is one of the most distinguished Foreign Ministers we have had. Opposition senators have always applauded him. I was rather surprised tonight to hear honourable senators opposite, who previously have applauded Senator Willesee as being a most moderate Minister, accomplished and reasonable in carrying out most of the jobs that he has had, say that he should be sacked. Why should he be sacked? This motion is a stunt by the Opposition in an endeavour to gain some political capital. The allegations have been completely refuted. This is the second time in recent months that the Opposition has raised this matter of the Russian who went home of his own accord. The Opposition has tried to get some capital out of this matter. I remind the Opposition and the people of Australia that the Opposition has used the argument that the Labor Party as a government and Senator Willesee as the Minister for Foreign Affairs should have used force to keep this man Ermolenko in Australia. What sort of argument is that to put up to a Foreign Minister?

I remind the Senate that most of our neighbours now record that the Australian Government, and Senator Willesee and Mr Whitlam, have ensured that Australia has a new independence. Honourable senators opposite accepted for years the proposition that detente was all right. When Nixon was in power it was all right to go along with the Soviet Union in respect of great issues in order to maintain a peaceful situation; but now it is wrong. Honourable senators opposite want to attack the Soviet Union. They want to attack this Government over a situation which was brought about by accident. As Senator James McClelland said, it was simply the adjustment by a young person to a new environment. That is the situation.

Let us be frank amout this matter. Most of my colleagues on the other side of the Senate who have been with me on overseas delegations or who have been members of other delegations are conscious of the facts. Recently I went with a number of members of the Liberal Party to Burma, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Nepal. If one were to ask the people in our neighbouring countries what they thought they would say that the Australian Government has had a new viewpoint since Mr Whitlam became Prime Minister and since Senator Willesee became Foreign Minister. There is no question about that. The Government's record has been applauded by most of the responsible foreign commentators and also by the Press. Our record is good. What is our record? What are we trying to do?

I have sat under the chairmanship of Senator Sir Magnus Cormack on the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence. He is a most astute chairman. He is intelligent and usually he is up to date on things. He asks what is our foreign policy, as though it has not been stated before by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam). I will remind him of some of the things which have been placed on record by the Prime Minister. This is quite separate from the argument which I have put against the Opposition's claim in respect of the American alliance and what has been done to obtain a peaceful relationship with the Soviet Union. The Opposition wants to throw that alliance overboard and create antagonism.


Senator Sir Magnus Cormack - I did not say that at all.


Senator BISHOP -There is no doubt that the honourable senator had qualifications about detente and what it would mean. He said that Senator Willesee was looking for new friends so that he could get their votes


Senator Sir Magnus Cormack - That is right.


Senator BISHOP - Right. I told the honourable senator that the countries which he mentioned have no vote anyway. He asked what our foreign policy was. I have with me some statements which the Prime Minister made in Washington in July 1 973.


Senator Jessop - What did he say in May this year?


Senator BISHOP - Senator Sir MagnusCormack asked what our foreign policy was. I am trying to give the basis of our foreign policy. Mr Whitlam said:

.   . Australia's past shortcomings, the mistakes in our international dealings -

He was talking in Washington in July 1973 about, of course, the Liberal-Country Party coalition- have sprung in large measure from a vague and generalised fear of our own environment, the feeling has been alien in our own continent and our own region.

As a result, we have tended to swing between -


Senator Jessop - When did he say that?


Senator BISHOP - Can I answer the question raised by Senator Sir Magnus Cormack? The Prime Minister said:

As a result, we have tended to swing between isolationism and interventionism, between ' Fortress Australia ' -

John Gorton's proposition- and over-dependence on one great powerful protector; and, culturally, between slavish imitation and brash selfassertion.

We were, as everybody knows, quite slavish to the United States of America in situations in which we should not have been. Such action has since been proven to be quite wrong. Recently the Prime Minister said:

We have got our political relations right with the United States, with Japan, with China, with Indonesia- with the United States, the most powerful nation in earth, with Japan, our greatest trading partner, with China, the most populous nation on earth, with Indonesia, the great next door neighbour of ours . . .

