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Thursday, 28 February 1985
Page: 399

Mr HAYDEN (Minister for Foreign Affairs)(3.27) —The proposal before the House is a very serious one. It has obviously been carefully considered and soberly constructed by the Opposition in its presentation. It makes a very grave charge against the Government; it accuses it of failure to act as a responsible partner in the Western alliance. By any measure, that is an extraordinarily grave charge to level against a government. It is not far short of the charge of recklessness, almost of treasonable conduct.

So, one would reasonably anticipate that there would have been outlined a substantial body of evidence to support that allegation. What did we get? Some comment I made in respect of the comprehensive test ban treaty, and our initiatives on that matter in Geneva, was alleged to have upset the United States. Yet our initiatives on that matter resulted in the United States positively moving from a negative vote to an abstention. In international terms, at multilateral forums on such matters, that is significant. There was some sort of moan about the change in the MX tests, but the United States made the change to the arrangements for the tests, so the arrangements were quite satisfactory to it. Then the Opposition spokesman on foreign affairs cast doubt on my reliability in the view of the United States. The United States itself has released a statement which has made it clear that it repudiates any such suggestion, and it did that before Christmas.

There we have it: A limping, haggard, unconvincing litany of manufactured whinges. Whoever Opposition members claim to speak for, they cannot claim to speak for the United States. Their whining has been refuted as flimsy and as pathetic. By whom? By the declarations from the United States by the Chief Executive of the United States Administration, President Reagan. Let me remind the House of what President Reagan had to say at the White House on 7 February this year, at the time of the departure of the Australian Prime Minister (Mr Hawke):

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

He said of Australia and the United States:

We've stood together through trials and tribulations. We've rejoiced together in triumph . . . As a key ally and a vital voice in world affairs, Australia makes a significant contribution to the way we approach international challenges.

I repeat the words 'as a key ally'. What does this mishmash, this contrived posturing of the Opposition, declare? It declares that we have failed to act as a responsible partner in the Western alliance. The President of the United States has declared that we are a faithful ally and a vital voice in world affairs and that we make a significant contribution to the way the United States approaches international affairs. This concocted nonsense has been cobbled together in desperation by this very desperate Opposition. On ANZUS we are told, en passant, that it is in tatters; it no longer stands. This is what the American Secretary of State for East Asia, Mr Wolfowitz, had to say at a Press conference in Washington on 7 February:

I think ANZUS is a treaty we view as intact. We would like to keep it intact. It's certainly very strong and solid with the Australians.

I have no more to say of a very lengthy series of declarations of firm commitment by the United States to its relationship with Australia-a commitment declared positively and unambiguously by the United States Administration.

In the light of all of that and in the light of this repudiation of the Opposition's cheap, contrived misrepresentation, one must ask oneself some questions about the motivation of the Opposition. Is the Opposition trying to undermine the confidence of this community or undermine the conviction of the United States about Australia at a very delicate time, at a very difficult time? We acknowledge that it is a time of difficulty and we have conveyed our concerns to the United States and New Zealand about the present situation in respect of ANZUS. Just because we are not shouting abuse from the rooftops and hurling invective across the aisle at one or other party to the Treaty, a member of the alliance, the Opposition feels that insufficient is being done. The proper and effective way to approach this sort of problem is to have continuous exchange between all three parties.

There is no doubt about our concern in respect of ANZUS and the present situation; there is no doubt about our commitment and the undilutable quality of that commitment. Both on public record and in private discourse we have made that clear. We would hope that somewhere along the line, somehow, we will be successful in persuading the Government of New Zealand to change its tack, to adopt the sorts of courses we have adopted and persist with or, as the United States says, to rejoin active participation in the Treaty and its obligations. Members of the Opposition simply believe that if they hee and haw long enough their jackass antics will be taken seriously. It will not be long before we get blamed for the turmoil in Burkinosaso or the breakdown in Chad, or perhaps soon we will get retrospectively the blame for the football war in Central America.

This is a futile and pathetic effort by the Opposition to try to poison the mind of the Australian public, to try to sow seeds of doubt that the Labor Government is anti-alliance, anti-Western and anti-American. The Americans have made it clear that the Labor Government is none of those things-that it is trusted, it is supported, it is endorsed and, more than that, it is influential within the associations it has with the United States and other countries.

There has been, understandably, a great deal of focus on ANZUS. We have said on many occasions that it is a keystone to our defence and international political arrangements. But, by definition, using the English language parsed properly, 'keystone' means that it is one and that there are other keystones. Why is not some attention being given to those other keystones of our relationships? The world is much bigger than just the immediate area in question. It is extremely important but it is not the beginning and end or the totality of all of our concerns. For instance, we have key interests with the Association of South East Asian Nations. That is not covered by ANZUS. Is it suggested that that is a matter of indifference, of inconsequence? Nor is Papua New Guinea covered by ANZUS, but it is extremely important, as is the five power agreement. So too are commerce and diplomacy critical on the wider canvas for a country such as Australia. Then, of course, there is Australia's engagement under the defence co-operation program. That has been sustained by a succession of governments in this country. Political colour, conservative or Labor, is a matter of indifference; it has been supported. It was supported by the Whitlam Labor Government and by the Fraser Government, and it is being supported by the Hawke Government.

