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Tuesday, 19 March 1985
Page: 376

Senator CHANEY —My question is addressed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. No, I have changed my mind. It is directed to the Attorney-General, representing the Ministers for Foreign Affairs and Defence.

Senator Gareth Evans —The Attorney-General is in the other House.

The PRESIDENT —Order! The question should be directed to the Minister for Resources and Energy, as Minister representing.

Senator CHANEY —We just wish we had him back as Attorney-General.

Senator Peter Baume —I thought he was the former, discredited Attorney-General.

Senator CHANEY —I will respond to the Minister's invitation and describe him as the recently discredited Attorney-General. Did he take the opportunity, during his visit to New Zealand last week, to discuss the disintegration of the ANZUS Treaty with his friend the Deputy Prime Minister of New Zealand, Mr Palmer? If he did, does he see any ground for hope that the New Zealand Government might be prepared to modify its policies, which have meant the end of the Treaty as a three-way working relationship? Did he in any way try to persuade Mr Palmer of the wrong-headedness of his Government's policy, or did he maintain the low key, non-interfering approach which Mr Palmer has previously described as 'very understanding of the New Zealand Government's position'?

Senator GARETH EVANS —I can assure the Leader of the Opposition that relations with New Zealand at all levels-official, ministerial and personal-are as sound, relaxed, friendly, amicable and constructive as they ever have been. That is in remarkable contrast to the situation that could have been expected to obtain had the Opposition had its way in the conduct of this whole affair. From the time of the election of the New Zealand Labour Government until the actual banning of the USS Buchanan from New Zealand, the Leader of the Opposition, it will be recalled, consistently called for the booting out of New Zealand from ANZUS and the replacement of that Treaty with a bilateral treaty between Australia and the United States of America. In Parliament in October last year he called upon us to take New Zealand on, to lay the groundwork for the negotiation of a bilateral treaty from which New Zealand would be excluded. On the AM program on 16 October he said that a Liberal government would give New Zealand just three months to lift its ban on nuclear warships and if this were not done Australia and the United States would negotiate a bilateral treaty.

Having behaved in that way-like an arsonist-for so long, the Leader of the Opposition has now turned that particular stance completely around and has donned an equally artificial and unpersuasive fireman's hat. On 28 February, the person calling for the destruction of the ANZUS Treaty and the excommunication of New Zealand was calling upon the Government to convene an ANZUS Council. Having consistently urged a bullying and hectoring approach by the Australian Government towards New Zealand while its dispute with the United States-and it is essentially a dispute between those two countries-was maturing, he then went on to urge Australia to try to mediate and get the parties together. Against that kind of background, any such call for mediation must be seen for the empty hypocrisy and grandstanding that we have come to associate with everything that the Leader of the Opposition does. I reject entirely the imputation and innuendoes that lie beneath Senator Chaney's question.

Senator CHANEY —I wish to ask a supplementary question. I am glad that the Minister chose to deal with the imputations which may have been underlying the question, but what about dealing with the question? I ask the Minister to tell us whether he took up with Mr Palmer the Australian Government's supposed view of this matter and whether he, in any way, sought to persuade the New Zealand Government of the error of its ways as his Prime Minister sought to do when he wrote to the New Zealand Government in January.

Senator GARETH EVANS —Any conversation that I might have had with Mr Palmer while I was in New Zealand was entirely private and unofficial and will remain so.