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Tuesday, 19 March 1985
Page: 491


Mr HOWARD(4.57) —I was absolutely delighted that the Minister for Defence (Mr Beazley) in his remarks referred to the massive buildup by the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics in South East Asia. In referring to that and in acknowledging what he claimed to be his concern and the concern of the Government about that buildup, the Minister for Defence threw out a challenge to the Opposition and said: 'Give us a constructive proposal to do something about this buildup by the Soviet Union in South East Asia'. I will be delighted to give the Government a constructive proposal. The constructive proposal is that the Australian Labor Party should totally abandon its absurd support for a nuclear-free zone in the South Pacific. I will tell honourable members why: The Soviet Union is rapidly becoming the predominant military power in our region due to its large scale buildup in Cam Ranh Bay and the Da-Nang bases in Vietnam. The United States naval and air forces in Vietnam are growing at an alarming rate. They supplement the Vietnamese Army, which is now the third largest in the world. The important thing, and something that the Defence Minister of this country apparently does not realise, is that about one-third of the USSR's SS-20 warheads are deployed in the Soviet far east and are targeted on east Asia and the Pacific. If the USSR were to decide to base its nuclear capable Backfire and Bear long-strike aircraft in Vietnam, several Australian capital cities would be in reach of the Soviet's nuclear strike capacity. An even more serious situation would develop if the USSR relocated some of its SS-20 missiles in Vietnam.

If viewed in this light, the Hawke Government's proposal for a nuclear-free zone in the South Pacific makes absolutely no sense at all because it would not affect Soviet military nuclear capability in Vietnam. Rather the Soviet nuclear buildup in east Asia underlines the necessity of the United States deterrent in our region. By that intervention the Minister for Defence illustrated very graphically the serious misunderstanding of this Government's approach to foreign affairs and defence; why, for the first time since the debate that raged in this country during the 1960s over Australia's participation in the Vietnam war, matters of foreign policy and defence are now at the top of the agenda of political debate in Australia; and why over the last two months the Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister between them have brought the foreign and defence relations of this country to a point of crisis that Australia has not known since the end of the Second World War.

It is important in addressing this censure motion to understand the mentality of the two principal players on the other side. It is important to understand that we are dealing with a Prime Minister who would now parade himself as the greatest friend of the United States. We are dealing with a Prime Minister who pretends that under him and under his Government the American-Australian alliance has never been in better shape. We are dealing with a Prime Minister who would pretend that within his own Party he is the defender, as was his great hero, John Curtin, of the United States-Australian relationship.

That is the image the Prime Minister would project to the Australian people, that almost alone he is holding back the Socialist Left and is standing up good and strong for all that is pure and important in the relationship between Australia and the United States. Yet that same Prime Minister, out of office, casting around for political friends, seeking to curry favour with the left wing of politics in Australia, was prepared in 1976, to his eternal embarrassment, to sign a call for an independent and non-aligned Australia, to sign a call which opposed military alliances, foreign military bases and military interventions. He signed it along with a veritable rogues' gallery of the left wing of Australian politics. Not only did he sign it, but when taxed with it in 1983, only two weeks after becoming Prime Minister, this is what he said in response to a question asking him to explain why he signed that document:

I didn't believe in non-alignment then. If you read the document in question it doesn't follow that from the appending of my signature at that time that I was saying that my unequivocal position was one of non-alignment.

Against what was said unequivocally in this document, with such prestigious company as Mr Halfpenny, Mr Carmichael and all the other luminaries of the Socialist Left in Australia, appears the signature of R. J. Hawke, the man who would now parade himself as the last defender within the Australian Labor Party of the American alliance. Of course, it is the same R. J. Hawke who in his 1976 Evatt Memorial Lecture had this to say about the present leader of the free world, Ronald Reagan, the man who in my view has done more than any American President in the last 20 years to bring the Soviet Union to serious negotiations about nuclear disarmament:

As one who would have us relive on the international stage his Wild West celluloid fantasies in which, cast as the hero, he triumphed after quick-draw six-gun shoot-outs.

