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Friday, 22 February 1985
Page: 51

Mr HAWKE (Prime Minister)(10.42) —Mr Speaker, it is of great interest that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Peacock) should have concluded his pathetic speech with a reference to that great Australian leader John Curtin, because I ask the House why it was that John Curtin was standing in this place at the end of 1941 in Australia's hour of greatest need. Why was John Curtin standing in this place invoking the relationship with the United States of America? The answer is extremely simple; it was relevant in 1941 and it remains relevant in 1985. John Curtin was assuming responsibility for the defence of Australia and invoking the relationship with the United States because the conservative alliance in this country had failed Australia in its darkest hour. As in 1985, so in 1940 and 1941 were the representatives of the conservative powers long on rhetoric but short on action.

On the night of 3 October 1941 something remarkable occurred in this place. Two independents sitting in this House, Coles and Wilson, had witnessed the Opposition's conservative predecessors in action and had seen them, when charged with the responsibility of the real defence of this country, engaging in verbal rhetoric. The government of that time needed to face up to its real responsibilities but after these independents had watched the conservative parties in power they said: 'The conservative parties of this country are no good for Australia; we will give responsibility to the Australian Labor Party under the leadership of John Curtin'. I refer simply to the words spoken in this place on 3 October 1941. Mr Wilson buried the conservatives and put upon them the curse they deserve, because they are men of rhetoric and not of action. He said:

I consider that a change must be made in order to ensure stable and safe government for the effective prosecution of the war, the post-war reconstruction of the country and the repatriation of soldiers.

Just as in war honourable members opposite failed their country because they never had the real interests of their country at heart, so today, through their temporary Leader of the Opposition, have they revealed their hypocrisy. They have no real interest in the security of this country. They would do anything to bring down the real security interests of this country. Having witnessed yet another example of this emotional pietism by which the Leader of the Opposition is inflicted, this sick, synthetic anger which he has in a state of semi-permanent erection around him, let us look at the facts. It is the case that, in November 1983, the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Hayden), the then Minister for Defence and I made a decision in respect of providing support facilities to the United States of America. That is the case. The Leader of the Opposition has spoken as though there is some problem between the Minister for Foreign Affairs and the Minister for Defence in regard to the decision I took in Brussels to change that. There is no question that there was a change of decision. The Minister for Foreign Affairs and the Minister for Defence will both be speaking in this debate. Honourable members opposite will get no comfort from that because, quite clearly, those two Ministers supported the decision I took.

Let us get the facts on the record, because we have had no facts from the Leader of the Opposition. Consistently, we have had no facts from the Leader of the Opposition, whether in the matter of the Australian currency, for which he has no respect and about which he will undermine the real interests of this country, or on this issue. We have simply had prejudice and an attempt to undermine the real security interests of this country. The facts are clear. We on the Government side not only do not walk away from those facts; we stand side by side with them with pride. This is what happened: Just before I went to the United States in June 1983 I was told that a matter could be raised with me about a decision of the previous Government to provide support facilities to the United States in respect of a test with the MX missile. In regard to that I was briefed orally by the then Minister for Defence, the honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes). He subsequently wrote a letter to me, as I recall, on 7 June.

When I was in the United States I did have discussions and I indicated that, if there could be any agreement in respect of this testing in Australia, the splashdown point that had been arranged by the previous Government within Australian territorial waters was something that would not be acceptable. I asked whether there could be a consideration of a shift of the splashdown point outside of any definition of Australian territorial waters, the most extensive being the exclusive economic zone of 200 miles, as honourable members will know. That question was left in the United States. The Leader of the Opposition has come into this place today and suggested a decision was made. If a decision were made by me in the United States in June, I ask a very simple question: 'Why is it that in October 1983 representatives of the United States State Department and Defense Department were in this country asking the Government whether it would make a decision and whether it was going to provide the facilities?' If a decision were made in June 1983, why have the Americans got people here in October 1983 asking whether the Government is going ahead? The answer is simple. When we came to consider this matter the three Ministers made the decision that those facilities would be provided. On behalf of the Minister for Foreign Affairs and the then Minister for Defence and myself, I am not here to make an excuse for that decision. We were men of integrity and good faith. We believed in good faith that that decision was the appropriate one to give effect to a decision that had been made by the previous Government. That is how it stood. That situation changed and changed in a way which led to a mutually assumed decision by the United States and this Government that it did not make sense to adhere to that decision.

Let me now go to the canards that have been perpetrated by the Leader of the Opposition in regard to this matter. He would seek, as the conservatives always seek to do, to deny that in this country there are concerns about the international relationship, about the seeking of disarmament and peace in this world, which go beyond the Left in this country. I have said to members of the Left and I say it again, and they know the truth of it, that the Left has no monopoly upon considerations of peace and disarmament, nor do they claim it. What members of the Opposition have to understand-they will never want to understand because they do not understand the Australian people on these issues-is that the reaction that arose on this issue was not the monopoly, the exclusive concern of the Left of my Party.

