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Tuesday, 11 October 1983
Page: 1546

Mr HAYDEN (Minister for Foreign Affairs)(4.02) —Mr Deputy Speaker, I wish to commence my remarks by congratulating the honourable member for Warringah (Mr MacKellar) for the unusual qualities of substance and relevance in his speech. Unfortunately, where there was relevance there was a lack of substance, and when he fluked some substance it was totally irrelevant. I suggest to the honourable member and to the House that the first thing we should address ourselves to is the terminology of the matter of public importance he has before the House, or at least the key points upon which the whole thrust of the debate is supposed to swing. First, there is supposed to be a developing crisis-not a tension, not a problem, not some sort of difficulty but a developing crisis-and that of course is a very serious matter. Secondly, he referred to certain actions being a ' protest about Australia's policy towards Vietnam and its occupation of Cambodia' . On those two scores it is not unreasonable, therefore, to expect that there would have been a very careful, considered analysis of the facts that substantiate his extravagant claim that there is a developing crisis in the relationship between the Association of South East Asian Nations and Australia.

Thirdly, one would have reasonably expected that the honourable member would have presented a series of facts to justify the deficiencies he claims are implicit and explicit in the Government's policy towards Vietnam and its relationship with ASEAN and, more particularly, the co-sponsorship motion. He did none of these things. His speech lightly brushed over these matters. It lacked detail, analysis, relevance and reflection. That is the best the Opposition can do. I ask: How genuine is the honourable member in bringing this matter before the House? More particularly, I ask: Whose interest is he trying to serve? Is he really trying to promote the interests of this country? Does he have a genuine concern about this country and its foreign relations or is he just grabbing at the first political opportunity he can to get a little publicity? His statement was flawed by an extravagance of language and an emptiness of ideas.

Let us get some facts straight about the situation in relation to the forthcoming votes concerning resolutions to be put before the United Nations General Assembly. Those resolutions, of course, will relate to the situation in Indo-China. There will be two resolutions before the General Assembly. The first will relate to the credentials of the DK-Democratic Kampuchea-Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge. We will abstain from any vote on that matter. There is no contention; that is exactly the position that was adopted after some internal travail on the part of the last conservative Government. Then there will be what is loosely called a statement on the conditions in Kampuchea. We will vote for that resolution. We will not vote against it. We will not abstain. We support the general principles put forward in that resolution. The honourable member did not have the decency to explain that matter to the House, if indeed he understood it. I doubt whether he understood it.

Co-sponsorship is an entirely different matter. Let me focus on this matter for a few seconds. I challenge the honourable member to explain to the House why he did not discuss the motion that he talked about, concerning Australia being a co -sponsor, and why he did not discuss the details of this resolution which will be put forward to the United Nations General Assembly this year. He did not even acknowledge that the resolution to go before the General Assembly this year is, in a number of important respects, substantially different from that of last year and of previous years. Did he know? I suggest that he did not. I suggest that all he was concerned about was reading the morning papers which, in one or two instances, had been badly informed, although I have no doubt at all that they faithfully reported what they had been informed. He grabbed those reports and thought: 'Here is a great opportunity to run'. I tell the honourable member to put Australia's interests first and to inform himself before he brings these matters before the House.

There are some expressions in respect of the proposed resolutions about the situation in Kampuchea which cause us some concern and preoccupation. I will not put it any more strongly than that. The resolution is different in form from those of previous years. If the honourable member believes he has a case in respect of those matters, why did he not present it? What am I arguing against? What am I debating? He did not put a case about any developing crisis. Where is the evidence of it? He did not present it. He did not present any case to the Parliament in connection with the policy of this Government or the construction of the proposed resolution. We will support that resolution.

Let me make it clear where we stand in relation to the situation in Indo-China. We made six points which we have repeatedly put forward. These basic principles are: The acceptance by Vietnam of an appropriate accommodation with its neighbours; the phased withdrawal of Vietnamese forces from Kampuchea; a form of self-determination for Kampuchea; the creation of conditions for the peaceful return to Kampuchea of displaced Cambodians; the acceptance by all parties that Cambodia is neutral, independent and non-aligned; and the restoration of normal relations on the part of Vietnam with China, ASEAN and the West. Because there is a congruency between those important principles we have consistently put forward and the basic principles put forward by ASEAN-not the embellishments that have been presented as a sort of refinement in the presentation of this proposed resolution-we have no trouble at all in voting for the resolution when it comes before the Parliament.

It has never been suggested by me that ASEAN is taking a rigid approach, to use the honourable member's terminology, in relation to Vietnam. The situation is quite the contrary. I put, on the first occasion on which I met Mr Thach, the Foreign Minister of Vietnam, in Hanoi back in July, the unambiguous declaration that the ASEAN countries, in their communique at the conclusion of the ASEAN conference at about that time, displayed great flexibility. It will be a matter of interest to the honourable member that when I met Mr Thach again quite recently in New York I put this to him even more firmly. To my pleasant surprise he responded, endorsing that view. He accepts now that the ASEAN countries have displayed a developing flexibility on this matter.