It is not without significance that during that lecture the present Prime Minister of Australia had all his references to the Soviet threat around the world in inverted commas. In other words, he spoke in a very theoretical way about the Soviet threat. That really underlines what is wrong with the foreign policy approach of the Hawke Government because on all of the important international issues of the day, effectively the Hawke Government is lining up with the Soviet point of view against that of the United States of America. It may be unfashionable to say that. The Left may not like me saying it, and most of all the Prime Minister may not like it being said; but the reality is that he did it.

Let us take the MX missile. The MX missile is an absolutely crucial element in the decision of the Soviet Union to go back to the negotiating table at Geneva. Without the MX missile, without the knowledge of the initiation of the research into the strategic defence initiative, from which the Prime Minister would totally disown himself, it is highly doubtful that the Soviet Union would have returned to the negotiating table. Yet what has the Prime Minister done on the MX missile? It is now etched in the consciousness of every Australian that, faced with the opportunity of putting his job on the line to procure the right decision for the Australian public, the Prime Minister gave in to the Socialist Left. As the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Peacock) so aptly pointed out this afternoon in leading this debate on our behalf, the time to put one's job on the line is when a decision is to be taken, not in some kind of abstract, theoretical vacuum after the decision has been taken and one has backed down. What justification did the Prime Minister give on that occasion? Did he say that it was in Australia's interests not to support the MX missile program? Did he say that it was against the world interest? He said: 'At heart I, Bob Hawke, really would have liked to have gone ahead with it but if I had gone ahead with it the left wing of my Party might have threatened something else. Therefore I had to back down on that. Therefore I, as Prime Minister of Australia, will leave myself in the future open to nothing short of blackmail from the left wing of my own Party on important issues of national security'.

We are dealing with a Prime Minister who dishonestly parades himself as the last defender of the American alliance within his own Party. We are dealing with a Prime Minister who, when it suited his political convenience, when he was trying to curry favour with the Left, was prepared to support non-alignment as a policy in Australia. We are dealing with a Prime Minister who, when faced with a test of whether he would put his job on the line, did not. He backed down. He caved in. He showed a lack of courage on that issue and we can only conclude that the same thing is going to occur in the future. He knows now, to his eternal shame and condemnation politically, that if he had stood up to the mad Left in his party on that issue he would have won the issue and, more importantly, he would have won the respect of the Australian community, which in my opinion he has permanently forfeited as a result of this decision.

The period in office of the present Foreign Minister (Mr Hayden) has been marked by a dangerous ambivalence in Australia's attitude to the Soviet Union and by a continuing deterioration in Australia's relationship with our traditional allies and our neighbours. We all remember that remarkable contribution of the Foreign Minister in Geneva in August of last year when he said that Australia was unhappy with both the United States and the Soviet Union. As far as members of the Opposition are concerned, we want to see the arms talks go on and succeed; but let nobody run away with the idea that the Soviet Union and the United States share an equality of blame so far as the arms race is concerned. The great bulk of the blame rests with the aggressive behaviour and intent of the Soviet Union under successive governments since the end of the Second World War.

How long is it since we have heard in this House any condemnation of the continuing Soviet aggression in Afghanistan? After the Minister for Foreign Affairs went to the Soviet Union he admitted in this House that he did not even raise the question of Afghanistan in his discussions with Mr Gromyko. Of course, the Treasurer took the cake when he came into the House when in opposition and said: 'Well, who cares about Afghanistan anyway? Where is it?' It was reminiscent of the people in the 1930s who were saying: 'Why should we be worrying about and putting on gas masks over some remote little country when we do not know where it is'. Worse than that, the present Foreign Minister has directly threatened the United States of America that the joint Australian-American bases were at risk unless the United States came closer to Australia's position on disarmament. The important thing is that, while he has been prepared to do that to the United States, he has not been prepared to raise embarrassing questions in his discussions with the Soviet Foreign Minister.

