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Tuesday, 1 November 1983
Page: 2092

Mr PEACOCK —My question is directed to the Prime Minister. Was the Foreign Minister's statement on Grenada, issued yesterday, the thrust of the Prime Minister's advice to the President of the United States in last week's telephone conversation? If not, did he advise the President of the change of direction before it was announced yesterday?

Mr HAWKE —Mr Speaker, I do not know the practices, customs and habits of the Leader of the Opposition in regard to these matters, but I can assure him that as far as I am concerned I will not be disclosing in any detail, in this House or outside it, the conversations I have when the President of the United States rings me or when any other head of state contacts me. The Leader of the Opposition may regard that as an appropriate sort of practice; I can assure him that I do not. In respect of the position of the Government, my position and that of the Foreign Minister, the Foreign Minister rang me on Wednesday of last week when this issue arose. We discussed the matter together and agreed upon the appropriate thrust of the Government's position on this matter. Following that conversation the Foreign Minister issued his statement. I spoke to the President the following day. I repeat that I have no intention of doing him the discourtesy, or this country the disservice, of disclosing the details of that conversation. What, however, is more important and to the point is that the Cabinet discussed this matter yesterday. There was, as there had been from the Wednesday of the previous week, an identity of position between the Foreign Minister and me. Indeed there was a unanimity of position within the Cabinet. In those circumstances, Mr Speaker, I think you would regard it as appropriate that I read to the Leader of the Opposition and to the House a short statement which is relevant to the question asked by the Leader of the Opposition. It states:

Cabinet reviewed the serious situation in Grenada which the Government has been following closely and which the Prime Minister discussed with President Reagan on 27 October.

The Government regrets the loss of life and injuries which have occurred on the Island following the overthrow of Prime Minister Bishop and his Government and during the current military operations. It also notes the continuing international controversy about the causes and effects of the military action on Grenada. The Government wishes to see the current military operations in Grenada ended as soon as possible and the withdrawal of the intervening forces. In his discussion with the Prime Minister, President Reagan said the U.S. looked to withdraw its forces at the earliest opportunity. The Government welcomes this assurance from the President.

While acknowledging the concern of the U.S. and the regional countries regarding the developments in Grenada and elsewhere in the Caribbean and the possible risks to foreign citizens on the Island, the Government finds it hard to justify the use of force, certainly before all other possible courses of action had been exhausted. The Australian Government was not consulted or advised in advance of the intervention but in their discussion today Ministers agreed that had the Government been consulted it would have counselled against intervention.

In view of the situation on the Island and as the Commonwealth Secretary General has so rightly noted, there is an urgent need to provide the people of Grenada with the earliest opportunity to determine their own future free of pressures and constraints of any kind. There is a Grenadan constitution and there are constitutional processes that could be followed. In present circumstances efforts to restore constitutional government in Grenada appear to be the best available course of action in the search for stability, harmony and peace on the Island.

We concluded:

The Government notes a number of suggestions about possible involvement of Commonwealth peace-keeping forces in Grenada. It does not contemplate Australian participation in such a force should it eventuate.

I conclude by observing that this Government regards the question seriously. The Foreign Minister and I will continue to monitor the developments in that way. We will give whatever constructive assistance we can in the resolution of the problem in that area. We will not attempt, as has the Opposition, to play domestic politics on this matter.