I told honourable senators opposite in February of this year- I suggest that they ask their colleagues who went with me to the countries I visited- that in those countries the Australian Government was applauded because of its policy. On 3 September Marshall Green, an internationally known diplomat, said on his return after meeting the new President Ford: 'Our relations will improve. They will get better. They are good'. So the fact is that Senator Willesee has been a most astute Minister for Foreign Affairs. He is as good as any Ministers whom honourable senators opposite might have produced. Some of the Ministers for Foreign Affairs from the party to which honourable senators opposite belong sometimes put forward a policy not unlike that of the Labor Party. Of course I refer to our last Governor-General Hasluck. Many times he said the sorts of things which we are saying now but he could not put those suggestions into practice because he was in the wrong government. I put to honourable senators opposite: What are you up to?


Senator Jessop - We agreed with the Government's policy. We believed that what the Russians did was wrong and the honourable senator did too.


Senator BISHOP - What did the honourable senator want to do?


Senator Jessop - We were both in agreement. The Government changed its policy.


Senator BISHOP -No, it did not. Whatever mistakes our Government may have made- we have made mistakes and so will honourable senators opposite- and whatever we did for the first time we created a new, national aspect, a new form of nationalism which was well accepted in our region. Because of this the prestige of our country has been enhanced. One of the people honourable senators opposite are attacking tonight, and whom they have often applauded, is the Minister for Foreign Affairs. He has some qualities which we all know. He has a certain casual attitude, a diplomatic attitude which has gone a long way towards strengthening our friendships. What did honourable senators opposite want to do? They wanted to use this situation about the Russian to ask Senator Willesee to force the Government to retain within Australia a young person. This is so, whatever the variations of the story might be and there are variations. The fact is that finally it became apparent that the young fellow wanted to get back to bis homeland. But on 13 August 1974, not so long ago, Senator Durack moved this motion:

That the Senate demands -

Not asks, not requests- that the Government ensure that Georgi Ermolenko be able to consider free from duress . . .

(i)   that he be not permitted to leave Australia . . .


Senator Young - Finish it off.


Senator BISHOP -That is the essential thing.


Senator Young - Finish it off.


Senator BISHOP - There are other statements.


Senator Webster - Be fair about it.


Senator BISHOP - I ask honourable senators to listen to me. I have not finished reading the motion which honourable senators opposite put up that Ermolenko be not permitted to leave Australia.


Senator Young - It continues: 'until such time'.


Senator BISHOP - That was repeated several times. Let me read a circular which was put out by the Federal President of the Liberal Party, Mr R. J. Southey, on 13 August 1974.


Senator Rae - I ask the Minister to give us the full quotation first.


Senator BISHOP -This is the great party which acts on its own and which receives no instructions from some central secretariat like the Labor Party! We agree with that policy in relation to conferences and executives. But this is a newsletter of 13 August 1974.


Senator Jessop - I ask the Minister to spell it out to me. I have not read it yet.


Senator BISHOP - There you are, you will not let me quote it.


Senator Rae - Firstly, give me the full quotation of the motion.


Senator BISHOP -A11 right, if the honourable senator wants it. The motion states:

(i)   that he be not permitted to leave Australia -

That is the important point- until such time as he has had the opportunity (for 24 hours at least) . . .


Senator Rae - That is a very different story.


Senator BISHOP - For heavens sake, what sort of logic is that in the reasoning of honourable senators opposite? They asked Senator Willesee to restrain by force this young bloke from leaving this country. If somebody did that to a visitor from Australia in the Soviet Union honourable senators would be up in arms, would they not? We would be, too. If anybody stopped me from leaving the Soviet Union or China I know that I would expect my country to defend me. Honourable senators opposite are saying that we have the right to stop this lad who had a certain change of opinion. I do not want to canvass that matter because it has been well canvassed. It is obvious that honourable senators opposite have instructions from their Federal President. One of the paragraphs in the letter to which I referred states:

If the Government wished it could establish circumstances in which Ermolenko could be placed on neutral ground for a day or 48 hours . . .