When I left Australia on 2 February, when the decision that we had taken in good faith became known, I became aware that there was a very considerable reaction in this country against the wisdom of that decision. It was not simply the Left of my Party or the Left in this country that reacted. I became aware that not only in my own Party, across all factions, there was a concern but also well beyond the Australian Labor Party there was a concern on this issue. As I thought about this issue I became increasingly concerned that the continuing fundamentals of our relationship with the United States could be jeopardised if there were not some reconsideration. There was not only concern for maintaining the fundamental alliance relationship with the United States which I would not see impaired, but at the same time there was also a concern that I would not see impaired or diminished in any way the capacity of this Government to pursue constructively and meaningfully in all relevant forums all available measures to bring about a decrease in the level of nuclear arms in the world. Both of those issues are of fundamental importance to me and to my Government. I became aware that, with the dissent that emerged not only in my Party but also beyond this Party, the capacity of this Government to maintain those two fundamental issues of continuing importance may have been diminished.

It seems to be the view of the Leader of the Opposition and of the rabble behind him that to change one's mind on something is a sign of weakness. I simply say to this House and to the people of Australia that, while I am Prime Minister, if I believe a decision that I or the Government have made should, in light of subsequent circumstances, be changed, I will change it. The people of Australia do not want a Prime Minister who is bigoted and dogmatic and who will not listen to the clearly expressed voice of the people.

As I listened, I came clearly to the conclusion that those two fundamental considerations were jeopardised by a continuing adherence to the decision that we three Ministers had taken. In Brussels I came to the view that it was appropriate that that decision be changed. Let me repeat: The fundamentals of what we are talking about, the two central elements of the approach of this Government to international matters are, first of all, that the alliance relationship with the United States is of fundamental importance to this Government and to the people of Australia. The Leader of the Opposition in his speech would have people believe that members of the Opposition have some exclusive adherence to that relationship. As I said in opening, this great Labor Party forged the relationship. When a Liberal-Country Party government could not defend Australia and the people threw it out, this Party forged the alliance relationship with the United States. Since the ANZUS Treaty was signed in 1951, my Party consistently, without change, adhered to that alliance relationship.

When I returned the next day, on 12 February, the Cabinet met and unanimously endorsed the report which I gave. The first paragraph of that report was in these terms: Federal Cabinet today reaffirmed Australian Government policy on the basic issue of the Australia-United States alliance, the ANZUS Treaty and on disarmament and deterrence. That was the unanimous decision of the Cabinet on 12 February. One week later that was unanimously endorsed by the full Caucus of the Australian Labor Party. That was the central and first position that I was concerned to maintain. Let it be quite clear to those on the other side of the House who do not want to hear or understand and to the people of Australia that our alliance relationship with the United States is central, and we will do everything to maintain it. We are not a unilateralist party. We reject unilateralism because it is a fatuous and dangerous doctrine which we will not embrace. Secondly, we adhere to the centrality of the United States alliance relationship. I will have more to say in detail about that matter in a moment.

From the first day of this Government we also committed and dedicated ourselves as a government, and particularly through our most effective instrument in this area, the Foreign Minister, Mr Hayden, in all relevant forums to pursue paths which would reduce the level of armaments in the world to bring the two super-powers together. While we recognise and play our part in the current system of deterrence, we recognise that it is not the sanest way for super-powers to conduct their relationship. The only advantage, the only argument for deterrence, is that it is the system which has saved the world from nuclear holocaust for 40 years. Therefore we are prepared to play our part in that policy of strategic deterrence. We do not do that only by words; we host the joint facilities in this country. As distinct from those on the other side of this place who have sought as much as they can to shroud the operations of those facilities in secrecy and to keep the people of Australia in the dark, with the advent of this Government we took steps to try to take the people of Australia into its confidence so that they could share a proper understanding of the true function of those facilities. Let me emphasise what they are. We do not jointly host those facilities because they are part of an offensive capacity; they are a necessary part of the process and system of deterrence. Because of the early warning system they provide in this way and because of the way in which they provide the possibility of verification they are an essential part of the processes of negotiation for meaningful disarmament treaties.

We did not try to keep those issues shrouded in secrecy, because we have a fundamental commitment to the processes of disarmament. We truly understand the relationship between deterrence and disarmament. For the first time we have gladly undertaken with the Australian people to make a statement in this Parliament as to those functions. That is the first central element. The second is that we believe, as distinct from the previous Government, that Australia does have in this sorely troubled world-understand our size; we are not a super-power-a capacity to play a recognised part, a respected part, in the international forums of this world, in the discussions which take place in the United Nations, in the Committee on Disarmament. If this Government was to be able to do those things it was important to me that the people of Australia should not see us as diminished or impaired in any way in our capacity to conduct those discussions in such international forums. So, it was for those reasons that I came to the conclusion I did. I knew that it involved a change of decision but, as I have said, the Australian people, I believe, will respect the Prime Minister and the Government who, for good reasons, are prepared to make a decision which is for the greater good.

What should be understood is that by the time I arrived in Washington on the Tuesday evening the United States had independently arrived at the same conclusion as I had. When I arrived in Washington I found a clear understanding that the priorities in this matter should be as we saw them-as I saw them and as the United States saw them. The provision of facilities for the MX testing was a transient thing; it had nothing to do with the continuing centralities of importance to which I have referred. In a calm, rational and mature way the United States said: 'Very well. We understand that. It is much more important, in terms of the things that are of continuing significance to the relationship between us, that that be put aside so that the important central issues remain undamaged.'.

