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Thursday, 10 November 1983
Page: 2581

Mr SINCLAIR —Can the Prime Minister confirm that the statement to the Malaysian Parliament yesterday by the Malaysian Deputy Defence Minister, Datuk Abang Abu Bakar, that the second Royal Australian Air Force Mirage Squadron will be withdrawn from Butterworth on 11 August 1984 is correct? What is the result of negotiations with the Governments of Malaysia and Singapore on the future basing of a RAAF FA18 squadron at Butterworth? Will the Prime Minister seek Malaysian endorsement of the importance of the RAAF role in regional security so that the former good relations between the local communities in Butterworth and Penang and RAAF personnel and their families can be restored? Finally, what steps has the Prime Minister taken to ensure that the five power defence arrangements in which Australian participates with Malaysia, Singapore, New Zealand and Great Britain are not affected by his Foreign Minister's unprecedented public attack yesterday on the Government of Singapore?

Mr HAWKE —I am indebted for the question from the right honourable member. I will deal with the latter part of it first. The right honourable member seeks to continue the process pursued by the Opposition of undermining the good relations that do in fact exist between this country and the Association of South East Asian Nations countries. The Foreign Minister has my endorsement in the remarks that he made. We have taken steps to convey to the ASEAN countries our concern at what has been developing. Certain spokesmen for the ASEAN countries have overblown-there is no point in beating around the bush-a situation in which this country, through its Foreign Minister, explained the position in the United Nations in regard to their resolution on Cambodia. May I say in that respect that I recommend to the attention of all honourable members the observation in today's Age editorial on this broad issue. The article stated:

One ASEAN complaint is that Australia has withdrawn from co-sponsorship of the yearly resolution on Kampuchea at the United Nations. Mr Hawke and Mr Hayden explained that Australia had difficulty in co-sponsoring the resolution because of references made to the Khmer Rouge-Son Sann-Sihanouk coalition. But Australia did vote for the resolution. Australia, quite properly, refuses to give aid or comfort to the Khmer Rouge.

In adopting that line we are of course exactly in line with the attitude that was expressed in this House by the current Leader of the Opposition on 28 April 1981. It is about time that the House was reminded of what the current Leader of the Opposition had to say on this point. This of course was in the context of his well-known display of Cabinet solidarity when he walked out of the Cabinet and had a few kind things to say about his former Leader. But the important thing is that this is what he had to say about the Khmer Rouge. I will quote from the Hansard of 28 April 1981. Mr Peacock stated:

In the early part of 1975 the Whitlam Government recognised the regime of Pol Pot as the legitimate Government of Kampuchea. Soon after disturbing reports of atrocities perpetrated by this regime began to filter to the outside world. More horrific information about Pol Pot emerged after the invasion of Kampuchea by Vietnamese forces in December 1978. As a result, I sought and obtained Cabinet approval to review the question of Australia's recognition of the Pol Pot regime .

He continued:

I should explain that the question of recognition of the Pol Pot regime involved questions of principle that were to me of the gravest importance. On moral grounds, on political grounds, on legal grounds, recognition gave an impression of support to a butchering regime which had no effective control of the territory. Recognition was unacceptable to the overwhelming majority of Australian citizens. If Australia was to maintain a credible foreign policy and its government to retain the respect of its people, recognition had to be withdrawn. It is axiomatic that Australia has a vital role in Asia. In my view the integrity of Australia's foreign policy should not be compromised.

Mr Cohen —Who said that?

Mr HAWKE —This was said by the present Leader of the Opposition. He said that the assessment of the horrific character of the Pol Pot regime was a relevant consideration if we were going to retain the integrity of the foreign policy of this country. That thinking was precisely in line with what motivated this Government and its Foreign Minister in explaining the position in the United Nations. In other words, we were at one with the ASEAN countries in the thrust of their position in regard to the situation in Kampuchea. But because of the emphasis in that resolution on this horrific butchering regime of Pol Pot we could not bring ourselves to co-sponsor. In other words, the precise language, thinking and philosophy employed by the present Leader of the Opposition in this place on 28 April 1981 is precisely the sort of thinking which led this Government and its Foreign Minister to adopt the position which it did in the United Nations.

Having said that, I return to the first part of the right honourable member's question. No decision at this stage has been made in regard to the very important question raised by the right honourable member. But I am pleased to say to him that in the consideration which this Government gives to the question of its co-operation in the defence field with our friends in ASEAN and with Malaysia in particular we will be balancing the considerations of our joint interests which may be served by a continuation in one way or another of our Air Force unit with the requirements put to us as a government by the leaders of the defence forces as to most appropriate use of those forces. We will seek to balance both those considerations-the maintenance of an effective relationship with our Malaysian friends and the taking properly into account of considerations put to us as to what is necessary in the best interests of Australia. Finally, in taking all those appropriate criteria into account, we will also look at what is best able to be done to maintain in a direct sense the best possible relations with the people in the area directly concerned.