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Tuesday, 19 March 1985
Page: 461


Mr PEACOCK (Leader of the Opposition)(2.05) —I move:

That this House censures the Government in that since the last sitting of the House the Government has inflicted upon Australia a further series of unprecedented national security debacles that have resulted in:

(1) The grave weakening of the ANZUS alliance as an operative force in the region and a contributor to the Western alliance;

(2) The alienation of the Association of South East Asian Nations;

(3) The weakening of Australia's contribution to international peace and disarmament;

(4) The replacement of Australia's once solid international standing by a reputation for unreliability, inconsistency and naivety; and

(5) The subordination of the national interest to the demands of the Labor Party's factions.

It is only 25 days since we moved a censure against this Government and this Prime Minister (Mr Hawke) for weakness, naivety and willingness to compromise Australia's national interest. The consequences of the Government's actions since then compel the Opposition again to censure the Government. Since the House rose, the ANZUS pact, fundamental in the words of both the Government as well as, of course, ourselves, fundamental to our security and our contribution to the Western alliance, has been declared by none other than the Prime Minister to be no longer operative. The Prime Minister's policy on Indo-China, executed by the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Hayden), has left Australia isolated from ASEAN, criticised by the People's Republic of China and lied to by the Vietnamese. The Government, despite the pleas of the Egyptian and Israeli governments, has reaffirmed its decision to end Australia's participation in the Sinai peacekeeping force, to the detriment of the peace process in the Middle East.

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These events follow immediately on the Government's reneging on its commitment to assist the United States in testing the MX missile, its refusal to support the United States strategic modernisation program and its rejection of the United States measures that brought the Soviet Union back to the disarmament negotiations. This Government has given Australia a reputation for unreliability, inconsistency and naivety. There is a common thread in this rather chaotic tapestry. Wherever we look, be it towards the United States and New Zealand, ASEAN and China or Israel and Egypt, the Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister have let our friends and allies down. They have damaged the national interest and they have left our alliances in tatters and our foreign policy in disarray. The causes of this are the totally distorted perspectives that the Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister bring to matters of national security and, of course, to our basic regional and international interests. The inescapable conclusion is that they see issues in isolation. Instead of bringing these into a global perspective, seeing where Australia stands within the Western alliance, with ANZUS and what flows from that, these elements are viewed in isolation and they do not understand the total impact of their actions on Australia's vital interests.

Furthermore-and critically important-under pressure from the Left this Government continually deludes itself that the issues it continuously compromises on are not central but merely marginal. It does not understand that the centre will collapse if the flanks are surrendered. Let us look at the outcomes of its incomprehension: ASEAN was declared, by the Government, to be the centrepiece of its regional policy, but at the same time it undertook the Vietnam sideshow to appease the Left. The Vietnam excursion has eroded our credibility with ASEAN and it has failed. ANZUS was acknowledged as being central to our security. The refusal to act in the ANZUS crisis was a sacrifice to left wing pacifism and ANZUS is not now operative. It pleases the Left so much. It has long been its aim to destroy ANZUS and, in its leader's own words: 'It is no longer operative'. The US alliance and the avoidance of nuclear war are said to be fundamental. But, to appease the Left, the Government reneged on the MX commitment, undermined America's disarmament negotiating positions at the United Nations and rejected the very basis on which the United States successfully brought the Soviet Union to the negotiating table.

While the Prime Minister was announcing that ANZUS was no longer operative, the Foreign Minister was on his way to Vietnam on a futile mission that alienated us from ASEAN and, of course, from China. ASEAN has long been concerned about Australia's naive attitude which has been expressed so often-the naivete that has flowed through the Foreign Minister's pronouncements. Its attitude to Vietnam's attempts to fulfil its traditional imperial designs on Kampuchea have been seen to have been totally naive. The effect that this naivete has had in undermining ASEAN's diplomatic stance on Kampuchea has oft been commented upon. But, when the Hawke Government assumed office, it assured the Australian people that it would give ASEAN high priority. The Governor-General's Speech of 21 April 1983 stated:

My advisers seek to ensure that relations with the member nations of ASEAN are placed on the firmest possible footing . . .

This was an apparent recognition that Australia's future security and wellbeing was inextricably linked with ASEAN. Yet, from the beginning, the Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister, rather than supporting ASEAN on a position vital to its security, have acted in ways that have scarred our relations with Vietnam, ASEAN and everyone they have turned to, because of their lack of focus on the central importance of ASEAN, rather than the importance they place on appeasing Vietnam.

