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Thursday, 29 March 1973
Page: 881

Mr Donald Cameron (GRIFFITH, QUEENSLAND) - It was not my intention to rise in this debate but earlier today we heard the honourable member for Robertson (Mr Cohen) speak. I was a previous member of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs at the same time as the honourable member for Robertson was a member. Having watched his involvement in the previous Committee, I was rather amazed when he said that he considered his previous term on the Foreign Affairs Committee as having been a boring experience. He referred to the fact that at various times we on the Committee had ambassadors and high commissioners along to address us and asserted that most of the information gleaned was of the type that could have been procured by reading a Denis Warner-type article. I recall very clearly - I think I have my facts right - that the honourable member for Robertson was busting his neck to ensure that we got along to the Committee the Israeli Ambassador or one of his representatives. I see an inconsistency in that he was pushing for the members of the Foreign Affairs Committee to become acquainted with the Israeli aspect of foreign affairs and that he now stands up in the new Parliament and refers back to his experience on that Committee as having been boring.

As a member who has served on the Indonesian sub-committee and the committee which investigated Australia's foreign aid, I know that of course there are areas in which we can be critical. Nothing is ever done or ever achieved that we cannot look back upon and say: 'Perhaps we could have done it a little better this way or that way with a few alterations and changes'. The foreign a:d committee was one which did open the doors. The previous government said to the Foreign Affairs Committee: 'You have been asking for an open hearing, so we will grant you an open hearing'. I clearly recall the many occasions when as a member of that committee I sat in on the committee hearings and found that interest from the public and the Press was negligible. On only one occasion do I recall the Press being present. Perhaps members on the Government side might say that that was an indication of the subject before the committee. I was one who considered the subject to be of importance. It was one which involved international relations and

Australia's standing in the eyes of other countries, yet the rest of Australia was not really interested. We opened the doors and we did our work, which was available for all to see, and yet there was very little interest.

The Australian Labor Party parades itself, and it has done so particularly since it came into office some 3 months ago, as being the party representing open government. One would expect that in that time there would not have been a secret kept from the people of Australia and that the Labor Party would have kept its word, because this is a matter on which it sold itself successfully prior to the last election. Let us look back very briefly, particularly in relation to this foreign affairs discussion, at Australia's recognition of Mainland China. The Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) has refused to make public the very terms of our agreements of recognition of that country. What did we do to Taiwan? What of ourselves did we give away or sell to bring about this recognition and the establishment of 'cordial' relations? I put the word cordial' in inverted commas, but I hope that the relations will be cordial for Australia's sake, ls that an example of open government? No way in the world. The Government has closed the book on this subject to each and every one of us.

Lel me cite another example. At the beginning of this week the newspapers wrote up a conference which was attended by the Prime Minister only last week at which he confronted the Victorian Executive of his Party and, with great oratory and as the possessor of respect and great power, convinced the delegates of the Victorian Executive of the Labor Party that the Government could not make available information in relation to American bases in this country.

Mr Riordan - That is more than you would have done.

Mr Donald Cameron (GRIFFITH, QUEENSLAND) - Would the honourable member please repeat his interjection? I would like to hear it.

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