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Friday, 22 February 1985
Page: 62


Mr MACPHEE(11.55) —The Prime Minister (Mr Hawke) has made a mistake, and no amount of abuse, no amount of rationalising and no amount of gobbledegook will alter that fact. The Prime Minister reversed a perfectly proper commitment, without the good reasons which he said this morning justified changing his mind. His Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Hayden) and his Minister for Defence (Mr Beazley) had justified that decision, and we in the Opposition would have supported the commitment which he had made to the United States. This debate is about the need to see the Australian-American alliance in the broadest possible perspective as part of the integrated Western alliance bringing stability to the South Pacific and South East Asia and, in conjunction with the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation alliance, to the rest of the free world. It is not a question of semantics or literal interpretations of the ANZUS commitment; it is part of that understanding which allies of so many years standing have, which close friends have, which was involved in the simple request to provide facilities to aircraft for the monitoring of missile tests in international waters. The Prime Minister should have toughed it out. He should have spoken not only to his left wing but also to any other element in the community which doubted the correctness of his position. We would have helped him in explaining that to the public, to the extent that the public was involved. It is hard to escape the conclusion that the public was not involved but that it was a question of trade-offs within the factions of the Australian Labor Party. Had the Prime Minister chosen to tough it out it would not have been difficult to do so because, as he and the Government well know, there is no logical inconsistency between commitment to the cause of nuclear disarmament and willingness to provide port facilities for United States ships or aircraft involved in monitoring the testing of unarmed missiles in international waters.

The proposed tests do not involve the explosion of nuclear warheads; nor do they impinge in any way on Australian sovereignty. The fact that these missiles are controversial, the fact that they have a first strike capability, does not exclude their deterrent value, and deterrence, as the Prime Minister has said, is at the core of the Government's approach and certainly at the core of the Opposition's approach to arms control negotiations. Negotiations between the two super-powers are imminent. What will be one of the first things to happen? The Soviet Union will produce information to show that Australia has reneged on an undertaking it made to the United States. That will embarrass the United States in the discussions which are due to start in Geneva in a fortnight's time. If deterrence remains the principal safeguard against nuclear war until the super-powers can mutually agree to nuclear disarmament, one would think that this facility could have been explained very easily to any reasonable Australian. That group may not include the left wing of the Labor Party, but it does include the overwhelming majority of Australians.

This deterrence factor is important because it is not just the Americans who test missiles of that nature. The Soviet Union does so too. In this debate it is often presented that only the Americans are engaging in research of the various kinds alluded to by the Foreign Minister. There is no doubt that the Prime Minister made an error by reversing a perfectly correct decision without just cause and without giving just reason. What is the nature of that mistake? If it were just a mistake it would not be a major issue, but it is a grave mistake because it calls into question Australia's reliability as an ally. What a juvenile exercise it is to say that we have in any way impugned the honesty of the President or the Secretary of State.


Mr N. A. Brown —That is nonsense.


Mr MACPHEE —Of course it is nonsense. They are saying publicly what all Americans and all Australians want, which is that we maintain our unqualified allegiance; we maintain our support as allies. Again, it does not mean that we cannot be constructively critical of positions that the United States wants, through the ANZUS Council and through other negotiations with the United States. We can and we must, at various stages of our careers, put views to the United States which might be at variance with those it holds. But there are ways and means of doing that, and certainly reneging in this way on an arrangement, which may not cause the Americans great inconvenience, nonetheless puts some doubt into the minds of officials, business people and Americans generally. They will ask themselves: 'Is Australia joining New Zealand now as a doubtful ally? Of all the allies we might have thought we had unquestioningly beside us, we had Australia and we had New Zealand'. Coming as it does on the heels of the decision of New Zealand regarding nuclear vessels and vessels which might carry nuclear weapons, it is seen privately by United States citizens and officials, and by other members of the Western alliance, as a questioning of our reliability as an ally.


Mr N. A. Brown —It is contrary to the spirit of the alliance.


Mr MACPHEE —Certainly, it is utterly contrary to the spirit of the alliance, of which the ANZUS treaty is merely a symbol. The contents of the ANZUS treaty are quite insignificant compared with the arrangement we traditionally have with our good friends. If our good friend says: 'I am conducting these tests as part of an overall strategy to bring people to the conference table to have discussions, as part of a resolution of East-West tension and conflict; will you facilitate by refuelling the aircraft?', of course, we say yes. If we cannot explain that to the Australian people together, then there is something lacking in the capacity of our political leadership. Yet the Prime Minister did not even give that a chance; he did not even put that to the test.

