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
Wednesday, 6 November 1985
Page: 1673

Senator ROBERT RAY(4.38) —For the first time since I have been a member of this chamber, when Senator Durack spoke on this matter of urgency today I listened to him for over 20 minutes. I listened to that rather dreary dirge and wondered what was urgent about the matter before us today that had to be discussed, when we have discussed it twice already in the previous 12 months. I did not hear put forward one reason why this is an urgent matter today. I guess it was put forward to waste another two hours of the time of this chamber. I must have been very naive when I first came here. I expected this to be a legislative chamber. But we never seem to discuss legislation. Opposition senators seem to push their irrelevant barrows all over the place, discussing minutiae and trivia. We never get to discuss legislation. We have been here one day and a half and have spent about two hours on legislation. We get these matters of public importance raised. I guess this matter of urgency was put forward simply because someone on the Opposition side was too lazy to write another speech. Opposition members just went back and dug out one from six or eight months ago.

As to the substance of the matter of urgency, I have no difficulty with it and nor has anyone on the Government side. We, as a Labor government, are committed to supporting the United States alliance in the context of ANZUS. We have done so from its very formation in 1951 right through to the current time and, if I am any judge, we probably will do so for many years into the future. It is not that we give ANZUS or the United States of America our uncritical support. At various times we have disagreements with our allies. We will not serve the United States interests well by simply being an obsequious or toadying ally, as many of those on the Opposition benches would seek to have us be. We play the best role with the United States by being a partner-a critical partner at times-which tries to push it in a particular direction which is in our own interest.

I have no hesitation in joining in supporting an historical alliance that we have had with the United States during two wars, especially since the Second World War. If I have to make a choice between a world power system, I will choose the United States system every time, given its commitment to pluralism, democracy and human rights. I have absolutely no difficulty in making that choice. But I am disappointed at times with the Liberal Party in this country for its use of foreign affairs as a political end to try to whip up a bit of electoral support. It has done so for 30 years. Sir Robert Menzies was a master at using foreign affairs to stir up and scare the electorate, with his talk of red hordes or yellow hordes coming from the north. I remember the elections in 1961 and 1963 when all the maps appeared, showing the Chinese coming to invade Australia. It is amazing how quickly things change. The Chinese are now our valued friends. We are sending trade missions, and even military missions to each other's country. It seems that yesterday's enemy can be today's friend. But kicking the communist can, trying to prove that it is more loyal to the United States, that in some way the Labor Party is tainted and cannot really be trusted in regard to foreign affairs, has been a favourite Liberal tactic over the years.

I will not respond here by saying that we are any more patriotic than those opposite or that we are any more pure in regard to foreign affairs than those opposite. I simply say that the use of foreign affairs issues just to promote the domestic self-interest of a political party is a poor attitude in politics. Maybe Senator Durack is trying to find the Liberal Party's Falkland Islands. Maybe the Liberal Party is trying to find some issue on which it can ride back politically. But I do not think Admiral Durack will be the one who ever does it. I am afraid that his speech today is hardly likely to set the electorate alight.

There are, of course, in this chamber, in this Parliament, in this country, and even in my Party, critics of the US alliance. In many cases their criticism of the US alliance derives from their very genuinely held views on disarmament. But the Labor Party as a whole-and we are a collective party-does not support unilateral disarmament. Anyone who supports unilateral disarmament, in my view, does the service of peace enormous harm. We are in favour of bilateral disarmament, of the two super-powers sitting down and coming to agreement on reducing arms as quickly as possible. But I do not see any point in Australia telling the Americans that they cannot have bases in Australia. I do not see any value in telling the Americans that they cannot port their ships in Australia. It will not help world peace to weaken one of the super-powers while the other remains unimpeded. It will not help world peace if all of America's allies in Europe, Australia or elsewhere drop off, whilst the Soviet Union's allies remain staunch supporters of that country.