The Leader of the Opposition puts himself up as the one who has the capacity to have a relationship of substance with the United States. What sort of capacity does he have for a relationship with the United States if he says in this place that the President of the United States and the Secretary of State of the United States are liars? That is what the Leader of the Opposition is saying. In these matters I would prefer to the mean and miserable mind of the Leader of the Opposition clear, open, public statements which confirm the private affirmations to me of what the position of the United States is. Let me refer to them. This is what the President of the United States had to say. He agreed with my statement of 7 February which was in these terms:

The relationships between Australia and the United States under the ANZUS Treaty, and the rights and obligations assumed under the Treaty, were undiminished by recent events.

The President, speaking with me on that day outside the White House, had this to say:

Australia is a reliable ally, an important trading--

Mr Hodgman —It was.

Mr HAWKE —Honourable members opposite laugh. They are saying that when the President of the United States says that he is lying. The President of the United States can make his own judgment about the people opposite who call him a liar. The President of the United States had this to say:

Australia is a reliable ally, an important trading partner, a trusted friend and a fellow democracy.

He went on to observe that he could not overstate the value the United States placed on its friendship with Australia. The Leader of the Opposition went on to try to equate this episode with a decision of the Government of New Zealand. Let me quote what has been said subsequently in the United States on this matter which completely demolishes the equation which this miserable Leader of the Opposition makes. The Deputy Secretary of Defense, Mr Dam, was asked on 14 February whether the ANZUS Treaty had been threatened by the MX issue. A direct question was put to the United States spokesman about a matter which the Leader of the Opposition raises. The Leader of the Opposition seeks to equate the MX issue with what has happened in New Zealand. Mr Dam was specifically asked whether the ANZUS Treaty had been threatened. Mr Dam replied that the MX missile was a 'totally different question' from the question of banning access to United States ships. He went on to state:

There was a question on which the United States simply decided to forgo the assistance that was going to be available through the use of an airfield, essentially, and that was a minor adjustment.

Mr White —Why?

Mr HAWKE —I know the honourable member does not like it but he should listen to what Mr Dam said. He stated:

. . . that was a minor adjustment. It doesn't go to the concept of the Alliance.

That is the official position of the President of the United States, the Secretary of State of the United States and the spokesman of the Department of Defense. Let me go to that part of the Leader of the Opposition's statement in which he castigates me and my Government for not bullying the Government of New Zealand. He says that we should have rewritten the ANZUS Treaty. The facts are clear; they are simple; they are straightforward; and they are agreed upon between the United States and my Government. They are that we should not be engaging in rewriting the ANZUS Treaty. The specific position of President Reagan and Secretary of State Shultz is that we should not seek to rewrite the ANZUS Treaty. What they want, and what we agree with, is that under the existing ANZUS Treaty we should continue our bilateral relations in the hope that subsequently the Government of New Zealand will change its position and resume its capacity to conduct trilateral relations. That is the position of the United States; that is the position of my Government. Let me quote what Secretary of State Shultz said. It should be good enough for the troglodytes on the other side. I quote from the Sydney Morning Herald of 21 February:

According to an AAP report, Mr Shultz last night warned Congress against overreacting to New Zealand . . .

This is what Secretary of State Shultz is quoted as saying:

'I don't think we want to transform an ally into an enemy,'

The practical situation is that the relationship between Australia and the United States remains undiminished under ANZUS. We will continue the bilateral relationships between us. The United States understands that we will continue bilateral relations with New Zealand because it is in the interests of Australia and New Zealand, and of the United States, that the capacity of Australia and New Zealand in defence terms should remain undiminished in the area of the South Pacific which, unfortunately in light of recent events, is becoming somewhat less stable than it was. It would be an act of mutual insanity if the United States, New Zealand and Australia did something to reduce the capacity of Australia and New Zealand in this area.

When I was coming back from the United States, we heard with great interest that the Leader of the Opposition had cancelled his visit to see Mrs Thatcher so that he could stay in Australia and take advantage of the discomfiture of the Prime Minister and the Government. As honourable members may imagine, I came back in fear and trepidation that Peacock remained in Australia and intended to pluck my feathers. But, between my returning from overseas and Parliament's resuming, I was waiting for the words of Peacock. Where was the thunder coming from? Not a word did we hear. I ask honourable members: Does anyone remember a word spoken by the Leader of the Opposition? There was not a word. We did hear something from the pretender, the honourable member for Bennelong (Mr Howard). He filled the vacuum provided by the incompetence or the temerity of the Leader of the Opposition. After hearing the Leader of the Opposition's speech today, is it any wonder that he did not open his mouth when he stayed back in Australia? In conclusion I move the following amendment to the motion moved by the Leader of the Opposition:

That all words after 'House' be omitted with a view to substituting the following words-

'reaffirms the Government's firm commitment to the ANZUS alliance and in particular the strength of relationship between the U.S. and Australia arising from that alliance'.