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Monday, 10 September 1984
Page: 904


Mr MacKELLAR(3.59) —The Minister for Defence (Mr Scholes) has accused the Opposition of scratching around for issues. I cannot think of a more important issue than the defence and security of the nation. If there is one overriding responsibility for any government of whatever political persuasion, it is the defence and security of the nation. So there could not be a more important issue for us to discuss. The Minister also said Australia's relations are sound. That hardly fits in with the statements being made all around the world, as the present Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Hayden) stumbles around from crisis to crisis and puts at jeopardy those sound relationships which have been built up.

Of course, the most recent example of this is the Indonesian Foreign Minister's statements in relation to the activities of the Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Hayden), hardly a demonstration of sound and worthwhile relationships being built up.

The Minister for Defence talked about the good discussions that the present Prime Minister (Mr Hawke) and Secretary of State for the United States, Mr Shultz, had recently. I am sure they were amicable and friendly discussions. I wonder whether during those discussions the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for the United States discussed the Foreign Minister's threatening attitude which he expressed in the discussions he had and interviews he gave recently in Geneva, after Mr Shultz had visited Australia. There was no mention of threatening the future relationships and viability of the joint facilities in Australia when the discussions took place in Australia with the United States Secretary of State. He was shuffled off and sent away without any deliberations in relation to that significant threat.

We are living in a dramatic period in the defence of this region. The decision of the New Zealand Labour Party to withdraw from ANZUS illustrates the results that come from what I regard as an historic failure to see the realities in perspective. If ever we have had a demonstration of that historic failure we have seen it in the person of the Minister for Defence today. The New Zealand Prime Minister, Mr Lange, when he appeared on the television program Four Corners on 1 September, seemed to argue that Australians and Americans were good people, and therefore they would be quite happy to go along with New Zealand's wishes to ban US naval ships in the Pacific and at New Zealand ports but quite happy to accept New Zealand as an ANZUS member. It was a very strange logic, because it led to the view that only nasty people would object to such a view of ANZUS.

It seems that the New Zealand Labour Party-we have seen the evidence of it today-has now been at work to weaken New Zealand links with the western security system still further. It has decided that New Zealand should withdraw from ANZUS and any defence treaty with nuclear powers. It is clear that it comprehends New Zealand ending participation in the five power defence agreement, because it has also decided to withdraw the army battalion from Singapore. This is a momentous recommendation for New Zealand which, unfortunately, has developed a minute to midnight psychosis. I think the Minister for Defence was right in one of the things he said today. He said that it is time for this House to give a message to New Zealand. It is a sovereign country and if it decides as a nation to play Russian roulette with its own security it is entitled to do so. Let it not feel for a moment that in doing that it can consider its special relationship with Australia will remain unaffected. New Zealand makes its own bed and is entitled to lie on it. That message should be spread to New Zealand and made very plain indeed.

This unhappy situation is more a product of ignorance than deliberation and thought. The Soviet-leaning policy of the New Zealand Labour Party and its Government has failed to come to grips with the realities of Soviet power and Soviet ambitions. The New Zealand decisions come at a time when Soviet power is building up in the western Pacific and in South East Asia. In Vietnam the Soviet Union now has a capacity, as my colleague the Leader of the National Party (Mr Sinclair) said, to interdict shipping going through the straits in South East Asia. There is no doubt that the Association of South East Asian Nations are concerned-they have expressed that concern-and in that concern they have drawn closer to the United States.

This Government has had an ambivalent policy towards these developments. It has failed to give leadership to its own public opinion, let along New Zealand's. It has steadfastly, persistently and obviously refused to present Australian public opinion with the facts about the growth of Soviet influence in the ANZUS region. Why has it refused to do this? We know the Government has a special view that Vietnam was held captive to the Soviet viewpoint. But that does not explain a Government decision to avoid speaking about the Soviet build-up, which concerns us all. I suspect the real explanation is that Labor Party members have decided that this Party would split wide open if the realities of the growth in Soviet power were soberly, sensibly and sensitively conveyed to Australian public opinion. The ALP Conference could not address the issues, because it was touch and go whether the Left would take over the conference.

We know that the Defence Minister, when he was in South East Asia, did speak up and show his concern. The Minister for Defence visited South East Asia and issued strong words of concern. But he and members of his party have not said a word in Australia about the growth in Soviet strength. The Minister was quite prepared to speak out up there, but he has not said a word down here. All the Labor Government has done is to keep talking loud and long about a review of ANZUS, as if the Treaty had become a disease which needed to be cleansed. The Treaty, working as part of a system of security in the Pacific, made a powerful contribution to the stability of the fastest-growing economic region in the world today. If New Zealand has not benefited as much as others, it is no fault of the region. We, for our part, could not have gone so far down the road of closer economic co-operation if the economic future of the region had remained uncertain. The economic future of the region depends on the capacity of the security system for the region to hold, and to hold firm for the next decades as it has in the past.

Soviet power, when introduced into a region, is divisive, destructive and pathological. We see the hallmark of Soviet influence in Vietnam today; in Afghanistan with 3,000,000 refugees and in the Horn of Africa, a total human disaster. The Pacific is not a disaster area, Vietnam excepted. The New Zealand Labour Party has decided it would like to see the United States' power in the region seriously weakened. Let its members not kid themselves. It will encourage , not deter, the Soviet thirst for more political conquests.

Consider the way things have developed in Europe. It is not altogether a depressing picture now, but European nations were concerned that there was no counter-balance to Soviet power and so at the end of 1979, two years after the Soviet SS20 deployments, the United States called on the Soviets to agree to call off this part of the arms race.

Through all this the Government has had to battle the issues out in its own ranks, with mixed results. An amazing development has been the clear indications that the Central European communist countries consider that Soviet policy of artificially creating tension is wrong headed. The desire of the East European leader to visit Western Germany was overruled recently by the Soviets and this is a clear indication that the Soviet threats do not have the support of all Soviet allies. The clear aim of the Soviet Union is to retain the SS20 in its armoury at all costs. It was angered rather than conciliated by the United States' offer for both nations to eliminate either progressively or with one decision intermediate range missiles.

The fundamental fact is this: We live in the fastest-growing economic region of the world. Our economy has prospered in trade with Japan, China, Taiwan and South East Asia in particular. Do we want to keep this going or do we want to see it fail? It will fail if the security system which underpins it fails. It is important that we appreciate that we have and need a system of security because it produces the stability we need for our economic well-being. We need ANZUS because it delivers a system of security which brings to every one of us the benefits of peace-economic progress and the opportunity to extend the benefits of a higher quality of life to others.

If we talk to ASEAN leaders or thinkers we are quickly made to understand how concerned they are about the drift in Australian attitudes and foreign policy. They say their expectations were that Australia would understand the nature of the security challenge with the Soviets enhancing their strength and role.

Let the Australian Democrats take note of the situation. Let them get up and say the Pacific does not need a system of security. Let them say it, in fewer words than their leader used on AM this morning. For that is now their policy. Let the Government make its position perfectly clear. This is a position which so far has been bound in obfuscation and division within the ranks of the various Labor factions.