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Thursday, 20 November 1986
Page: 2614

Senator VALLENTINE(3.20) —I would like to make a few comments on the report entitled `Australia and the Philippines' of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence, although I have only just seen the final version of it. It is regrettable that this report is couched in typical East-West views that Australia seems to be taking the Western line and that its decision on what to do about the new regime in the Philippines is dependent on whether it suits our American allies or not. Least of all are the needs of the Philippines considered by this report. The Filipino people are the pawns in this game of East-West balance of terror. It is very regrettable indeed that Australia dares to play that game. I think the Australian Government is responsible for that.

Australia supported the Marcos regime and it seems now that, by recommending that military aid be increased to the new Philippines Government, which is backed by exactly the same military regime as was in place during the Marcos regime, we are perpetuating the problems. Very little account is being taken of what is best for the Filipino people, many of whom made submissions to this inquiry. The needs of the Filipino people are clearly in the area of economic security. That is the main need of the Filipino people.

I think the issue of communism is blown out of all proportions in the Philippines. The particular brand of communism in the Philippines arose because of the economic hardship which the people suffered there under 20 years of the repressive Marcos regime. The New People's Army is not even aligned with Moscow. It does not follow a Moscow communist line or a Beijing communist line. It is distinctly Filipino in character. It is simplistic for people to consider the whole problem in the Philippines to be one of communism and the possibility that the Philippines might deteriorate into another satellite of Moscow. That is totally unrealistic and only ill-informed people would make that sort of claim. The Aquino Government needs every support it can get. The Australian Government should be giving economic support and not military support. That is where the problem really lies.

I would like to mention a few points about ANZUS. Last year Mr Hayden, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, suggested that ANZUS may need to be invoked in the case of the Philippines to defend United States interests there; that is, the United States bases. It is absolutely deplorable that an Australian Government report should come down in favour of supporting United States bases in another country. That is none of our business at all. Surely it is a matter for the Filipino people to decide. If they are left to decide that for themselves, I think there will be a very healthy debate in that country about the appropriateness or otherwise of those bases being on their soil. We should not make the assumption that those bases should stay in the Philippines. Whose interests are best served by those bases in the Philippines? I suggest that it is the interests of the United States and not the interests of the Filipino people. The Filipino people are being blatantly used in every imaginable way to serve the interests of the United States personnel who frequent those bases.

Australia's role in supporting Marcos and now in its continuation of military aid to the present regime is deplorable indeed. The Filipinos have called over and over for that to stop. Filipino people who visit this country implore Australians to put pressure on our Government to stop military aid. They know that it is being used to repress the Filipino people. It was used under Marcos and it is continuing to be used under the leadership of Enrile because he has not changed his spots at all since the takeover by Aquino. In the last year Mr Hayden has contradicted himself several times over the Philippines situation, first of all by suggesting that we may need to invoke ANZUS to support the maintenance of the United States bases there and now by--

Senator Gareth Evans —He didn't say anything of the kind, you silly lady.

Senator VALLENTINE —He did float that argument last year. He said that we may need to consider it and we may need to get involved. It is totally ridiculous for the Minister for Foreign Affairs to make that kind of suggestion to the Australian people. It is important that Australians realise that it is none of our business to get involved in defending United States interests anywhere at all on the face of this globe. Neither should we be propping up those interests on our own soil. It is totally out of line with any notion whatsoever of Australian sovereignty.

Mr Hayden has now called for an increase in military aid to the Filipino regime and I think that in that he is out of line with the people who come to Australia from the Philippines, who are suggesting that we should not be involved in any way in supporting the military in that country. It is a pity that he has not listened to that and that he does not remember more clearly what he said so strongly at the United Nations in October this year when he talked about the export of military arms from Australia to any country where that military assistance could be seen to be repressing the local people. That is exactly what is happening in the Philippines and we should have no part of it whatsoever.

It is also important to note in conclusion that there was not one woman on this Committee that heard these various submissions. There are millions of women in the Philippines who are on the move and putting their point of view very clearly that we should not be seeing the world in terms of East-West conflicts, that we need to think beyond those blocs, and that we need to get out of the strait-jacket of thinking that everything in the West is good and that everything in the East is bad. I have already said that the simplistic notion of the possibility of a communist uprising in the Philippines cannot be seen in any way to be an alliance with Moscow. The Communist Party of the Philippines is a people-based party which came out of the urgent need for the people of the Philippines to throw off the shackles of the Marcos regime. The problem in the Philippines is an economic-based problem and that is where our aid should be going, not towards any further propping up of any kind of military body.

It is a shame that we are not listening more to the voices of the people of the Philippines. We should be listening to the voices of the people. The Committee's report states:

It would be desirable for defence relations with the Philippines to be maintained and perhaps expanded now that there is a new government, provided that this is mutually acceptable.

I hope that the Australian Government, before it decides to expand military aid, actually listens to the voice of the Filipino people.

Debate (on motion by Senator Robertson) adjourned.