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Wednesday, 16 March 1977
Page: 277

Mr HODGMAN (Denison) -May I commence my remarks in this debate by complimenting the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) on the outstanding foreign policy statement which he put down in this House yesterday afternoon. I believe the Minister enriches his stature in the world by the sort of statement which he brought before the Australian Parliament yesterday and by the vision he is bringing to the office. I reject completely the suggestion made by the honourable member for Burke (Mr Keith Johnson) prior to the suspension of the sitting that the Foreign Minister had told us where we had been and not where we were going. I would have thought that the Minister's statement, taking as it did some 24 pages of detailed information, not only traced the background of the foreign affairs policies which have been evolved by this Government but gave the clearest possible indication to the people of Australia, indeed to the people of the world, of where Australia stands in respect of foreign affairs. I believe the Minister is to be complimented. This is the second time within a period of 3 weeks that I have had occasion publicly to compliment the Minister on the job he is doing. I believe he is without doubt one of the most outstanding Ministers of the present Government. Notwithstanding his comparative youth in the world scene I believe his views are achieving and receiving a recognition throughout the world somewhat equivalent to that accorded the views expressed by Mr Anthony Eden, as he then was, when he was Foreign Secretary of the United Kingdom in the pre-war days. I believe we are fortunate to have a Minister of the capacity, ability, drive and integrity of Andrew Peacock.

May I say in dealing with his remarks that I do not agree with everything that is said. The whole purpose of this debate is to give back benchers on both sides of the chamber an opportunity to express their opinions on Australia's foreign policy. It is an unfortunate reflection on a debate of this nature that as I speak there are so few in the chamber. Perhaps this is because others have already spoken and others are still to come. I would have thought that foreign affairs was a matter of paramount importance to all Australians and to all people concerned with the future of the world and the goal which I believe can be achieved, and hopefully will be achieved, of a working arrangement which will ensure that we go into the twenty-first century without a major conflict such as those conflicts which have blighted this world for the first 77 years of this century.

The Minister, in his very detailed statement, referred to specific countries and specific areas. I will adopt the same order that the Minister adopted. I would like to make my comments with respect to the countries and the regions to which he referred in the order in which he chose to put them before the Parliament. I have no quarrel with anything he said about our relations with Japan. The only comment I desire to make about Japan is that I believe that he, the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and the Government have come to a far more stable and rational working basis with Japan than the previous Administration did. I hope that the nightmare period of the previous Administration, the complete and absolute disarray in respect of foreign policy, particularly dealing with minerals and trade, are well and truly behind us and that the Japanese can look forward to a working relationship with this country in accordance with the basic principles laid down in the friendship treaty entered into between Australia and Japan last year.

With respect to the United States, I adopt completely these remarks of the Minister:

The first thing to be said about them - he was referring to our relations to the United States- is that the uncertainty about the future course of Australian policy, the doubts, reservations and acrimony which were so much a feature of the previous Government's dealings with the United States, have been removed.

I recall quite vividly the extraordinary Press reports of statements by quite senior Ministers of the previous Administration attacking not only the United States as a nation but personally denigrating a number of persons holding a high office in the United States. It is one thing to disagree with the policies of another country; it is a completely different matter to attack personally those who are in executive office in that country. I believe that the actions of certain Labor Ministers in the previous Administration were nothing less than reprehensible. I am delighted that at least this Government has recognised that one deals on a government to government basis, one does not engage in personal mud slinging and character assassination such as we observed under the previous Administration. The Minister emphasised:

We pursue Australia's interests, express our disagreement with American policy where it exists, but the fundamental importance attached to the alliance and the general relationship are no longer in question.

The Minister made some comments about the new President of the United States. Might I say that as an Australian I was delighted at the election of President Carter and that in some small way we may have rendered some assistance to his election in that we were honoured to have in this country a few months ago a most distinguished American, Mr John Ryan, who was the overseas campaign director for President Carter. Before anybody jumps in and asks what Australians were doing becoming involved in the internal affairs of another country, let me say that I as an Australian, see nothing wrong in playing a pan, even if it is a small part, in one of the great exercises of democracy in the world- namely, the United States presidential election.

I believe President Carter has brought a new hope to the world. He has brought a new dynamism to American foreign policy. He has brought to America a new strength of leadership which I believe it sadly needed. I wish to make only one comment on President Carter's early remarks on the question of foreign affairs. I completely and absolutely agree with his statements on the question of civil liberties, particularly for those who unfortunately live behind the Iron Curtain. I completely and absolutely agree with his condemnation of the behaviour of certain administrations, in particular Uganda. I wish him well in his desire to have the Indian Ocean a zone of peace. I point out that we in Australia, who are perhaps most proximate to the Indian Ocean, appreciate that it is easier to say than effectively to ensure that the Indian Ocean is a zone of peace. The Government's policy is that it should be a balanced zone and that it should be balanced at the lowest possible level.

