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Thursday, 31 May 1973
Page: 3018

Mr BARNARD (Bass) (Minister for Defence, Minister for the Navy, Minister for the Army, Minister for Air and Minister for Supply) - I believe that too much attention has been directed at the changes in Australia's foreign policy which have been introduced by the new Government and that not enough recognition has been given to the broad continuities of policy within which the changes represent an evolutionary advance. Let me emphasise that what has happened since the election is not that Australia has suddenly swerved into a series of unpredictable and unrelated moves that are out of the mainstream of movements in world affairs. On the contrary, what we have done is solidly based on a clear appreciation of the gradual but nevertheless real shift in international affairs which has been going on for years and which can be summed up as a change from the bipolar world which characterised the years of the Cold War to the multipolar world which emerged from such events as the split between the Soviet Union and China, the integration of Europe through the European Common Market, the emergence of Japan as a major power and the Nixon Doctrine of greater self reliance in defence preparedness. These were real changes which were duly noted by many people in Australia, but for some strange reason the previous Government was loath to give them full recognition in its policy-making. Perhaps the reason was that the Liberal and Country Parties had found simple anti-communism of such great electoral advantage in the 1950s that they could not afford to give up their old shibboleths without the risk of electoral defeat. One of the consequences was, of course, that for some years it was not the then Government that was setting the pace in foreign policy but the Labor Opposition. It was we who took the initiative in opposing our participation in the Vietnam conflict, in calling for more foreign aid, in proposing an end to racism in our international dealings, in co-operating with the movement of self government and independence for Papua New Guinea and in opening up normal relations with China. Nevertheless, even the previous Government, reacting to responsible and realistic advice from the Department of Foreign Affairs and prompted by the initiative shown by the Labor Opposition, was showing some signs of moving in these directions: and given time - more time than we could afford - perhaps it might have belatedly arrived at the same position on these matters as has the new Government

What I am saying is that we have not moved erratically or against the mainstearm of world opinion. A great deal of what we have done has been catching up on the backlog of questions that were begging for constructive answers and acknowledging in practical ways that the world has in fact changed. The solidity of our foreign policy can be further demonstrated by pointing to some instances where there has been no change whatsoever in the policy that we have adopted. One case that immediately comes to mind is in our attitude to the ANZUS Treaty with the United States and New Zealand, upon which we continue to place great emphasis.

This is not the same as saying that we intend to perpetuate the completely uncritical posture towards our allies that was an embarrassing feature of the previous Government's foreign policy in the days of 'All the way with LBJ'. I do not think that that is the sort of ally that the United States needs or respects, nor is it the sort of attitude that a mature and independent Australia needs to adopt to win friends and influence people. It is far better for both allies if the relationship is one of mutual co-operation and respect. After all, our relations with the United States span a far wider spectrum than the matters of defence that are relevant to the ANZUS Pact. The strength of our alliance with the United States in the ANZUS Treaty is increased by our association in other areas such as trade, investment, technology, aviation and culture. As I have said previously, we continue to value highly the great contribution to the development of our defence capability which flows from our close association with the United States in various areas of defence. This should establish beyond doubt the fact that in this particular area the policies of the present Government show evidence of solid continuity over time.

The fallacy into which honourable members opposite seem only too prone to fall is to assume that by opening up relations with other countries we have to break down relations with our existing friends and allies. It is true that we are opening up normal diplomatic relations with China, North Vietnam, East Germany and Poland and normal trading relations with the Soviet Union, Eastern Europe, Cuba, North Korea, North Vietnam and China. But to try to argue from this, as honourable members opposite attempt to do, that Australia is joining the communist bloc, or that Australia is becoming non-aligned, shows very little respect for the intelligence of the people of Australia.

Of course, we are normalising relations with as many countries as we can. So are most other couitries in the world. It is to Australia's benefit that we do and it is in the interests of world peace, because by building up bonds of co-operation between countries we help to create a world in which each country has a vested interest in the survival and stability of every other country. And this we can do without in any way jeopardising the good relations that we already enjoy with our traditional friends and allies. It is not a position of nonalignment that we have adopted; it is a position which acknowledges the multiplicity of our interests and relationships.

In security matters our closest relationship is with the United States of America, but that does not rule out participating in the peacekeeping operations of the United Nations, honouring our obligations to our partners in the Five-Power Arrangements, including Malaysia and Singapore, encouraging the development of Association of South East Asian nations and the concept of a zone of peace, freedom and neutrality in South East Asia and engaging in defence co-operation with other countries in our region. Similarly, in tradition and sentiment, we have especially close ties with the United Kingdom and the other countries of Western Europe which were the original homelands of most Australians, as in trade we are aligned mainly with the other great trading nation of this part of the world, Japan. The truth is that our relationships with other countries concentrate on different aspects of our national interests and that is a healthy sign, both from the point of view of opening up options for ourselves and from the point of view of assisting world stability.

