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Wednesday, 27 February 1985
Page: 243


Mr PEACOCK (Leader of the Opposition)(10.01) —I move:

That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the Prime Minister from making a statement to the House on the consequences for the ANZUS alliance and Australia of the significant scaling down of defence co-operation between the United States of America and New Zealand.

This is a very grave day for Australia, for the United States of America and for New Zealand.

Government members interjecting-


Mr PEACOCK —It is typical of honourable members opposite to treat this matter with such disdain. Let me state the reasons I have moved for the suspension of Standing Orders. I am cognisant, Mr Speaker, that you will require me particularly to argue the urgency of this matter and the need for the suspension of Standing Orders, though I will necessarily have to point out matters that relate to the substance of issues I would wish the Prime Minister (Mr Hawke) to canvass. This morning, on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation program AM and in other reports internationally, it has been reported that Mr Lange, the New Zealand Prime Minister, had met the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State of the United States, Mr Brown, and Mr Lange was reported as saying that Mr Brown had read to him a list of measures which the United States proposed to take as a response to the New Zealand government's determination to keep New Zealand nuclear free. Mr Lange allegedly said that those measures relate primarily to intelligence sharing and the defence field and, as reported on the program, most importantly Mr Lange went on to say that, in effect, they amount to a drastic scaling down of co-operation with New Zealand in those areas.

There can be few things, if any, more important than those that go to the national security of a nation. Quite clearly, from this morning's statement by the New Zealand Prime Minister, the inevitable consequences of the fool's paradise attitude that he and his Government have taken have brought this about. Opposition members have constantly called on the Government to indicate to New Zealand that this would be the natural consequence of the stance that it has taken. The events have flowed as we said they would. The Prime Minister has an abundant duty to execute: To tell all Australians what the consequences are and to tell them today.

It is not as if the Government has had no warning of this. In fact, from one's own experience one knows that the Government would have been advised some time in advance of all the details to which the New Zealand Prime Minister was referring. The Prime Minister, therefore, is in a position to come into this Parliament now and explain to us what he sees as the consequences for Australia and what action his Government will take as a result of the United States move. Lest there be any doubt about my assumption that the Government knows about this matter, I refer to a copy of a story in the Australian of 14 February, which concluded:

Though Mr Hayden did not confirm the Americans' suspension, he said the US had guaranteed to advise Australia of any initiatives 'in sufficient time'.

So we know clearly that the Government has been apprised of this, that the Prime Minister is, therefore, in a position to come into the Parliament immediately and make the statement and advise what action his Government is going to take. As I said, we have warned that this would be the inescapable conclusion to the decision taken by New Zealand. The Government has argued throughout that it would not be a messenger boy for the United States of America and it swept to one side the three nation, tripartite element of ANZUS, claiming all along that this did not impact on Australia, that it was purely and simply a matter between the United States and New Zealand. That is fatuous.


Mr Chynoweth —Why are you meddling in it?


Mr PEACOCK —To indicate my concern on behalf of Australia is what I am elected to do. I am not meddling when I address Australian interests.


Mr Chynoweth —Yes, you are. You are trying to stir it up.


Mr PEACOCK —The honourable member might be meddling because he is not pushing sufficiently his socialist internationalist stance. I am concerned about anything that impacts on Australia's security, and Australia's security is a matter of fundamental concern to everyone on this side of the House, if it is not to the honourable member's side of the House. This is a three nation alliance and the actions of one necessarily impact on the other. The cowardly, head-in-the-sand approach taken by this Prime Minister, in which he seeks to be well regarded and not take a stance on any issue, even in relation to the factions within his own Party, shows the way in which this alliance has eroded under this Government.

It is a very important point that we have to be advised today. Intelligence and defence co-operation has been scaled down significantly by the United States to New Zealand. I am not revealing anything that any member of this House does not know, that a great bulk-not all by any means because we have our own methods-of the raw data in intelligence, as well as interpretations gathered and made by the United States, is passed to Australia. The world knows that. We need to know now: Are we still going to be the recipients of that information which is critical to our own defence planning and our foreign policy assessments? Are we still to receive that? I assume we are, but we need to be advised. If we are to receive it, what is this Government going to do under the terms of our relations with New Zealand, which, being a smaller country, unable to cover the globe and gather information itself, depends considerably on our own raw data but particularly assessments and raw data from our allies, the United States? So I need to know, Australians need to know from this Prime Minister, when we receive the information from the United States whether we will continue to pass it on to New Zealand? And even, dare I use the phrase, Labor's blind Freddy would know that if we pass that information on to New Zealand, as we always have, except for certain areas-but in the main we pass it on-we would thereby be circumventing the decision of the United States announced by the New Zealand Prime Minister today.

Australians should not be left in doubt on this issue. I have no doubt that the Prime Minister will scuttle back into his bunker and leave one of the faction's spokesmen to come into this House claiming to be a ministerial spokesman. But no one less than the Prime Minister should be attending in this Parliament to advise the House and the nation what the future holds for the ANZUS alliance and for Australia. Anyone can see that the future of this great alliance and great pact to which all on this side of the House are committed, is now imperilled, as we have said all along it would be.

We have known since the day of the New Zealand election, as a consequence of the failure of this Government to take any action-it washed its hands of a difficult situation-that this was the inescapable conclusion. We do not know, however, what the Government's reaction to this very grave news is going to be and we are entitled as Australians to know. We are entitled to know whether the information will circumvent United States actions and what the Government sees for the future of the ANZUS alliance. The only action that has been taken by this Government has been the writing of a letter to the New Zealand Prime Minister. As I said last week, the moment that letter became public the Prime Minister ducked the issue, ran away and backed away from its terms because of the heat that the Left was applying to him. I assume it is that heat which now prevents him from coming into the House to make a statement.

There is a duty to advise Australians. Already there have been cancellations of sea exercises. The Sea Eagle exercises and the two ANZUS logistical meetings have been cancelled. Defence co-operation has now been suspended and sharing intelligence allegedly has now been cancelled by the United States. There can be few more fundamental elements than this. For a government to be as delinquent as it has been over the period since Mr Lange was elected Prime Minister is bad enough but for the Prime Minister to abstain from telling this nation is cowardly and, worse, a disgrace.


Mr SPEAKER —Order! The time of the Leader of the Opposition has expired. Is the motion seconded?