Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Full Day's HansardDownload Full Day's Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Wednesday, 16 March 1977
Page: 273

Mr CALDER (Northern Territory) - I would like to refute a few of the arguments advanced by previous speakers. One, in particular, concerns the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) who is accused of having a closed mind with regard to certain aspects of foreign affairs and with regard to his appreciation of what has been occurring in the world during the last 30 years in the battle against communist domination. I would say that the honourable member for Mackellar has a very open mind and a very able and sharp mind. He is capable of seeing through a lot of the facade which is built up to hide the communist advance towards world domination and the support of it by the Australian Labor Party. I compliment the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) on his statement which has been described as quite the most comprehensive and level headed assessment of the realities of Australia's foreign policy which any Minister has presented for years. It must be considered a success yet the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) saw fit to drone on that the statement was irrelevant and outdated even before it was delivered.

I do not think any honourable member on either side of the House, certainly not the public or the Press, would agree with the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition. He made statements to the effect that Australians overseas could walk 2 feet taller because, I take it, of his own superman performance as the greatest foreign minister ever. He stated that the Indian Ocean is the central question in Australia's foreign policy. Let us face it, it is a very important area. It was dealt with, among many other areas in the foreign affairs field, by the statement. The Leader of the Opposition said that this region is of vital interest to Australia. All honourable members would agree. But he went on to say that the Government does not want to know. When the Labor Party was in Government it was his policy 'not to know' with respect to the Indian Ocean and the steady build-up of communist influence in the Indian Ocean and around its shores. The Leader of the Opposition stated- and there are many of his party members who support him- that President Carter's statement concerning an Indian Ocean zone of peace has virtually torpedoed the Government's red baiting and militaristic stance. President Carter's zone of peace for the Indian Ocean is a fine ideal and I agree that it should be supported. The Minister for Foreign Affairs has agreed that it should be supported but we must realise, and the Opposition must surely realise, that it must be a mutual affair. If the forces on one side are to be reduced, the forces on the other side must also be reduced. This has never happened. In the past the Russians have built up their forces around their bases on the East African coast. They have patrol ships or fishing vessels throughout the whole of the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean. They have submarines and the facilities to refuel them.

I remember that when I was last flying over the Indian Ocean, one of the crew, who was making an announcement, stated that we were airborne and heading for Perth with nothing underneath us for the next 6 hours except the Indian Ocean and, as an afterthought, the Russian Navy. I was coming from Mauritius at that time and it is generally conceded on the island of Mauritius that you could virtually walk across the Indian Ocean, stepping on Russian ships, and not get your feet wet. We are told that there is nothing there and that it should be a zone of peace. All right, it should be a zone of peace but, my heavens, much of the Russian or communist build-up would have to be taken away before the meagre resources of the United States and our own even more meagre resources should suffer any diminution at all.

We heard some criticism of the Minister's comment that the Indian Ocean should be a zone of balance. That is what it should be. The military presence in the area should be balanced, whether it is achieved by ensuring no further military or services build-up or by some other means. The main point is that there should be a balance. Do not forget that Malaysia called for a sphere of peace in the area covered by the Association of South East Asian Nations. On the basis of that stance there has been a steady creeping forward of the communist influence into at least two of the ASEAN countries. They are Malaysia itself and Thailand. When we are talking about zones of peace and a sphere in which there is no major build-up of power, we have to look at the past performance of the communists in those ASEAN countries. That is what the ASEAN countries concern is all about. I think that they probably realise even now that they are in grave danger, that there has been a considerable build-up on the east African coast of Russian strength- naval, air and technical. So the Russian build-up is no myth at all.

Speaking of the ASEAN countries, I welcome the Minister's statement that the greatest of importance is placed on consolidating and developing the Australian Government's relationship with those 5 countries. Last December the Government formed an inter-departmental committee to review all aspects of our relations with those countries. I commend the Government on taking that action. I notice that in its composition the committee was heavily weighted to the economic side of the situation. That was for a very good reason, I think. Australia is in a position to assist those countries. It is in a position to assist all the countries in its vicinity, but especially those 5 ASEAN countries. We can assist them and assist ourselves. We are at the bottom end of the Indonesian archipelago. I have been advocating for years that we should play a leading role in their development. I know that we were not asked to be a member of the ASEAN group, but we could assist them- I hope we do assist them- and offer friendship and advice and generally ensure that we are considered to be a country which is interested in that area. To do so really could do us nothing but good from the point of view of trade and defence and from the cultural point of view. We should be looking towards the possibility of making northern Australia the centre of that activity. We should be, say, converting the Darwin Community College into a university to which students from the ASEAN countries could come in tropical Australia in order to learn before returning to their own countries. It is a great opportunity for us to assist our neighbours.

Do not let us forget what was the situation in Timor when the present Government came to office. It was a 'no action' situation. The previous Prime Minister sat back and hoped, I imagine, that something would happen in one direction or the other. I think he must have assessed the situation and decided that he could not do anything about the Indonesian military build-up in East Timor anyhow. Since coming to office this Government has taken many initiatives in regard to refugees, exerting pressure for the withdrawal of Indonesian troops, and sending a special representative to Timor to mention a few. The Government is continually criticised by the Opposition for having done nothing in regard to the situation in Timor. Had the Labor leader asked for the support of the ASEAN countries during the early stages of the trouble in Timor I am certain that the situation would not be anything like as bad as it is now if it existed at all.

In the last few minutes available to me I would like to refer to what the Minister said in his statement under the heading 'Areas of tension'. When dealing with South Africa the Minister stated that we are maintaining a policy of correct diplomatic relations with South Africa to oppose without reservation that country's policies of racial discrimination. That is, we are antiapartheid. That is fair enough; strictly everyone is. I have heard it said that the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act and the Aboriginal Councils and Associations Act have the effect of introducing separatism. Apartheid is separatism. Although it is not acting in quite the same way, it is separatism. If that legislation as it is now drafted were pursued to its ultimate conclusion it could produce a black state in the Northern Territory. I am not certain that the Labor Party did not have that idea in mind when it drafted the legislation originally. If the legislation does not create a black state, it certainly will result in separate development.

We have stood by and watched Rhodesia battle against communist backed nationalism. Let us face it; Australia followed the policy adopted by the British towards Rhodesia, and we have done nothing about altering that policy. We have stood by and watched Rhodesia. I ask: Are we going to do the same with regard to South Africa? We have stood with those countries in world wars and they have stood with us. Yet we are not lifting a finger even to help them now. I want to know why we do not set up dialogue with these countries, especially with South Africa, instead of standing off and adopting a sanctimonious attitude to their problems. They have problems, just as we do- we should discuss them.

Suggest corrections