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Wednesday, 27 February 1985
Page: 293

Mr PEACOCK (Leader of the Opposition)(4.00) —We raise this matter of public importance following our request this morning for the suspension of Standing Orders, expecting a statement from the Prime Minister (Mr Hawke) today. I listened with interest to his answers this afternoon and they did not advise this nation of the wider consequences to Australia of what has been a grievous day in the history of the relationship between Australia, New Zealand and the United States of America. I now read to the House an extract from an interview with the New Zealand Prime Minister shown at 11.30 a.m. our time on the American Broadcasting Co. television network:

Mr Lange was asked what the State Department has told him today. He said the State Department had the following two very straightforward points:

(1) The U.S. would be stopping bilateral defence exercises.

(2) They would be stopping the sharing of intelligence information of a raw military type.

He then said:

This constitutes an end to the United States/New Zealand defence relationship . . . It is heavy, but we can cope.

Today we have had a further step in the tragic breakdown of an alliance which has existed firmly over 30 years, an alliance which was forged in the world's fight against fascism and Australia's fight for national survival, which was built on the historic Anzac tradition and which had as a joint partner the United States. The alliance has been defined by this Government following its review of ANZUS as fundamental to Australia's security interests. The alliance, regrettably, has been unravelling since the Lange Government came to power in New Zealand and indicated that United States nuclear ships would not be given berthing rights in New Zealand ports. I remind the House of what transpired after that, by posing the question: What did the Hawke Labor Government do? The Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Hayden) firmly and publicly rejected the possibility of any Australian support for the United States position. He said last September that Australia would not be 'the errand boy' for the United States. The Government's policy was to leave Washington and Wellington to work out the ANZUS nuclear ships issue between themselves and not to involve itself in this matter of fundamental importance to Australia's security.

Mr Coleman —Not the action of an ally.

Mr PEACOCK —The honourable member who interjects is quite right in referring to this act as not being that of an ally. The Minister for Defence (Mr Beazley) used those words in regard to the MX missile test. Both matters show a lack of preparedness to assess properly what is transpiring in the international scene and, more particularly, the disarray and the unravelling of ANZUS itself.

Following the Foreign Minister's visit to Washington, the Minister admitted that he had no idea where the Treaty was going. He should have known. The coalition had told him that ANZUS was in jeopardy and that the Government had a responsibility to it. But what did the Government do? It can be said, succinctly: Nothing. It maintained the pretence that it was a bilateral matter between Washington and Wellington. By its stance this Government undermined the ANZUS alliance. What was the Government of New Zealand supposed to make of a public statement by Australia, given our historical bonds and ties of sentiment, that what New Zealand did, according to the Australian Ministers, with respect to the alliance was none of Australia's business? The failure to take a public position was tantamount to that acceptance that whatever New Zealand did, whatever conclusion emerged, would not affect ANZUS.

The Government went along with the wish that New Zealand could derive the benefits of an alliance without sharing the obligations. Why did the Government do this? Was it because it thought New Zealand was unimportant? I sincerely hope not. If that was the case, the Government was clearly wrong, because New Zealand is, after all, important. Did the Government do this because the Americans thought that the ANZUS nuclear ships issue was unimportant? It was clearly wrong if it thought that. The United States regards the matter as being fundamental to its strategic interests. The reasons for the failure to pursue the national defence interest, the failure to defend ANZUS and to meet our obligations to New Zealanders, lie at the very heart of the Australian Labor Party with its factions, its lack of determined leadership, and the violent anti-Americanism and unilateral disarmament commitments of some of those factions.

As I said in the debate on last week's censure motion, Australia had a duty, as a member of ANZUS, to involve itself actively in this dispute and to take a mediatory role. Despite the coalition's repeated calls to the Prime Minister to accept this responsibility, he has refused to do so. He was afraid to take on the factions in his Party before his early election. He claimed that it was a matter between New Zealand and the United States alone. By so doing, 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 that also affected and affects the general Western alliance. To pretend that it was a matter between only Washington and Wellington was and is a fraud. The Prime Minister knew this, and after the election he tried to recover the position by writing to Mr Lange, telling him that New Zealand's decision was inconsistent with the ANZUS alliance. This was futile because if he gives in to the Left once, he will have to do it again and again. As soon as his letter leaked, the Prime Minister backed down in the face of the Left's outrage, outrage fuelled by its oft quoted 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'. In other words, this Prime Minister stood by and did nothing while ANZUS unravelled. Today we know what the New Zealand Prime Minister has said, namely:

This constitutes an end to the United States/New Zealand defence relationship.

