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Wednesday, 28 February 1973
Page: 91

Mr BURY (Wentworth) - Mr Speaker,firstly I congratulate you on attaining your high office. You are the second of my immediate electoral neighbours to gravitate to your office, and I am sure you will have a very successful term. I trust that you will administer the office in a way in which we all hope and expect you to administer it. I would like to traverse some of the ground which has been gone over by the Government since 2nd December 1972. In this time we. have taken tremendous strides away from the Western world, from our common, interests and from all the ties and associations which have been built up over a series of generations.

During this time we have taken a conscious, fast step towards the communist world. lt was said that it was. time for a change, and Australia certainly got one. The first thing which occurred was the rushing, with inde-cent haste, into the arms of the People's Republic of China. Negotiations to secure this result had been commenced some time before. They had dragged on and they were taken over in a manner which provided a great gesture, drama and headlines. It was a series of examples of the very worst way- in which, foreign affairs ought to be conducted. It is notable that in the case of most of the diplomatic relations that have been established with the People's Republic of China the negotiations have been slow and carefully considered and have dragged out over some considerable time; a very close bargaining process has accompanied them. But in this case Australia seems to have gone in ready to. pay any price in order that a quick result should be achieved and some political splash made. If one conducts diplomatic negotiations on this basis, giving everything away to those with whom one is having discussions, one can of course receive very swift and spectacular success. We still do not know the details. In answer to a question, the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) said that all, or a great part, of the details had been published and that there was not much else. But in fact we have not been able to read the documents. If open government were to prevail in full we would be treated to the diaries of the Australian Ambassador in Paris who conducted the negotiations.

Mr McLeay - They are available in China.

Mr BURY - The details are said to be available in China, but the only real guidance one can get is from broadcasts from Peking and from people who are Chinese experts. We cannot obtain the details directly from the basic source. These negotiations, so hastily concluded, have of course aroused certain misgivings and suspicions amongst our neighbours.

Mr McLeay - Understandably.

Mr BURY - Very understandably, particularly amongst our neighbours and associates in the five-power pact. In his Speech the Governor-General said:

My Government will honour the terms of the Five Power Arrangements, but looks forward to the achievement of a neutral zone in South East Asia ultimately involving the phasing out of present military arrangements. . . .

Of course, anyone can say this. Any military arrangement has a limited life before it gradually peters out. Every few years, international circumstances change. The obligations which we assume under the five-power pact are, of course, rather loose. In essence, the pact depends on the moral conduct and good faith of the parties who participated in forming it. But, naturally, the people in this area have their suspicions a little aroused by our new friendship and desire to conclude arrangements with the communists. This applies particularly to our close friends.

I congratulate the Prime Minister on paying an early visit to Indonesia. Indonesia is run overwhelmingly by General Suharto and the very keen, able and, in many ways, spectacular people he has around him, many of whom we all know and in whose actions we have faith. But we must remember that not many years ago that group of people almost had their throats cut overnight in a communist uprising. If their vigilance slipped, that might well occur again. They are well aware of this. So, when they are approached with ideas of new pacts and other new arrangements, they naturally view with suspicion a power which is showing so much disposition to conclude agreements and make arrangements with the communist world.

It is no good just saying 'the communist world' because there are many ways in which countries deal with the communist world. However, there are certain things which must always be remembered and which are fundamental about communists and the communist world wherever they are. Firstly, personal liberty and individual rights disappear. Throughout communist countries the people are ruled by a reign of terror. This kind of thing is as alien to the majority of Australians as one could possibly conceive. Yet these are the people with whom we now are becoming increasingly familiar and with whom we are making all kinds of arrangements. If we are pursuing this line we must accept that our very close ties with the rest of the world, including our old allies, are weakened. This is particularly so when 3 senior Ministers of the Government insult the American Head of State in the grossest and most crude terms. This will leave a scar which will not easily be forgotten.

In visiting Indonesia, for which I congratulate the Prime Minister, it seemed to me that his approach was not really the appropriate one. The Prime Minister aspires to the closest possible relations with Indonesia and I am sure that his feelings are shared by honourable members on both sides of the House. He aims to achieve friendship and co-operation, virtually continuing what has gone on for very many years in an intimate and effective way. But if we are really to win people's trust and live with them over a long term of years, we should not rush into their Foreign Minister and Head of State with a wonderful new scheme containing new constitutions, new arrangements and new features which all look lovely but which are hastily thrown together and which appeal to a limited number of people who are not really very deeply committed and who do not really know, in many respects, the issues which are involved, and expect them to sign on the dotted line in a great hurry. That invites rebuff. As a matter of fact, the Indonesians, who know us well, were very polite about this.

If we are to become friends with our neighbours and pursue close relations with them we should ask: 'What do they think?' Our immediate neighbours have erected and done a great deal towards bringing to fruition the new organisation known as the Association of South East Asian Nations. ASEAN is designed by these countries to meet their own requirements and express their own aspirations which, in some cases, are complex and not easy to reconcile. But they like it. It would be far more preferable if the Prime Minister approached Indonesia and said: What can we do? Is there anything we can do to help this organisation or to underpin it and help you and the other countries make it a success?'

In many respects, Australia is doing a great deal in the region. This process has gone on over a long time and, incidentally, has been promoted by a good many members from both sides of this House, a number of whom have visited Indonesia. Our relationship with that country is broad and intimate and exists on a basis of personal trust. This is no new thing. If the Government is to bring relations with our near neighbours, including Indonesia, to a successful conclusion, it must be a little more skilful and humble and less inclined to splash around with headlines, drama and great gestures appealing to the electorates in various countries. It should get down to a solid, friendly, day to day, hardworking basis. This, of course, includes our relations within the five-power pact. The trouble is that, although the Government, through the Governor-General's Speech puts out as its message - I will repeat this - the fact that is will honour the terms of the Five Power Arrangements, one wonders quite what that means in the Government's view. In fact, the Fire Power Arrangements are very loose. They can be interpreted in many ways and taken very much on goodwill but the words used by the Prime Minister is relation to security and other matters must throw considerable doubt upon our long-term good faith. Even worse than that, the Australian Government unfortunately is not really in a position to commit Australia.

The Government - the Cabinet - has to be subject to what were called the faceless men. They are now not quite faceless; a few of them are known. However this outside body, not elected by the Australian people, does in fact have the final say as to what Australia can do. To determine whether Australia can fulfil its commitments to our allies, to follow up and support our fundamental security interests, one has to look, in these circumstances, to the machinations of the Labor Party Conference. If it says no, the Australian Government similarly is forced to say no. Some of these things do arouse considerable misgivings amongst a good many of us, particularly in view of the Peoples Republic of China negotiations with the recognition immediately of Eastern Germany and even more so just recently with that of North Vietnam. The North Vietnamese have sent representatives to Australia and they have been welcomed by a considerable number of trade unionists who have fallen on their necks as if they were brothers of the visiting North Vietnamese and have virtually kissed their hands which are still dripping with Australian blood.

This is not a situation which appeals to the Liberal Party and I feel sure that it does not appeal to a large proportion of the Australian nation. If we are to have successful foreign affairs, particularly with our neighbours, we have to get straight what our commitments are and follow them. Whatever is the government of the day it must follow the commitments made by its predecessor so that the people in the rest of the world can be brought slowly and painfully to trust once more Australia's word and Australian support in the event of trouble.

Debate (on motion by Mr Hansen) adjourned.

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