As I said a moment ago, effectively Australia has lined up against the attitudes of the United States and in favour of the attitudes of the Soviet Union on most of the important issues in the nuclear debate at the present time. Not only has the Foreign Minister attacked and threatened the United States on disarmament, he has also said virtually nothing about the massive Soviet conventional and nuclear build-up. He has attacked French colonialism in the Pacific but he has said nothing about the Soviet Union, the world's greatest colonial power, or about Vietnam's colonialism in South East Asia. Not content with taking on the United States and France and staying mute when dry-docking facilities were refused, to our eternal shame, to HMS Invincible, the Foreign Minister has had a series of embarrassing rows with our neighbours over his Vietnam obsession. In Indonesia, Dr Mochtar is on record as criticising his handling of the issue. In 1983 Malaysia walked out of the United Nations during the Foreign Minister's address to that body. The Foreign Minister accused Mr Hayden of causing great confusion in the Association of South East Asian Nations regarding our attitude to Vietnam. In November 1983 Singapore's Foreign Minister accused him of trying to bend over backwards to please Vietnam. Of course, we all know how openly he has antagonised and upset Thailand in recent days.

The Foreign Minister, in his defence, sought to paint himself sympathetically as some kind of honest broker in South East Asia who was groping around in a very difficult environment in an honest, open, sincere and genuine way. Of course, he falsely represented the position in a number of respects. For example, he incorrectly implied in his remarks that Hanoi's dry season offensive was directed only against the forces aligned with Pol Pot. The reality is that the dry season offensive was also directed against the non-communist forces of Sihanouk and the anti-communist forces of Son Sann. Over the last six weeks the Foreign Minister has brought more embarrassment, confusion and shame to the conduct of our foreign relations than any person who has occupied that position since the end of World War II. It is not a bad record. He has not only offended the United States in his willingness to heap upon it an equal share of moral blame for the arms race but also he has refused dry docking facilities to a vessel of the Royal Navy. Thirdly, he has antagonised all of our ASEAN friends and, fourthly, he has made the whole conduct of our foreign relations a laughing stock and brought ridicule upon it, not only here but also around the world.

Do not let anybody imagine that the Prime Minister (Mr Hawke) has not also been a principal player in this. Let us not have any moral lectures from the Australian Labor Party on supporting Pol Pot. I remind members of the Labor Party that the man who led the charge to recognise Pol Pot was the former Labor Prime Minister of Australia, Mr Whitlam. As late as 1978-the Government lectures us about Pol Pot-at a lecture at the Australian National University Mr Whitlam said:

I make bold to doubt all the stories that appear in the newspapers about the treatment of people in Cambodia. I am sufficiently hardened to believe that the last refuge of the patriot in Australia is to blast the regimes in post-war Indo-China.

Those were the words of Gough Whitlam, the former Labor Prime Minister of Australia who, as my leader correctly pointed out, led the charge to recognise the Khmer regime in Phon Penh in 1975. Do not let anybody from the Australian Labor Party lecture us in some kind of moral way about the attitudes towards the atrocities of Pol Pot. The Labor Party recognised Pol Pot. The man who led the charge to recognise Pol Pot was still publicly pooh-poohing the stories of the atrocities as late as the end of 1978. Nobody in the Labor Party at that time was willing to dissociate himself from it. Labor Party members were silent. So, from the present Prime Minister down, they have no moral right to lecture us about Pol Pot.

This debate has highlighted the foreign policy failures of not only the Prime Minister but also the Foreign Minister. The Foreign Minister has gravely embarrassed this country in South East Asia. The Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister between them have followed foreign policies, defence policies, attitudes to disarmament and policies on the nuclear issue which are dangerously inconsistent with the long term interests of Australia. Of course, the United States Administration is being polite. The United States Administration has said a number of things on which the Prime Minister now seeks repeatedly to draw. On the two issues that in strategic terms have been so important in bringing the Soviet Union to the negotiating table and are so crucial to all our hopes that those arms control talks may be successful; namely, the MX missile and the President's strategic defence initiative, the present Government of Australia has effectively lined up with the Soviet Union against the United States. I believe that that, as much as anything else, demonstrates the reason this censure motion should be carried by the Parliament.