What was and has been ANZUS at its root? It has been a military defence pact between three nations, and the relationship between two of them in that sphere, according to the New Zealand Prime Minister, is at an end. Does anyone think that ANZUS is the same today as it has been since its signing?

This morning on behalf of the Opposition I moved a motion for the suspension of Standing Orders which would have allowed the Prime Minister to come into the House to explain the full extent of the limitations in defence co-operation between the United States and New Zealand, as announced by the New Zealand Prime Minister. It would also have allowed the Prime Minister to explain fully the significant impact that this will have on ANZUS and Australia's national security. The Prime Minister entered the House to vote. He came out of his bunker for that, but he did not enter the House to speak. He did not do so, yet the matter went to the heart of our national security. What has happened to ANZUS could surely not have taken him by surprise. It has been a slow motion crisis. This Government has been fully aware of what was happening in general for many months, and in specific detail for weeks, yet it has done nothing. Mr Lange stated that these measures constituted 'an end to the US/New Zealand defence relationship'. It is inconceivable that the Government is unaware of the damage that the developments have caused to ANZUS and Australia's security. The consequences which were predicted are now there for all to see.

This Opposition is making no political point scoring play. This is a great democracy in which we reside. When there has been a delinquency on the part of the Government that strikes at the heart of our national security and causes embarrassment to that Government, I will not be forced out of the arena. I am pointing out the errors that have occurred through the inaction, the weakness, the vacillation and the compromise on the part of a government. One of the fundamental elements that ANZUS was to guarantee was freedom of expression and freedom of speech, the very heart of democracy. This Opposition will not engage in petty political point scoring, but it will call into question the non-action as well as the actions of a government that has let Australia down. No amount of parsimonious talk in this Parliament will silence any member on this side of the House because this is a very grave issue, brought about partly by the inadequacy, weakness and vacillation of the Government.

Today the Prime Minister is still displaying the same weakness that has marked his handling of the ANZUS dispute over many months and the MX missile dispute over a few hours. The MX decision was prompted by panic, and inaction over ANZUS was prompted by the same insidious fear, a fear that his own Party would not allow him to act in a more responsible fashion. Australia, as one of the three members of ANZUS, has a duty actively to involve itself in the dispute and take a mediatory role. That is still possible, but we have heard nothing from the Government on that. This Government has a duty at least to try to find a solution to the problems and so preserve a tripartite treaty that has served Australia and the international community so well.

Today's developments have the most serious implications, not just for the region but for the Western alliance as a whole. If the wave of anti-nuclear feeling is not stemmed by strong and determined leadership, by a willingness to persuade our allies about the importance of nuclear deterrence to world peace, the only beneficiaries will be those who seem to promote instability. There should be no illusions about this. In two important respects ANZUS is vital to us. Firstly, it offers the ultimate guarantee of our security. Secondly, it is important for global and regional security. Indeed, the operation of ANZUS in peacetime is vital, all the more so in a nuclear age when the great task must be to avoid nuclear war.

Is it doubted that ANZUS is a great force for regional stability and that the United States presence over the last three decades has underpinned growth and stability in the Pacific region? ANZUS is welcomed by all the Asian Pacific region, with a few notable exceptions such as Vietnam. ANZUS is also important in the wider global sphere. It is our only formal link into the network of the Western alliance. Our own security, as the Government acknowledges, is bound up with the security of the Western alliance and the viability of deterrence.

Alliances and treaties are not easy things to put together, and can quickly be undermined by foolish and irresponsible actions. That is one of the ways I could describe the New Zealand Government's actions. It is not adequate for this Government to permit the destruction of ANZUS and wipe its hands of the affair. This Government, by its refusal to involve itself in the dispute, must take a great share of the blame for the present crisis. It has sought to wish it away, knowing that the consequences are as inevitable as we have stated time and again. The Government, and in particular the Prime Minister, have been given repeated opportunities to show strong leadership and to quell the anti-nuclear and neutralist sentiments in the Labor Party. The Prime Minister refused to do so. We are reaping the consequences of that inaction and that weakness. The Prime Minister must now tell the Australian people, beyond the arrangements on intelligence, just what the Government's detailed response to these grave developments will be. There has to be an end to drift, there has to be an end to surrender to the factions of the Australian Labor Party, and there has to be an end to them now.