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ASIO events damage Australia's international reputation



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STATEMENT 3Y THE RT. HON.E&M. SNEDDEN, <.C., M.P., LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION, LIBERAL SPEAKERS' GROUP, MELBOURNE - 19/3/1973' ______________________ '

The Liberal Government built up over the years a very

good reputation in international relations. We were regarded

as stable, responsible, mature and trustworthy. i Our diplomats and ot'her Government representatives

developed over the years a first class reputation and

representatives of other nations would often seek our advice

about the conduct of their own diplomatic affairs. We were

held in high esteem.

Although it has never been emphasised publicly until

now, the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation has

also been held in very high esteem by similar organisations

in Britain, the United States, Canada and other countries.

While it is an internal security organisation, it naturally

requries links with those organisations and the international

flow of intelligence is quite vital to the maintenance of

internal security.

The same is true of our defence intelligence system.

It has been regarded as highly professional, secure and

effective. It has had excellent relations with the intelligence

systems of other nations to their mutual benefit. Isolation

from the co-operative international intelligence network by

erosion of information flow to us would lessen our capacity

to maintain the security of our people.

The Labor Party is guilty by its attitude and by a I

series of events of damaging our international reputation as

stable, responsible, nature and trustworthy. Senior

Government Ministers using terms about the Hoad of the United

States, our ally in our major defence treaty, such as a criminal

and a thug, has effected the cordiality of the alliance. The

Prime Minister's refusal to repudiate, or oven dissociate

himself from these statements compounded the damage. Hostility

was aroused which will take a long time to eradicate.

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Lord Carrington and the British Government x^ere assured

by our Government that co-operative arrangements and commitments

would be maintained for the placement of troops in the region.

He must have wondered xvhat sort of Government he was dealing

with when he discovered that he has to xvait until the July

A.L.P. Conference to learn the result. He will find out then

if the Government's line is defeated by the left wing or is

allowed to continue with this basic defence commitment.

Our hard-won reputation for skilful diplomacy was h:.rdly

re-enforced xvhen Mr. Whit lam declared Australia's determination

to recognise the People's Republic of China even before terms

xvere negotiated, thus totally throwing away our entire bargaining

position. ITor by our unseemly rush to embrace Hanoi.

Our diplomatic reputation cannot take too many countries

telling our Prime Minister, as an nuthcrative journal of

Thailand has done, to mind his own bloody business, reinforced

soon after by critical comments of the Deputy Foreign Minister

and the Deputy Prime Minister whe called our Prime Minister

"A t/hite Asian" - scarcely a term of endearment.

Our reputation cannot be sustained by a Prime Minister,

motivated by a desire for interno.tional statesman status,

rushing -to our neighbours as he did to Indonesia with unreal

and offensive little schemes to be met by a wan smile and polite

diplomatic snub.

Mr. "vThitlam v/ill not -be the De Gaulle of the antipodes, i -

as he obviously wants to be by the desire alone.

In the total absence 'of an alternative explanation we

have to accept that Mr. 'Jhitlam's unprecedented action in telling

a room full of journalists basic defence secrets, which they were

net to attribute to him, were motivated by the basest of political

reasons. He wanted the left wing to excuse him for leaving

our troops in Singapore.

This has lessened the capacity of our forces to operate

satisfactorily; it has damaged the reputation of our defence

intelligence system; because the Prime Minister's action

became public, our leader, and therefore our nation, has lost

face.

The events of last Friday have not yet been explained.

The public need the information and I will continue to demand

it. The Labor Party and other forces have for more than a .

decade been mounting a propaganda war against A.S.I.O. Our

policy, consistent with that in relation, for instance, the

British Government to British security,, has been not to discuss

the Security Service. The practice has been to neither confirm

or deny so as not to provide any information. The interest

for national security outweighed the- interest of denying wrong

assertions. So unfounded stories and allegations survived

unchallenged.

One of the myths that xvao created was that A.S.I.O. was

soft on right wing extremists. It is totally unfounded in rny

experience and that of other former Liberal Ministers. Another

myth lias that it is incompetent. I have said that it is

respected very highly by other Security Services around the

world. That is undeniable. Stories of bungling cloaks and

daggers and so on are untrue - and part of the insidious -

propaganda effort.

The fact is that a significant section of the Labor

Party want to deny us the protection of this internal security

service. There was a tied vote on its abolition at the

A.L.P. Launceston Conference in 1971# !

In order to destroy it, the first step is to discredit

it J Senator Murphy seems bent on furthering the anti-security

propaganda line of the past decade and his actions of last

Friday and subsequent statement appear to be dedicated to

that purpose,

Without any statements from the Prime Minister or Senat ;r

Murphy, we are left with a gravely damaged security capacity.

■With this matter, as with Hr. Whitlam's Singapore security

leak, the Government is eroding our whole security system at

great cost to the rest of the community to cope with pressure

from within its own political base.

Commitment to the future of Australia demands a better

performance.'

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vie want to bo a constructive Opposition.

T7e will support the Govoranent if it tncklos our problems

with reality and practical determination.

Ue will support its spending plans if it accounts for

the economic impact of its spending and sets priorities.

■Jo will support its foreign policy if it is objective, i ’

careful for national interest and accounts for the consensus of

the Australian people. ■ I

Uo will support it if it intends co-operation, and not

coercion in relation to the States and in relation to private

enterprise.

vie will support it if it governs as elected representatives of the people and rejects the influence from its all powerful

machine.

17e will support the Government if they put our national

security before their own party political comfort.

I paraphrase, with some modification the words of my

predecessor - the former Leader of the Opposition. He said

them in his Policy Speech.

"My follow citizens, I put these questions to you. Can

we afford another three years like the last three months ?

Are we prepared to maintain at the head of our affairs a

coalition of factions which has lurched into crisis after crisis, embarrassment piled on embarrassment, week after week.

Can vie accept another three years of waiting for next week's

crisis, next week's blunder ?"

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