Let me recall that part of the basis for the last censure motion that we moved was the belief that the Government's failure to act in the ANZUS crisis under pressure from its left wing would inevitably result in the destruction of ANZUS. That unravelling has been announced by the Prime Minister since we were last in this place. The Government has progressively moved Australia's Indo-China policy from what ought to be a principled search for a peaceful solution to the Kampuchean problem to open sympathy with the Vietnamese. The absolutely open sympathy with the Vietnamese overrides any principled search for peace in Kampuchea. Nothing more clearly indicates this point than the Foreign Minister's March statement which reads:

I understand the reasons why Vietnam went across the border into Kampuchea. They have been provoked and their security breached a number of times by the Pol Pot forces.

He also stated that the Kampuchean people have to accept a second best solution and prefer to have the Vietnamese forces to guarantee their security. I contrast that with the ASEAN joint statement of 11 February which called on the international community to increase support and assistance to the Kampuchean people 'in their political and military struggle to liberate their homeland from foreign occupation'. There could be no greater chasm in perceptions and policies than that evidenced by the contrast between the Foreign Minister's statement and the statement by ASEAN. A very interesting quotation came out of this visit. The Foreign Minister has said that the Prime Minister, with respect to his Indo-China exercise, told him:

I want it clearly understood that I support you. It was my initiative, and you've been faithfully carrying it out.

That was the Foreign Minister about the Prime Minister's instructions to him. The Prime Minister has to explain why he sent his Foreign Minister to talk on a grand peace settlement at the height of Vietnam's onslaught on Kampuchea. He must explain why he authorised his Foreign Minister to meet the Kampuchean Prime Minister, Hun Sen. Presumably he knows Mr Hun Sen's background. Hun Sen was, like his leader Heng Samrin, one of Pol Pot's military aides in the Khmer Rouge. It is not sufficient for the Government to say that it sits down with a person such as Hun Sen because it needs to know what he thinks. One does not ask Hun Sen what he thinks; frankly, one asks Hanoi.

The Government's disarray and naivety on foreign policy is manifest in the contradictory statements made within 24 hours by the Foreign Minister. On 9 March he described the Vietnamese Government's so-called clarifications as:

. . . the most important development to take place in the Kampuchean border situation to this point.

He also accepted Vietnamese assurances that the Vietnamese had not gone into Thailand. Honourable members will have seen the cartoon in the Australian. They were going to show him flying pigs. He would have accepted them. The assurance given by the Vietnamese to some flying Australian rabbit was to the effect that these incursions would not occur. He blithely accepted that on 9 March. However, on 10 March the Foreign Minister, confronted by the irrefutable evidence from the Thais that Vietnamese forces had crossed the border, was forced to back down completely and then accuse the Vietnamese of lying. The Foreign Minister admitted that the Vietnamese had not been:

. . . honest in the assurances they gave me. Whilst the conflict continues there is no prospect of any matter being considered seriously.

The fact is that the Vietnamese assurances should never have been accepted. Presumably our intelligence was telling the Foreign Minister of the situation. If it was not, why not? What is wrong with the Foreign Minister's administration? Alternatively, he could have learnt about it from the 5 March United States Department public briefing on the Vietnamese incursions into Thailand. Of course, under this Government-this is a fairly fundamental point-one does not believe and one does not trust friends, and increasingly our friends reciprocate.

The Government has sought to shore up its credibility by claiming that the clarification it received from the Vietnamese Government on what it means by the elimination of Pol Pot and one-party free elections, is supposedly, a significant breakthrough. Singapore's Foreign Minister Dhanabalan spelt out very clearly what these clarifications amounted to. In today's Age newspaper he is reported as stating that they revealed 'nothing new'. The only thing the Minister says he has going for him now in this desperate endeavour to put some element of credibility into his trip is that he got first class clarifications from the Vietnamese. Even the Singapore Foreign Minister, in seeking to help the Australian Minister, has said that nothing new was revealed and that in some respects it was made plain that what the Vietnamese sought was:

. . . over-lordship in Indo-China.

Of course, the Thai Foreign Minister said exactly the same thing. I remind honourable members that this is the region that was to be the focal point of our foreign policy. We were going to get our regional relationships right. In the course of the last 15 months four out of the five ASEAN Foreign Ministers have condemned our Foreign Minister as being totally naive and have taken on this Government. So much so for allegedly restoring some balance in our relations! We all know that the Left is very keen on the restoration of relations of the most effective form with Vietnam. Labor's left wing supports the Vietnamese for clearly ideological reasons. It would ultimately like to resume aid to Vietnam. In the meantime, it forces the Government to stumble down the path of nothing short of appeasement in Indo-China. That has been the result. Worse than that result in many ways-if it were stated to be the aim that would be bad enough-is that now the Thais are even posing the question whether we are still friends. Imagine the day when countries with which we are on the closest possible terms have to ask our Foreign Minister: 'Are we still friends?' The official Chinese Press has called Australia's Foreign Minister a 'cat's paw' of the Vietnamese, and Dr Mochtar, the Indonesian Foreign Minister, said very gently that the events did not help Mr Hayden's credibility. It is some duo we have running foreign policy-a cat's paw and a drover's dog! No wonder they fight like cat and dog!

Where does this leave Australia's role in Indo-China? As Dr Mochtar said:

. . . it rather makes it difficult now I think. I mean Australia would have to restore the confidence of some of her neighbours.

The challenge put down by Dr Mochtar is that we now have to restore the confidence of some of our neighbours-some fine practice in the field of foreign policy. What Australia has done in Indo-China is wrong in practice-we have let down our friends and our allies in the region and we have eroded their diplomatic stand on Kampuchea-but it is also wrong in principle. It was Vietnam which brutally invaded Kampuchea six years ago and still refuses to withdraw. I listened to the prattle from the Left in this country, implying that this was done as some act of humanity. Vietnam did not do this for any reason of humanity, but to install a puppet government.


Mr Beazley —You resigned from the Fraser Government.


Mr PEACOCK —If that is a reference to my stand on Pol Pot, I will argue it any day with you fellows because you were the ones who recognised him in the first place. The House will recall the circumstance. Indeed, I will remind the House that the Pol Pot forces took over in Kampuchea. They could not get to Peking quickly enough. They found a fellow in the street and bestowed recognition on him, and three weeks later they were still unable to tell me the name of the man they communicated with. The same sort of practice is going on today. Quite frankly, I put the matter in these terms, if Government members want it in shorthand: We have just seen the Foreign Minister practising Fourex diplomacy and ending up like a bull in an Indo-China shop. There is no doubt of that. The concern that this involves is felt by Australia.

The reality is that this can be explained away on the basis of either relations with Prime Ministers or relations with other countries as involving too much Fourex. The fact is that we are talking about matters of national security. We are therefore talking about the interests of every Australian man, woman and child. That is fundamental to the conduct of government and to the practice of diplomacy which has been so appallingly destroyed in the conduct of foreign affairs in the course of the last two-and-a-half weeks. It is a concern not merely in terms of relations with ASEAN but with what transpired in regard to ANZUS itself. On 22 February the Prime Minister moved an amendment in this House which said:

. . . this House reaffirms the Government's commitment to the ANZUS alliance.

He did that on 22 February. On 28 February, on the termination of the United States defence co-operation and intelligence sharing with New Zealand, the Prime Minister refused to come into the House to explain the situation to the Australian people. When I asked him whether he would call a special meeting of the ANZUS Council to address the ANZUS crisis, he told the House:

The question of the calling of a meeting of the ANZUS Council to which the honourable gentleman referred is already under consideration.

The Prime Minister misled this House because when he answered that question he knew that the United States had already made the decision which had made ANZUS inoperative. In early February, the Americans had advised him of the final blow to ANZUS, that they would not participate in the scheduled meeting of the ANZUS Council. The Prime Minister hid this from the House. He hid it from the Australian people and, from what we understand, he hid it from no less than the New Zealand Government. The reasons for his deception are clear. He had already caved in to the Left on missiles and he had refused to play a constructive role in the ANZUS crisis. The Prime Minister was afraid that the combination of the burden of our MX commitment to the United States and the destruction of ANZUS would lead the Australian people to understand the magnitude of the damage that this Government has done to our national security. The Prime Minister was right to be afraid. The United States is our main ally, and we let it down. ANZUS has been the cornerstone of our security for 34 years. It is now inoperative.

The Government now seeks to justify its dereliction of duty over ANZUS by saying that it will preserve the bilateral defence relationship between Australia and the United States. This statement misses the point. The ANZUS Treaty is now a hollow shell and we are left with something much less. The termination of defence co-operation between the United States and New Zealand has diminished Australia's and the region's security. This Government has constantly maintained that ANZUS is 'fundamental' to our security. Yet when this House rose it announced that a focal point of ANZUS-the meeting of the Council of Ministers-would not be held. It went beyond that and said it is now inoperative.

I was intrigued to know that the Prime Minister said on the Willesee program that he had put his job on the line over national security. We had had the ending of ANZUS, the break in our relations with our closest regional friends, damage done in the minds of four out of the five Foreign Ministers concerned, the most basic treaty not in operation, and no ministerial council meeting will be held under that treaty. So much for the alleged security of our nation, yet the Prime Minister is still here. So much for the words. What of the substance? The substance indicates no clear concept on the part of the Government but an attempt time and again to do deals and to wrap up this problem and that problem. There is no conceptual framework around the Government's foreign policy and, worse still, no concern that the security of all Australians may well be jeopardised. If one says that a treaty is fundamental to a nation's security and then says that it is inoperative, what is the inescapable conclusion? It is obvious. Yet again, masked in rhetoric, the Government will tell us that no damage whatsoever has been done to our security, to our defence relationship or to our regional relationships.

I should mention another factor over and above the unravelling of ANZUS in the course of the last weeks, because, the unreliability of our foreign policy is not confined to our friends on both sides of the Pacific. It will be recalled that the Prime Minister shed a tear in this House when speaking on the question of our relationship with a long established friend, a nation which we have supported from the time of her inception in the United Nations as a nation. Australia has been a longstanding, firm supporter of Israel and has maintained a certain stance on the Middle East which, apart from a hiccup in the period of the Whitlam Government, has been bipartisan.

In 1981 the Fraser Government decided to provide 100 men and some helicopters to the multinational peacekeeping force in the Sinai. I have heard this man speak and pledge his support for that not only from the heart but also from the mind. What has happened since Parliament last sat? There has been a typical compromise of principle. The Hawke Government has decided to withdraw the force, notwithstanding the fact that the Israeli and Egyptian governments have asked it to reconsider its decision. Let me make it quite clear that this Coalition, the Opposition, believes that Australia's contribution should remain while necessary and while contributing to peace. It is clear that it is still doing this. Once again, under pressure from the left wing, we let down our friends. It seems that only those who are not our friends gain succour, help, assistance and dialogue from this Government. It has become increasingly clear that the Prime Minister's basic philosophy in the conduct of foreign policy is appeasement both at home and abroad. He appeased a virulently anti-American wing of his Party factions in regard to the MX missile, he has helped undermine the ANZUS Treaty, he has encouraged the Foreign Minister, to the dismay of ASEAN Foreign Ministers, to achieve the disaster that I have just outlined and we now no longer play any part in the search for peace between Israel and the Arab nations.

The consequences of the Prime Minister's administration over the last two years have therefore been the undermining of our credibility as a responsible member of the Western alliance, an undermining of our position in the Asian region and towards ASEAN and an undermining of our own security and our position in the world. These consequences flow not from judgments made calmly and rationally on the basis of an understanding of Australia's national interests, not from thoughtful and searching debate about the issues involved. On the contrary, they flow from the Prime Minister's flawed judgment of the national interest, compounded by fear of the threatening noises from the turbulent factions.

What the Prime Minister does not realise is that one cannot treat matters of national security by wheeling and dealing, as he used to do in the past and as he is now doing, with factional party interests. Nor can one make the sorts of deals that are made on the only ground he seems to comprehend-that of the Australian Council of Trade Unions. One cannot make the deals that the ACTU makes-give a bit here, talk a bit there-in foreign policy. When it comes to foreign policy, where the fundamental interests of Australia, its friends and allies are at stake, one should take a totally different approach. If the Prime Minister does not start standing up to the left wing of his own party, if he continues to let Australia's foreign policy slide in its present direction, an epitaph will be written on his Administration. I concluded in my last speech on this matter with a reference that clearly upset the Prime Minister so I will not develop that again. It was a reference to the way in which he had scurried from the principles of John Curtin. He was not prepared to talk to members of his Party and win them to his view on matters of great import to the nation but he scuttled away to do a deal and make an arrangement with a particular faction. If this continues not only will this nation and our friends suffer but also the epitaph that will be written on his Administration may well be a cruel parody of John Kennedy's grand statement. It would seem that we will not pay the price nor bear the burdens but we will shirk hardships, dump friends and appease foes because we no longer care enough about the survival and success of liberty. That is the inescapable conclusion down the line for a man who puts appeasement of factions ahead of the security of his nation.


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


Mr McVeigh —Mr Speaker, honourable members opposite are displaying signs. They have placards up.


Mr SPEAKER —Order! I would remind members on the back benches that a warning has already been given about the displaying of signs in the House. I suggest that if they wish to defy the Chair they must accept the action the Chair takes.


Mr Sinclair —Mr Speaker, I second the motion and reserve my right to speak.