Contrary to what the Minister for Foreign Affairs has said, my visit on behalf of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Peacock) to Europe was not a waste of time. In his place, I chaired a meeting of the non-socialist parties from the democracies of the world that belong to what is known as the International Democratic Union. This meeting of foreign Ministers and shadow foreign Ministers had this to say, in a communique issued in my name at the end of that meeting, under the heading 'ANZUS and the Western Alliance':

In assessing recent developments in the Pacific area, particularly the actions of the Labor Governments in Australia and New Zealand, the meeting emphasised the importance of consistency and dependability among allies and the honouring of obligations essential to the Western Alliance. Member-Parties coming from NATO countries, in particular, believed that political events and uncertainties in Australia and New Zealand raised questions that were bound to impinge on policy-making and longer-term planning in Washington, not least the future basis of operations and commitments in the Pacific region. Referring to the recent decision of the New Zealand government to refuse entry to any American vessel with a nuclear capability, they expressed grave disquiet at the implications of this for the future of ANZUS, and its consequences on Western defence as a whole. They expressed their support for the decision taken by the New Zealand National Party in totally opposing the short-sighted decision, and for the Australian Liberal Party's opposition to any reneging on security obligations.

The decision to reverse the provision of facilities for the MX missile monitoring was a reversal of a decision relevant to our security and to the security of the Western alliance generally. There is no doubt about that. But all public utterances by the President, the Secretary of State and others will continue to have regard to the long established relationship with the United States, begun with Prime Minister Curtin, but continued, embellished and developed by the Menzies Government and subsequent coalition governments. Therefore, of course, one has to read between the lines. One has to know what people are saying privately.

Oddly enough, I was going to quote the very words the Prime Minister quoted, which the President uttered when he and the Prime Minister left the Oval Office, because they show what the United States expects of its allies. I did not read those words as guaranteeing that there was no problem about Australia because of the change of mind of the Prime Minister. On the contrary, I read those words as a clear warning to the Australian people that if these sorts of undertakings are revoked in that way again, and at a time when it causes maximum embarrassment to the United States when it sits down to have its discussions with the Soviet Union, then it will not be seen as a hiccup and there will be a serious matter indeed to be faced.


Mr N. A. Brown —Where do their election promises stand?


Mr MACPHEE —Where indeed do any of Labor's promises stand in relation to security and the American alliance and the Western alliance in general? I believe that the Prime Minister has shown this morning that there were no good reasons. The Minister for Foreign Affairs has not provided any. He spent his time talking initially about China and various other matters. There was no enthusiasm, in his stumbling contribution to the debate, to in fact support the Prime Minister's decision. It is unprecedented that there should have been a Press release coming out of the Cabinet saying: 'We are all friends and everything is terribly affable'. That has never happened, in my memory of Australian politics.


Mr N. A. Brown —It was unanimous. Ha, ha!


Mr MACPHEE —They were unanimous in supporting the Prime Minister! What a shame that the two key Ministers had already been on television saying the opposite. What a shame the Ambassador for Disarmament had been saying the opposite.

Opposition members interjecting-


Madam DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mrs Child) —Order! Perhaps I may tell the honourable members on my left that I do not consider the honourable member for Goldstein needs any assistance. I call the honourable member for Goldstein.


Mr MACPHEE —The Prime Minister needs assistance, and he needs to reverse his reversal. We will support him if he will go back and now say that he will try to convince any doubting people of the importance of providing that facility as part of the alliance. I really believe that if he reverses that, then privately as well as publicly the words of the President and the Secretary of State will have some meaning again. But unless that happens there will be a lingering doubt. We have seen it with Congressman Cheney, a person who we all know has very close associations with the President and with the White House generally. These words, which the Prime Minister and the Minister for Foreign Affairs have sheltered behind, reflect the regard in which Australia is held and the sentiments that still prevail regarding Australia, rather than the disquiet which is now being expressed quite openly in Washington and amongst officials of the United States throughout the world.

We have a shrinking world in which the alliance which we have with New Zealand and the United States is of great relevance to the Western powers generally and to the whole of the region in which we live. The fact is that we have collective security, and as independent countries we have entered into alliances. Of course, those alliances to some extent circumscribe our sovereignty. For me, the most interesting thing at Bonn was not just the strength of feeling amongst the NATO allies, but the strength of feeling amongst those political parties from democracies which are non-aligned. Countries such as Austria and the Scandinavian or Nordic countries say that their contribution to world peace is by their non-alignment, by their neutrality, whereas our contribution is by our alignment with the United States. Solidarity is the key to the Western alliance, and this episode, coming as it has on the decision of the New Zealand Government, seems to question our solidarity in that regard.