It then continues in another vein with very careful wording in the last paragraph:

The solution is simple- have Ermolenko put on neutral ground to make up his mind certainly free from the pressures of 4 Russian companions and guards. We will know how to judge the Government by the results.

Of course the Federal President was urging honourable senators to try to persuade the Government to take that action by force if necessary. Not only did honourable senators and their Federal President do that. Sir Charles Court supported the same petition in Perth. A report in a Western Australian newspaper states:

Sir Charlessaid he asked Senator Willesee to arrange for Ermolenko to be removed from the influence of the Russians.

What sort of a situation was the Minister in? The situation is reported in the 'West Australian' of 15 August. It states:

There were angry scenes at Perth airport last night -

Senator Willeseereported those scenes. The report continued:

A torrent of abuse greeted the Transport Workers' Union secretary, Mr R. Cowles, the Musicians' Union secretary, Mr Harry Bluck, and the Trades and Labor Council secretary, Mr Jim Coleman . . . Others yelled: 'Traitors' and Murderers'.

When Don Willesee was quizzed in Parliament on 16 August he stated the situation as he saw it. It seems to me that he completely justified his. action. After all, a Minister for Foreign Affairs surely has to be able to act as a Minister, not swayed by any unusual incidents. He has to act on behalf of his country in the protocol and tradition of his office as Minister for Foreign Affairs. He stated -


Senator Baume - Which page is this?


Senator BISHOP -It is at page 1069 of the Senate Hansard of 16 August. It states:


Senator WILLESEE - Senator Durackknows perfectly well who they are. According to the information I had there was a strong possibility of very ugly scenes occurring at the Penh airport should the Government attempt to get the Russian party on the commercial British Airways flight from that airport. For example, on the previous evening large crowds had gathered at the airport, even though the Russians were not present, and created angry scenes when union officials were considering their attitude to the ban. A large crowd gathered at the airport next day in anticipation of the Russians boarding an aircraft. The Government decided that it simply could not guarantee the safety of the Russian party in such circumstances.

That is what Senator Willesee did. In my opinion, that is the sort of obligation which we would expect him to carry out. Tonight he has justified that obligation and he justified it formerly. All that has happened since is that honourable senators opposite, on the second occasion, have tried to make capital out of the 2 situations. I suggest that one situation has been completely spent, as Senator Willesee said today. Tonight this young bloke in fact is fiddling on in West Berlin. To suggest that we should have taken action by force to restrain him is futile. But what did Mr Snedden do? Have any honourable senators opposite promised to do anything about this? So far, the only statement we have from the Leader of the Liberal Party appeared in the Australian' of 9 September. The report states:

A Federal Liberal Government would review Australia's recognition of Russia 's sovereignty over the Baltic States, the Leader of the Opposition, Mr Snedden, said in Melbourne yesterday.

Addressing about 300 members of the Estonian, Latvian and Lithuanian communities, Mr Snedden stopped short of saying that he would reverse the decision.

Honourable senators will see that he condemned the position but did not promise any action. They are the realities of the situation. I want to conclude my remarks by saying that in my opinion what has been put here tonight was not properly put in relation to the motion. We heard contributions from honourable senators who talked about a number of wide international issues. In my opinion, Senator Willesee has passed the test that has been applied to him clearly. He had the responsibility of acting for his country and did so in a correct manner. As many of the newspapers have stated, he has had a golden run as the Foreign Minister. He is an accomplished Foreign Minister in the best traditions of our country. It is hypocrisy for members of the Opposition to try to condemn him. I suggest that the Senate ought to get on with the business of assisting the Government to run the economy.







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