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"Protecting Australia's security" foreign minister's statement

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6 December 1989


"While I am pleased that the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade has responded to* Opposition criticisms by finally putting down a foreign policy statement in the Parliament I am disappointed that the Minister has chosen to reply to charges that Australia's Foreign Policy was "Defence driven" by issuing a statement that not only confirms this, but is also publicity-driven in a most blatant way.

"The Minister could have used the opportunity to put down the philosophical and intellectual basis for the Government's foreign policy, enunciate its directions, and explain how his Government proposes to integrate Defence and Foreign Policy demands and priorities.

"That would have been a substantive contribution to the debate as the last major foreign policy statement of the Hawke Government was that of Mr Hayden's on 26 November 1985.

"It is an insult to the Parliament and the Australian people that a four year wait should have been rewarded by such jargonizing - "comprehensive engagement" to describe our relationship with Southeast Asia, "constructive commitment" to describe our relationship with the South Pacific - and by a dozen photographs of Messrs Hawke, Beazley, Duffy, Evans, Cook and others all doing

important things or meeting important people.

"This rhetoric is poor substitute for serious debate and is yet another indication of the priority the Hawke Government gives to gloss and grand gestures over substance.

"There is little recognition in the Minister's statement that in the eyes of North Asia, Australia's principal role remains that of a supplier of raw materials from which they build their wealth. Our economic relevance to Southeast Asia is low and decreasing.

"But, reminiscent of so many Third World countries who have little economic clout, the Hawke Government is talking up our military power and- boasting of it conferring status.

"Paragraph 72 of the Minister's statement represents a new low in Australian diplomacy and merely confirms that "Bomber Beazley" has well and truly run away with Australia's Foreign Policy.

"The answer of Foreign Affairs to charges of our foreign policy being "Defence driven" should have been to demonstrate that our influence is based on much more than military capacity.

"What we have seen today is a Foreign Minister trying to legitimise aspects of the Defence agenda that crept into foreign policy while the Foreign Ministers were in deep sleep, and are now inextricably enmeshed.

"The statement provides an extremely poor analysis of China and its future regional role. It is a damning indictment that the combined weight of our intelligence analyses can only come up with .four


sentences on the future of China and its impact on Australia, nothing at all on Hong Kong and 1997, nothing on the disturbing reports that North Korea may be in the process of acguiring a nuclear capacity, nothing even on commercial opportunities in Taiwan.

"One of the statement's conclusions is that in diplomacy "action of a discreet nature is generally likely to be more effective than formal and public initiatives." Yet the very opposite has been the style of the Hawke Government which has specialised in unveiling grand "initiatives" without proper Alliance or regional consultations.

"Senator Evans has at last acknowledged that he has presided over a Foreign Service stripped of adeguate resources to meet the challenges he documents. He has presided over a mass exodus of officers from a Department gripped by serious management problems. However, he has not been able to enlighten us on how he proposes to address these critical problems.

"I am appalled at the downplaying of Japan's future significance. To resort to the argument that Japan cannot achieve great power status because it is resource poor is to resort to an argument which went out of currency a generation ago.

"Myanmar (Burma) did not get a full line, presumably because to date the Government's policy on Myanmar had been disastrously wrong, and criticisms of the Hawke Government's policy to resume aid to Myanmar soon after last year's massacre of students and pro-democracy demonstrators have been highly embarrassing.

"Impoverished Vietnam, in which Labor has made a considerable investment, in its speech in the United Nations a few months ago, condemned the reforms taking place in Eastern Europe. Under the circumstances it is perhaps understandable that the Minister should have made little mention about Vietnam.

"There is no mention as to how the sad picture that was unfolding in the Philippines even before the latest coup attempt, fit into Australia's security interests within the region. There is no debate in this paper on the internal stresses facing the Philippines and how they might affect Australia's interests.

"The South Pacific has been an area of great failure by this Government. One gets no useful account of the difficulties facing the South Pacific. We read of "constructive commitment" but it is hard to find significant changes.

"Fiji remains a dilemma. There is no indication in the statement as whether the policy of "stand off" would be maintained.

"The difficulties facing PNG are at least recognised although the only policy "guide" contained in this document is that, "In the months and years ahead detailed attention will need to be paid to the country's needs and problems."

"This statement is a sad reflection of the contribution Australia can play in international relations and confirms that Mr Beazley has in fact well and truly taken control of the foreign affairs agenda.