In the case of Japan, which I have just mentioned, I completely endorse the statement of the Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Whitlam) that under previous governments too much attention has been devoted to developing merely a commercial relationship with Japan and not enough thought has been given to the ways in which Australians and Japanese may come to understand each other better and to benefit from each other's traditions and insights. In an address recently to the Australia-Japan Business Co-operation Committee I pointed out that there was a need for more opportunities for all groups - government, business, trade unions and others - in both countries to get together much more often than they do until discussions and meetings lead to mutual understanding. The Government believes that it is high time that initiatives were taken to help bring this about. The fact that this even has to be a matter for initiative at this time shows how far Australia has lagged behind until now in improving relations even with a country which we have regarded for some time as a major trading partner. And that, Mr Speaker, is the point that I would impress on the House about all the initiatives which the Government is undertaking in the field of foreign policy.

We have taken the initiatives and we have made changes, but they have been to the advantage of our traditional friends and allies. By catching up with developments in the wider world we have facilitated the development of a more mature and a more realistic relationship with them than in the recent past and have won for Australia a new respect in the community of nations as a constructive, humane, responsible and reliable partner in trade, aid and conflict avoidance and resolution.

The mistake that honourable members opposite make far too often in their approach to foreign policy is to appeal to fear - fear of this country or that country or even just fear of the unknown. It seems to me that a much better approach in the present period is to go out, as we are, to deal constructively with the causes of conflict and discontent in our region rather than to react negatively to the symptoms. As I have argued elsewhere, even in defence policy, a negative approach is inadequate when it is possible to combine a policy of maintaining strong national defence forces at home with a policy of active defence co-operation with other countries through aid, training, technical assistance, joint exercises and continuing consultation.

Much of our defence aid to other countries contributes in a positive way to development. I mention my recent announcement of the maritime patrol project which we are now developing in conjunction with Indonesia. The patrol boats and Nomad aircraft which we are supplying will help Indonesia in the detection, interception and deterrence of smugglers, pirates, illegal fishing and illegal immigrants. Search and rescue constitutes another important maritime patrolling activity.

One question that could be asked about our defence co-operation with the countries of our region is whether this does not conflict with our support for the ASEAN concept of a zone of peace, neutrality and freedom in

South East Asia. The answer to such a question is that neutralisation can only come about gradually. One of the ways of helping it to come about is for the various countries of the region to take more responsibility for developing their own defence capability. And it is easy to see that it is in each country's interest and in the interests of the region as a whole if this is done with as much cooperation and mutual aid as possible.

The sort of defence co-operation which Australia now extends to these countries on an equal and friendly basis is well-designed to help raise national confidence by the gradual development of defence capabilities, which is one of the prerequisites of neutralisation. It also helps to foster regional interdependence, which is another prerequisite. So I do not see any contradiction between the sort of defence co-operation which Australia now offers and the ASEAN concept. Rather I see it as working towards a situation where that concept can ultimately be realised. Of course, I know that what developing countries need in terms of assistance as much as or even more than defence aid is economic aid.

I have already mentioned that much of our defence aid in the region has an economic value to our neighbours and helps them in their development. Also, the more defence aid that we provide the more they are relieved of the need to devote their own resources and scarce foreign reserves to building up their own defence capability and to use them for national development. If this can be achieved by a constructive and positive defence policy, how much more can be achieved through our foreign policy. I refer honourable members to the fact that our civil aid to Indonesia is 21/2 times the value of our defence aid, that we shall be giving even more economic aid to South Vietnam in the coming year than the previous Government did in the past, and that we intend to raise Australia's level of official economic aid programs until they comprise 0.7 per cent of the gross national product by the end of the decade.

We accept that proposition. One of the very few points I found acceptable in the speech of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) was on the question of foreign aid. It was the decision of the Australian Government - a decision in the terms of the platform of the Labor Party - to increase our foreign aid to 1 per cent of the gross national product. This, of course, is in line with the recommendation adopted by the United Nations. Perhaps in this respect there is a bipartisan attitude on the part of the Government and the Opposition, and so there should be. If we are to provide assistance to countries in South East Asia - the developing countries in our region - economic aid must be provided not only by this Government but also by other governments in this area which are in a position to provide that assistance. (Extension of time granted.) I thank the House. I will conclude on this note. Australia, in its foreign policy has established a sound and sensible course in international affairs which has the merit of taking advantage of the new opportunities opened up by the present relaxation in world tension at the same time as we retain the advantages we already enjoy with our traditional friends, allies and trading partners. In the short time that this Government has accepted the responsibilities not only in general fields of administration but also particularly in relation to foreign affairs there has been a shift in emphasis. As I have indicated on a number of occasions both publicly and in this Parliament - in this context I have been supported by the Prime Minister - defence will follow foreign affairs, rather than vice versa as in the past. I believe that the Prime Minister, despite what may have been said this afternoon by the honourable member for Parramatta (Mr N. H. Bowen) who led for the Opposition in this debate, has demonstrated that he has the capacity to provide the leadership which is needed in this country and which has been lacking for so long and that, in addition to carrying out that onerous task, he has demonstrated a capacity as Minister for Foreign Affairs that this country has not enjoyed for more than 23 years.

Debate (on motion by Mr Sinclair) adjourned.

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