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Friday, 19 April 1985
Page: 1530


Mr SHIPTON —by leave-I wish to comment on the report of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence, entitled 'Australia and ASEAN-Challenges and Opportunities'. I shall limit my remarks to the response of the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Hayden) and the Government to the recommendation on conflicts in Indo-China. Recommendation 3 (d) of the Committee's report states:

That some uncertainty has arisen in ASEAN suggests to the Committee that Australia's regional policies have not been consistently propounded and explained as extensively as might be desirable. This makes consultation of prime importance. It is in both Australia's and ASEAN's interests to avoid major discord between them over policies towards regional security issues.

The report goes on to state:

The evidence does suggest, however, that if Australia wishes to take a consistent interest in the security of the Southeast Asian region overall, it will need to emphasise clearly that in seeking to explore ways of enhancing prospects for regional security the cautious development of policies towards Indo-China will not be pursued at the expense of long-term relations with ASEAN.

That is a very significant part of the Committee's report. The Minister flew in the face of the recommendations of that report in visiting Vietnam. In visiting that country he did all the things that the Committee report warned against. The report is all the more significant because it is a report of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence, a committee of both members of the Government and members of the Opposition. Too little attention is given in this House, in the media and in the community generally, to reports of Committees where both sides of the Parliament sit down in the community interest. This report is all the more significant for that, and it is even more significant that the Minister flew in the face of the all-party report.

As the previous speaker on this side has said, the Minister's trip to Indo-China was disastrous. It has upset ASEAN, our important neighbours, and it has upset its attitude to Australia. I believe it has endangered our foreign policy. The Minister's trip to Vietnam, at a time when Vietnamese troops were in Thailand, an ASEAN country, has endangered not only our relationship with Thailand but our relationship with ASEAN. The Minister's trip was naive and stupid and it flew in the face of the report of the Joint Committee of October last year. I find it surprising and amazing that the Minister for Foreign Affairs of this country would visit Vietnam at a time when Vietnamese troops were over the border of Thailand.

I conclude by looking at the human rights aspect of Vietnam. Vietnam has hundreds of thousands of people in so-called re-education camps, but which are actually concentration camps. That is an enormous denial of human rights in our region. I think the Minister's visit was a total disaster and, as I have said, flew in the face of the report of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence.