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Friday, 22 February 1985
Page: 46

Mr PEACOCK (Leader of the Opposition)(10.11) —I move:

That this House-

(1) censures the Government and condemns the Prime Minister for

(a) undermining ANZUS and the defence relationship between Australia and the United States,

(b) breaking a firm commitment to our United States ally to provide limited logistical support for monitoring MX missile tests,

(c) refusing to respond constructively to the ANZUS crisis,

(d) pursuit of contradictory policies, setting back international security and disarmament, and

(e) making vital decisions affecting national security not on the basis of the national interest, but according to the dictates of the ALP's factions, and

(2) reaffirms the obligations and principles of ANZUS, and the alliance with the United States, as the cornerstone of our defence and a fundamental basis of Australia's positive contribution to peace and disarmament.

A government's greatest responsibility is the nation's security. The people of Australia, in matters of defence and foreign policy, above all expect their Prime Minister to put the national interests beyond the reach of party factions. I am pleased that the Prime Minister (Mr Hawke) has come into the chamber. He goes down in history as the first man in the history of the arms race to be torpedoed by an MX missile. I mentioned at the outset that the people of Australia, in matters of defence and foreign policy, above all else expect their Prime Minister to put the national interest beyond the reach of party factions. When this Prime Minister left for overseas, he left with the goodwill of most Australians who want to see him pursue the national interest. No one criticises a Prime Minister going away to pursue the national interest. But this Prime Minister, on this most recent of visits, failed to do just that.

He failed not because he misunderstood what the national interest required and not because he misunderstood that factional demands were contrary to the nation's interests. This is what makes the Prime Minister's failure deplorable. With both the ANZUS crisis and the MX decision, he began to move in the right direction. On both occasions, he ultimately betrayed those interests to the demands of the factions. In the MX case, he abandoned a firm commitment to our American ally. It was a commitment made by the previous Government, reaffirmed by his own Government and endorsed as late as 29 January this year by the Cabinet's National Intelligence and Security Committee. He thereby damaged Australia's credibility as a reliable ally. He undermined our security and corroded our ability to contribute to the cause of peace and disarmament. Beyond that, he humiliated Australia. This was a failure of leadership on an issue that goes to the heart of the nation, to its security.

Let us be clear about what the Government had decided to do. It had agreed, as the previous Government had agreed, to provide limited logistical support for the testing of two unarmed MX missiles as part of our contribution to the United States alliance. This involved allowing a few American Air Force observation planes to refuel in Australia. That is a minimal degree of assistance to an ally who has after all been flying B52 bombers in and out of Darwin for some years. I pause and pose the question: If the Left seizes upon this, for how much longer will those aircraft be able to come and go refuelling in Darwin?

The issue exploded through a Press leak. The day before the Prime Minister left on his overseas tour, the Left, on learning of the commitment, was, as you will recall, Mr Speaker, enraged. The rage spread across the antagonistic factions which make up this Labor Government. However, the decision was strongly defended by the responsible Ministers. The Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Hayden), displaying his customary loyalty, made a statement on the Willesee show that was unexceptionable and that we would endorse. Among the statements made on that program the Foreign Minister, in defending the Government's position, stated:

We are not neutral, we are not unaligned, we are not pacifists.

We agree with the Minister. The Minister for Defence (Mr Beazley), fighting the cause of the Government's decision, quite correctly stated:

The Government takes the view that to deny US aircraft the facility to refuel in Australia . . . would not be the act of an ally.

The Prime Minister was elsewhere and had embarked on the night of the long telephone calls. He was consulting, but not with the responsible Ministers; he was consulting with the party numbers men scattered across the globe. I wonder how many honourable members opposite got calls from Brussels, from Tokyo or even from Swaziland. What was the advice he was getting from his little mates of the New South Wales Right? I quote from the Sydney Morning Herald of 12 February, in which a source says:

We told him the party was in turmoil, that the ranks were beginning to break and pretty soon we would have to start shooting deserters.

The Prime Minister did not have to shoot any deserters; as captain of the ship of state, he was the first to go over the side. He was not told he would lose; he was told by the numbers men that there would be a lot of blood about, that it would be a pretty tough fight, but that he could win. This was a time for some pretty firm leadership, putting down the viewpoint believed in and supporting the decision as were the Ministers back here. What did the Prime Minister do? He decided to cut and run. He ran away from the fight. It seems to us that this was a time to confront the anti-American and neutralist sentiments in the Australian Labor Party. This Prime Minister chose not to stand with the responsible Ministers, the Minister for Defence and the Foreign Minister, or with the National Intelligence and Security Committee, or with his commitment to our ally. The Prime Minister panicked. He threw principle aside and he threw the national interest aside. He did not fight for Australia; he caved in to the Left. The Ministers who defended the Government's decision were left swinging slowly in the wind. No wonder it is a Labor Party maxim that whenever one stands behind this Prime Minister he steps to one side.

Not just the Labor Party had to suffer this humiliation. As Australians we all had to suffer the humiliating sight of the Prime Minister going cap in hand to Washington, having reneged on a commitment to the United States, and then backtracking on a communique endorsing the necessary upgrading of the United States deterrent. It is, in fact, a tribute to the former strength of the United States-Australia relationship built up by successive governments that the Americans did not press the issue and did not hold this Prime Minister to his commitments and to the communique but sought to contain the damage he had done to the relationship in this MX fiasco. The American diplomatic and public statements do not disguise, nor have they silenced, the growing disquiet amongst influential Americans that this Labor Government has let them down. The Prime Minister, claiming to speak for his Government, has said:

Australia's commitment to the alliance relationship remains undiminished.

This is self-serving nonsense. Let me tell the Prime Minister why. First, let me repeat the words of his own Defence Minister. He said that to deny US aircraft the facilities to refuel in Australia 'would not be the act of an ally'. Second, what is the difference in principle between the Prime Minister's actions and those of the New Zealand Government?

Mr Hodgman —None at all.

Mr PEACOCK —Indeed. In each case America was refused facilities agreed to in the spirit of the ANZUS pact. Let me remind the Prime Minister about Australia's attitude toward New Zealand refusing to allow port facilities and what his own attitude allegedly was. He said:

We could not accept as a permanent arrangement that the ANZUS alliance had a different meaning and entailed different obligations for different members.

The Prime Minister's MX debacle is a repetition of his weakness over the ANZUS crisis created by New Zealand's refusal to allow American nuclear warships into its ports. We have said it before; we say it again. Australia had a duty as a member of ANZUS to actively involve itself in this dispute and take a mediatory role. Despite the coalition's repeated calls on the Prime Minister to accept this responsibility, he refused to do so because he was afraid of taking on the factions before his early election. He claimed that it was simply a matter between New Zealand and the United States alone. By doing so he treated the Australian people with contempt because what was at stake is at the very heart of Australia's defence interests. It was and is an alliance issue. It affects the general Western alliance. To pretend that it was a matter only between Washington and Wellington was and is a fraud. The Prime Minister knew this.

After the election was over the Prime Minister tried to recover the position by writing to Mr Lange. Mr Speaker, I do not want to get personal. I know the Prime Minister is a little sensitive about his height, but honourable members will remember this letter-a letter to Lange from Shorty. The letter told New Zealand that the decision was inconsistent with the ANZUS alliance. This was quite futile because, if one gives in to the Left once, one has to do it again and again. As soon as the Prime Minister's letter leaked, he backed down in the face of the Left's outrage fuelled by-honourable members have heard it before-its violent anti-American and anti-nuclear ideology. The Prime Minister went back to saying:

The issue is one between New Zealand and the United States.

He tried to gloss over the significance of the letter once it leaked out. There was the fury, the rage and the dissent of the Left again. With all that dissent around, he then said: 'I have done no more than indicate to my good friend, David Lange'-I do not know whether that is reciprocated-'that I was going to the United States'.

What happened to ANZUS as a consequence? Among other things, the Sea Eagle exercises have been cancelled, two ANZUS logistical meetings have been cancelled, apparently United States-New Zealand defence co-operation has been suspended, and sharing intelligence has now become an issue. The Prime Minister stood by and did nothing while ANZUS unravelled. The record shows that the weakness of the Prime Minister and his refusal to confront the factions has given impetus to the anti-American Left within the Government. Through his weakness, the Left has acquired new vigor and greater boldness. His weakness has allowed it to use each victory as a springboard to the next. Whilst this motion deals with matters that go to the heart of the nation-namely, national security-the importance of this caving in to the Left and the straddling of the factions will dwell on Australians through this Government for months and years to come. There has been a caving in to the Left, an inability to exert authority, and a preparedness to be drawn away from stated commitments simply to do deals.

There is no question about the aims of members of the Left in this Labor Party. Their aims are, and they are oft-quoted, the destruction of ANZUS and of the Australian-American relationship. Fair enough, they have the democratic right to proffer the view that ANZUS should be destroyed, but they never put forward an alternative and they ignore the consequences. Who would benefit from this fracturing and probable destruction of ANZUS and the Australian-American relationship? Let me quote from a Mr Paul Dibb, who was engaged by the Government to review our nation's defence:

The prospect of a breakup of the ANZUS treaty would be of enormous benefit to the USSR's world-wide interests.

He went on to say:

Nothing would be more welcome in Moscow than the dissolution of ANZUS, involving as it does such close allies of the United States.

They are not my words, they are the words of the Government's own defence adviser. The ANZUS alliance has been a source of stability to the nations of the South Pacific. Governments from the Pacific, the Association of South East Asian Nations, the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and Japan are seriously concerned about the potential damage that developments in ANZUS could have. As recently as this morning we heard elements of that concern from the British Prime Minister, Mrs Thatcher. The confusion, the disunity and the Labor Government's lack of leadership can give little confidence that this Government can salvage a tripartite treaty which it-the Government-said in 1983, following a comprehensive review, was 'vitally important to the shared security concerns and security interests of the three partner governments'.

Moreover, the Australian people and our allies cannot be confident that the Government can safeguard the wider Australian-United States relationship in the face of this concerted attack from the Left. We have seen consequences domestically. Evaluations of the dollar take this into account. We will go on to the effects of this concerted attack from the Left on the broader relationship another day. A further consequence of the Government's confusion and the Prime Minister's lack of authority has been the shaking of our reliability as a partner and a party involved in disarmament negotiations. At the root of proper disarmament proposals, unless one is a unilateralist, is the meshing together of disarmament and deterrence. Deterrence, in which the MX missile is part of the necessary technology upgrading, goes hand in hand with disarmament.

This coalition accepts as vital that notion and has advocated it for years-the complementarity of disarmament and deterrence. It is through our assisting the United States in maintaining its deterrent posture that we can maintain credibility and, indeed, influence in disarmament negotiations and with the United States. We have said it time and again and it moved me to support the Prime Minister when I first heard that he was giving assistance to the United States. It was right, it was proper and the Defence Minister and the Foreign Minister were right in the arguments they produced. They were not the only ones. In speaking of the notion of the pursuit of disarmament through effective deterrence and the element of assistance with limited logistical support to the monitoring of MX testing that originally was being granted by the Government, let me quote our own Ambassador for Disarmament, Mr Butler. He recently said:

Where would we be in seeking to pursue real means of disarmament with the United States if we refused them the right to land a couple of planes in Australia which they are going to use to monitor the missile shot?

Where would we be? He answered that. He said:

Now, our credibility would be completely reduced.

From the words and the praise that the Government heaps on Mr Butler I assume that he should know. The fundamental dilemma facing the Labor Government is that it is pursuing a disarmament policy which seeks to placate Party factions that are basically anti-American and committed to unilateral disarmament. Quite simply, this cannot be done except at the expense of our national interest. If the Prime Minister does not stand up to the Party's factions they will destroy ANZUS, destroy our involvement with the Western alliance and destroy our influence in disarmament discussions.

There is a further element in this whole sorry matter which certainly demands an explanation. The Prime Minister, because of his fear of his own Government's factions, his unwillingness to trust his Cabinet colleagues, has prompted a series of briefings and disclosures to the Press. We would not have known much about this earlier on had there not been put aside the other leaks that were planted. If the reports are true they show that the Prime Minister and at least three other Ministers have made false statements on the MX. Reports in the Australian on 6 February of this year and in the National Times on 8 February 1985 indicate that the Prime Minister agreed in his discussions with the Americans in June 1983 that Australia would proceed with the Fraser Government's commitment on assisting the MX missile tests. Our observers in the gallery have been writing for weeks that in June 1983 Mr Hawke gave a commitment to the Americans to go ahead with what had been a Fraser Government commitment. We understand that the Foreign Minister heard of this in July. Allegedly he was aghast. Around October he wrote a letter on the matter. In November Ministers met and they allegedly moved the splashdown site. But the commitment was given in June 1983 to follow through the Fraser Government's commitment.

