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Friday, 30 March 1984
Page: 982

Senator MacGIBBON(11.59) —I speak in support of the amendment to the motion moved by Senator Durack and support the previous speakers on this side of the chamber. This is the latest in an extraordinary series of blunders and public displays of incompetence that we have seen from this Government. Two major questions arise out of the matter. The first concerns modus operandi. How does this Government work? Have we ever seen a more incompetent bunch on the Treasury bench? The second concerns the contents of the document in question. We have been privileged to have the briefest statement that has ever been made in the history of this Parliament by the Attorney-General (Senator Gareth Evans). As Senator Withers so cogently pointed out, that statement is just nonsense. The second paragraph is inconsistent and irreconcilable with the third and fourth paragraphs and with any of the numerous interjections the Attorney-General has made. The statement that has been put down is nonsense. We need a clear, concise and precise statement of what the Government is up to.

I turn to some of the points that are brought up by this document, the most confidential document in the country. What sort of security does the Cabinet run when a document such as this can float around the streets? What discrepancies and divergences does it illustrate between what the Government says on the platform, what it says in the chamber, what it says on television, and what it is actually doing in private? What is the gross discrepancy between what the Government is saying in public and what it is saying to its own people, its own Party supporters, its sycophants in the branches through the length and breadth of this country, the people who write the Australian Labor Party doctrine? What does it say about breaches of Cabinet solidarity? What does it say about the lack of will to defend the essential interests of this country and the abject cowardice that some of the paragraphs contain? What about the disastrous consequences for Australian foreign relations? Those are just a few of the points that come immediately to mind when one sees this document in the National Times, a document whose authenticity has not been challenged by one word that has been said in this chamber this morning.

There is simply no more confidential document in the country than the document entitled 'Strategic Basis of Australian Defence Policy 1983'. Its publication destroys our security. It is a treasonable action. The document is the basis on which all our defensive posture is based, including our Defence Force structure and vital information for potential adversaries. It broadcasts our military appreciations of the region. It forecasts our decisions-what we will abjectly surrender and what we might defend. If this document is not safe, what document in the country is? How much damage has been done? How much vested interest is gained in the financial field if people are able to obtain Treasury documents? After all, if Mr Toohey, a journalist, can have direct access to this document, what will the professional agents of Soviet Russia and other countries around the world have? What access will the entrepreneurs from the business world and the drug runners of this country have to lesser documents?

I now turn to the discrepancies between what the Government is saying here and what it is saying in public. It is no overstatement to say that this destroys the very moral basis on which this Government holds office. It destroys the basis on which the Government ran for election. How can people such as the Government Whip, Senator McIntosh, or Senator Tate, who was present earlier, live with this. They are probably the only two genuinely sincere anti-nuclear people in this chamber, and even if they are wrong I do not criticise their position at all. How can they live with a government which acts like this in private? I do not see any difficulty for the Minister for Social Security, Senator Grimes, or Senator Gareth Evans and bikies such as them. They are just thundering down the highway behind the pinball wizard on his Harley-Davidson, following a signpost that says: 'Power at any price; principles not mentioned'. They have no difficulty living with it, but I do feel for Senator McIntosh and Senator Tate on this issue.

We have raised the nuclear issue. I have a view that is different from that held by the Australian Democrats over nuclear armaments. I have never supported a nuclear posture for Australia, simply because it is too expensive and we have a far higher priority. When Australia has bought no new weapons for the Australian infantry for the last 20 years and when some soldiers are without boots, it is nonsense to suggest that Australia should be involved in the purchase of nuclear weapons. But I pose the question to this chamber: What would be the public debate in Australia if one of our near neighbours had a nuclear capacity? The debate in Australia would change dramatically from the hypothetical level on which it runs at the moment to one of a more realistic assessment of our defence needs. I do not know what would come out at the end.

I see nothing wrong with the Government exploring a nuclear option. I think it is common sense and is a responsible action. But why does the Government not tell us this? Why does the Government not take the Churchillian doctrine, by which most of us on this side live, of trusting the people? After all, it has a leader who stands up to the rostrum every day and says 'Trust me', and then doublecrosses the public. Why do we not just apply that doctrine literally and tell the people the truth of the matter? After all, the public are adult enough to know what is going on.

We come then to the business of breaches of Cabinet solidarity. We are all used to the factions in the Labor Party. As one Labor politician said to me: 'You never join the ALP, you join the faction first; the joining of the ALP is secondary to that'. We have seen the policy changes that have come from the various factions, and the inconsistencies; the way Mr Howe, on the extreme Left wing, administering defence support, speaks up in public and challenges statements that Cabinet has made. That is an intolerable situation. In US jargon , this ALP Federal Government is simply a floating crap game. It is a moving scene the whole time. No one knows what is going on in regard to policy.

I would like to home in now on Senator Ryan who, of course, once more is not here. Senator Ryan is a member of Cabinet who has run very strongly on a public posture about all the bleeding heart pacifist issues, all the world peace movement things, and all the pro-communist front organisations she can shelter behind, trying to get votes. How can she be party to a document that looks at a nuclear capability for Australia? How are we to judge Senator Ryan? Is she dishonest, is she irresponsible, or is she just plain silly?

Then I come to the business about the surrendering of the Cocos Islands, about which I spoke last night, and the craven cowardice that is displayed in this document about lack of will. I do not think any government in history in advance , even with the lack of any hypothetical threat, has ever offered to give up territory the way this Labor Government has. What does all the gung ho jingoism of the Prime Minsiter (Mr Hawke), with his rabid nationalism, stand for if the national interests of the country are not defended? Fancy giving up on the Cocos Islands, the key to the whole of the Indian Ocean. We have a record deficit in this country. The Cocos Islands are easy to defend and relatively cheap to defend. They would be very hard to take back if someone took them.

It is a simple matter of priorities for this Government. Rather than spending money on social engineering and trying to mess up society, as it is keen to do, it would be better off putting some military hardware into the Cocos Islands, and then that dreadful option of cowardice which it wants to display would not be necessary. I do not have time to go into the effect on the alliances, on ANZUS and the Association of South East Asian Nations relationships and the dreadful business of naming Indonesia and making a public display of it, as this document does. What does that do? Does that reflect the anti-Timor prejudice within the Labor Party and the lack of realisation of what is going on in the real world? I dealt with that briefly last night and will not repeat what I said as time is getting short. This document proves the lack of responsibility and lack of competence of the Government. I do not think any condemnation is strong enough for this chamber to move against the Government.