Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Current HansardDownload Current Hansard   

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Friday, 30 March 1984
Page: 966

Senator CHIPP (Leader of the Australian Democrats)(10.18) —I move:

That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the Attorney- General from making a statement on the content and authenticity of the 'National Times' article 'Australia's New Defence Strategy' published today, 30 March 1984 , and on the steps taken by the Government to keep the document secure; and as would prevent a debate on the issue.

I move that motion in accordance with standing order 448. The National Times features what purports to be a leaked document from the Government on the Government's posture on defence. The article is shocking. I do not know to what extent it is accurate, but it is a shocking article for what it contains. Assuming that the article is true, one would have thought that the Australian Labor Party's ditching of its anti-uranium policy, among other policies, was enough hypocrisy and deceit from one government. What this document makes clear is that the past deceit is child's play compared with the activity going on behind the scenes at the moment. The Hawke Government, elected with an aura of hope and reform, is now acting out policies akin to the most rabid, right wing warmongers and sabre rattlers of the Reagan Administration. That is why I believe this matter to be so urgent as to come within the ambit of standing order 448.

I will give some reasons why it is urgent. Allegedly, one aspect of the document is that Australia should be in a position to develop nuclear weapons as quickly as any of its neighbours that look like doing so. To quote from the alleged document, we should be able 'to ensure that the lead time for Australia could be matched to developments in other countries should the Government so decide'. That simply means, in the jargon of the defence strategists, that we have, or should have, the materials on the shelf to make nuclear weapons and that all we have to do is put them together, which is exactly the position that countries such as Israel seem to adopt.

What allows this matter to come under the standing order 448 is a statement in the National Times-I agree that it is not supported by evidence-which states:

The Government has fully supported the document, which is called the Strategic Basis of Australian Defence Policy.

If I were a member of the Labor Party I would demand that a Caucus meeting be held at lunchtime today and I would ask how much of the article is true.

Senator Crichton-Browne —Which faction?

Senator CHIPP —I think each of the three factions would be vitally interested in the subject. In fact, we are not talking about some penny-ante issue; we are talking about the defence and the future of this country. The future of the planet is discussed in the paper. That is why it has become so urgent. I believe that the Senate has a right to know whether the Government endorses these outrageous propositions.

The statement is made that the ANZUS treaty is not likely to be of use in a potentially troublesome situation such as a conflict with Indonesia. Is that the Government's view? The Senate needs to be told. It is stated that international issues should be seen in terms of United States-Soviet rivalry. Is that the Government's position? The paper claims that the Soviets have nuclear superiority over the United States of America which could lead to a dangerous lack of political will by the United States. Inherent in that view is the monstrous concept that we should encourage the United States to build more nuclear weapons. That is what that means. That is what those creatures in the Department of Defence and the Department of Foreign Affairs are planning and plotting in a secret document and that is what, allegedly, members of the Labor Government have embraced as their policy. They are encouraging the United States to build more nuclear weapons; otherwise the United States might lose the political will to fight the Soviets. Yet, this Government has pressed for disarmament initiatives. What hypocrisy! What absolute and total hypocrisy! At least the Liberal Government came out with its defence and foreign policies, much as I disagreed with them, and had the honesty to say: 'That is our policy, there it is'. But this mob, which has appointed an Ambassador for Disarmament, is, at the same time, encouraging the United States to build more nuclear weapons. I find that kind of hypocrisy mind-boggling. That is why I believed, as soon as this article in the National Times hit the deck, that it had to be debated in this place. I hope that the Government will agree to the suspension of Standing Orders so that we can debate the matter. I point out to the Government that it might find itself in an invidious position and that it might need a leader with 78 per cent popularity to get away with this.

Assuming that the Opposition will support this motion, it will be carried. But because I did not have the foresight to have a contingent notice of motion placed on the Notice Paper, even if we win the vote the Government will refuse to debate the issue today. As far as I and, I hope, the Opposition are concerned , we will not be thwarted by technicalities such as that. I give notice to the Government that if that happens I will give notice today that I will do the same thing on Monday.

The PRESIDENT —I ask the honourable senator to provide the Chair with a copy of his motion.

Senator CHIPP —Yes, Mr President. I apologise for not doing so earlier, but we ran out of time this morning. The document in question allegedly states that ' United States bases in Australia are nuclear targets but the risks are worth it' . I believe the Senate and the people of Australia are entitled to know whether the Government embraces and accepts that attitude. The Attorney-General, Senator Gareth Evans, who represents the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Hayden) in this place, gave me answers which were directly contrary to this question only a few months ago. It is always my practice with questions on foreign affairs to give the Attorney-General notice of the question. I do that so I can get a good answer from him, not one off the cuff. That gives him the opportunity, before Question Time, to seek the official attitude from the Department of Foreign Affairs. On several occasions I asked him whether Pine Gap, Nurrungar, Perth and other places were nuclear targets. The only answer I have received from the Department of Foreign Affairs is that only North West Cape is a nuclear target. Yet apparently this document says 'the United States bases in Australia are nuclear targets'. Then there is this most outrageous statement 'but the risks are worth it'. Which bases does the Government believe are nuclear targets? Do not the people of Western Australia and South Australia at least deserve to know whether bases in their States are regarded by the Government as nuclear targets? What sort of an open government do we have when it says: 'There are United States bases in Australia which are nuclear targets, but we are not going to tell the people who live in those States which bases we regard as nuclear targets'. The Government will not allow debate on this issue in the Parliament.

Senator Gareth Evans —How do you know?

Senator CHIPP —Because you told me so.

Senator Gareth Evans —That was a different motion. You have not told me the terms of your new motion.

Senator CHIPP —That was at a different time of day. Mr President, with your indulgence, so that we can end this humbug, I ask the Attorney-General whether he intends to agree to this motion.

Senator Gareth Evans —Yes, because this is a different motion. I am happy to make a ministerial statement. You wanted a general debate on the whole thing which is premature.

Senator CHIPP —The Attorney-General can snigger, as is his want. No doubt after this he will have a Press conference, as is his want. He seems to love having Press conferences at which he backgrounds journalists off the record. I showed him the motion half an hour ago and was told that the Government would oppose it . If the Government intends to accept it there is no point in my continuing with the motion for the suspension of Standing Orders.