It is also reported, as I have just mentioned in passing, that it was at the now famous meeting on 16 November that the Prime Minister and Ministers for Defence and Foreign Affairs, and I quote:

Agreed that to minimise the possibility of party backlash, they would ask the Americans to shift the impact zone out of Australian territorial waters.

If it is correct that the Prime Minister agreed in June 1983 to continue the Fraser Government's commitment, and only after 16 November 1983 agreed to ask the Americans to change the impact zone, this would involve the splashdown zone being in Australian waters during the intervening period. This would mean that, first, the Prime Minister deceived the Australian people on 30 November 1984, the day before the Federal election, when he said:

I think the only thing I wish is to reiterate a statement which I think has been made-or certainly will be made-by the Minister for Defence-

he brought in this statement to be issued by the Minister for Defence-

and that is to say simply: That my Government has not agreed, and will not agree, to any missile testing on, over or into Australian territory, airspace or territorial waters.

Secondly, it would mean that the then Minister for Defence deceived the Australian people when, having consulted with the Prime Minister, he issued on 30 November 1984 this statement, which the Prime Minister had linked into and referred to earlier:

The Government had not agreed-

past tense-

and would not agree to any nuclear missile testing into its territory, its airspace, its territorial waters, its fishing zone or its prospective exclusive economic zone.

It does not stop there, because, thirdly, the present Minister for Defence misled the Australian people when he clearly indicated in his statement of 1 February 1985 that agreement on assisting with the MX missile tests was reached only after the Americans agreed to shift the impact zone into international waters.

Finally, our loyal friend the Minister for Foreign Affairs misled the Australian public when he stated-here I refer to a report in the Australian of 6 February this year-that the Prime Minister 'has been shocked, when assuming office, to find that the splashdown point was to be 100km from the Tasmanian coast'. He said that 'Mr Hawke immediately had the point moved into international waters'.

The Opposition and the Australian people require that the facts be immediately clarified in straightforward, unequivocal terms and not with the evasions for which this Government is now notorious. This requires an affirmation from the Prime Minister that neither he nor any of his Ministers made a commitment to the Americans on the MX before the meeting of 16 November or before the Americans agreed to shift the MX impact site into international waters.

What we have here, taken in its totality, is a failure of policy, a failure of leadership and a failure of courage in confronting Labor Party factionalism. The Australian people now know where the Government and the Opposition stand on the American alliance. I can say, on behalf of the coalition, on behalf of the Opposition, that we have a continuing, firm commitment to alliance without subservience, to ANZUS, and to our broader relationship with the United States, and that it is unequivocal. Of course we want the rights of that treaty, but we will meet the obligations that go with it. This is a commitment founded on a knowledge of what Australia's national interests are and what the Australian people stand for. Can the Prime Minister look over his shoulder at his colleagues and say the same thing?

There are major issues of national security facing Australia. I ask the Prime Minister to reflect on the words and the actions of a former Labor leader, Mr John Curtin. We have heard in the past, when the rhetoric was there but it did not have to be matched to the substance, the Prime Minister calling up the name of that great Australian leader and that great leader of the Australian Labor Party. At a time of enormous peril for Australia in the Pacific war, John Curtin wrote on 26 December 1941:

Without any inhibitions of any kind, I make it quite clear that Australia looks to America, free of any pangs as to our traditional links or kinship with the United Kingdom. We are determined to exert all our energies towards the shaping of a plan with the United States as its keystone.

I ask honourable members to mark those words: 'with the United States as its keystone'. Despite intense criticism, Curtin fought for his beliefs and for Australia, and he prevailed. No such action has characterised this Prime Minister, and he deserves the censure of the House.

Mr SPEAKER —Order! The honourable member's time has expired. Is the motion seconded?

Mr Sinclair —I second the motion and reserve my right to speak.