One can look at ANZUS literally, or one can look at the spirit of it. I believe that when the Secretary of State speaks of the concept of the alliance, he is deliberately using that in a literal sense. The umbrella which is placed about all the nations of the Association of South East Asian Nations and all the small island nations of the South Pacific is now itself in question. What if, for example, in the transition to internal self-government and to eventual independence, New Caledonia does not have a smooth ride? What if a regime came to power there, or elsewhere in our region, which took up positions or alliances which were hostile to Australia, or which were destabilising for our part of the world? To whom would we first turn? Obviously the United States. We could hardly expect the United States to continue to provide assistance to us if a fundamental form of assistance such as refuelling aircraft monitoring missile tests in international waters is not provided. Neither their aircraft nor the tests were any threat to peace, and the commitment by Australia was in the spirit of our close alliance with the United States. We all know that no man is an island, and it is equally true that no island nation is totally independent. Interdependence is a fact of life, and that is what has been offended and ignored by the Prime Minister's capitulation.

What confidence can any ally have in a country whose government reverses commitments not on merit but on factional numbers? We have examined the merit, and the Government has not made any endeavour to justify its decision. There is not even a pretence of merit examination. That is an insult not only to our ally but also to the Australian people themselves. It was the factional balance in the Australian Labor Party and not Australia's interests or the interests of the alliance that was the criterion for this decision. So again I say: Let the Prime Minister face anyone in the community who doubts the wisdom of his original decision and we will support him in trying to settle down any disquiet. Then he can reinstate his undertaking to facilitate the monitoring and thereby give more confidence to people in the United States than they now possess.

In conclusion, I point out that, while people tend to take for granted the alliance, there is nonetheless an increasing Soviet presence in our region. There is a current Vietnamese offensive in Kampuchea. Hanoi's army has trebled in the last 10 years. Who has funded that? It is the Soviet Union, certainly not Vietnam's neighbours, China or Thailand or the countries of Indo-china. Vietnam's air force is now the biggest in South East Asia and, with Soviet help, Vietnam is building a very significant navy. For what purpose? No one is attacking Vietnam; in fact, Vietnam is attacking its two neighbours, Cambodia and Laos. The fact is that Vietnam has provided the Soviet Union with a large naval and air base at Cam Ranh Bay and the Soviet navy has a very significant presence in the Pacific and Indian Oceans as well as in the South China Sea. These developments certainly worry our ANZUS partners, New Zealand and the United States, and they are of concern to the ASEAN countries to our near north. As far as we are concerned, they must be very relevant factors in this debate.

On 12 February Singapore's Foreign Minister, Mr Dhanabalan, voiced his concern about the recent strains in the ANZUS alliance, saying that they could seriously affect ASEAN and general Asian Pacific regional security. All our neighbours are linking our decision on the monitoring of the MX missile testing to New Zealand's decision regarding nuclear warships. Mr Dhanabalan said that regional security depended on a balance of power between the super-powers and that within this framework all states in the region had a part to play. They had to do what was necessary to help the United States maintain an equilibrium with the Soviet Union. That was said not after Mr Lange made his many statements regarding warships with nuclear capability but after our Prime Minister backed down over the provision of facilities to assist the monitoring of MX missile testing.

This statement was followed by one from Indonesia's Foreign Minister, Dr Mochtar, who made it clear that all the ASEAN Foreign Ministers were worried about the flow of Soviet arms to Vietnam and Kampuchea. In fact, on 12 February the six ASEAN governments appealed to foreign countries for military aid to help Khmer resistance forces fight Vietnamese troops occupying Kampuchea. Such is the extent of ASEAN concern about the escalating Soviet presence in the area and such is its concern about any questioning of our reliability as an ally of the United States. We then find Mr Nakasone setting out Japan's defence commitments, saying that the United States would be allowed to take vessels into Japanese ports if those vessels were nuclear powered or had a nuclear capacity and that certainly in times of danger Japan would co-operate with the United States in that way. So all around us there is concern about our reliability. This concern should not have arisen. The Prime Minister should reverse his decision and revert to the position he initially took, which was so ably supported by the Foreign Minister and the Defence Minister.