Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Current HansardDownload Current Hansard   

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Tuesday, 23 August 1983
Page: 33

Mr CROSS(4.46) —It is probably appropriate that very early in this session we should have some mention of foreign affairs because one of the new initiatives of the Hawke Labor Government has been in the area of foreign affairs. This is my first opportunity to acknowledge the very positive role played by the honourable member for Corangamite (Mr Street) when he had this responsibility in the former Fraser coalition Government.

I was intrigued by some of the things said in this debate this afternoon. It has been suggested by the Opposition that the foreign policy of the Government, as expressed by the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Hayden) and other Ministers , has created uncertainty amongst our friends, in our region, and throughout the world. As a member of the Australian Labor Party, I am very proud of the role which the honourable member for Oxley as Minister for Foreign Affairs has played in developing and explaining foreign policy under the Labor Government.

We all understand that a government develops foreign policy not only from decisions made by its party conference but also from an interaction of personalities as Ministers go overseas, study their dispatches and communicate with Ministers and people at all levels in other countries. So foreign policy is determined not only by the written word but also by a real understanding of the problems of the relationships in and the changing spectrum of foreign affairs throughout the world. I am very proud that the honourable member for Oxley has been working so hard at explaining and developing foreign policy for the Labor Government. Officials of his Department and diplomats in Canberra and overseas-I also have recently been overseas-have expressed their appreciation of the energy with which the Minister is carrying out his responsibilities.

Mr Hodgman —They like him in Moscow!

Mr CROSS —However well-intentioned, hard working, astute or brilliant a person is, he cannot satisfy everybody. I learned a long time ago that in politics if one satisfies somebody occasionally one is doing fairly well.

I take up some particular points, some of which were made by the honourable member for Wentworth (Mr Coleman). They deal with Australian-American relations and a whole range of other areas in which it was suggested that one Minister or another had made a mistake. There are elements in the Labor Party's foreign policy which do not exist in the foreign policies of the coalition. The Minister for Foreign Affairs has made very clear the initiatives he has taken as far as the ANZUS alliance and our relationship with the United States and New Zealand are concerned. Amongst the new initiatives which have been taken and which have been widely welcomed in the Australian community has been the appointment of an Ambassador for Disarmament in order that in the future Australia would not be a mere spectator on the sidelines of the greatest foreign affairs problem that the world faces. Mr Richard Butler has been appointed to that important responsibility.

The honourable member for Wentworth criticised, rather carefully I thought, what was allegedly the Minister's interference in the domestic policies of South Korea. He was referring to the Minister's expression of support for the human rights of the Opposition and other people who might be regarded as dissenting groups in South Korea. This is another element of the Labor Party's foreign policy which is at difference with the foreign policy of the coalition. The same problem comes through in our relationship with Indonesia. While I think almost every member of this House-I hope all members of this House-would wish Australia to have a continued firm and friendly relationship with Indonesia, it is obvious that how well that relationship develops in the future depends on the way in which the civil rights of people in East Timor and other places within the Indonesion archipalego develop. That is not something to be sneered at. It is not an interference in the domestic affairs. The people of Australia want to see an Australian government concerned not only with big power relationships but also with very important matters such as disarmament and human rights. I am proud to be a member of a government which once again is making these initiatives.

The honourable member for Wentworth said that he was pleased that we had continued to follow the policy-he was referring to the Prime Minister (Mr Hawke) -of the Liberal and National parties as far as the American alliance was concerned. I wish to go back a little in history to 1942. In February 1942 when John Curtin made that memorable speech in which he called to the people of the United States of America for support in Australia's hour of need he was criticised in this House by members of the coalition because in those days they judged patriotism by the British association and not the American association. It was an Australian labor government that developed the Australian-American alliance. It developed the alliance in a time of war, sought to pursue it in the post-war period when many people felt that America was becoming isolationist again and supported it when the ANZUS treaty was developed. It is interesting that late in 1975 Mr Marshall Green, the most distinguished American Ambassador ever to be appointed to this country, said in the United States to the Foreign Affairs Association that relations between Australia and the United States were better, firmer and more honest under the Australian Labor Government then in office than previously. It is obvious that we are able to explore our own policies in this area and maintain a good relationship with the United States. One would think that the withdrawal of our troops from Vietnam shortly after the election of the Whitlam Government was an outstanding example of that.

I wish to take up just a couple of the other points that were made. One related to the expression of concern by the Royal Australian Navy about the cuts in fuel that have reduced its steaming by 20 per cent. I point out that those cuts were made by the previous Fraser coalition Government. The first Budget of the Hawke Labor Government will be introduced by the Treasurer (Mr Keating) tonight, so the honourable member for Wentworth was really reflecting on his own Government. I hope that in these difficult times the ambitions of the Foreign Minister for a more active Australian naval presence in the Indian Ocean will be met, but obviously there are serious economic difficulties. I also noticed the comment made on South Africa. In effect, by bringing the Indians and the Cape coloureds into some form of government in South Africa, the South Africans have made very modest progress indeed. They have made progress with every problem apart from the one that counts. That is the significant problem. We wish them well.

We are keen, as an Australian Labor Party government, to have a good relationship with every country. But that good relationship is brought about by having clear policies and by personal contact, by giving attention to the wishes of all nations and the particular problems as they arise. I was pleased indeed in my recent very short exercise overseas to learn what I learnt in years gone by-of the great competence of the officials of our Department of Foreign Affairs . I am extremely proud that they are receiving the leadership of the honourable member for Oxley, Bill Hayden, who will go down in history as one of the great Foreign Ministers of this nation.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Hon. Les Johnson) —Order! The discussion has concluded.