I refer to a letter to the editor of the Sydney Morning Herald, published yesterday, from Professor A. L. Burns, which referred to the number of littoral states of the Indian Ocean. If honourable members listen to this list of countries they will appreciate that it is very hard to say simply that we will put a blanket on the whole of the Indian Ocean and have it declared a peace zone. The littoral states of the Indian Ocean are Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Burma, Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Iran, the Gulf States, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Somalia, Kenya, Mozambique, the Malagasy Republic, South Africa and Australia. There is a very wide divergence of countries in Asia and in Africa. They have widely differing political opinions and beliefs. Whilst, in the optimum, a free zone in the Indian Ocean should be sought and worked for, I have the gravest doubts that this is feasible in the light of the extraordinary and substantial Russian build-up in that area. I would be failing in my duty as a member of this House if I did not say that whilst I support philosophically the proposition of a free Indian Ocean this can be achieved only if there is a substantial reduction of the Russian presence in that area.

The next area to which the Minister referred was our relations with Western Europe. I applaud the Minister and the Government for saying that Australia must have closer relations with Western Europe because whilst we are geographically part of Asia our ties and heritage to a large extent derive from Western Europe. We are recognised in Western Europe as a power of some considerable significance in this area and it is appropriate that we have a proper basis of dialogue with Western Europe. I would like to see Australia use its influence with respect to Western Europe to ensure that those groups which are unfortunate enough to be behind the Iron Curtain are not deserted by the West as they were in 1956, as they were in Poland in 1965 and as they were in Czechoslovakia in 1969 when they struggled for freedom. The basic minimal human rights laid down in the Helsinki Pact of 1975 are already being dishonoured in Czechoslovakia. I hope that Australia is prepared to express a view, and to express a strong view if necessary, at Belgrade this year at the conference to consider the application of the Helsinki Pact, that we as a country believe it is about time that those countries behind the Iron Curtain which deny basic civil rights to their citizens should think again and should at least acknowledge that they have a responsibility to ensure that those who live within their boundaries have the same basic freedoms and rights as we enjoy in Australia.

I applaud this Government for establishing a real and workable basis for relations with the People's Republic of China. The Government's action in this regard was not a sham pantomime operation such as we saw under the previous Administration. We now have as a direct result of the highly successful visit of the Prime Minister to China a working relationship with the Chinese. Let me say that rightly or wrongly I believe the Chinese are non-aggressive at thus point of time. Provided they remain non-aggressive I believe that Australia and China can have strong friendship bonds. I hope that they will.

I must confess that I do not feel exactly the same with respect to Russia because I find it impossible to reconcile what Russia is doing with its claims that in fact it wants only peaceful coexistence. I suggest that even a humble back bencher is permitted to put a point of view that if Russia continues to build up its arms, if Russia continues to extend its military influence in the world, there will be people who will believeand they will do so with justification- that Russia in fact intends to pursue one of the basic objectives of Marxism, namely, the domination of the world. I hope that we will not enter a generation in which war will be inevitable between those who wish to live in freedom and those who espouse the Marxist communist cause. I would hope that Russia would respond to President Carter's invitation to adopt a more realistic and reasonable line, to demonstrate by practical means that it wants peace. It does not seem right to me- and I am ignorant in these matters- that

Russia can be talking about peace while multiplying up to 400-fold its defence expenditure and extending its military tentacles throughout the world. If someone wants to say I am a red baiter, he can say it. But frankly I am frightened by the expansion of Russian militarism.

Mr Hodges - How about our association with the United States?

Mr HODGMAN - I have dealt with that. I am quite frankly frightened by the expansion of Russian militarism. I say that at the moment, rightly or wrongly, I believe that China wants peaceful co-existence.

I now wish to refer to regional policies, in particular to the area closest to us. I have expressed my view- and I shall express it again and againthat I believe that Australia as a nation has a moral responsibility not to turn its back on the allegations of atrocities having been committed in East Timor, whether committed by Indonesian troops with or without the approval of the Indonesian Government, or whether committed by others. East Timor is less than 400 miles from Australia. Many thousands of Timorese laid down their lives in World War II alongside Australians. If the Indonesian Government is prepared to invite Congressman Donald Fraser and his committee to come to Indonesia to sift out the facts in respect of the allegation of atrocities, on what possible basis could they deny that same request if it were put forward on behalf of the Australian Parliament? I repeat that this Parliament has a duty to investigate those allegations, to ascertain whether there is truth in them or not. I would have thought that the Indonesian Government had nothing to fear if there were nothing in the allegations.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order!The honourable member's time has expired.

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