Most of us would realise that world peace, or at least peace based on non-nuclear war, tragically has been assured by mutually assured destruction more than by anything else. The concept of mutually assured destruction depends on both sides basically having an equality of threat. To weaken one side is more likely to cause a global nuclear war than the maintenance of some form of balance. It is within that context that Australia has been vocal in its alliance with the United States in its relationship with the United States, to urge it to the negotiating table, to bring about discussions on bilateral disarmament. That is why we appointed an Ambassador for Disarmament. That is why we have promoted that issue so stongly. I admit that at times we do look like hypocrites. It looks as though what we are doing is, on the one hand, urging disarmament, yet allowing American military presence in Australia on the other. but I say that there is no dual standard, because one can serve world peace by doing both-by allowing the Americans to be involved, by having bases in Australia and home porting their ships in Australia, while remaining a party committed to disarmament. There is nothing inconsistent in that policy at all. The coming talks between Gorbachev and Reagan may see one of the first breakthroughs in the area of disarmament. I am sure everyone in this chamber would welcome that breakthrough.

But there is another area that concerns me. It is not so much what is termed vertical proliferation but horizontal proliferation of nuclear weapons. In my view that still represents the greatest danger to world peace. I am disturbed at the various reports from countries that maybe going nuclear. From time to time one hears claims that countries as diverse as Israel, Iraq, South Africa, Pakistan, Argentina and Brazil are researching and developing nuclear weapons. If they do so I think that will present a major threat to world peace.

I want to go back to one point about this urgency motion. The point was made today-adverted to by Senator Hill-specifically by Senator MacGibbon and others saying: `We know that the Prime Minister, the Foreign Minister and the Minister for Defence are in favour of ANZUS, but maybe the rest of the Labor Party is not'. We are not a party with one uniform view. We have never pretended to be. We always believe in a majority rule and a collectivist decision. But the accusation has been made against the Western Australian branch of the Australian Labor Party that it does not want any ships visiting Western Australia. What those people are complaining about, and I think rightly so, is the disproportionate number of visits that they are subjected to and other Australian ports are not. They find that at times it creates all sorts of strains in that city of Perth if nearly all the visits occur in that area. I do not think it is particularly fair to distort the position of the Western Australian branch of the Labor Party in that way.

This urgency motion is not really an urgency motion. There is nothing particularly urgent about it. It is probably a fishing expedition carried out by Senator Durack. He decided to throw a bit of bait over the side of the boat and see what snapped at it. The only thing that has really snapped in this chamber today has been Senator Chipp. But again he is putting a very predictable point of view. He espoused-I think with great passion-his views on the American alliance. I as a constituent of his in 1966 listened to him espouse some very passionate views on the Vietnam war and his view of world peace then. He was equally passionate and logical. I do not know how to choose between the two. His views expressed today were 180 degrees diametrically opposed to his views 20 years ago. The one consistent thing was the passion and logic of the argument and the intellect he brought to bear on that subject matter. I have not changed my views in those 20 years. Maybe that is a condemnation of me. I have been in the middle of his two views and I have not particularly changed.

However, I do assert that it is in Australia's interests to continue its alliance with America, not in a non-critical way. It is our job to argue that the United States and the Soviet Union should disarm in a bilateral sense and that those sorts of processes will not come about through wishful thinking. We will not get disarmament by basically thinking good thoughts or by being basically nice. Unfortunately, we will get disarmament by a long, protracted series of negotiation, of callous horse trading and by long and boring meetings. That is the unfortunate thing. Disarmament will not happen overnight and it will not happen by a miracle. It certainly will not happen by just saying that Australia should opt out. I think I heard Senator MacGibbon say one thing that I agreed with. We cannot opt out of a nuclear war any more. The fact that we do not have communications bases in Australia, if we pack them up and send them home, and the fact that we will not allow ships to visit would not matter. Once the nuclear war starts and the nuclear winter sets in, it will get us just the same, albeit three months later than anywhere else. We have to have a commitment to make sure that there is never a nuclear war. We cannot crawl under our desks and say `We will have nothing to do with arms or anything else' and it will all go away. Tragically that will never occur. In conclusion I say that whilst I support the content of the motion I certainly do not support the concept that this was an urgent or necessary debate today.