I have never sought in any way to dilute the strength of the problem we have ahead of us of trying to get some movement in this area. I have consistently said that it will be extraordinarily difficult. The range and the variety of different influences and the range of powers at work in the region give rise to a level of complexity which will make it very difficult to get the movement we would like to see. Our approach has been very modest: Can we facilitate or in some way encourage some sort of dialogue to get under way? I say this to the honourable member for Warringah: At least one major ASEAN country has put to Mr Thach in discussions with him-he referred these matters to me-the proposition that in future, should a position develop in which some sort of Geneva-type of conference or some sort of consultation can get underway, among the countries which would be acceptable to participate in such an enterprise should be Australia. The interesting thing is that Australia is one of the few countries which have general credibility and respectability in this respect. I know that it is going to be very difficult indeed to get such a conference, but the point is that as a result of the role we have been seeking to fulfil--

Mr MacKellar —Why aren't the ASEANs coming here?

Mr HAYDEN —Look, the honourable member had adequate time to present a case. He could not do it then, and he cannot do it now. As a result of the role we have sought to fulfil, we have established that credibility and that respectability. I do not disagree at all that the postponement of the Australia-ASEAN forum is a matter for disappointment, but that is not a crisis. It reflects a problem in the relationship in one particular respect. Let us get this into focus. Let us not brush it off in the way in which the honourable member sought to do. The history of our relationship with even our friendliest countries has been punctuated with some sort of difficulty. The record of our association with the ASEAN countries has been notable on a number of important occasions for such difficulties, and conservative governments in the recent past have experienced them. Let me tell the House some of them. In 1978 the conservative Government of the then Prime Minister Fraser was faced down by the ASEAN countries on civil aviation policy. The whole thing lingered on for the best part of 12 months in a most embarrassing and humiliating way before the Government finally gave ground. That was in 1978.

More recently when the conservative Fraser Government decided in 1981 that it would abstain on the vote on credentials in relation to Democratic Kampuchea, Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge it was subjected to a fairly torrid time. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Peacock) knows all about it, as indeed I know about many of his experiences. His successor, the honourable member for Corangamite (Mr Street) as Minister for Foreign Affairs in Manila, was subjected to similar intense pressures. I have been exposed to them. It is part and parcel of the game. But let us face a few facts. In our foreign relations dealings with our immediate neighbours in the ASEAN countries there is robustness of operation and a directness, indeed bluntness, of expression and practice which can be rather disconcerting. For all that, if we decide that it is in the best interests of this country to proceed with a certain line of foreign policy, or if we conclude that we will make the best contribution to stability in our area by developing a particular approach, then we are selling out the national interests; we are surrendering what we believe in if we trot off in some other direction, or if we roll over like some well-manicured poodle passively wanting to be scratched on the belly every time someone clicks his fingers at us; and change our policy. I am putting Australia first in this matter. I recognise the necessity for us to handle this with some skilfulness and at the same time not to behave in the way in which our friends opposite have behaved in the past.

Co-sponsorship of this resolution is not provided by the United States of America, or by France, Austria, China, Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Greece, Egypt or a whole range of countries. Yet they are all close friends of the ASEAN countries.

Mr Peacock —They never have. They have never changed policy. You have changed policy.

Mr HAYDEN —I am glad that the Leader of the Opposition interjected because it gives me a splendid opportunity to discuss the quality and consistency of his foreign policy formulation on these sorts of matters. We are talking about principle and about standing up. In December 1979 he said:

The Australian Government believed that to de-recognise--

that is, Democratic Kampuchea-

would be interpreted as endorsing Vietnam's invasion of Kampuchea. This it was not prepared to do.

Less than 12 months later, on 14 October 1980, he was reported in this way:

Mr Peacock said: 'While co-sponsoring this ASEAN resolution, which is intended to advance our common objectives, Australia cannot prolong its recognition of such a loathsome regime as that of Pol Pot.

Has the man a mind of his own? Does he really know where he stands on foreign policy? Fancy people like this giving anyone a lecture on consistency, principle and penetration of understanding on the issue of foreign policy!

The final matter I want to mention is simply this: We will get these pressures from time to time and we have to handle them in the most capable way we can. It is a two-way process. We are subjected to pressure right now where our interests are concerned in relation to Antarctica. If we take the honourable member's implicit principles, the proposition he is putting to us, we would roll over on that and give in on Antarctica right away. I will not give in that easily where Australia is concerned. I will look after our best interests and I will do so as skilfully as I can. We have been doing it very successfully. If we receive less empty rhetoric from the honourable member we will be doing a lot better.