This year we will be spending nearly $50m on defence co-operation in our region. About $18m of that will go to Papua New Guinea. The ASEAN countries will receive nearly $24m. Most of the remainder is to be distributed in the south west Pacific. As I say, it is focussed on our neighbouring South East Asian and South Pacific regions. The broad objective of the defence co-operation program is to promote the national independence of the participating countries. We participate on a regular basis in a large number of combined military exercises on either a bilateral basis or a multilateral basis. We carry out those exercises with other allies. We conduct with the United States land, air and maritime exercises which aim at improving inter-operability with our ally-air defences, air-submarine warfare, control of shipping, general training, et cetera. Under the five-power defence arrangements we exercise with the United Kingdom, Malaysia, Singapore and New Zealand. We exercise also with regional countries, such as Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand, and with old Commonwealth countries, such as the United Kingdom, Canada and New Zealand. From that outline we can see that the relationship within the alliance is not only as the Americans describe in respect of ANZUS-a very strong, enduring and viable thing insofar as the association between Australia and the United States is concerned. It is much more comprehensive than that. We do make a substantial and enduring contribution to what might be more generally described as the Western alliance.

On critical tests this Government has stood up and been successful on the issues that really count. Let me take the issue of United States facilities in Australia, a subject of considerable disputation in this community. The Prime Minister and I stood up publicly, in the democratic forum-something foreign to members of the conservative parties-at the National Conference of the Australian Labor Party, and in any other forum available to us in this country for months on end, as we still do, to argue the justification for those facilities. We proposed and promoted them and we declared their essential linkage in policies such as those concerning deterrence and verification. I have said before that we wish it was a happier world to live in with no nuclear weapons or the threat of them and with arms control effectively in place. We aim at that very praiseworthy objective. We do not pretend to have a monopoly on this sort of thing but we would like a little credit for work we have done.

In the meantime, living in an imperfect world, we have responsibilities in respect of those facilities. That is why we have defended them-we have done so with considerable success-and why we will continue to do so. But it has not been easy. It has not been easy because this issue suddenly exploded on an unsuspecting and totally uninformed Australian public. That is remarkable because one of those facilities had been in this country for two decades and the other one for a decade and a half-Pine Gap and Nurrungar. Why was the public unsuspecting and ill-informed? Whenever the Liberals in government were challenged on this issue and asked to explain what these facilities were about, instead of arguing the moral justification of them-the moral justification which I find unchallengeable; that is why I argue it-they scuttled into some cowardly funk hole stamped 'secrecy'. That is why we had an unprepared public. For the Liberals it was too hard to explain and too difficult to defend, so they retreated to the cowards' defence of secrecy. That is where the genesis of this mindless muddling through, which has epitomised Liberal-National Party administration in foreign affairs, came into being and continues today. We got out there and argued this case. Until Hawke and Hayden and their colleagues got out there and talked about deterrence and about verification and took on by the sharp tusks the opponents they were confronted with, no one had heard that debate in this country and it will continue. But it will continue sensibly because, at the same time, we will pursue that ultimate objective of effective nuclear arms control at mutually stable levels.

We support a freeze. We support reductions. We will do all we can to try to work towards that end. It is hard work. It requires great diligence. It requires competent people such as those in the arms control and disarmament branch of the Department of Foreign Affairs, which scarcely existed before I became Minister for Foreign Affairs. Two officers were working part time on it and now there is the best part of a dozen. Our ambassador for Disarmament in Geneva is working at this.

Having said all of those things, I come to the relative measures. Who is the keeper of all this virtue, this patriotic fervour that we have heard so much about in the last few days? We have been hearing about the inviolability of the ANZUS alliance. Only the conservatives know how to behave with the Americans! Let me tell honourable members what Mr Renouf had to say in his book of anecdotal experience, about the visit of the former Prime Minister to the United States of America. He said:

The sourness of the relationship between the two governments carried over into 1979 when Prime Minister Fraser accused the US of not adequately protecting Australia's interests in the MTN, a weird charge coming from a man whose professed policy vis-a-vis the US was independence, and hinted that if Australia did not receive treatment in the MTN which she regarded as adequate, the future of the US defence facilities in Australia could be jeopardised.

So here we have honourable members opposite applying their form of leverage. It is all right when they engage in a non-virtuous form of conduct, using the description that they have used. That is a principle in itself. It is humbug.

Madam DEPUTY SPEAKER —Order! The Minister's time has expired. The discussion is concluded.